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Unexpected Character / Super Smash Bros.

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Proof that anyone can be an All-Star.

"Even I didn't think this day would come."
Masahiro Sakurai, regarding Steve

The Super Smash Bros. series has tons of different characters across its history of over twenty years, many of which could be expected to appear in some form. Then there are these total wild cards that nobody could have seen coming... And knowing Sakurai, who outright strives to find the characters that no one would ever consider and loves working with them, it's a fairly big list.

Super Smash Bros.
  • Of the original four unlockable fighters, Luigi is the only one to not explicitly come from out of left field. For despite him not being available from the start like his big brother Mario, plus his absence from Super Mario 64, and him only making appearances in Mario sports games at the time, Luigi is still an iconic part of the Mario mythos. As for the others...
    • Ness definitely came from out of left field with few people at the time having actually heard of him, mainly because his game was an Acclaimed Flop when it was first released in the US and was not given a PAL release until almost 2 decades later on the Wii U eShop.
    • Captain Falcon was quite the surprise because he'd only been in racing games up until that point. Granted, his inclusion was mitigated by his in-game background as a bounty hunter, but actually seeing Captain Falcon in-game outside his vehicle still caught a lot of F-Zero fans off guard.
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    • Jigglypuff was another out-there suggestion. While Jigglypuff was certainly a popular Pokémon back in the day, as well as a recurring character in the anime, the chances of it appearing as a playable fighter in any capacity had to have been, at the very least, a bit of a shock. Comparatively, other possibly more appropriate "cutesy" Pokémon like Clefairy (former intended mascot before Pikachu) and Meowth (major antagonist in the anime) merely appear as Poké Ball summons.

Super Smash Bros. Melee

  • The Ice Climbers and Mr. Game & Watch were both this for similar reasons, in that they were 8-bit and LCD relics who most people hadn't seen in over a decade, and people who bought this game likely didn't know anything about their franchises. The former's gimmick also counts, as the Ice Climbers were two people controlled at once as opposed to a single entity. The two fighters were picked exactly because Masahiro Sakurai wanted at least one forgotten character to represent Nintendo from The '80s, a tradition he continues to this day.
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  • Not many expected to play as Zelda, as she was almost exclusively an NPC in her home series with zero known combat skills. To put it into perspective, fellow Damsel in Distress Peach was also mostly a non-playable character, but at least had one main playable appearance prior to Melee and several spin-offs that she took part in; Zelda can't even claim to have had those at the time (unless you count two infamous spinoffs with no real Nintendo involvement for an obscure console). Even fewer expected Sheik, a one-off alter-ego of Zelda, whose identity was supposed to be a plot twist in her home game.
  • Dr. Mario was also quite unexpected, as he's just Mario in a doctor's uniform and throwing pills instead of fireballs. He was also somewhat unexpected as a returning veteran due to the Smash 3DS leak below, as many thought he'd be an updated Palette Swap of Mario like Alph would be to Olimar.
  • The two characters from Fire Emblem get this from a lot of fans, especially western audiences, who haven’t heard from this series before;
    • Marth, but only for western audiences (as a Fire Emblem game had yet to leave Japan at the time). Although even then, Fire Emblem was hardly the biggest Nintendo franchise in Japan.
    • Probably one of the biggest ones at the time is Roy, whose debut game didn't even come out until after Melee was released due to a delay. He was added with the intent of promoting his game, with said delay having not been previewed by the developers and causing his first appearance to be in Melee.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

  • Meta Knight, the first newcomer revealed for Brawl, was hardly a surprise given that he's a popular character in the Kirby franchise. Pit however, was the first major shocker for the game on the grounds that his home franchise had NOT seen a new game for nearly 20 years up to this point. That said, his Trophy description from Melee foreshadowed his inclusion in this game with the line "Will Pit ever fight again?" And most people weren't expecting Pit to get a complete redesign from cute angel boy to Bishōnen Kid Hero. Feedback received from players saying that many members of its character roster had not been in an original game for some time even led to the release of Kid Icarus: Uprising 4 years later.
