2014’s E3 is just around the corner, and with it a Smash Bros. centered presentation of one hour and a half . That means lots of character reveals and all kinds of surprises for the fans. And one of the surprises I would very much like to see would be some gender equality in the male-dominated roster of this lovable yet unjustifiably women-free saga. This article will explore in depth the role of women in the Smash Bros. franchise up to now in order to analyze what options Sakurai has to make amends for this lack of women—amends which, I believe, have already started taking place.
Let’s start off by studying the rosters of the first three iterations of this saga—Smash Bros., Smash Bros. Melee and Smash Bros. Brawl—so that you’ll see my point more clearly. In the original game for the Nintendo 64, we had 12 characters, 8 of which were men, 3 of which were unspecified (Pikachu and Jigglypuff are generic Pokémon, and as such can be either gender; Yoshis are a species and thus can be male or female), and only 1 was a woman, Samus (there may be some controversy as to Kirby’s gender, but the consistent use of masculine pronouns to refer to him should dispel any doubt as to him being a boy). Out of the original roster, only an 8.33% is used up by women. Even generic/unspecified species are three times better represented than women, with a 25% of the slots. Males clearly dominate the roster with a 66.66% of the total. But with such a small roster, these figures may not mean much; let’s move on.
In Smash Bros. Melee, we finally got the much-needed Zelda and Peach, but that was about it. Once again we have a predominantly male roster, with 16 ½ men (the Ice Climbers are two people, after all, so Popo only counts as half a character), 5 unspecified characters (Pokémon and Yoshi), and only 3 ½ women (once again, Ice Climber’s Nana only counts as half a character). Note that I’m not counting Sheik as a separate character, since she is part of Zelda’s character and does not occupy a slot by herself. Later on I will be only counting slot characters rather than transformations. This means that women representation is reduced to a mere 14%, while male representation keeps at a steady 66%, while unspecified characters occupy a 20% of the roster. Let’s see now how the latest installment did.
Smash Bros. Brawl saw quite a few newcomers getting into the series, up to a total of 35 slot characters (that is, counting Zelda and Sheik as the same character, as well as Samus and Zero Suit Samus, and the Pokemon Trainer, which will be treated as unspecified given how the actual fighters—that is, Squirtle, Ivysaur and Charizard—are all ungendered). However, it somehow managed to be the worst game yet in terms of gender equality, since it didn’t include even a single new female character (again, I don’t count Zero Suit Samus as a full-fledged character since she doesn’t have her own spot, and since even Sakurai acknowledged she was not balanced enough to be competitive in April’s Nintendo Direct ). In this game, we have 25 ½ men, 6 unspecified or ungendered characters, and the very same 3 ½ women we had in Melee. That means women take up a 10% of the roster, unspecified characters take up a 17.14% of the roster, and men take up as much as the 72.85% of the roster.
Now, these are quite alarming figures. Apparently, unspecified or ungendered characters such as Pokémon or robots are more worthy of being represented in the franchise than women, which remain at an alarmingly low point. Brawl was a particularly sexist entry, since it didn’t include any new female characters at all. Sure, most of Nintendo’s main characters are male—which is quite the problem in and of itself—but, as Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS is proving right now, there are more than enough female characters that could have been added and weren’t. Thankfully, as I will show now, these new games are starting to counter this predominantly male roster. Let’s see how.
It only takes a quick look through the official webpage to see that, out of the 6 newcomers announced so far, 1 is unspecified, 2 are men, 1 is a woman, and the other 2 can be both —depending on the skin you choose . As a first in Smash Bros. history, there are two characters, the Wii Fit Trainer and the Villager, who have both male and female skins, so that you can choose what gender you want them to be. Not only that, but two former transformations have been turned into their own slot characters, Zero Suit Samus and Sheik, and as such have been balanced to be competitive, so that we can consider them as being full-fledged. This means that there are 4 new female characters in this game (3 and 2 ½, since Wii Fit Trainer and the Villager are both male and female), whereas only 3 (2 and 2 ½) male and 1 unspecified characters have been announced. Let’s look at that figure again: 4 new female characters. That’s more than double as many women as we had before. And it doesn’t stop at that; the trend may keep on going so that we have even more female characters.
It is no secret that Palutena is definitely going to be included in the new Smash Bros., and possibly revealed at this year’s E3. She would be the fifth woman to be included in this new iteration, which will be quite good news for the gender equality goal. But it doesn’t stop at that: this year, there are many other very good choices that Sakurai could make as to what newcomers are going to be included.
On one hand, we have Lucina, from Fire Emblem: Awakening . This game has not only been the most successful entry into its own saga, but actually has been confirmed to have a stage on the new Smash Bros. (Arena Ferox), so the chances for it having a newcomer are pretty high. While it is more likely that Chrom would be included as a newcomer, there has been much controversy among the fans as to whether Smash Bros. really need three blue-haired dudes with a sword. Many have argued that the character’s avatar, Robin, be included as a newcomer, especially since it could use magic to add some variety to the game—but many, many others have argued that having a blue-haired dudette wielding a sword would be much more appealing, especially since Lucina can be considered another of the game’s main characters. It could also be argued that she has a much more interesting role in the story than that of Chrom, but that is a matter of taste and personal preference. In any case, no one can deny that her chances are pretty good.
On the other hand, we have Dixie Kong, who recently appeared on Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze. Like Fire Emblem: Awakening, this game has met with much success, and has introduced the pink-clothed monkey to many fans of the Donkey Kong saga. This franchise has been one of Nintendo’s longest-running and most successful ones, as well as one of the most beloved by the fans. Dixie has appeared in ten games so far, and has even had a whole game devoted to herself ( Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!). All in all, I’d say her inclusion makes a lot of sense no matter how you look at it.
Finally, another very likely newcomer are the Miis. Not only have they been leaked by Sal Romano , but they have been introduced in quite a few of Nintendo games as unlockables or even the main character—one of the biggest surprises was to have them star on Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart 8. Moreover, they have their own stage on Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, Find Mii, which boosts their chances dramatically. If they are included, that would mean that we have another Wii Fit Trainer/Villager scenario where a character can be both male and female, and that is good news for the defenders of gender equality.
All in all, I think Sakurai has proven that women are being taken more seriously in this new installment that they have been before—even if the percentages are still quite unfavourable to them. However, including the characters presented here as newcomers would help restore the balance between the sexes and make playing Smash Bros. a much more inclusive experience.
What are your thoughts on the topic? Are you happy that there are more women included to the roster? Which other female characters do you think have a chance of making it in?