2016 started with one of Super Smash Bros. Melee’s most celebrated championships: GENESIS 3 (G3). With 1,828 entrants, the event was anticipated by smashers for nearly five years–so much that rumors of the tournament existing became an inside joke among veterans of the scene. Yet upon being confirmed, G3 lived up to the hype.

Although Leffen’s persisting visa issues prevented him from attending, another god-tier player took his place in the tournament attendee list: PPMD. Not only was G3 a bigger event than any before in Melee’s history, but it also marked the first time since Apex 2015 that all five gods were going to be at an event together.

The long-awaited tourney didn’t come without controversy. About a month before the tournament started, its organizers announced that G3 would float its top 64 seeded players past the first round of pools. While top players saw this as a relief, many in the smash scene believed this to be giving them an unfair advantage.

Nonetheless, G3 was an exceptional event. Continuing in the path of The Big House 5, G3’s day one involved crew battles, though this time it featured “draft crews” instead of traditional regional crews. Before the tournament, fans voted on “crew captains” to have a crew draft, in which each captain selected players for their crew. Each crew then competed in a single-elimination bracket for a chance to win $4,000.

At the end of the first day, Hungrybox’s team, featuring himself, PPMD, MacD, The Moon and Swedish Delight, prevailed over SFAT’s team with Hungrybox defeating Plup in a tight, last-stock battle between each team’s anchor.

The final day of the tournament also involved several thrillers. Mew2King and Armada added yet another trophy to their collection of doubles titles, defeating the vaunted “PewFat” NorCal in grand finals. But when it came to singles, make no mistake: it wouldn’t be GENESIS without Mango and Armada stealing the show.

In singles grand finals, Melee’s greatest two players in the history of its scene battled for a third time in the series’ history. This time, Mango came fresh off a historic losers bracket run, in which he defeated Plup, Nintendude, PPMD, Axe and Hungrybox, while Armada looked unbreakable through most of winners bracket. After an epic bracket reset by Mango, Armada closed out the second set 3-1 to win G3.

Moving into the later part of January, Hungrybox decided to send a reminder to his doubters for why he was ranked the No. 2 Melee player of 2015. At PAX Arena, he overcame a spacies-ridden bracket, beating Mango twice and solidly winning singles.

During this event, another NorCal duo of SFAT and Shroomed ended up winning doubles bracket over the formerly well respected Mew2King and Hungrybox duo. Though this put a scratch in Hungrybox’s otherwise excellent showing at PAX Arena, it also was more proof that SFAT and Shroomed were top-level teams competitors.

In Europe, Armada continued to look like the best player in the world. Though Leffen managed to take a set from him at BEAST 6, Armada still ended up winning the tournament, to no one’s surprise. In fact, more people remember BEAST 6 for its highly explosive Westballz vs. Leffen sets, which at times seemed to resemble something akin to wrestling matches with the two not only taunting each other in-game, but frequently showing questionable sportsmanship out of it as well.

Either way, Armada and Hungrybox were due for a showdown. March’s Battle of the Five Gods brought a new, but unusual format to the table. It was a 20-man invitational that featured Armada, Hungrybox, the other three gods and those who have defeated them in tournament, not including Leffen, who still lacked a visa.

All twenty attending players were placed in five round robin pools of four people, where the top seeds advanced to a final bracket. However, those who finished second in each group were forced to play in an additional “death pool,” in which only the top three seeds of the final pool could advance to the bracket. The top three seeds then chose one of each of their three remaining opponents to play.

If this format suited players like Armada and Hungrybox, both known for their tremendous consistency against the field, it actively hurt others. Most notably, PPMD suffered, due to medical issues that physically drained him and negatively affected him on stage.

After starting with a 2-1 record in his pool, PPMD lost every single set he played in the next stage of bracket, finishing outside the tournament’s top eight. Since then, the North Carolina Falco/Marth hasn’t returned to a singles bracket, as he is still sorting out his health problems.

For a godslayer like Wobbles, the format of Five Gods gave him a chance to shine. Defeating Westballz, Plup, PPMD and Mew2King, Wobbles placed fourth, with his best showing at a national tournament since EVO 2013. By the time he was eliminated by Mango in losers semifinals, his Texas home-crowd raucously applauded him.

