How to Unlock Every 'Smash Bros. Ultimate' Character as Fast as Possible

Good news: You don't have to play 90-minute matches anymore.

When Nintendo announced that every fighter in Smash Bros. history would be playable in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, fans everywhere probably didn’t consider how long it would take to actually obtain all 70-plus fighters. Thankfully, it doesn’t take that long to begin smashing with your favorite mains. You will, however, need to put in some effort.

In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Nintendo one-ups Marvel to create the most ambitious crossover in video game history. Characters spanning Nintendo’s entire IP catalog, from Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Splatoon, Fire Emblem, Donkey Kong, and Pokémon, to even third-party publishers like Capcom, Square Enix, Sega, and Namco, all collide to battle for supremacy.

There are a lot of characters in this thing, and it will take some effort to unlock them all. On the upside, unlike Smash games of yesteryear, the process has been streamlined. There’s no more need for 90-minute matches or struggling to complete Classic Mode on hard — you just need to play to your heart’s content until every fighter is yours.

Here’s how to unlock every fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, including a trick to obtain them as quickly as possible.

Wait, what Smash Bros Ultimate characters can I play with from the start?

Super Smash Bros Ultimate
The first eight characters available at the start of 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' is the same starting roster of 1999's' Super Smash Bros.' on the N64.

As soon as you start the game, players have access to Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Kirby, Fox, and Pikachu. These were the first eight playable fighters ever in the series, which began in 1999 on the Nintendo 64. And these are the characters you’ll need to sharpen your skills with if you wish to unlock your newer favorites, like Ridley or Little Mac.

Great. So how do I unlock more fighters?

Super Smash Bros Ultimate
The complete in-game roster of 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,' minus forthcoming DLC.

As veteran Smash Bros. players know, unlocking fighters means challenging the game’s artificial intelligence to a one-on-one, no-frills battle and defeating them in order to unlock new fighters.

This is called the “Challenger’s Approach,” and the stakes are high due to the fact that if players lose, they fail to unlock the character. Players can always try again, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.

There are four known methods to fighting unlockable characters.

Portable Super Smash Bros. is a dream come true in Nintendo's new ad for 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.'

Method 1: Play the game!

At the Nintendo Direct unveil for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, director Masahiro Sakurai said the process to unlock fighters has been “streamlined.” What that means is that players just need to play the game in order to initiate a Challenger’s Approach for a locked fighter.

Understand that “play the game” does not mean just messing around with the menus until a Challenger’s Approach is prompted. Players have to actually play, be it smash battles (player versus CPU, or player versus player) or Classic Mode on any difficulty. Fans on Reddit have also determined there is a minimum 10 minute quota of actual game time in order to prompt a new challenger.

The game also appears to recognize command inputs that tell whether or not folks are actually playing. So you can’t just set up a 10-minute match and then sit back and let the clock run down. This is unconfirmed, but look, there are worse ways to get what you want when you’re playing what is arguably the greatest party game of all time.

Super Smash Bros Lucario
When prompted, the game will challenge players to a "Challenger's Approach" match where the game's A.I. must be defeated in order to unlock a new fighter.

A “hint” provided in the game’s loading screens suggest playing smash battles with friends will unlock characters more quickly. It is difficult to actually determine if this is true, as Challenger’s Approach prompts seem to generate just as quick when playing alone.

The game’s selection of locked fighters also appears to be random. From my personal experience, I was able to fight and unlock newcomers like Simon Belmont and King K. Rool before getting the chance to take on Captain Falcon, a mainstay since the very first Smash Bros. game.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate Lucario
When the A.I. is defeated, the character is unlocked.

Method 2: “Game” the game.

Some have determined a way to “game” the unlock process. Given that Nintendo wanted to “award” players every time they started up Ultimate, the workaround below basically tricks your console and software.

  1. After playing a Challenger’s Approach, win or lose, close the game by pressing the Home button and pressing X to quit the software.
  2. Reopen the game.
  3. Create a new Smash ruleset, with a stock of one (1) life for the fastest possible game. Choose your best fighter or Meta Knight and you should win, easy-peasy.
  4. Close out the post-match victory screen and you should be prompted with a new Challenger’s Approach. Defeat the CPU.

The trick above is seen as the speediest way to satisfy Nintendo demands that you play the game and satisfy players who want all the fighters as quickly as possible.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate
World of Light is the new single-player story mode of 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.'

Method 3: World of Light

“World of Light” is the new single-player campaign of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It’s a spiritual successor to the still-great Subspace Emissary of Super Smash Bros. Brawl released in 2008 on the Nintendo Wii. During the adventure, players will encounter characters and “awaken” them from the clutches of “Galeem,” the new villain introduced in Ultimate.

The upside to World of Light is that it’s a lot of fun! There’s a new “Spirits” system that is a hoot to learn. There are battle stipulations that ensure no one fight plays the same, and big boss fights that can be a real challenge.

The downside to World of Light is that if you’re playing just to unlock fighters, it can feel like a chore. World of Light is a big time investment and is simply not the speediest way to unlock fighters.

Luckily, there are unlimited chances to unlock in World of Light, as players can quickly begin a rematch should they lose, which you can’t do in any other game mode.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate
World of Light is another way of unlocking characters in 'Ultimate,' though it's a significantly bigger time investment.

Also, unlocking fighters in World of Light means unlocking them across the entire game. But fighters unlocked outside WOL are still not playable in the story-based adventure until you find and defeat them on the map.

Method 4: Rematch!

We’ve already explained that winning a Challenger’s Approach means unlocking the new character. But if players lose, there is one more opportunity in the form of a rematch that slightly tips the scales to the player’s advantage.

After losing a Challenger’s Approach, you can rematch via the “Games & More” menu, underneath the “amiibo” menu option. It’s in the shape of a gold saloon-style door.

Super Smash Bros Challengers Approach
If you fail to unlock a new character, you can challenge them again in the game's menu.

When it’s there, players are allowed to rematch the characters they previously lost to in the same order they challenged in. The advantage players get is that they’re allowed to pick their own fighter, rather than play with the one they were using when the challengers first showed up. So if you caught an unlucky break and were forced to fight with a character you’re terrible with, the rematch function allows you to actually pick Meta Knight anyone you want.

We don’t know exactly how and when the rematch option becomes available. It only shows up after you’ve unlocked one or two fighters first, and only then it reappears after some substantial play time. And possibly only with a backlog of two or more fighters if players were defeated multiple times. The rematch also disappears if players fail again, forcing them back to square one. So pick your fighter carefully.

Happy smashing!

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is now available on Nintendo Switch.


Related video: 25 minutes of ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ goodness.

Media via Nintendo, Super Smash bros Ultimate TV Commercial, Corey Plante, Inverse