  • Zero Suit Samus certainly counts, since Samus had rarely ever been seen without her Power Suit in the Metroid games. In most of them, you had to beat the game 100% or achieve a very short completion time to even see Samus without her Power Suit.
  • Out of all the third-party characters to ever show up in the series, nobody expected the first of the bunch to be Solid Snake, whose games are predominantly rated M (at the time he was announced, the T-rated Portable Ops Plus and Peace Walker had not yet been released). Plus, while he has had some games on Nintendo systems (including an Updated Re-release of the much-acclaimed Metal Gear Solid on the GameCube not too long before), most players at the time associated him more immediately with the PlayStation (where the entire main Solid series was being released, with Guns of the Patriots on its way to the PS3 at the time), making his inclusion that more unexpected even for a personal request from Hideo Kojima himself. To make it as whiplash-inducing as possible, his inclusion was first shown at the end of Brawl's teaser trailer, with the trailer seeming to end until a codec sounded with Snake and Colonel Campbell talking about the invitation...while Snake was already there. It also unfortunately took out some of the unexpectedness factor from other third-party characters announced later, such as Sonic the Hedgehog's trailer the following year.note 
  • The Pokémon Trainer was hardly a concept people expected. If anything, most people expected either controlling a solo Charizard (which actually happened in Smash 4) or controlling the Trainer himself who sends out different Pokémon for each attack note . In addition to that, it's pretty hard to say anyone expected an Ivysaur at all, since it's a mid-evolution that's rarely showcased compared to its pre-evolution, Bulbasaur, or its evolution, Venusaur (Squirtle significantly less so, since it was already a main character in the anime and is a decently popular Pokémon).
  • Lucas was a surprise as his game had not (and as of this writing, still has not) been released internationally, leaving a lot of Westerners confused as to who he was.
  • R.O.B. was the most conventional unexpected character out of this set of characters, if only because he didn't even originate from a game per se, but as a peripheral tied to a game (although he had appeared as a playable character beforehand in Mario Kart DS). Any chances were believed to be even more mitigated once it was revealed that R.O.B.s were enemies in The Subspace Emissary as an entire race. Even fewer people expected the role of the playable R.O.B. in The Subspace Emissary as the Ancient Minister.
  • Toon Link also qualifies, simply due to his cartoony design contrasting greatly with Brawl's realistic art-style along with him being a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Young Link from the previous game. There's also the matter of his main game which, at the time, had a massively Broken Base.

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U

  • Villager, especially since the Animal Crossing games were used as an example of the type of series where characters would not be added from, and that Sakurai himself once said that he didn't see any of the characters working as fighters. Another unexpected element, though not to the same extent, was the fact that the Villager (as well as the Wii Fit Trainer, Robin, and Corrin below) came in both male and female varieties, technically making the Villager the first character to come in two gender varieties.
  • While Mega Man was somewhat unlikely given Capcom's treatment of him at the time, he was still an anticipated newcomer for the series. On the other hand, people were pretty surprised to see the Yellow Devil at the end of the Blue Bomber's trailer. Unlike Mega Man, however, nobody expected him to be a stage boss (or the concept of stage bosses in general, for that matter).
  • Sakurai stated that the Wii Fit Trainer was added to Smash Bros. 4 specifically for this reason. They wanted someone that absolutely no one suggested or predicted. It certainly succeeded, since Wii Fit is a casual exercise game that's usually glossed over by Nintendo's hardcore gamers.
  • Since Mario had more characters than any other franchise in Smash already (even more if you include Yoshi, Wario and the Donkey Kong cast), Rosalina and Luma were hardly expected, especially over more established characters like Daisy and Waluigi. The Luma even more so, considering they're usually nothing more than cute little NPCs that Rosalina takes care of.
  • People were expecting a fighter from Fire Emblem Awakening in the form of Chrom, the main lord of the game. What they got, however, were two completely different fighters: his Kid from the Future Lucina (whose appearance in and of itself is a massive Walking Spoiler), and the game's Player Character Robin. The arrival of two newcomers in a single trailer especially caught people off-guard, as many thought that the trailer would only focus on a single new character. At the very least, Chrom shows up for Robin's Final Smash, and he became a fighter in the next game.
