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Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS review: Smashing it on the small screen

Even if at times it's overwhelming on a small screen, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is a blast, with an endless amount of value and variety. It's a no-brainer for 3DS owners, and we can't wait for its console version.

Jeff Bakalar Scott Stein
Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
3 min read

Does it seem like it's been a while since the last time there was a must-have 3DS game? You're not crazy. Just as the platform seemed to zone into a steady groove of hit after hit, 2014 has cast some doubt on just how much gas is left in the portable's tank.


Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

The Good

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS makes a splash on the portable console that includes a smattering of iconic and oddball characters, all with their own unique fighting styles and special abilities.

The Bad

The button mashing that Super Smash Bros. demands isn't the most comfortable experience on the 3DS. The small screen sometimes has a tough time containing all of the action.

The Bottom Line

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is a blast to play, with an endless amount of value and variety packed inside, although at times the chaos can overwhelm that small screen.

That purgatory is about to be challenged with the arrival of Super Smash Bros., a franchise that Nintendo purists hang their hat on. When you think of "Nintendo" and "hardcore" together, Smash Bros. is all you should think of. Its over-the-top brawler action brings out the competitiveness in every player it touches, all while paying homage to some of Nintendo's classic (and not-so-classic) characters from down the years.

The next evolution of Super Smash Bros. is finally upon us, oddly hitting Nintendo's portable a few months before its Wii U debut. Smash Bros. has been a mainstay of sofa gamer parties for well over a decade, but has never hit the small screen. So how does Nintendo's most anticipated franchise of the year fare on the 3DS?


At the height the game's action, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is almost too much to handle. There's the issue of what we're calling tiny-screen syndrome. Even on the huge Nintendo 3DS XL, there's so much happening on some of the stages that it all gets a little squinty. The whole translation to handheld form is still admirable, but Mario Kart works better.

Check out GameSpot's coverage of the game

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, the first of a one-two punch that will include a Wii U version later this year, works as advertised for serious fans. There are dozens of characters, many weird selections including non-Nintendo mascots like Pac-Man, Mega Man and Sonic. Somehow, they do an amazing and ridiculous job of fighting together. Dozens of power-ups, special moves and many, many stages and customizable battle modes, plus single or multi-player contests, feel inexhaustible.

A fair warning though: Super Smash Bros. on 3DS assumes you know a lot about the franchise. Newcomers will have to endure a sizable learning curve. Even if you're a Smash Bros. veteran, controlling characters and performing specific attacks using the circle pad can be frustrating.

The 3DS version also features a new game mode, where you take characters through random mazes of crazy enemies collecting power-ups. This not only leads to character customization, but feels like a bizarre indie-style mobile game.


You can play online or offline, alone or with others, ranked or unranked, and even locally with other 3DS owners. But finding friends isn't as easy as it is when you grab a bunch of people around a TV and throw a controller at them. It's also not as social or accessible.

We touched on how the platform's tiny screen can wear you out quick, and the button-mashing required to excel in this kind of game doesn't do much for hand cramps either.

The 3DS controls do a fair job of handling all the sometimes-complex moves, but it's not as comfortable as using a dedicated game controller like the classic GameCube one. Long story short, it's tough to get comfortable playing Smash on a portable -- you'll likely have difficulty managing a long play session.

If you want a game you'll probably never exhaust, full of unlockable secrets and a lot of online play, Smash Bros. is a no-brainer for 3DS. If you have a friend or sibling nearby, it's even better. It'll work with the Wii U version too, although how good that connectivity is we won't know until it arrives. But it's safe to say the ultimate Smash Bros. will probably be the Wii U version. For that, sadly, you'll have to wait -- and you'll need to own a Wii U. But we're betting you own a 3DS.


CNET Verdict: Plenty of over-the-top action for the small screen

Even if at times it's overwhelming on a small screen, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is a blast, with an endless amount of value and variety. It's a no-brainer for 3DS owners, but we'd be lying if we said we weren't looking forward to its console variation.

Check out GameSpot's coverage of the game
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