At about 2am this morning, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate got its long awaited 3.0 update. The big headline change made by the update was the addition of DLC fighter Joker, the protagonist of Persona 5, but the update also added the ability to create and share custom stages and fighters online with other players.
The functionality has been live for less than 12 hours at the time of writing this, and there's already a lot of free player-made content available to browse. Sure, a lot of it is penis stages, but we wanted to dig a little below that, and see what promising-looking stages have already appeared in the first few hours.
My initial method for finding interesting stages was searching by most popular, and checking out stages with interesting visual designs in their preview images. This quickly presented a bit of a problem. Many stage designers created their stages in such a way that standard combat between competitors on the core platform of the stage gives players no view whatsoever of the cool designs they're playing on. A great example of this issue is this NES Controller stage – it's expertly designed, but it largely appears to be just a grey platform while you're playing on it.
NES Controller - Josh | AWC
Another example is this stage designed around the final fight of Undertale's Genocide run. In a preview image, zoomed out, it looks like a really faithful recreation of the in-game location, but in practice the in-play perspective makes aspects not line up. And to see the well-made game UI down the bottom, both players would need to fall off separate sides of the stage at once.
Megalovania - Makytacky
While this issue ultimately left a lot of the most exciting-looking stages falling a bit flat when played, there are some stages popping up already where their interesting visual designs are properly visible during play. One of the best ones so far for maximising visual design while playing is this Rainbow Road inspired stage, complete with fireball hazard to capture the dangerous nature of the Mario Kart course – even if not strictly accurately. You're not falling off the track, but it's a dangerous space rainbow all the same.
Rainbow Road - MinedBlown
Also, this trans pride flag stage titled Trans Rights not only manages to get its point across, but it's also just really rad to see how high this ended up in the day one popular stages tab.
Trans Rights - Ash
This Mario Odyssey-themed stage captures the design of Cappy's ship really nicely.
Odyssey Ship - Bryan
This Minecraft-inspired stage really takes advantage of the way blocks appear in the stage builder, and captures some nice elements of the game into its structure.
Minecraft - StrikaZ
But there are currently three custom stages that really stand out to me at the moment. First up is this really nice Tetris level. Its uneven terrain and high walls are very unusual and don't feel reminiscent of any standard stage in the base game. The look and feel is spot on for the source material, and it's a nice, simple concept executed really well.
Tetris - Nick
While it may not look like much, Smashket-Ball has a really interesting gimmick to it mechanically. You see those cannons above the edges of the map? Well, if you're thrown into one, it'll fire you to a guaranteed K.O. without any way to recover. The idea is if you can successfully slam-dunk your opponent into the hoops up at the ends of the stage, you score points. Basically, it's murder basketball, and I really dig the idea.
Smashket-Ball - Luke
Lastly, this level set inside a Nintendo Switch is a delight. The Joy-Cons move up and down on the slide rails, causing irregular ledge positions for players trying to recover. Playing down inside the very bottom of the Switch screen makes it very hard to be knocked out, but makes maneuvering tough and lowers your ability to escape attacks aimed at you. Fighting just on top of the game icons gives you protection to either side, but prevents you doing a consistent run due to the gaps between icons being functional holes to fall through. Up top, you've got a standard flat platform, but with the aforementioned raising and lowering barriers at either side. It's a really cute map design, with some interesting play options.
Switch - Ness
While we're only hours into custom maps being available in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, we're already seeing some ambitious and interesting attempts here and there. No doubt over time we'll see some even more impressive creations from players investing time into the game's tools, but right now there's plenty to be impressed with – even if some aren't landing quite right. Just watch out for the penises.