Steve from Minecraft was added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in October of 2020. In the years since, sentiment around the character has gotten worse and worse due to accusations that the character is broken and overpowered. Now, a recent discovery around a competitively advantageous glitch has brought these conversations back into the spotlight. Now, it sounds like swaths of the Smash Bros. competitive scene are outright banning the character from tournaments.
Steve was contentious from the start, with players raising issues with his combo potential and large swath of ranged attacks. It makes him a frustrating character to fight against, and not many characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s expansive roster act as a hard counter to him. Because of this, calls to have the character banned have been ongoing since he launched. It looks like some of those people are getting their wish now that a new glitch has been discovered that pushes the character from overpowered to unfair.
What’s the problem with Steve in Smash Bros.?
In layperson terms, Steve has a glitch associated with his recoil animations that allows him to recover at a faster rate than other characters in the game, meaning he can break combos that should otherwise work with other characters and retaliate before his opponent can even act. This isn’t an intentional part of the character’s toolset, but rather an unfortunate tech workaround that worked in players’ favor. Despite this, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is no longer receiving balance updates from Nintendo, so competitive organizers are left with two options: do you ban the strategy, or do you ban the character?
The logistics of banning the strategy are complicated. If you choose to let players continue using Steve in competitive tournaments but don’t allow players to willfully use this tech, moderating matches where the character is used becomes a massive time commitment. It requires the players to save a replay of the exchange and for an organizer to view and verify that the Steve player is breaking the rules, and then ultimately make the call on the legality of the play. While these types of calls can be made more easily during in-person tournaments (though pulling away an organizer is always interrupting something else at the event), doing them in an online setting becomes much more complicated. These replays have to be uploaded or streamed in ways much more time-consuming than having an organizer walk over to the players in question at a game setup. Because of this, some tournament organizers have made the call to just ban Steve entirely, rather than devoting valuable time and resources into micromanaging a specific character.
Juan Manuel DeBiedma, a prolific Super Smash Bros. player that has won tournaments such as EVO throughout his career and organizer of online tournament The Coinbox better known by his handle Hungrybox, released a video about the situation on his YouTube channel. In the video, DeBiedma runs through several tournament organizers around the US announcing their decision to ban Steve across their events. Ultimately, after some consideration, he follows suit, saying Steve would not be allowed in The Coinbox “until further notice.”
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How widespread is the Steve ban?
Barnard’s Loop, a data organizer for the Smash community, has compiled data about the current stance most states have taken on Steve. At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of consensus just yet about how hard organizers are coming down on the character. However, several are at least putting some restrictions on players using him, such as allowing him in local tournaments but not state tournaments. Despite this, Hungrybox notes in his video that The Coinbox making the ban can be seen as a blueprint for others to follow, and that time will tell how far reaching this will become.
Overall, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate isn’t beholden to unified rules, especially without Nintendo’s direct involvement in the competitive scene, so tournament organizers are free to do what they want. But the current state of Steve points to an underlying issue with fighting game balance that arises when the developer has finally moved on from supporting it. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s final patch was released in December of 2021, and since then, the community has had to wrestle with the state of the game as it sorts out its own competitive rules. So for now, Steve is getting banned by some tournaments, and will at least be a contentious pick in others.