Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: How to Unlock All Characters

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has landed on Nintendo Switch and it’s jam packed with more things to see and do than any previous Smash game. This includes the game’s titanic roster of playable fighters which stands at 74 characters.

But once you launch the game you’ll only have access to the original eight fighters from Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64. If you want to play as anyone else, you’ll have to unlock them and fight against them in 1-on-1 battles against the CPU.

There are many different ways to unlock the entire cast. Some involve playing through the game’s single-player content, which can take many hours to go through but is overall more varied and fun, while others are much faster but more repetitive. Which method you should use depends entirely on how you like to play Smash Bros.

Keep reading to learn about all the ways you go about unlocking the entire roster and find out which one is best for you.

Playing World of Light

From the main menu, select Spirits, then select Adventure to play the World of Light campaign. This is a lengthy single-player mode that has you advancing slowly across an overworld map to trigger fights against the CPU that all involve special conditions like heavier enemies, a fog that rolls in to obstruct your view or other unusual scenarios.

You unlock fighters here by encountering their piece on the map and winning in a fight against them. Once you unlock them, you’ve rescued them and can use them for play within World of Light. Unlike all other modes, you don’t even have the original eight fighters from the N64 game at your disposal, you only have Kirby. You’ll need to unlock the other seven as well as the remaining 67 fighters in the game.

While this may be the slowest method it is easily the most entertaining way of unlocking everyone. If you’re not in a rush to unlock everyone or a specific fighter (you can easily spend upwards of 20 hours in this mode before you’ve done everything), or if you find unlocking fighters slowly to be more fun, then choose this method.

Playing Classic Mode

Another method that could take even longer than playing through World of Light is to play through Classic mode multiple times with different characters. Classic mode can be played solo or locally with one other person. Depending on which fighters you choose, you’ll get a different selection of six CPU encounters that ends in one of ten different boss battles and, if you win, you’ll face off against one of the unlockable characters in a challenger fight. Win this last fight and the character is yours to play in all other modes, except World of Light.

MORE: All 6 Super Smash Bros. Games, Ranked Worst to Best

This method is perhaps best used in conjunction with other modes. It offers a less varied experience than playing through World of Light, but it does count toward some of the game’s many other unlockable features. If you’re a completionist trying to get everything possible in this game, then Classic mode is a must-play. But if you’re looking for a good pace to unlock fighters, World of Light is a more recommended method.

Playing multiplayer Smash matches

Playing multiplayer matches, either locally or online, is another way you can trigger battles with unlockable characters. After a match is concluded, there’s a chance a challenger fight will instantly trigger as a one-on-one between the winner of the previous multiplayer match and one of the unlockable fighters. If you played alone against CPU fighters, you’ll still trigger the fight even if you lost the match.

When playing online matches, you’ll have to back out to the main menu for these fights to be triggered.

The exact conditions needed to be met that cause challenger fights to trigger is not yet fully known. It’s speculated that the game monitors how much movement you’ve made and how many KOs you’ve scored in matches and also that there’s a ten minute timer that must elapse before another challenger fight will occur.

This method is faster than playing through World of Light but is much less interesting. Like with Classic mode, this is a fun additional way of unlocking fighters but probably not the best way of doing it exclusively. If you rely solely on this method, it should take you around 11 hours to get everyone.

But there are two other methods you can use if you’re trying to unlock characters as fast as possible.

Faster unlocking through World of Light

The game doesn’t just monitor your play in versus matches, all of your movement and KOs also count as you play World of Light. If you back out of World of Light to the main menu, you may trigger a challenger fight on top of unlocking characters through the course of normal play in this mode. This method should speed up your unlock progress significantly while still being a fun and varied experience along the way.

Faster unlocking through resetting the game

This is the fastest method, but not a lot of fun to do. If you’ve seriously got to get your hands on every fighter as soon as possible or if you’re looking to play as your favorite character from a past Smash game, this method might be for you.

  1. Set up a single long match.

The method commonly recommended is a 20 minute score match with four human players. The game tracks the inputs of each human player, and certain unlocks are theorized not to occur until some milestones like run distance have been met, so the more people playing the better. However, one player against a CPU player should also work. Play through the match normally, running around and scoring KOs. This should clear all of the game’s hidden milestones needed to qualify for each challenger encounter. After you finish the match, you’ll trigger a challenger fight. Win this fight, then you’ll be back to the character select screen. Press the Home button to get to the Switch’s home menu and press X to close the game. Then press A to re-launch the game. Set up a quick one stock match against a CPU. Pick a character you’re good enough to to win a challenger fight with. Once the match start, simply lose the match by jumping off the side. Resetting the game has bypassed the unlock timer and trigger a new challenger fight. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you’ve unlocked everyone. If you stopped triggering fights before you got everyone, you may need to repeat step 1.

This method is the most repetitive, but you should end up with everyone unlocked in the matter of just a few hours.

What if I lose a challenger fight?

If you lost a challenger fight (hey, it happens), you won’t see that fighter again by normal means. Instead, you’ll get the chance to re-challenge that fighter by going into the Games & More menu and checking the bottom right of the screen. If a glowing door icon is present, you can select it to get another chance at that fight. If you lose again, you’ll have to wait about 10 minutes for this option to reappear in this menu.

As you're unlocking characters, be sure to also check out our guide to the best fighters to use in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Credit: Nintendo

Andrew Melcon is a freelance writer who specializes in covering games and gaming hardware. He's tackled everything from PC game controllers to Pokémon and PUBG and his work has appeared on sites including Tom's Guide, Tom's Hardware, Laptop Mag, and more.