  • Hardly anyone could've truly predicted that Shulk would've actually gotten in, considering his game was a Cult Classic only very recently released outside of Japan in limited quantities, and even if they did, it was mostly wishful thinking. Then came the roster leak for the 3DS version, which showed all of the not-yet-revealed characters for the launch roster including Monado Boy himself. Then shortly after, Shulk's reveal trailer was shown, and it wasn't long before the 3DS version was released, confirming that the leak was indeed real. As for the other leaked characters...
    • Dark Pit: While Palutena was a popular inclusion for Super Smash Bros. thanks to the release of Uprising, and Pittoo was an Ensemble Dark Horse in his debut game (as well as shown in Palutena's trailer), the latter was somewhat unexpected as a proper newcomer as many were expecting him to be, like Dr. Mario above, an updated Palette Swap of his light counterpart.
    • Bowser Jr.: He'd already made a name for himself in his home series and was decently popular in discussion for a potential newcomer, even if both another addition to the already bloated Mario cast and him using the Junior Clown Car still came as a bit of a surprise. The actual shocker was that all of Bowser Jr.'s Palette Swaps were none other than the Koopalings, technically making the character eight newcomers at once.
    • Duck Hunt: Perhaps the BIGGEST shocker regarding the leak was the fact that very few (if any) players expected the dog and a duck from Duck Hunt to team up with an in-universe (and offscreen) player with an NES Zapper as one character, especially given the dog's status as The Scrappy of gaming. Many even used Duck Hunt's presence as "proof" against the leak because the idea just sounded that absurd.
  • Almost no one thought Ryu would make it in Smash 4, let alone as DLC; the main reason being that while he's easily one of the most iconic fighting game characters in video games, as well as a massive system seller for the SNES with Street Fighter II, Ryu is technically a character from Capcom and they already got a playable representative with Mega Man. Even after his and Roy's inclusions were leaked, the idea of Ryu showing up was surprising because the idea of having more than one third-party fighter from the same company was unprecedented at the time.
  • And then, just when everyone assumed Sakurai was out of surprises, came Cloud Strife. Ryu at least makes sense in hindsight given his iconic status and the fact that Street Fighter II was a huge seller on the SNES. But Cloud came absolutely out of nowhere as, though the mind-blowingly popular Final Fantasy series started out as system sellers for the NES and SNES, Cloud's continuity had been exclusive to PlayStation consoles for the most partnote , and Final Fantasy VII was the game where Final Fantasy stopped being Nintendo-exclusive and became more of a "Sony" thing. And unlike Ryu, Cloud managed to avoid a Content Leak. It's especially notable in that, a few years after this revelation, several of the previously PlayStation-exclusive Final Fantasy titles were ported to the Nintendo Switch, including Final Fantasy VII.
  • Considering that Fire Emblem already had five playable characters, one of which was already a DLC character, almost nobody thought that Corrin had a chance of getting in (Sakurai himself was apprehensive about adding Corrin for this very reason until he was talked into it), especially since his game wasn't released internationally when he was revealed, mirroring Roy's inclusion above as a promotional Mythology Gag to Melee's release.
  • Bayonetta is an interesting case. While she was quite the anticipated newcomer and apparent winner of the Smash Ballot, people underestimated just how many people would vote for her and doubted that she'd be the Dark Horse Victory between other highly requested characters like Ridley or King K. Rool (both would later appear in Ultimate).
  • In terms of Non Player Characters, the Kremlings are this, appearing in the 3DS version's "Smash Run" as enemies. They've been missing in the Donkey Kong Country series ever since Retro Studios revived it with Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
  • As for Assist Trophies, Color TV Game 15 certainly qualifies as one of these, especially considering the fact that it was released in 1977, before even the first Game and Watch games were released. This makes it the oldest game to have been represented in the Smash series. And if we consider that it's Pong, that makes it even older, dating to at least 1972.
