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Smash Bros Ultimate character unlocks: how to unlock every fighter on the roster

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate features the most eclectic, huge cast ever assembled in a fighting game - but you'll only start with 8 of the 76 total cast members playable. 60-some character unlocks takes a long time, obviously... but there's some tricks to make it much faster. Here's how to unlock characters - and quickly - so you can have a full roster as soon as possible.

While every single fighter from Smash Bros history is present in Super Smash. Bros Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch, you'll start out with just the original 8 fighters from the classic N64 game that started it all: that's Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Kirby, Fox McCloud and Pikachu. That's right - you don't even get the 4 secret hidden characters from that first game initially.

Everyone is here, but aside from those 8 you'll need to unlock every character - and over in the story mode, World of Light, you'll start out with just Kirby, the only character to survive the cataclysmic event in Ultimate's story opening. On this page, we explain the fastest way to unlock fighters fast naturally... plus a way to cheat the character unlock system to get them even faster still.

How to unlock characters in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

A lot of the time, Character Unlocks in Smash Bros Ultimate are relatively random. However, there are methods you can use to both speed up the rate at which you unlock characters and manipulate which characters unlock in what order. On this page, we're going to detail exactly how to unlock characters quickly, plus how to target certain specific characters if you wish

Anyway, there are essentially three ways to unlock characters in Smash Ultimate:

  • Character unlocks in World of Light, the single-player story mode. As previously mentioned, the story mode starts you out with just Kirby, and you'll have to slowly expand your roster from there by conquering the map. Once a character is unlocked in World of Light they're also unlocked over in the main modes. Given that World of Light unlocks are in set positions across the map, this is the only way you can guarantee a specific unlock if that's what you're after.
  • Completing Classic Mode. Every run of classic mode will give you a set encounter with a new challenger determined by the character you're playing, and if you beat them you'll unlock them in the rest of the game.
  • Random character unlocks from playing the game in general. The way Smash Ultimate seems to work is that every now and then it'll reward you for playing the game and competing in various modes with a random 'new challenger' fight where, if you beat the character, you unlock them. This works in all modes, even Multiplayer.

With these methods in mind, let's talk about how you can game the system to unlock characters very, very quickly indeed...

Cover image for YouTube video

The fastest way to unlock new characters using multiplayer mode

Here's the headline: random character unlocks in Smash Ultimate run on a ten-minute timer, and that timer can be cheated. What does this mean in real terms? It means you can reset the game and force another encounter more quickly than you otherwise would. The easiest way to do this is in Smash mode - the basic versus multiplayer of the game, which can be played against AI as well as humans. Here's the step by step of how to do it:

  1. First, trigger a fighter encounter for the character unlock battle as described above. Win the fight.
  2. When you hit the 'Character joins the battle' splash screen, press HOME on your Nintendo Switch, then close the Smash Bros. Ultimate software.
  3. Reboot Smash Ultimate. Head into Smash mode, and set up rules for a one-stock Smash match. Pick a character you're comfortable with and win the match. It seems the game is checking you're cheesing, so try to at least play a little - take thirty seconds to school a weak AI, for instance.
  4. The Character Unlock Encounter timer hasn't reset, so when this match is ended by your self-destruction, you'll trigger another unlock battle. Go ahead and do it.
  5. When you win and the splash screen appears announcing that character is unlocked, press HOME and close the game again. Reboot and repeat as much as you like.

This way, an unlock process that should take between eight and twelve hours can be streamlined down to a few short hours. It's still a grind, but this is a fast, reliable way of unlocking characters - and it's how we did it.

The easiest way to unlock specific characters: Classic Mode

If you want to unlock a specific fighter, the quickest way will actually be classic mode. World of Light unlocks are spread out throughout the mode, with some characters coming hours in, while other unlocks are random. In Classic Mode, however, there is a natural order to things, as depicted in the image above from Japan.

This image is easy enough to read: the top row are the original playable eight characters. Each row cascades down from there. So completing Classic Mode as Mario will unlock Sonic; doing so as Sonic will then unlock Bayonetta. Some characters appear more than once throughout, so for instance you can either unlock Bowser by going right down the Mario line and completing Classic with Olimar or you can unlock him by simply beating Classic Mode with DK - the choice is yours.

Use this chart to plan out the quickest path your main if you're looking to encounter a very specific fighter.

