When asked to think of a Nintendo game to play with friends, most people will usually come up with three titles: Mario Kart, Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. However, it’s only the latter of those three that has a thriving, worldwide competitive esports scene capable of pulling in tens of thousands of viewers and players.
Despite a lack of cooperation and backing from Nintendo themselves, tournaments held around the world still manage to bring in prominent esport team sponsors, dish out thousands of dollars in prizes and captivate fans of all ages and backgrounds. The newest edition of the Smash series, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, has given the community some of the most enthralling events and iconic moments in Smash history.
One player has been providing the Smash scene with iconic moments for over a decade. Hailing from Mexico, Leonardo Lopez Perez, known as MkLeo, or simply Leo, has been undeniably the No. 1 player in Ultimate’s history.
MkLeo has been heralded as “inevitable” by players and commentators, and that could not be any closer to the truth. From the opening months of the game in late 2018 up to the end of 2022, the Mexico City prodigy has been the uncontested No. 1 player. MkLeo is known for piloting a multitude of different characters and playstyles, finding success with each one of them.
From long, hard-fought runs through the losers bracket to dominating victories from the winners’ side, MkLeo has been far and away the face of North America for the last three years, but that’s not to say North America lacks talent outside of him.
MkLeo’s longtime rival — and now teammate — from New Jersey, Gavin Dempsey, better known as Tweek, was a top 3 player in the world in the game’s early years and has maintained top 10 status since 2018. Paris “Light” Ramirez Garcia from Connecticut, Michael “Riddles” Kim from Canada and Carlos “Sonix” Pérez from the Dominican Republic are the other North American players currently in the top 10.
However, there is one more Mexican player who is now taking the world by storm: Edgar Valdez. Better known as Sparg0, the 17-year-old from Tijuana was always a rising threat, but since his first major win in early 2022, Sparg0 has been on an absolute tear, leapfrogging MkLeo in the rankings and becoming arguably the best player in the world.
Sparg0’s main competition for the top spot comes from Japan, where Smash was developed. Another teenage prodigy, Mashita Hayato, otherwise known as acola, swept the entire Smash world off of its feet when he made his offline debut in May 2022, finishing in first or second place at 12 out of 16 tournaments through the rest of last year. With Sparg0 triumphing over acola at two premier-tier majors in Japan at “Kagaribi 10” and Canada at “Battle of BC 5,” the top two players in the world are still fighting for the No. 1 spot.
Outside of acola, Japan as a whole has all but solidified itself as the strongest country in the world when it comes to Smash, as the amount of top-level players vastly outnumber other countries. Yet another teenage ascendant, Miya, has shot to top 10 status ever since his supermajor debut victory in July last year. Japan’s old guard still has strong representation in international rankings. They are led by Shuto “Shuton” Moriya and Takuma “Tea” Hirooka, who have both been at least top 15 throughout Smash Ultimate’s lifespan.
Japan and North America rule the top 10 in today’s landscape, but Europe is not far behind, as Frenchman William “Glutonny” Belaïd and Englishman Oliver “Bloom4Eva” Alexander are just outside the top 10. Supermajors in the United States, Japan and France over the next few months will bring much excitement over the summer for spectators, as a vast majority of the top 50 plus players in the world will be in attendance looking to catapult themselves to glory.