Then event that everyone simultaneously anticipated and dreaded–winners finals of Hungrybox vs. Armada; the result turned out to be nowhere close. The Florida Jigglypuff dominated Armada 3-0. Then, after initially losing the first set of grand finals to Mango, Hungrybox held on to win the Battle of Five Gods, his biggest tournament win since Apex 2010.

Not only was he most certainly the best player in America, but now Hungrybox was inching even closer to being the number 1 player in the world, also winning Super Nebulous 4 a week later. With Pound 2016 coming up–yet another old-school major returning in Melee’s biggest year to date–Hungrybox had another shot at proving himself King of the Spring.

However at Pound, another, more unusual storyline emerged: the run of InfiniteNumbers, an Ice Climbers who was then the number one player in New Hampshire, but an obscure and relatively unknown player in national circles. Defeating DJ Nintendo in pools was already unpredictable, yet InfiniteNumbers then beat Alex19, MacD and MikeHaze on his way to a shocking ninth place finish, one of the most out-of-nowhere tournament placings in Melee history.

Moreover, Pound marked the return of the New York legend, Hax. Sidelined by both insomnia and hand injuries, the generation-defining Fox main made his first return to a big major in half a year. Formerly ranked No. 6 and 7 in the world, many wondered if Hax, could make it back to the top for one last swan song. Others thought his career was simply over.

However, after defeating ChuDat, SFAT and absolutely decimating Nintendude, Hax found himself in winners semifinals. Moreover, he had to play his rival Mango, who at this point had a reputation for beating Hax with nearly any character he wanted. Take their set at The Big House 4, in which Mango defeated Hax with Captain Falcon and Marth, for example.

This time, Mango played Marth, but not out of disrespect. Instead, as Hax said in his post tournament interview, this was a smart counterpick, due to Hax’s proficiency against both of Mango’s main characters (Fox and Falco). Keep in mind that Hax had struggled previously against Marths like Mew2King and The Moon. In the shadows of post-G3, Mango had been working on a Marth to bring out more frequently in tournaments.

Hax and Mango had one of the best sets of the year, decided on a flubbed last stock edgeguard by Mango. Nonetheless, Hax ended up running out of steam, losing 3-0 to Hungrybox in winner’s finals and getting swept by Mango in the Fox ditto runback in loser’s finals.

As he wrapped up his controller and walked off the stage to end his tournament run, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and chanted his name. Even as Hungrybox won grand finals with a convincing 3-1 over Mango, Hax made his mark on Melee history, forever leaving Pound 2016 as its hero. It was his last major of the year. He finished in 3rd place.

Around three weeks after Pound 2016 came the second installment of the wildly popular Smash Summit series. While PPMD, Leffen and Hax were unable to attend, Smash Summit offered a more viewer friendly format that included numerous side events, and looked to be another success featuring Hungrybox.

Similar to the first Smash Summit, spectators voting in players had its fair share of controversy. Like the picks of Kage and Alex19 from 2015, ESAM was largely derided, due to his large support from the Smash 4 scene and relatively quiet status as a Melee player.

Smash Summit 2 also held promise for yet another Armada-Hungrybox battle. In doubles, Armada prevailed with Mew2King, defeating the Florida dynamic duo (Hungrybox and Plup) in grand finals and not dropping a set. But when singles started, the tournament had its first big surprise.

Against all odds, Mew2King 3-0’d Armada in winners semifinals. With Hungrybox overcoming Mango on his side of bracket and clutching out a set over Mew2King in winners finals, Hungrybox looked ready to take home his sixth straight tournament in a row.

Instead, Armada played spoiler, with an epic losers run. The Swede capped it off with two grand finals sets over Hungrybox, taking home his second Smash Summit title. Desperate for a rematch with his nemesis, the Florida Jigglypuff prepared for Ontario’s EGLX. Ironically, Armada wasn’t the only Swedish Fox attending, as EGLX marked Leffen’s return to North America.