Combining World of Light and Challenger Approach to unlock fighters quickly and naturally

Consider what was said above - characters unlock both through World of Light and through merely playing the game. If you want to unlock all the fighters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate quickly, you can combine these two methods. It's simple, but it works. Here's what to do:

  1. Play World of Light. World of Light is full of character unlocks anyway, so abuse that fact. There will be seven wasted character unlocks here, since the remainder of the original 8 also need to be unlocked - but you'll still encounter plenty of characters frequently.
  2. However, every 10 minutes, after a few battles, quit World of Light. Because you've been playing, once you get all the way back to the main menu of Smash Ultimate, the game will offer you up a 'new challenger' encounter against a character you're yet to unlock in World of Light.
  3. It doesn't hugely matter if you win or lose that battle, but once the new challenger approach battle is over, head back into World of Light for another 10-15 minutes, then repeat.

This is a simple way of maximizing your character unlocks in both modes - you'll unlock some fighters through World of Light, then others through the main menu. You'll see some duplication in World of Light, but not the other way - thankfully, once a character is unlocked in World of Light it can't show up as a new challenger and will be available for full use in all modes.

If you fail to stick the landing with an encounter, don't panic. In World of Light you can retry, and even outside of it there's a method to give you a second chance - Challenger's Approach. If you lose an encounter, you'll have a chance to retry the character unlock battle via a special menu option.

You'll find the option to retry in the bottom-right of the Games and More screen, as pictured above. It's on a timer, so fighters who beat you won't reappear for a while - but when they do you can tackle them again for a chance to unlock them as a playable character.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate Character Roster:

Here's the character roster - who you're looking to collect and add to your roster to ensure it's complete:

  • Bayonetta
  • Bowser
  • Bowser Jr.
  • Captain Falcon
  • Chrom (Roy echo fighter)
  • Cloud
  • Corrin
  • Daisy (Peach echo fighter)
  • Dark Pit (Pit echo fighter)
  • Dark Samus (Samus echo fighter)
  • Diddy Kong
  • Donkey Kong
  • Dr. Mario
  • Duck Hunt
  • Falco
  • Fox
  • Ganondorf
  • Greninja
  • The Ice Climbers
  • Ike
  • Incineroar
  • Inkling
  • Isabelle
  • Jigglypuff
  • Ken
  • King Dedede
  • King K. Rool
  • Kirby
  • Link
  • Little Mac
  • Lucario
  • Lucas
  • Lucina (Marth echo fighter)
  • Luigi
  • Mario
  • Marth
  • Mega Man
  • Meta Knight
  • Mewtwo
  • Mii Brawler
  • Mii Gunner
  • Mii Fighter
  • Mr. Game & Watch
  • Ness
  • Captain Olimar
  • Pac-Man
  • Palutena
  • Peach
  • Pichu
  • Pikachu
  • Piranha Plant (DLC)
  • Pit
  • Pokemon Trainer (Charizard, Ivysaur and Squirtle)
  • R.O.B. the robot
  • Robin
  • Rosalina
  • Roy
  • Richter (Simon echo fighter)
  • Ridley
  • Ryu
  • Samus
  • Sheik
  • Shulk
  • Simon Belmont
  • Solid Snake
  • Sonic
  • Toon Link
  • Villager
  • Wario
  • Wii Fit Trainer
  • Wolf
  • Yoshi
  • Young Link
  • Zelda
  • Zero Suit Samus

Super Smash Bros Ultimate Stages: full stage list

There are a whole lot of stages in this game, too. Here they all are:

Smash 64 Stages

  • Dream Land (Kirby's Dream Land)
  • Final Destination (New Smash Ultimate variant)
  • Hyrule Castle (Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
  • Kongo Jungle (Donkey Kong Country)
  • Mushroom Kingdom (Super Mario Bros)
  • Peach's Castle (Super Mario 64)
  • Saffron City (Pokemon)
  • Super Happy Tree (Yoshi's Story)

