For many Super Smash Bros. fans, E3 2018’s biggest announcement was what seems like a small surprise: Ridley will be playable in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Character reveals are often a big deal for the fanbase, but Ridley isn’t some random old-school Nintendo villain. The Metroid foe is a character that players have been loudly requesting since 2001’s Super Smash Bros. Melee. Finally, more than 16 years after Melee’s launch, Nintendo has responded in kind.
Character unlocks have always been one of Super Smash Bros.’ most exciting elements. This was especially true during the GameCube days, when it wasn’t so obvious how to add certain characters to the roster. Instead, as kids, we seemed to only unlock characters based on classmates’ rumors and arcane magic. But even once your roster was near-complete, speculation over whether others were still hidden ran rampant.
That’s when I first remember learning about Ridley — as a schoolyard rumor, a secret Melee fighter so secret that seemingly no one had unlocked him. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that our desire to find and play as Ridley was not just our own: So many other Super Smash Bros. fans held out hope that the dragon was buried in the game somewhere.
As we played and discussed strategies about how to unlock characters, Ridley was somehow always involved in the conversation. This was partially thanks to the opening cutscene of Super Smash Bros. Melee, where we got to see Samus fighting her great space pirate nemesis. Even if you didn’t know who Ridley was in the Metroid universe, the cutscene told you everything you needed to know: Awesome. Purple. Dragon.
I became a Metroid fan because of my interest in Samus, who was (and is) in Smash, which led me to learn about Ridley long before I ever went back to play Super Metroid. So while my young friend group wanted Ridley because he was a rad purple dragon — a pretty solid reason — old-school Metroid players wanted him because he was Samus’ enemy.
Ridley is high up on the Space Pirate rating board in the Metroid universe, lording over most of Samus’ enemies. He’s pretty smart and is apparently capable of speech in the Metroid manga (which is a thing). He’s a giant, hyper-intelligent raptor with wings, and has been Samus’ main villain in almost all of her major endeavors.
Samus stood alone as Metroid’s representative in Melee, and she continued to do so in later entries in the series. It didn’t help that Masahiro Sakurai, the Super Smash Bros. franchise’s creator, wasn’t a fan of Ridley. Sakurai’s statement to the fans was always that the character was simply too big to put in Smash — which, of course, spawned a meme.
When Nintendo announced Ridley at E3 this year, it felt like letting out a huge sigh after holding our breath for years. It’s funny how one unexpected announcement can create such a wave of memories for us hardcore Smash Bros. fans. We had all but given up hope that we would ever see that purple dino in the game. Now? The dream is real.
It was a good E3, and some other companies had better overall showings than Nintendo. But for so many of us, Nintendo won the week, no contest. When a presentation includes a reveal that some of us have spent more than a decade waiting for, it’s hard to think about anything else.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is set to be released for Nintendo Switch on Dec. 7.