This was Leffen’s chance to show the non-European world that he still was a member of the Melee elite – especially because Armada eventually dropped out of the tournament due to a stomach bug. With only Hungrybox, Mango and Mew2King for “gods” in his way, Leffen had a chance to remind everyone that he could still be a top player.

Instead, Leffen played nervous and sloppy throughout the tournament, losing to Axe in winner’s quarterfinals. Though he made top eight, Leffen now had to face a familiar opponent in Duck, who defeated him at DreamHack Winter 2015. Unfortunately for Leffen, Duck once again blew past him, knocking the once glorious Stockholm native out of the tournament at seventh place and seemingly standing as a reminder that Leffen needed to figure out how to beat Samus.

As Hungrybox won yet another grand finals over Mango, questions came to the forefront across the international scene. Were smashers destined to watch Jigglypuff grand finals until the end of time? Was Leffen washed up?

By the end of DreamHack Austin 2016, we had a definitive answer to the first question: no. At the first DreamHack Melee tournament to ever be hosted in the United States, Mango finally overcame Hungrybox in two grand finals sets from losers. As Hungrybox looked vulnerable against a non-Armada opponent for the first time in months, his other Swedish Fox rival waited patiently for his chance at redemption.

After winning a Vancouver regional over SFAT in mid-May, Leffen then was ready to enter the first Melee tournament to feature Armada, Mango, Hungrybox, Mew2King and himself all year. Enter Get On My Level 2016.

To start Top 24, Leffen easily dispatched of The Moon, a Marth known for slaying Fox players. In winner’s quarterfinals, Leffen ran into his longtime nemesis Mew2King, who had taken their last three sets. Leffen sealed the set with a last-stock, last-game back air.

On the other side of bracket, another tale unfolded. N0ne, in one of Melee’s greatest underdog runs of all-time took out Vanitas, Trulliam, PewPewU and HugS to make it to Top 12 from losers bracket. His next test was Mew2King, a man who hadn’t lost a set to Captain Falcon at a championship-level event in years.

With the Canadian crowd behind him oohing and ahing at each grab conversion he got, n0ne finished off Mew2King to make top eight, in what’s unquestionably one of the biggest upsets in Melee history. Losing a last-hit set with Lucky for seventh place, n0ne still left GOML 2016 as a champion for his country.

N0ne’s performance was certainly noteworthy, but it wasn’t the defining narrative of the tournament. After all, Leffen was nowhere near finished, defeating Armada 3-1 in winner’s semifinals and causing the world No. 1 to try a desperate Peach counterpick after convincingly handling him in the Fox ditto. With a clutch shine to close out winners finals against Hungrybox, Leffen was in grand finals, ready for his first major victory in a little under a year.

Perhaps Leffen’s most impressive win of the tournament was his grand finals handling of a red-hot Mango, fresh off wins over Wizzrobe, Shroomed, Armada, Lucky and Hungrybox in loser’s bracket. Either way, Leffen beat every possible tournament contender in his path, cementing one of the greatest tournament runs of all-time.

As if he was furious for losing his last two tournaments, Hungrybox went on a tear, winning Smash ‘N’ Splash 2, Low Tier City 4 and CEO 2016, not dropping a single set and beating the likes of Mango, Mew2King, SFAT and Swedish Delight. But at WTFox 2, Hungrybox suffered a setback, getting swept by Wizzrobe and Mew2King in sets where he looked frustrated and lost. He finished fifth, his worst performance of the year.

Meanwhile, Mango played a mix of his trademark deadly rushdown Fox and the same Marth he had shown from Pound 2016 and at GOML 2016, but this time with far more discipline and precision. At WTFox 2, his 3-1 and 3-0 victories over Armada displaying some of the most creative Fox and Marth play ever, leading to Mango’s second major tournament victory of the year.

Heading into EVO 2016, with Leffen’s visa issues rendering him still unable to compete in the United Stares, there were three main contenders for the Melee championship: Mango, Hungrybox and Armada. While Mango was heating up in the summer like it was 2014, Armada was the previous EVO champ and Hungrybox seemed to be having the best year out of all of them. One thing for sure: with 2,372 entrants, Melee’s biggest tournament of all-time was going to be a wild ride.

