By Anokh "EdwinBudding" Palakurthi | 11/01/21

Three years ago, Melissa Blight and I worked together to release a list of the Top 100 Melee Players of All-Time, an ambitious endeavor that received overwhelming support and recognition from the Smash community. While the project had its highs and lows, it nevertheless reflected the state of the scene, both in terms of which players defined it and where it was heading. 

Today, the landscape looks completely different from what it was in 2018, let alone from what anyone could have imagined at the start of last year. Although many of the same names continue to dominate the scene, players we once saw as merely on the come up have established themselves as top talents. The long story short is that with Melee’s 20th anniversary coming up, the Top 100 Melee Players of All-Time list is in need of a serious update. I’m here to share with you that very update: an upcoming Melee Stats and PGStats collaboration that seeks to celebrate 20 years of Melee, to recognize those who showed the best competitive results of the last 20 years, and to remind everyone of the 20 more years to come for our game. Let’s break down Melee Stats’ Top 100 Players of All-Time. 

Determining our Talent Pool - Ranking & Placements

Melissa and I had a simple method to determine our candidate pool for 2018. The first step was to create a list of every single player who had ever been ranked within the Top 10 of MPGR or RetroSSBMRank. After that, we included people listed as honorable mentions within RetroSSBMRank, incorporated anyone who had finished within the Top 25 from 2013 to 2017, and added those who barely missed the cut of honorable mention for RetroSSBMRank. 
This approach was valuable for the time, but many of its holes are apparent today. In addition to overvaluing peak placements at supermajors and ranking finishes for older players, it undervalued the impressiveness of staying relevant at a Top 50 to 100 level in the modern era. For this year’s update to the list, I decided to not only include players who were ranked in the Top 25 from 2018 to 2019, but to also add any player that had ever finished in the Top 100 of MPGR for at least five years, or, bare minimum, had at least oneTop 50 finish alongside three years of being ranked in the Top 100. 
From then on, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t miss anyone. I consulted with the rest of Melee Stats—a team of data trackers, content creators, and behind-the-scenes specialists whom I am part of—to ensure that notable players who may have slipped through the cracks were included on the rough list of candidates. 
Our initial draft. ended up with about 180 candidates. The process involved looking at tournaments throughout the MLG era (2004-2008) and the post-Brawl era (2009-2013) and seeing what familiar names showed up in Top 32s and Top 64s of major tournaments. In the next section, I will review how we classified major tournaments.

What Counts as a Major?

We acknowledged this in 2018, and it’s worth saying again—there is simply no objective way of determining what is a major and what isn’t; we can only do our best to create the most useful parameters. When Melissa and I tackled this question in 2018, we went with the following criteria. 
  • At least three top five players in a given year must be in attendance and competing within the Melee singles bracket for it to be considered a major-level event.
  • The performance of top five players must be at a level in which the results of said tournament cannot suffer from competitive illegitimacy, due to either sandbagging, bracket manipulation, splitting or any other out-of-game anti-competitive tactics through a majority or significant portion of the tournament.
  • The tournament evaluation period starts at 2004’s Game Over -  considered to be the first major of competitive Melee that shares enough qualities with the modern scene to be a point of comparison. 
While it was effective for the time, the limitations of this approach particularly stand out. Most notably, it led to the inclusion of MDVA locals - albeit ones with Mew2King and PC Chris - as unofficial majors. Other top heavy tournaments, such as The Fall Classic and Winter GameFest VI were counted as majors, while events like Pound 2016 and Smash ‘N’ Splash 2 were not counted. As a result, there were two minor changes to this criteria for the 2021 list of majors. 
  •  At least three top five players in a given year should be in attendance and competing within the Melee singles bracket for it to be considered a major-level event or the event must have at least six top ten players.
  • The tournament evaluation period starts at 2004’s Game Over - considered to be the first major of competitive Melee that shares enough qualities with the modern scene to be a point of comparison - and ends at 2021’s Riptide
Similar to our 2018 list, there was also a need to differentiate the weight of majors from each other. For example, no one would argue against Genesis, Evo, or The Big House being the most prestigious tournaments to win in the entire scene. We moved forward with a useful delineation between “majors,” “nationals,” and “supermajors,” with definitions for each existing below. 
Supermajor: All five of the top five in an annual ranking period are seriously competing at a given tournament or the event must carry significant “prestige” and history within the scene to where winning it carries a level of importance greater than its competitive field. IE: every Genesis, every Evo, and every The Big House iteration after The Big House 4. 
National: Four of the top five players in an annual ranking period are seriously competing at this tournament or six of the top ten are in attendance. IE: Royal Flush, Super Smash Con 2018, and Mainstage 2019. 
Major: Three of the top five players in an annual ranking period are seriously competing at a given tournament and/or six of the top ten are in attendance. IE: Pound 2016, Shine 2016, and I’m Not Yelling. 
The one notable exception to qualifying within these rules was Jack Garden Tournament, the first prestigious Melee invitational which featured Ken, Isai, and the best players of Japan in 2005. Because of the historical circumstances surrounding this event’s perceived status at the time, in part because the skill gap between Japan and the rest of the world was considered significant, we decided to formalize this event as a supermajor-level tournament. 