Smash Bros. Melee Stages

  • Battlefield (New Smash Ultimate variant)
  • Big Blue (F-Zero)
  • Brinstar (Super Metroid)
  • Brinstar Depths (Super Metroid)
  • Corneria (Star Fox 64)
  • Final Destination
  • Flat Zone (Game & Watch)
  • Fourside (Earthbound)
  • Fountain of Dreams (Kirby)
  • Great Bay (Zelda: Majora's Mask)
  • Green Greens (Kirby)
  • Jungle Japes (Donkey Kong Country)
  • Kongo Falls (Donkey Kong Country)
  • Mushroom Kingdom II (Super Mario Bros 2)
  • Onett (Earthbound)
  • Pokemon Stadium (Pokemon Red/Blue)
  • Princess Peach's Castle (Mario 64)
  • Rainbow Cruise (Mario 64)
  • Temple (Zelda: Adventure of Link)
  • Venom (Star Fox 64)
  • Yoshi's Island (Super Mario World)
  • Yoshi's Story (Yoshi's Story)

Smash Bros. Brawl Stages

  • 75M (Donkey Kong)
  • Bridge of Eldin (Zelda Twilight Princess)
  • Castle Siege (Fire Emblem)
  • Delfino Plaza (Super Mario Sunshine)
  • Distant Planet (Pikmin)
  • Flat Zone 2 (Game & Watch)
  • Frigate Orpheon (Metroid Prime)
  • Green Hill Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog)
  • Halberd (Kirby)
  • Hanenbow (Electroplankton)
  • Luigi's Mansion
  • Lylat Cruise (Star Fox)
  • Figure-8 Circuit (Mario Kart)
  • Mario Bros.
  • Mushroomy Kingdom
  • New Pork City (Earthbound/Mother)
  • Norfair (Metroid)
  • Pictochat (DS)
  • Pirate Ship (Zelda Wind Waker)
  • Pokemon Stadium 2
  • Port Town Aero Dive (F-Zero)
  • Shadow Moses Island (Metal Gear Solid)
  • Skyworld (Kid Icarus)
  • Smashville (Animal Crossing)
  • Spear Pillar (Pokemon)
  • Summit (Ice Climbers)
  • Wario Ware Inc (Wario Ware)
  • Yoshi's Island

Smash Bros 3DS Stages

  • 3D Land (Mario 3D Land)
  • Arena Ferox (Fire Emblem)
  • Balloon Fight
  • Dream Land GB (Kirby's Dream Land)
  • Find Mii (3DS)
  • Gerudo Valley (Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
  • Golden Plains (New Super Mario Bros 2)
  • Living Room (Nintendogs)
  • Magicant (Earthbound)
  • Mute City SNES (F-Zero)
  • Paper Mario
  • Pictochat 2 (DS)
  • Prism Tower (Pokemon)
  • Reset Bomb Forest (Kid Icarus)
  • Spirit Train (Zelda: Spirit Tracks)
  • Tomodachi Life
  • Tortimer Island (Animal Crossing)
  • Unova League (Pokemon)

Smash Wii U Stages

  • Big Battlefield (New Smash Ultimate variant)
  • Boxing Ring (Punch-Out!!!)
  • Coliseum (Fire Emblem)
  • Duck Hunt
  • Flat Zone X
  • Gamer (Wario Ware)
  • Garden of Hope (Pikmin)
  • Gaur Plain (Xenoblade)
  • Great Cave Offensive (Kirby)
  • Kalos League (Pokemon)
  • Mario Circuit (Mario Kart)
  • Mario Galaxy
  • Midgar (Final Fantasy 7)
  • Mushroom Kingdom U (New Super Mario Bros U)
  • Pac-Land (Pac-Man)
  • Paletuna's Temple (Kid Icarus)
  • Pilotwings
  • Skyloft (Zelda: Skyward Sword)
  • Super Mario Maker
  • Suzaku Castle (Street Fighter)
  • Town and City (Animal Crossing)
  • Wily Castle (Mega Man)
  • Wii Fit Studio
  • Windy Hill Zone (Sonic Lost World)
  • Wrecking Crew
  • Wuhu Island (Wii Sports)
  • Umbra Clock Tower (Bayonetta)

New Stages for Smash Ultimate

  • Dracula's Castle (Castlevania)
  • Great Plateau Tower (Zelda: Breath of the Wild)
  • Moray Tower (Splatoon)
  • New Donk City Hall (Mario Odyssey)

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Alex Donaldson avatar

Alex Donaldson

Assistant Editor

Alex has been writing about video games for decades, but first got serious in 2006 when he founded genre-specific website RPG Site. He has a particular expertise in arcade & retro gaming, hardware and peripherals, fighters, and perhaps unsurprisingly, RPGs.