None of the three contenders looked particularly convincing through EVO’s massive bracket. Before Top 32 even started, Armada nearly lost to SmashG0D, an MDVA Marth with loads of experience in the Peach matchup. Lucky also took a game off Armada, showing that the invincible Swede still could look vulnerable against anyone playing well enough on the right day.

Concurrently, Hungrybox eked by Shroomed in a 2-1 set for winner’s side of top eight, while Plup beat Mango to face off against his Florida teammate in winner’s semifinals. To most people’s surprise, Plup solidly 2-0’d Hungrybox, sending him to losers and setting up a Hungrybox-Mango rematch in loser’s semifinals.

Plup had an opportunity to add the last and most notable god to his bounty list: Armada. Yet as Plup quickly learned, or more likely had reinforced through a brutal 3-0 defeat, taking on Armada is an entirely different beast than anyone else in the world. In loser’s, the man he sent there seized another chance at a bout with Armada.

Unlike their infamous set from EVO 2015, in which Mango’s flubs directly lead to a victory for Hungrybox, at EVO 2016 Hungrybox made sure there was no doubt he earned his win. This time, winning a tight 2-1 set against Mango. Subsequently defeating Plup in their loser’s finals rematch, Hungrybox set the stage for a grand finals against Armada.

The two were not just battling for the biggest Melee tournament ever–they were battling for No. 1 in the world. In his own words, this was Hungrybox’s chance to put his hand on the figurative ceiling of Melee’s competitive scene.

Quickly bursting out to a 2-0 lead in the set, Hungrybox found himself thrown back by getting utterly outplayed in game three and even on his counterpick in game four. But in typical Hungrybox fashion, as he had done all year to Fox opponents, he clutched out a tight game five in one of the greatest big-stage comebacks in Melee history, resetting the bracket. Adding another 3-2 set in his favor, a teary-eyed Hungrybox became Melee’s EVO 2016 world champion.

At Super Smash Con 2016, Hungrybox had yet another chance to add a title to his legacy, entering as the tournament’s top seed. With his only reasonable threats at the time being Mango and Mew2King, both whom he held positive records against throughout the first half of 2016, Hungrybox was expected to take another tournament in the Summer of Smash.

However, as seen numerous times in Melee’s history, it’s hard enough to take the throne, but even tougher to hold onto it. Having proven himself as the Melee champion on the world’s biggest stage, Hungrybox no longer had the killer drive he had before, having almost always seemed focused and hyper-serious before a match. In contrast, Mango came for blood, ready to exact revenge for his loss at EVO, solidly defeating Hungrybox in two sets to take his third title of the year.

At the time, many still thought of Hungrybox as being the best Melee player in the world. He had still won the scene’s biggest tournament and his loss at SSC could have easily been attributed to rust or a post-championship “hangover.” As Shine 2016 approached for the end of August, Mango and Hungrybox were expected to once again clash for the title of best in the United States.

Yet the final outcome was something that almost no one expected, with Mew2King taking the tournament, winning his first supermajor since The Big House 3 (along with winning doubles with Plup). Shine 2016 was also bizarre in many other ways.

Along with Nintendude defeating Mango early in winners bracket, SFAT took his first set ever off Hungrybox in winners semifinals. After losing to Mew2King in winners finals, the NorCal Fox then knocked off a red-hot Mango in loser’s finals. Though he double eliminated him before at Clutch City Clash earlier in the month, Mango was fresh off of wins over players like Plup, Swedish Delight and Hungrybox, among others in loser’s bracket.

With The Big House 6 happening two months after Shine, the Melee scene’s efforts to get Leffen back into the United States were finally validated in early October, when he received a P1-A Internationally Recognized Athlete visa. He was now allowed to re-enter the United States.

Though Leffen opted to play Falco at The Big House 6 instead of seriously competing as Fox in singles, his return to America was a refreshing break from his post-GOML 2016 inactivity, in which Leffen frequently sandbagged at events and lacked motivation to practice seriously. Even if his 17th place wasn’t indicative of his skill level, smashers were thrilled to see Leffen back in action.