  • In terms of downloadable Mii Costumes, Gilgamesh (Gil) from Namco's The Tower of Druaga series was the most unexpected of the bunch. His games, while they have a minor cult following and are often referenced by the company's other games, aren't very well-known by the gaming public, especially in the Super Smash Bros. community. He also stands out among the rest of the Wave 6 costumes which consist of highly requested characters such as Ashley, Takamaru, Tails and Knuckles. And of course, the costume returns for Ultimate alongside a playable Steve.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

  • Zelda was certainly expected to show up, but many assumed she would appear in her Breath of the Wild incarnation like Link. They certainly weren't expecting her counterpart from A Link To The Past (with some design cues from A Link Between Worlds), who mainly just played the usual Damsel in Distress trope straight for most of the game. The prior two Zeldas were far more involved in their respective games' plots, and even though BoTW Zelda was also a non-combatant, she still played a bigger role in her game compared to the ALttP and ALBW Zeldas.
  • Simon Belmont, being the most recognizable protagonist of his home franchise, was a long-debated character for the game, and after fellow Konami fighter Snake's triumphant return and a leak prior to the August Direct, he was all but confirmed to finally get his due. What many didn't expect, however, was that he would be accompanied by his descendant Richter, making Castlevania the first third-party franchise to have multiple playable characters.
  • An unexpected non-playable character to appear was Rathalos from the Monster Hunter series, not only because he's a third-party character like Zero or Bomberman (the latter of which came very close to qualifying due to being the first Assist Trophy to come from a third-party series without a playable fighter), but unlike them, not too many people ever expected something from Monster Hunter to show up (since most human characters of that series are nameless and relatively generic, and the more iconic characters from that series are technically just types of animals). And not just that, he's the first character that's both a boss and an Assist Trophy.
  • Not many people expected to see Giga Bowser return as a boss like in Melee, mainly because Giga Bowser was Promoted to Playable as Bowser's One-Winged Angel Final Smash in Brawl and 4, and Giga Bowser still appears as Bowser's Final Smash, albeit not as a more powerful or upgraded version of Bowser. Even fewer people guessed that Marx would also appear as a new boss, given that he's not even the main villain of his franchise, and the game that made him popular again was released only nine months before Ultimate. And on top of it all, no one expected Galleom from Brawl to return either, namely because it's an Original Generation character, and that it was a boss in the previous story mode.
  • It's probably safe to say that nobody guessed that a regular mook from the Super Mario Bros. series would become playable, let alone a regular Piranha Plant. It was so unbelievable that when it was shown on the November Direct, many people initially thought it was an Assist Trophy or a joke. Notable in that, unlike other common enemies such as Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Boos, and even Chain Chomps, Piranha Plants have never been playable up until this point (unless one counts Petey Piranha, but unlike the standard plant, Petey actually has legs). How it got made into a character was also unexpected, taking features of other Piranha Plant subspecies across the franchise (including nods to long-forgotten variations such as the Putrid Piranha and Prickly Piranha Plant) to make a fully capable fighter. The Piranha Plant's inclusion garnered an Intended Audience Reaction as it was a pre-order bonus made purely for fun, and even Sakurai himself had to clarify that this was real.
  • Joker was definitely a huge surprise, partially because his game is exclusive to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. note  It also came right off the heels of the announcement that Nintendo themselves chose the characters for Sakurai this time around, leading to assumptions that they'd simply be promoting upcoming Switch titles, which turned out to be far from the truth.note  Seemingly in an attempt to make things as whiplash-inducing as possible, the initial announcement was made with Joker himself interrupting the 2018 Game Awards with what initially seems to be a random Persona 5-related animation... until we see him brandishing an envelope sealed with Smash's iconic logo. To paraphrase a YouTube comment in reference to the sheer amount of confusion and excitement in the wake of his reveal: "Only Nintendo can garner so much hype from the reveal of a wax seal with a logo on it."