Narrowing Down The Talent Pool, Pt. 1

After looking at the initial pool of candidates, I felt it was best to limit them further. The first step was to figure out which players whose results were too difficult to cleanly translate to the rest of the scene. 
Although the Melee scene is mostly prominent within the United States, it  does have an international history, with relevant players spanning numerous continents. From the days of Ek ruling Europe in the mid-aughts to Spud shining on a major stage in 2019, the list of strong players and great “what-ifs” in international Melee history especially showed in the initial nominees list. 
For some of these players, it was frankly too difficult to compare their results to the American players. As a result, I have decided to deliberately exclude the following players, in part to simplify the voting process for the panel and also because it didn’t seem fair to compare their extenuating circumstances with other nominees. Consider these players “Honorable Exclusions” from the list.
  • Masashi
  • Mikael
  • Aniki
  • Ek
  • Bombsoldier
  • Kupo
  • Shino
  • Remen
  • S-Royal
  • Mach Dash
  • Zeruo
  • Smasher
  • DISK
  • Farce
  • Shu
  • Jing
  • Brown Mario
  • TANI
  • Korius
  • Hiko
  • Hoshino Kirby
  • RAIN
  • Thunders
  • Twin

Narrowing Down The Talent Pool, Pt. 2

From there on, I took it as a personal initiative to simplify the list further so that I could give my voters the best possible candidate pool. Doing so required making tough calls. For example, this involved practical coin flips between including modern players with many years of Top 100 activity or older players with higher peak major placements and far fewer years of competition. 
Reviewing each of the initial players included and why they did not make the list will be something I may cover in a future article. The long story short is that the process led to over 50 names being taken from the candidate pool. 
Unfortunately, narrowing down what we had contained additional factors outside of the game to consider. 

Narrowing Down The Talent Pool, Pt. 3

Part of history is coming to terms with the things we don’t always like to remember. A year ago, the Smash community found out that many of its most prominent players and figures had been mired in severe misconduct cases within the scene. Many of these people were ones that I had ranked within the first Top 100 All-Time list.
Back then, the scene had a very different way of dealing with banned players. As far as the original list went, I thought the proper thing to do was to include players who were or had been banned from the scene, but acknowledge it within our articles. My reasoning went like this: the list was simply a factual overview of accomplishments. It wasn’t celebratory; it was just mine and my partner’s opinions on which players had the best competitive results. 
Because of the changing climate of the scene, that doesn’t seem like the correct approach in 2021. In working on this series, I revisited many of the old questions I had about this list from before. Was the list an implicit endorsement of these players’ moral characters? Could it simply exist as a neutral observation of results? 
The more I sat on it, the more differently I viewed the answers to these questions from what I had thought in the past. While I still didn’t think the list could be viewed as endorsing someone’s entire moral character, it felt wrong to act like it could simply exist as a neutral observation of results.
To figure out a way forward, I looked for precedent on how previous lists had dealt with this question. I eventually came across how Tafokints—the former project manager behind MPGR—dealt with player bans. Of note, I found a video of him explaining his decision behind one particular case. In it, he said that the line he drew came from if a player was dealing with a community ban as a result of a verifiable, credible instance of sexual assault or physical violence.

