A stage (ステージ, Stage), also called a level, map, arena, stadium, or board, is a location in which characters fight or complete objectives. The word "stage" refers to a versus mode stage, but can also refer to the ground or large central platform within this location. As well as versus mode stages, single player mode stages, such as the Target Smash ones, exist for purposes other than fighting.
In all of the games of the Super Smash Bros. series, most versus mode stages are available from the start, while a small number must be unlocked by completing certain objectives. Some stages in SSB4 were made available through updates and are downloadable. Of these stages, only two are free. Most stages, like Princess Peach's Castle, are derived from places in playable characters' universes. Super Smash Bros. Melee introduced two Super Smash Bros. universe stages - Battlefield and Final Destination. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, stages derived from games without associated playable characters were introduced, namely Smashville and Hanenbow, while PictoChat represents a Nintendo DS utility interface. Additionally, not every playable character has a stage from their own universe. Included in all games other than the first are a small number (large number in Smash Wii U) of Past Stages - stages from a previous Smash game. These stages will have either no or minor alterations, an example being Dream Land (64) in SSB4, where the top blast line is much closer to the stage then it was in 64 or Melee.
Stages range in size from the large The Great Cave Offensive and Rumble Falls to the small Yoshi's Story and Peach's Castle. Typically, stages involve a large central platform with ledges, multiple smaller platforms, as well as blast lines above, below, and to the left and right of the visible area. Some stages, such as Mushroom Kingdom and Coliseum have floors that continue past the edge of the visible area and pass through a side blast line, these edges are known as "walk-off edges" or "walk-offs", because characters can walk offscreen without the need to become airborne. Stages with walk off edges on both the left and right, like Bridge of Eldin, are referred to as "walk-off stages", and only a select few, like Yoshi's Island, have only one walk-off. Some walk-off stages, such as Onett, have lower blast lines that are inaccessible normally, while others, such as Green Hill Zone, only infrequently have the lower blast lines introduced.
In Melee, moving and transforming stages were introduced. Big Blue and Rainbow Cruise consist entirely of platforms that move or appear on and offscreen while stages like Icicle Mountain and PAC-LAND scroll continuously up, to the side or down. Other stages, such as Pokémon Stadium, undergo partial transformations at certain intervals, while yet others, like Brawl's Frigate Orpheon and Castle Siege, cycle through complete transformations. Similarly, stages like Delfino Plaza and Skyloft will take players to various areas via moving platforms. Mushroomy Kingdom may be one of two stages either randomly or based on a player's input prior to the match. Tortimer Island's, Gamer's and Garden of Hope's layout is randomized each battle as well.
Other stage elements include breakable barriers and platforms, such as the pillars of Luigi's Mansion and the stone floors of Skyworld; stage hazards and enemies, such as lasers, cars and Klaptraps; local items such as apples; and interactive objects such as Barrel Cannon and switches. While water has no effect on movement in Melee, Brawl introduced swimming, and some of its stages involve water that can be swum in.
In Super Smash Bros.
There are 41 versus stages in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, 29 starters and 12 unlockable stages, shown below in bold. None of the original Super Smash Bros. stages return, but there are 10 stages from Melee, one from each universe involved in the original Super Smash Bros.
In Smash 4
Stages in Super Smash Bros. 4 differ depending on the version. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS features 42 stages total, 7 of which are unlockable, shown in bold, and 8 of which are downloadable content. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U features 55 stages, 6 of which are unlockable, shown in bold, and 9 of which are downloadable content. Bold and italic text denotes stages that are unlockable in one version, but a starter/downloadable stage in the other. 13 stages appear in both versions (with some having changes), however the majority of stages are exclusive to each version, with 3DS stages primarily pulled from handheld games and Wii U stages from console games (though, there are some exceptions). In addition, this is the first game where stages from multiple past games return at once.
All stages now have an optional Ω Form (Omega Form), changing their layout to be similar to Final Destination - some have walls that go all the way down to the bottom blast line, while others are basically floating islands.
Unique to Smash 4 is the disabling of Star KOs and Screen KOs on certain stages.
Single player stages
In the single player modes and challenges, a number of stages appear that are not available in versus mode.
In Super Smash Bros.
In Smash 4
Note: On the Wii U version, most of these stages can be played with two players.
Some stages exist, but are non-playable; developers did not intended for them to be played in. Non-playable stages are accessible only through hacks and debug programs, such as Action Replay. Some, such as "Test", are assumed to have been used for testing during game development, while others, such as the "Tutorial stage", are used in the game but not for the purpose of gameplay.
In Super Smash Bros.
Brawl introduced the Stage Builder, a tool that allows players to build their own stages, for use in multiplayer matches, using sets of provided objects, some unlockable. Brawl includes a set of Sample Stages that were built using the Stage Builder. The stage builder can also be used to build No KO stages and "CD Factories" - exploitative stages used for quickly obtaining CDs.