  • A Dragon Quest hero was quite expected, due to being a big franchise in Japan, as well as being a generally well-known and revolutionary franchise that has collaborated with Nintendo in other games in the past (that, and the fact that there was a leak suggesting it would happen). What people didn't expect was that, like Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings above, there are going to be multiple Dragon Quest heroes from four different titles; prior to E3, everyone just assumed that it would either be just Arusu/the Erdrick (one of the heroes in question and easily the most iconic), his descendant (the first game's hero), or Eleven/the Luminary (the main fighter, and the 11th game's hero, and the most recent one at time with his game headed for the Switch). While we do get Eleven as the main playable hero, we also get Erdrick as an alternate costume, along with Solo and Eightnote . Sure, they're alternate costumes, so they all play the exact same way, but it's surprising nonetheless. And to top it off, the remaining seven heroes appear in the Final Smash for anyone lamenting their lack of playability. So what's really unexpected is that every single Dragon Quest hero at the time made it into Smash in some capacity! (Dare we say they turned it Up to Eleven?)
  • Banjo and Kazooie were a highly requested and anticipated newcomer that people have wanted since the Melee days, although unlikely given Rare's acquisition by Xbox Game Studios (formerly known as Microsoft Studios) in 2002. When the duo was finally announced, they brought Spiral Mountain as their stage, complete with cameos from their series that also appear as Spirits. That's where the Unexpected Character comes in: Tooty, a character not physically seen since the first game released back in 1998, shocked many longtime Banjo-Kazooie fans by making her second official appearance.
  • A fighter from SNK was certainly not a commonly discussed topic before the idea was accidentally leaked. Despite SNK themselves being a recognizable company, notably in Japan and especially in Brazil, many people overseas in the modern era were confirmed to have responded with a confused "Who's SNK?" Of course, once the SNK fighter was leaked, everyone who was familiar with the company pointed directly at Terry Bogard getting the invitation, though there were still many people who didn't know who Terry was.
  • In terms of stage cameos, it was expected that the King Of Fighters Stadium from Fatal Fury would have some, with Ryo Sakazaki being confirmed to do so when the stage was first teased. What no one expected, however, was that there would be twenty stage cameos, with characters like Athena Asamiya, Ralf and Clarke, and Rock Howard all making appearances in the stage's background combined.
  • Byleth is another "interesting case" character. While a Fire Emblem: Three Houses character was most certainly expected at some point, most just didn't expect Byleth to show up in the first Fighters Pass, assuming he/she would instead show up in the next one. This is mainly due to several things, such as Sakurai stating that he wanted to give new game worlds a chance in the spotlight, as well as several shocking new third-party characters making the roster despite Nintendo themselves picking out the characters, and Rex and Spring Man being Demoted to Extra because of their recency.note  What makes it an unexpected character is that, as Sakurai points out, his staff worked on it as secretly as possible to the point where even the staff at Nintendo didn't know about it. It was a surprise within the company as well.
  • A fighter from ARMS being confirmed during the 3/26/2020 Nintendo Direct Mini was also a strange case. While a character from this new first-party Nintendo franchise was heavily expected pre-release, and had even been in consideration for the base game, the base game roster had already been finished by then, making the idea infeasible... and all of the most-known characters (Spring Man, Ribbon Girl, Twintelle, Ninjara, and Min Min) were added as spirits, with Spring Man being an Assist Trophy and him and Ribbon Girl getting Mii costumes in their likenesses, so many fans wrote a character from the series off as an impossibility since normally the face of the series is the one that gets in first. note  The character ultimately turned out to be Min Min, making her the first character who debuted as a spirit to become a playable character, opening the door for other spirits to become playable as well. Adding to this is the fact that Spring Man and Ribbon Girl, being the cover characters for ARMS, were often regarded as the chief protagonists of the game, but Sakurai further justified Min Min's inclusion on the basis that, according to Word of God, every character from ARMS is the protagonist of ARMS.
  • The inclusion of Steve from Minecraft was very surprising for multiple reasons, such as the fact that other popular indie titles such as Undertale and Cuphead were relegated to Mii costumes and that Minecraft itself could be too, that Min Min's inclusion meant that people expected the next Fighter to be originated as a Spirit, such as Rex, Geno, or Rayman, and that Microsoft would only let Nintendo add one fighter in the game due to their company rivalry, with Banjo & Kazooie already being in. While Steve was a popular request, what puts him on here is that even Sakurai himself admitted he didn't believe the day would come, as incorporating such a character meant completely rewriting the code for each stage so his mechanics could work. And on top of that, the reveal caused such turmoil that it is believed to be the reason why Twitter was unusable for about 15 minutes afterwards.
