In this series of articles we'll write about one or more Mario game per day, each representing a different year as part of our Super Mario 30th Anniversary celebrations.
It wasn't so long ago that we were writing about the original Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64, a 1999 release that achieved success on the Nintendo 64 and established a vital new IP for Nintendo. Just two years later - in North America and Japan, at least - Super Smash Bros. Melee arrived to shake up the series and would go on to become an integral part of Nintendo culture.
While the original was rather experimental and a first of its kind, Melee was a different prospect entirely, and certainly indicative of the generation leap in technology between the N64 and GameCube. We've written before about the significant change in style and technology that the N64 delivered, but it's worth remembering that the GameCube generation represented another significant progression.
Though developed in a little over a year by Masahiro Sakurai and a no-doubt expanded team at HAL Laboratory, Melee featured a lot more content than its predecessor. The cast of playable characters doubled, which was big news at the time, and the key changes were to physics and control mechanics. Combined with the highly-regarded GC controller, Melee established a template that's become considered by many to still be the pinnacle of the series. That is, of course, objective and debatable, but there's little denying that this was the game - rather than its predecessor - that helped the series move onto another level.
There was also more content on offer. Multiplayer had some additions, while it was the single player offering that was increased the most; All-Star Mode offered some extra challenge, while Adventure Mode introduced a narrative progression (of sorts) and threw in some different play styles. It was all a notable enhancement on the previous generation's début.
The power of Super Smash Bros. Melee and its importance in Nintendo history has multiple angles. At the time it was the GameCube's stand-out success; in a difficult generation of underwhelming home console sales it captured the imagination of fans and became the system's top-selling game.
Its legacy goes well beyond that, however. We've already mentioned how its controls and mechanics became a gold-standard, a point recognised by Nintendo in its support of GameCube controllers with a special adapter usable with the latest entry on Wii U - the earlier Wii models have GameCube ports as standard. When people think of GC controllers or Wavebirds, there's a chance their minds are drifting to Melee.
Melee's importance in the current day extends to its role in competitive gaming, or eSports. The Smash Bros. scene has long revolved around the GameCube entry, and while the audience for the Wii U entry and its competitive aspect is growing, the Melee events still draw the bigger crowds and viewing figures. Once again Melee was a massive part of Evo this year, and various other major events besides.
If Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64 was important for kicking off a franchise and realising a brilliant idea, then Melee was vital for taking that IP to a whole new level.