Within sports itself, there exists precedent for excluding top performers based on conduct or cheating, such as the controversial “character clause” for the Baseball Hall of Fame. This has been used to exclude otherwise legendary players who have acted in a way that breached “integrity, sportsmanship, and character.” I say this because the stakes of conduct breaches are quite a bit more personal in a grassroots community like Melee than they are in professional sports. 
In Melee, the delineation between public and private figures is far more grey, as even the scene’s most celebrated figures often interact with everyday people. A Top 100 All-Time list might not uncritically endorse someone’s entire character, but it tacitly accepts a player’s past, current, or upcoming participation within the Smash scene. 
If you don’t buy that, then I’ll put it this way: a Melee Stats Top 100 All-Time list is our team’s tacit endorsement of a player’s past, current, or upcoming participation within the Smash scene. When put this way, I could not justify ignoring substantive allegations of severe misconduct, especially ones that led to a player’s exclusion. It wasn’t an empty moral stance - it was a rational choice based on how we chose to frame the list. 
As a result, I have used my best judgment and behind-the-scenes knowledge to create a private list of otherwise potential nominees who are actively barred from the project. These are people who are currently banned from majors either due to allegations or documented cases of active discrimination, sexual violence, or other forms of severe misconduct toward other Smash community members. 
I stand by the decisions I have made to include and exclude certain players, and my team stands by my choices.  
So, who exactly is my team?

Determining A Voting Panel

In 2018, Melissa and I were the only voters. Although we felt uniquely qualified to make the list, we had reached out to notable community figures for their input, and there was frankly little interest. In hindsight, it’s easy to see why. Voting takes a massive amount of time. Members of the panel must evaluate numerous results and create useful criteria around ordering many players who may have similar accomplishments. 
The long story short was that there weren’t many people in the scene actively dedicated to doing this on a historical level. But for this year’s All-Time Top 100, I’m proud to say that this has changed. Teaming up with us are fellow Melee Stats members, whom I will introduce below. 
  • Eryk “Ambisinister” Banatt: Creative Director of the Melee Stats Film series
  • Brendan “GimmeDatWheat” Malone: Melee Stats Partnerships Director and head statistician behind MPGR
  • Glenn “KayB” Kim: Annual MPGR voter and Copyeditor for the Melee Stats website
  • Leon “ycz6” Zhou: Annual MPGR voter and formerly No. 15 in NorCal Samus player
While each of our fields of interest are slightly different from each other, all of us share a passion for hardcore research of Melee results and Melee history. With this team of six, I came up with the following factors to guide each voter in making their decision on ranking players: 
  • How consistent was this player during their active years of competing?
  • How well did a player perform at the biggest majors of their era?
  • How long did their playing career last?
  • If this player never existed, how much does their absence impact the metagame?
  • What are the player’s best wins and how significant are they in Melee history? 
Each of the balloteers would use this criteria to rank players on a scale of 1 (the worst player on the list) to 10 (the best player on the list). With the help of PracticalTAS, I would then weigh each of the scores to calculate a final adjusted list that would serve as the Top 100 players of All-Time. 


Thank you to the few of you for reading this far. Below, I have posted the publish dates for each of the articles. 

The Schedule

The #MSTop100 will be releasing 10 players at a time over the next three weeks:
Week 1
100-91: November 1
90-81: November 3
80-71: November 5
Week 2
70-61: November 8
60-51: November 10
50-41: November 12
Week 3
40-31: November 15
30-21: November 17
20-11: November 19
10-1: November 21
Melee Top 100