    • While people hoping for Steve expected fellow Minecraft character Alex to appear as a costume, few expected that a Zombie and an Enderman would be playable, this is the second time that a generic enemy has been made playable, albeit as just alternate skins for Steve as opposed to a full-on playable fighters like Piranha Plant.
  • Sakurai may have outdone himself in the mind games department during the 2020 Game Awards show. After making fans second-guess each other with predictions like the Doom Slayer or Jonesy, the third member of the second Fighters Pass is none other than Sephiroth, the One-Winged Angel himself, making his appearance in a bombastic, Darker and Edgier trailer that paid a loving homage to the otherwise controversial Advent Children. While the other main feature of Final Fantasy VII was a natural leap to make after Cloud, many logically assumed Sephiroth was a non-option because of Square Enix's tight-fisted refusal to outsource anything except for Cloud, the Midgar stage, and a pair of songsnote . Yet stranger is that this is the first instance of a second unique character from a third-party, something players would've expected from Sonic the Hedgehog or Mega Man first - if anything, people were sooner expecting a character from a different Square Enix franchise, such as Lara Croft, Crono, or 2Bnote , or maybe Geno, who is technically half-Square Enix character and half-Mario character. Lastly, Sephiroth has the honor of being the first playable third-party villain in the entire series, while many who still had faith in further Final Fantasy representation usually expected another protagonist, like Tifa or Aerith who also come from VII, or Bartz or Terra who were once considered to be the Final Fantasy fighter in 3DS/Wii U before Cloud was selected. As for third-party villains themselves, that was a race considered Dr. Eggman's to lose.
  • Much like ARMS, a playable character from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (most commonly Rex, who is the main hero of that game) was expected before the game’s launch, only to have those hopes seemingly dashed when it was revealed that like with ARMS, such an idea was infeasible as that game was still in development by the time the base roster was finished, and a Rex Mii Fighter costume was revealed. Then, in February 2021, after the addition of Min Min from ARMS renewed hope for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the new Smash Bros. trailer confirmed beyond a doubt that Rex would not become playable... because Pyra and Mythra had both been chosen to represent Xenoblade Chronicles 2 instead! Though like Chrom last game, Rex still can join the battle by being an Assist Character for their taunts and Final Smashes.
  • Many of the DLC Mii costumes were pretty surprising as well:
    • During the Version 5.0.0 trailer's introduction of new Mii Costumes, the roster at first was standard fare, with the majority being returning Mii Costumes from the previous game and new ones, one of the latter for the Mii Gunner single-handedly blasted the internet. Who? None other than Sans, complete with his boss theme Megalovania. Though his popularity in an already well-known game is undeniable, and he was a popular request for the game, many people brushed it off as another meme request like Goku and Shrek.note  Many also assumed he wouldn't get acknowledged before Frisk, the game's protagonist, as a secondary character making it before the playable one was unheard of.note 
    • Another unexpected costume from that wave came in the form of Goemon, a fairly obscure character from Konami's lineup that hasn't been given a proper installment since as late as 2005. The fact that they managed to top themselves with Sans shortly after is nothing short of impressive.
    • Much like with Sans, the final Mii Costume set associated with the first Fighters Pass had its own surprise: Cuphead. Previous comments from the game's developer, Studio MDHR, had implied that the character had not been selected to appear at all as an actual fighter, so the appearance as a premium character skin was certainly not expected.
    • Another surprise with the fifth Mii Costume set is Altaïr from Assassin's Creed. While the series is pretty popular, most people didn't think of adding any element of it to Super Smash Bros. and even so, they often associate someone like Ezio Auditore or Edward Kenway with the franchise, making Altaïr's costume even more unexpected.
    • Seemingly continuing the tradition of the final unveiled Mii costumes in packs being a surprise addition, the last one in the sixth wave was none other than Fallout series mascot Vault Boy. Up until now, no franchise from the Western video game company Bethesda had been represented in Smash, let alone Fallout, especially since the only Fallout game on any Nintendo system was a Switch port of a mobile spin-off. That's not even mentioning the fact that Vault Boy is just an in-universe mascot character and not even a real person in his home series. On top of that, following the announcement that ZeniMax, Bethesda's parent company, would be bought out by Microsoft, this makes Vault Boy an unofficial third fighter for Xbox Game Studios.
