Super Smash Bros. (64) in competitive play
The original Super Smash Bros. competitive scene did not start at the initial release of the game, unlike all of its successors. In fact, the first Smash Bros. did not develop almost any competitive community at all until Melee was released two years later as a breakout sequel. Only then did the newborn Smash tournament scene have small groups of people take a second look at the 64 version.
2000s: Small Beginnings
Due to the primitive infrastructure of the Internet in the early 2000s, and the lack of a pre-existing Smash fanbase, the Smash 64 competitive scene was initially very small and esoteric. With the founding of Smash World Forums (now Smashboards) in 2000, dedicated players in North America had a central hub to discuss the game and organize meetups. In Japan, similar community hubs existed, including Sumabura-bu, XMS, and Smabrer's Garden. Notable documented Japanese tournaments from this time include the first Nintendo-sponsored tournaments: Smash Bros. Fighting Battle: Smash Bros. Meijin Deciding Game, held at Space World 1999, and events held on the Japan-only children's variety show 64 Mario Stadium, which were broadcast on television. In 2001, Japan United Smash Festa Round-Robin 1 featured several high-level players for the era, such as Oikawa, CaptainJack, Prince, and Keropi-.
Unofficial netplay tournaments were also starting to gain traction. With the usage of emulators such as Project 64k and 1964, players could compete over the Internet for the first time, setting up competition using websites such as Emulation64 and GameFAQs.
A few years after the release of its sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee, the Smash 64 competitive scene would slowly begin to grow. In the mid- to late-2000s, top American Melee player Isai was quickly proving his skills at 64. His dominance at tournaments in this time made him the undisputed best player in the world, defeating players in Japan as well as the United States. In 2007, he won FC Diamond, the first national 64 tournament in the US, as it featured a larger than normal influx of players and spectators alike; it was the largest US Smash 64 tournament for a few years. Japan had a bigger scene with the annual Kanto and Kansai tournaments always gathering 50-150 players since 2010.
2012-2016: Apex and Zenith
Since 2012 and the inclusion at Apex 2012, the scene began to grow. Apex 2013 was the first tournament with Japanese top players in attendance, with Kikoushi winning that event. Apex 2015 was the last Apex with Smash 64 and also had the highest number of participants (188).
Besides Apex, the next biggest events were the Zenith 2013 and Zenith 2014 tournaments. The US tournaments were dominated by the Canadian SuPeRbOoMfAn, Isai and occasionally entering players from Japan (most notably Kikoushi and Moyashi).
2016-present: Increased Growth
In 2015, the Super Smash Con series was born and its sequels would become the biggest Smash 64 tournaments. In 2016, the GENESIS series returned and GENESIS 3 and Super Smash Con 2016 were the first tournaments with over 200 entrants. Super Smash Con 2016 was also the first US tournament to be attended by Peruvian top player Alvin, who would soon become a major threat at US tournaments. At the end of 2016, 64 League Rankings, the first global power rankings for Smash 64, were created.
Around this time, a relatively new player, kysk, began competing. Later, a string of major tournament wins, including Kanto 2018, Kanto Fall 2018, Go Owl Cup, GENESIS 6, and Kanto 2019, led to kysk being widely considered the current best Smash 64 player in the world.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tournaments worldwide were cancelled throughout 2020 as a result of health and safety measures to stop the spread of the virus. The last major of the year, Kanto 2020, saw lower-than-expected turnout. Nonetheless, top player wario would win the tournament.
Smash 64 is still a fairly small competitive scene compared to other Super Smash Bros. games, with the largest tournament gathering 314 entrants compared to Melee's 2,372, Smash 4's 2,662, and Ultimate's 3,522, as well as Super Smash Bros. Brawl's 400. Despite its relatively small size, the Smash 64 scene is still considered to be healthy and stable, as a significant number of players dedicate themselves to practicing the game at a serious level, unlike with Brawl and Smash 4.