From day one of The Big House 6, Melee fans were in for a treat. In an unexpected twist, SoCal once again repeated as the Melee regional crews champion, thanks to untimely flubs from a heavily advantaged Florida crew that featured Hungrybox, Mew2King, Wizzrobe, Plup and Colbol.

Doubles fans were also given a big surprise when Chillin and ChuDat, two old-school players considered to be out of their prime, but still respectable (or just under the elite in ChuDat’s case) defeated Mew2King and Hungrybox in loser’s bracket. In two excellent five-game grand finals showings, the NorCal duo of PewPewU and SFAT took home the doubles trophy over the Lindgren brothers (Armada and Android), who were considered the best team in Europe.

Make no mistake though: singles bracket was where much of the action remained throughout all three days of TBH6. Whether with results like R2DLiu defeating Axe to start off phase 2 of pools, Zain beating Plup and KJH, Silent Wolf sending Mew2King to loser’s bracket, Rudolph over DruggedFox, InfiniteNumbers upsetting Westballz or SFAT running a 3-0 train on Hungrybox in winner’s quarters, TBH6 had mayhem all over its bracket.

This lead to an all-time great top eight with Ice, SFAT, Wizzrobe, PewPewU and four gods–two of them in losers bracket. With Mew2King and Hungrybox easily advancing to loser’s quarterfinals, along with Ice obliterating SFAT to make it to winner’s finals, Melee’s greatest rivalry was set for the other side of winners bracket: Mango vs. Armada.

Without bringing out his Marth, Mango played Fox the entire set, reverse 3-0’ing Armada after going down early and winning a last-stock game five. As the bracket proceeded though, it became clearer that winning one set against Armada wasn’t going to be enough. The two once again played in grand finals, after Mango quickly defeated Ice and Armada beat everyone else in loser’s.

Armada reset the bracket, but Mango once again was able to make a set comeback, this time being down 2-1 in their third set and narrowly winning their final two games against each other. For the third time in his Melee career, Mango was The Big House champion.

At this point, Armada was in the middle of a relative slump. After winning G3 and Smash Summit 2 earlier in the year, he had a negative record against Mango and lost the biggest event of the year to Hungrybox. But after barely losing The Big House 6, Armada had one final shot to remind everyone that he was not just the best player in the world, but that he was Melee’s all-time greatest player. And boy did he prove it.

As Hungrybox and Mango began to slowly falter, the Swedish Peach/Fox main’s mental endurance gradually became stronger than ever before, leaving no doubt to who its best player was. Winning Eclipse 2 and Canada Cup 2016 (only dropping a set to Hungrybox in grand finals), Armada then thrashed the competition at Smash Summit 3, winning doubles with Mew2King yet again and losing only three games the entire tournament.

With UGC Smash Open approaching in early December, with all five of the world’s top five players in attendance, it was clear that Armada remained the heavy tournament favorite. While the tournament began with a shock, in MikeHaze and n0ne respectively sending Mango and Mew2King in losers, it also started arguably the best loser’s performance from Mew2King in nearly a decade.

In his loser’s run to second place, Mew2King defeated Duck, Mango, Ice, SFAT, n0ne, Leffen, Hungrybox and even took a set off Armada in grand finals. Although Armada won the tournament in a close 3-1 for the second set, Mew2King’s performance at UGC Smash Open was rightfully the main narrative of the event. It provided a fitting close for an unforgettable 2016 Melee season.

2017 is about two-thirds of the way through. As this year’s Summer of Smash comes closer to its end, it’s easy to forget the events from the past, even if just a year ago. It’s also just as tempting to assume that tournaments will always be predictable and have the same results, or conversely that the most recent results are the only relevant ones.

Although there are undeniable patterns repeated throughout the present and past, hopefully you have seen that some of Melee’s most magical moments come from the unpredictable. I hope that by writing this, I can add yet another chapter to Melee’s magical history and do my duty as a writer and historian for the scene. Thank you to the following:

  • Juggleguy and AlphaZealot for inspiring and starting the Year in Review series.
  • Tafokints for mentoring me and signing me on to write this.
  • All my new readers for learning more about our scene’s history.
  • Everyone who cares about the Melee’s scene and keeping our stories told.
Edwin Budding/Anokh Palakurthi