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SSB 64 starting roster

Character selection screen in Super Smash Bros. indicating unlockable characters.

An unlockable character (also referred to as a secret character or hidden character, and in-game as challengers) is one that is not available at the start of the game (unlike a starter character), but instead must be received in-game (unlike downloadable characters) through other means. In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, every newcomer starting from Super Smash Bros. Melee are unlockable.

A unique criterion must be met in order to unlock a certain character, as outlined below. Once the player has met this criteria in-game, a message will display; in all cases, the player is given this screen after completely finishing gameplay.

As with most fighting games, in all five games if the player fails to defeat the character in the Vs. Match to unlock them after the criteria has been met, playing another Vs. Match or mode will allow for another attempt.

In Super Smash Bros., the character select screen displayed placeholders for not yet unlocked characters. This was changed in Melee, where some characters didn't have placeholders prior to unlocking, with their portraits simply appearing afterward. The placeholder slots have been completely deleted in Brawl onwards.

"Challenger Approaching!" screen

Challenger Approaching Jigglypuff(SSB)

The Challenger Approaching! screen which Jigglypuff challenges the player in Super Smash Bros. 64

Challenger Approaching Ganondorf

The Challenger Approaching! screen which Ganondorf challenges the player in Super Smash Bros. Melee

Challenger Approaching Falco (SSBB)

The Challenger Approaching! screen which Falco challenges the player in Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Dark pit challenger 3ds

The Challenger Approaching! screen which Dark Pit challenges the player in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

Lucina challenger Wii U

The Challenger Approaching! screen which Lucina challenges the player in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

SSBU Zelda Approaches

The Challenger Approaching! screen which Zelda challenges the player in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

The "Challenger Approaching!" (挑戦者が現れました!, A Challenger has Appeared!) screen is a message that will be displayed after the player has met a criteria required to unlock any of the available characters. Every game has its unique screen.

Western versions of the game had a silhouette of the character merely displayed in a blue box in front of a black background, with an exclamation point in a red circle on the top of the screen, and the phrase "Challenger Approaching" next to it. Japanese versions had the approaching challenger fully revealed. The original game also uses similar music to the 1P-Game's intro, with the only difference being the absence of drums for the "challenger approaching" tune. Melee added the phrase "A new foe has appeared!," and also had a silhouette of the approaching challenger. The poses for the challengers were silhouettes of their renders when selected on the Character Select screen (some, however, like Ganondorf's and Luigi's, were their renders from inside the boxes). The game also added animations to the screens, with an undulating matrix effect in the background, while the exclamation point, text and silhouette would be eased in. Original music was also provided solely for the screen, which took the sound of a slow, ominous siren. Brawl returned to the plain black background (there would be a silhouette of an unlockable character the player would face), but still had animations that would ease in, and when the player pressed any button, the images would fade to black, while the "Challenger Approaching!" text would scatter all over the screen; the siren is also considerably faster and more panicky in its sound than how it sounds in Melee. Smash 4 reused Brawl's warning siren, but added in considerably more colors including hues of green, black, and violet; the screen also says "A challenger approaches!" instead of its previous quotations. However, the Wii U version kept the previous quotations.

After the "Challenger Approaching!" screen, the unlockable character will then be fought in an ordinary one stock match with no time limit, on a pre-determined stage and pre-determined music. The player uses the last character played as, as well as the same palette swap; in the case of multiplayer battles, the player who won the match will fight the challenger for the first three games, though if a CPU won the match, then the players are not given the opportunity to unlock the character. Super Smash Bros. 4 changed this formula, and it is no longer necessary to win a multiplayer battle in order to fight the challenger; if a CPU wins the match, then the human-controlled player with the highest rank will fight.

By defeating the opponent, the character becomes playable. If the player fails, however, they will not unlock the character, but in the next battle they win, they are guaranteed to meet with the challenger again.

The "Challenger Approaching!" screen has become somewhat of a meme in the Smash community. Many digitally manipulated versions of these screens have appeared, often featuring characters who do not appear in the games, mostly using artwork of the character from another game instead of original artwork (which gives away its falseness). The screens became so popular that they were featured as part of the DOJO!!; in earlier updates, whenever a new character was introduced, a banner that said "Warning! Challenger Approaching!" would appear above the entry.

Victory Theme Description
ChallengerApproaching64
Super Smash Bros. challenger alarm.
ChallengerApproachingMelee
Melee's challenger alarm.
ChallengerApproachingBrawl
Brawl, SSBWU/3DS, and Ultimate's challenger alarm.

Super Smash Bros.

Character How to Unlock
Captain Falcon Clear 1P Game with any character on any difficulty level in less than 20 minutes.
Jigglypuff Clear 1P Game with any character on any difficulty level.
Luigi Complete the Bonus 1 (Break the Targets!) stage with all 8 starting characters.
Ness Clear 1P Game on normal difficulty or higher with three stocks or less and without continuing.

