There’s a reason why Super Smash Bros. has given birth to so much fan fiction: It’s a work of fan fiction in itself, jettisoning the canon of each fighter’s franchise so that they can square off against characters they have no business being near. Nintendo has given us a ludicrous crossover that only players would dare dream up, and it’s made something amazing out of it.
With four games behind it, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate looks to be the quintessential form of the series’ inherently fan service-y heart. There are 74 playable characters, a bizarre mix that pits Kirby against Castlevania’s Simon Belmont, among others; there are hundreds of other faces that appear, which means that Otakon from Metal Gear Solid gets to appear right next to the paper cut-outs from Snipperclips. Features like Spirits Mode make Ultimate into what may be the most indulgent thing that the endlessly indulgent franchise has ever given us, embracing and stretching the absurdity to the endless reaches of gaming fandom.
None of this should work, and none of this makes much sense, but just like the Smash fanfic that continues to populate the internet, logic doesn’t matter. This shit is cool AF. And to see Nintendo introduce the World of Light adventure mode — in which Kirby is the one hero left to save the world after all of its competitors are devoured by a glowing, gigantic enemy — with so much bombast feels like a direct paean to the community of players who have spent nearly two decades telling their own Smash Bros. epics.
A search for “Super Smash Bros” on Fanfiction.net or Archive of Our Own unearths nearly 12,000 results turn up between them. The oldest story on Fanfiction, Paul McCormick’s Super Smash Brother’s Story, was published in 1999; after Melee launched in December 2001, more writers came on board. Most of these stories are similar: Everybody’s fighting! Everyone becomes friends, despite all the fighting! The power of friendship helps Mario defeat Master Hand! More fighting! It’s all kind of rote, but during those Melee days when Smash Bros. was little more than a toybox of a mishmash of Nintendo toys, expanding upon the lore — explaining how and why characters were suddenly joining forces — fell upon the shoulders of the fans.
Whether or not a lot of these were self-insert stories that didn’t deviate much from the tourney-style set-up of the games is irrelevant. And writers deviated from the format soon enough, especially when Super Smash Bros. Brawl launched. Its Subspace Emissary mode felt revelatory, even as it foisted a confounding plot upon a game that had zip before. Somehow, this Nintendo crossover game felt more special; no longer did the players have to put in the work to come up with an explanation for the fighting. Collecting every fallen fighter on a journey to stop the evil Tabuu was the most fan-fiction-y thing that Nintendo had ever done. It was awesome, even if it was super weird.
The Subspace Emissary left an impression large enough to not only inspire more fan-works (people loved to reimagine its plot), but also what stands as the longest piece of writing in human history. The Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest is more than four million words long as of June 2018; its author, AuraChannelerChris, has been working on it since March 2008. It’s been a while since he updated, clearly, but it will also take us a while to get through it.
Over its 221 chapters, this fic tells the kind of story that Smash Bros. is tacitly based upon: Characters who would otherwise never be anywhere near each other are working together to take on Tabuu, borrowed from the mode it’s based on. Dr. Mario takes care of Ike after a battle; Link and Falco won’t stop arguing; Pichu somehow befriends a foe-turned-friend, the Ancient Minister. You want romance? You got romance. Scenes set in The World Ends With You, Danganronpa and Final Fantasy IX are all in there. There’s an original character, the teen hero Chris, because of course there is. (Maybe it’s no surprise that the next Smash Bros. games for Wii U and 3DS, introduced customizable Mii Fighters that basically let us join the fray ourselves. Fanfic writers love self-insert characters.)
The Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest is the utmost example of a crossover fic: the impossible dream of a diehard articulated into something to be shared. And people have responded positively to it, especially to something with this kind of breadth and dedication. Maybe it’s not the most coherent story, but then, neither was the actual Subspace Emissary. This story is a lot bolder — it’s written like it’s a game stretched over multiple discs, for one — and that’s endearing enough.
Fan fiction isn’t about the quality of writing in the same way a published novel. That’s not what Smash Bros. fans are reading it for. When the game alone isn’t enough to sate the hunger for a deeper story, the internet provides. Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest may seem comically long, especially with diversions into stories based on games not represented by Super Smash Bros. But its earnestness is charming. It has to be, as does the whole genre of Smash fiction; why would there be almost 12,000 stories based on the series otherwise?
Ultimate’s World of Light looks to be just as genuine and silly (and weird) as the homemade stories that have become more and more reflective of the franchise. We’re absolutely here for that — and we’ve been here for it for years.