    • Steve's gameplay trailer came with Mii costumes, and two of them would qualify for the traditional "left field" picks — Bomberman and Travis Touchdown. Not only does Bomberman (already an Assist Trophy in the base game) get a Mii Fighter costume, but said costume has color variants to let you further customize your Bomber to your tastes. Travis is especially notable, but for different reasons to the above characters. Many were expecting him to be a playable character, due to his history of debuting on the Nintendo Wii and not only having an upcoming third main series installment at the time, but also Travis Strikes Again having released in early 2019 way before this announcement. In addition, Sakurai and series creator Suda51 are reportedly very good friends, meaning they would have been more than happy to include Travis. For him to only be relegated to being a Mii Costume came as a bit of a shock, though both parties are just glad that he's in at all.
    • While Pyra and Mythra's showcase unveiled fewer Mii costumes than usual, it still managed to have one unexpected choice in the middle of the returning Monster Hunter batch (plus a new Felyne hat): Arthur, the humble knight of Ghosts 'n Goblins fame who had just received a revival game via Resurrection. What makes his inclusion surprising is that Capcom series typically come with a playable fighter (Mega Man, Ryu, Ken) or some sort of noteworthy content (the Rathalos boss and Assist Trophy for Monster Hunter or the Resident Evil spirit board event), rather than a single Mii costume. And as it turns out, he's no exception; upon the patch's release, he's also a spirit that you can get through an Old Save Bonus with the aforementioned Resurrection. A single character getting a costume and a spirit on the same day was definitely unexpected.
  • Even certain spirits can be considered unexpected picks:
    • Wanda from the Japan-exclusive Mario & Wario was somewhat unexpected due to her having not appeared outside her home game before: the only other time that Mario & Wario was represented in any form in Smash was back in Melee, and even then it was just a trophy of the bucket that Wario would throw onto the heroes.
    • In the same vein as Wanda above, Gryll only appeared in a Japan-exclusive title (That being Kirby's Super Star Stacker), so their presence as a spirit comes as a pretty big surprise. Also keep in mind their only Western appearance prior to Ultimate was a handful of cameos in Kirby Star Allies, released just a few months prior.
    • Kid Dracula was yet another out-there choice due to its relative obscurity compared to its parent series. When his silhouette was shown in the Dracula's Castle stage, hardly anyone but the most dedicated Castlevania fans even recognized him.
    • The Resident Evil characters (Leon, Jill, Chris, and Wesker) being added as spirits in late November of 2019 was a downplayed example. Most people assumed the series would receive a playable character instead if it was included in Smash, given its history. For it to receive spirit representation instead was an announcement that came clear out of left field; not only that, but the event providing them happened at a time where the fifth Fighters Pass character had yet to be revealed.
    • Shortly before Byleth's release, it was announced that Kunio-kun would be receiving spirits. Unlike Resident Evil, whose publisher had already been represented in the game, Arc System Works (who has owned the IP since 2015) hadn't been represented in Smash prior to the inclusion of the Kunio Kun spirits.
    • On February 25, 2020, a Spirit Event focusing on black-colored spirits was announced. Surprisingly, a brand new spirit from an unrepresented series was included: Lotus from Warframe. Much like the Kunio-kun spirits, Digital Extremes hadn't yet been represented in any form. Combined with the fact that new third-party series without a playable character typically get 4-5 new Spirits when introduced to the game (Daemon X Machina, Tetris, Astral Chain, Cuphead, the aforementioned Resident Evil and Kunio-kun, and several more to come), this made for quite the surprising turn of events. And to top it off, she's the first event-exclusive Spirit that can be enhanced, in this case into Natah.
    • Picture this: you get on to the 11.0.0 updated, ready to play as Pyra and Mythra, when you find out for the first time since Dragon Quest XI, an Old Save Bonus arrived granting Arthur (see above), and Sophia from Persona 5 Strikers. Not just one, but two new spirits obtained through this method.


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