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Super Smash Bros. Melee

Character How to Unlock Vs. Matches Required Unlock Stage
Jigglypuff [1] Clear Classic or Adventure Mode on any stock or difficulty. 50 Pokémon Stadium
Dr. Mario [1] As Mario, clear Classic or Adventure on any difficulty without continuing. 100 Princess Peach's Castle
Pichu Clear the "Legendary Pokémon" event. 200 Pokémon Stadium
Falco Clear 100-Man Melee. 300 Battlefield
Marth [2] Clear or fail Classic Mode or Adventure Mode with all 14 starter characters, or use them all in Vs. Mode. 400 Fountain of Dreams
Young Link Clear Classic Mode with 10 different characters. 500 Great Bay
Ganondorf Clear the "Triforce Gathering" event. 600 Final Destination
Mewtwo [3] Play Vs. Mode for a combined total of 20 hours. 700 Final Destination
Luigi Clear the first level of Adventure Mode with time ending in a "2" as the second digit of the seconds portion of the clock (Example: XX:X2XX). After that, defeat Luigi and Peach in less than a minute and then complete the Adventure Mode. 800 Mushroom Kingdom II
Roy [1] As Marth, clear either Classic or Adventure Mode without continuing. 900 Temple
Mr. Game & Watch [1] Clear Classic Mode, Adventure Mode, or Target Test with all other 24 characters. 1000 Flat Zone

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 If the player had previously used the Erase Data > Hidden Characters option in the Options menu, these characters can be unlocked again if All-Star Mode is cleared under the established conditions.
  2. By refusing to complete any of the modes, the player must get a Game Over to unlock Marth because resetting will not count any starter character used part of it's unlocking conditions.
  3. The time required is calculated in "player-hours" (e.g. 2 human players gives 2 hours for every hour of game-time, 3 human players give 3, and four players give 4).

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Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Masahiro Sakurai once stated that he feels that it would be appropriate that third-party, or "guest" characters, like Solid Snake or Sonic the Hedgehog, would be unlockable. This became true when Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out on March 9, 2008.

Also, all unlockable characters can be unlocked by playing through The Subspace Emissary, some just by playing through, while others involve completing the mode and returning to specific zones and going through previously absent doors to a playable stage where, after a short cutscene, the player will be able to fight and unlock the character. Once a character joins a group of playable characters, the character will be instantly unlocked for normal play, without requiring a "Challenger Approaching" battle. However, some characters, as per the SSE's story, must be battled to before they will join the party.

Character How to Unlock Subspace Emissary Method Vs. Matches Required
Ness Reflect 10 projectiles. Clear Subspace (Part I). 5
Marth Clear Classic Mode. Clear Battlefield Fortress. 10
Luigi Clear Classic Mode without using any continues. Clear Subspace (Part I). 22
Falco Clear 100-Man Brawl. Clear The Swamp. 50
Captain Falcon Play through Classic Mode on Normal difficulty or higher and clear it in 12 minutes or less. Clear Outside the Ancient Ruins. 70
Lucario Clear all five levels of Target Smash!! with any single character. Clear Glacial Peak. 100
Snake Play 15 Vs. Mode matches on Shadow Moses Island. Clear Battleship Halberd Interior. 130
R.O.B. Collect 250 different trophies. Clear Subspace Bomb Factory (Part II). 160
Ganondorf Clear Classic Mode on Hard difficulty with Link or Zelda/Sheik. Collect both Link and Zelda's trophies in Subspace (Part II). 200
Mr. Game & Watch Clear Target Smash!! with 30 different characters on any single difficulty level. Clear Battleship Halberd Bridge. 250
Sonic [1] Clear Classic Mode with 10 different characters. Clear The Great Maze. 300
Play Vs. Mode for 10 combined total hours.
Jigglypuff [2] Clear 20 or more events after beating the Subspace Emissary. After completing The Great Maze, defeat it in a secret room in The Swamp. 350
Toon Link [2] Clear Classic Mode after beating the Subspace Emissary. After completing The Great Maze, defeat him in a secret room in The Forest. 400
Wolf [2] Clear Boss Battles mode with either Fox or Falco. After completing The Great Maze, defeat him in a secret room in The Ruins. 450

Notes

  1. Sonic is the only character who can be unlocked 4 different ways.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Because Toon Link, Jigglypuff and Wolf are not part of the main plot of Subspace Emissary, players must beat the main story first, then revisit certain stages to find them.

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Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

In previous games, when someone unlocks a character, a unique text appears saying that the player has unlocked a character. However, when the player unlocks a character in this game, it will only say the name of the character unlocked followed by "Joins the Battle!".

