How does online multiplayer work in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate?

super smash bros inkling
super smash bros inkling (Image credit: Nintendo)

Super Smash Bros. has always been a great game to play with others on the same couch, but if you can't be there in person to share in the fun, online play is the way to go. As most modern games do, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has online multiplayer.

If you're wondering how it works and all that you can do online, let us be your resource. Here's what you can expect once you get connected.

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This is a great option If you're just looking for a quick match and don't care about the specific rulesets, stipulations, and parameters. By default, searches will be performed without ruleset preferences, an option that can be used to cut down your searching time and jump you straight into a match.

You can also queue up with a local partner. Two people on the same Nintendo Switch can go in and fight two other people in a tag team battle. Again, you can choose whether you want to search for matches with a specific set of rules.

We should note that even if you do specify your preferred rules, you're not guaranteed to find a match with the exact rules you want. The game will prefer to put you in a match in a timely manner than to keep you waiting for an opponent who has the same tastes as you.

Background Matchmaking

Background Matchmaking is pretty much the same as Quickplay, only you can continue playing the game while you look for opponents. You can still choose whether to search within specific parameters, and you can still queue up with another person playing with you locally. You also still get put into matches that don't fit your searching criteria if the game can't find opponents for you in a decent amount of time.

The difference is that you can continue playing other modes or going through other menus in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate while the game searches for your opponent. You also have to select the fighter you want to use before you search for the game, and if you want to change your fighter you have to back all the way out to the main Online menu to queue up again, an annoyance to be sure.

Battle Arena

Things are a bit different with Battle Arenas. These are player-created custom lobbies where the host specifies all of the rules. Battle Arenas can house as many as 8 players for up to 4-player battles. Those not participating in the battle can spectate while they wait their turn.

You can set up Battle Arenas so that it's open for anyone to join, only open to friends, or only accessible with a password. This is the best way to get friends together for private matches, or if you just want to play matches where you're always guaranteed to fight under the rules you want.

Battle Arenas also get the distinction of being the only way to use Spirits online in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, so if you and your friends actually prefer to fight with the advantages afforded by Primary and Support Spirits this is where you need to be.

What's GSP in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate?

There is no separate ranked mode or ranked ladder for online play. Instead, all players are governed under the GSP — or Global Smash Power — system. The GSP is a huge worldwide leaderboard of all Smash players, and the score represents the number of players whom you're deemed better than. This is in contrast to the way most other games display leaderboards, with the lower number being better.

With the GSP system, you always know how many players you're better than, but not necessarily how many are better than you. This means that the top-ranked player in the world would have no way of even knowing that they're at the top of the heap.

For what it's worth, Nintendo has previously mentioned that GSP does not weigh heavily into matchmaking, if at all. As such, it's more about bragging rates and whatever else the community decides to build around it. It's also worth noting that GSP can not be earned in Battle Arenas.

What is Spectate Mode?

Just interested in seeing some battles between passionate players? Spectate mode takes you to a random ongoing battle to watch other players fight for glory. Grab some popcorn, sit back, and watch all the action unfold.

A few quirks

You should be wary about a couple of niggles regarding online multiplayer in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that have players quite annoyed right now. The biggest complaint is that two people playing locally on the same Nintendo Switch can only play 2-vs-2 coop against random players.

This means if you wanted to play a 4-player free-for-all battle where two players are playing on the same Nintendo Switch locally and the other two are online using their own Nintendo Switch consoles, you can't. Local multiplayer isn't doable in Battle Arena at all, in fact.

Another quirk is that players in matchmaking modes who opt for a rematch with each other cannot switch characters. This is especially frustrating since those who are lucky enough to find matches with the exact rules they want will have to abandon the lobby once they get bored with the characters they originally chose.

One last thing to point out: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate uses peer-to-peer servers, which means match quality is dependent on the connection quality of both you and your opponent. If one side of the equation isn't up to snuff the game may become unplayable as it struggles to keep the action synced. This is something you can't help if it happens, but if the game starts chugging along then this is the likely cause.

We're not sure if Nintendo will ever address these issues, but we'll be the first ones to update you if they do!

Get out there and fight!

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is always more fun when there are more people involved. If you can't get your friends gathered around the same time then be sure to explore your options for taking the fight online!

Quentyn Kennemer