Character How to Unlock Vs. Matches Required
Ness Clear Classic Mode on any difficulty. 10
Falco Clear Classic Mode without using any continues. 20
Wario Complete 100-Man Smash. 30
Lucina Clear Classic Mode as Marth without using any continues. 40
Dark Pit Clear Classic Mode with three or more characters. 50
Dr. Mario Clear Classic Mode as Mario on intensity 4.0 or higher. 60
R.O.B. Collect at least 200 different trophies. 70
Ganondorf Beat Classic Mode with Link or Zelda on intensity 5.0 or higher. 80
Mr. Game & Watch Clear Classic Mode with 10 or more characters. 90
Bowser Jr. Clear Classic Mode with Bowser on intensity 6.0 or higher. 100
Duck Hunt Clear Classic Mode with 8 or more characters. 110
Jigglypuff Collect at least 30 different Equipment items. 120

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Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Unlike the 3DS version, Ness, Jigglypuff, Ganondorf & Bowser Jr. are starter characters. Like the 3DS version, a character is unlocked for every 10 versus matches played. Two exceptions to this are Mr. Game & Watch and Duck Hunt, which they need 20 more versus matches than R.O.B. and Mr. Game & Watch, respectively.

Character How to Unlock Vs. Matches Required
Falco Clear Classic Mode. 20
Wario Clear 100-Man Smash. 30
Lucina Clear Classic Mode on intensity 5.5 or higher. 40
Dark Pit Clear All-Star Mode on Normal difficulty or higher. 50
Dr. Mario Clear a Master Orders ticket on Hard or higher. 60
R.O.B. Clear Crazy Orders after playing 8 rounds or higher. 70
Mr. Game & Watch Beat Classic Mode on intensity 2.0 or higher with 5 or more characters. 90
Duck Hunt KO one or more opponents in Cruel Smash. 110

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

With the Original 8 as the starter characters, every other playable character in the entire Smash Bros. franchise serves as unlockable fighters. As such, the player has a new method capable of unlocking fighters, by playing the modes Adventure Mode: World of Light, Classic Mode, or Smash Mode.

If the player engages in VS. matches and has an unlockable fighter challenge the player where defeating him/her will unlock him/her, then there is a cooldown of 10 minutes for the next available unlockable fighter. However, the player can close the game, return to the Switch's home menu and restart Ultimate to bypass this method.

  1. Ness
  2. Zelda
  3. Bowser
  4. Pit
  5. Inkling
  6. Villager
  7. Marth
  8. Young Link
  9. Wii Fit Trainer
  10. Ice Climbers
  11. Captain Falcon
  12. Peach
  13. Ryu
  14. Ike
  15. Jigglypuff
  16. King K. Rool
  17. Sonic
  18. Simon
  19. Zero Suit Samus
  20. Little Mac
  21. Isabelle
  22. Shulk
  23. Lucina
  24. Wario
  25. Ridley
  26. Pokemon Trainer
  27. Lucario
  28. Daisy
  29. Roy
  30. King Dedede
  31. R.O.B.
  32. Falco
  33. Luigi
  34. Pichu
  35. Richter
  36. Lucas
  37. Diddy Kong
  38. Meta Knight
  39. Snake
  40. Ganondorf
  41. Corrin
  42. Mega Man
  43. Bayonetta
  44. Toon Link
  45. Rosalina & Luma
  46. Incineroar
  47. Sheik
  48. Olimar
  49. Pac-Man
  50. Dark Samus
  51. Wolf
  52. Mr. Game & Watch
  53. Robin
  54. Dark Pit
  55. Cloud
  56. Duck Hunt
  57. Ken
  58. Greninja
  59. Chrom
  60. Mewtwo
  61. Bowser Jr.
  62. Dr. Mario
  63. Palutena

Trivia

  • The AI level of unlockable character fights increases with each consecutive character, though the opposite is the case in Melee.
  • Super Smash Bros. is the only game not to use silhouettes of the characters before fighting them, it shows them as their full-color models instead. This occurs only when used in any N64 Emulator.
  • In Brawl, whenever the player fights a hidden character, his/her character always uses their default palette swap, even if another costume was selected.
  • Luigi, Captain Falcon, Ness, Jigglypuff, Marth, Ganondorf, Wario, Lucario, Toon Link, and Sonic are the only non-DLC characters to have their availability status change in future Super Smash Bros. installments.
    • Wario is the first character debuting as a starter before becoming unlockable.
  • In Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, some unlockable characters in the 3DS version are starter characters in the Wii U version. This was a personal choice of Masahiro Sakurai, who opted with his team to make said characters starters as they were unlockable in the 3DS to save players who already had this version to take extra time to unlock all, but still have fun unlocking hidden content.
    • Additionally, because of this, Sakurai's original plan was to make all characters available from the start in both versions; meaning there would be no hidden fighters. This idea was abandoned given the fact he acknowledged players enjoy the idea of the expectation of finding hidden content, as well as fighting a secret fighter in order to unlock him/her. To balance this with his original idea of making all characters available, he toned down the unlocking difficulty, meaning characters both in the Wii U / 3DS versions are easier to unlock than previous titles.
  • Dr. Mario, Pichu, Falco, Young Link, Mr Game & Watch, Snake, R.O.B., Wolf, Lucina, Dark Pit and Duck Hunt are the only eleven unlockable characters to remain unlockable in every game they appear in.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the only game where every newcomer is an unlockable. This also applies to Echo Fighters.

See also

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