During the nascent years of Melee scene, the Smashboards Back Room updated its “official” tier list every two months. The first tier list, made public on October 8, 2002, is evidence of how dramatically the metagame has shifted since those days: Jigglypuff is the 17th-best character and shares a tier with Ness, while Mario and Zelda occupy the 5th and 6th spots (the latter largely due to her ability to transform into Sheik).
Only 72 days later, the Back Room released its next tier list. While this one was closer to the modern list than its predecessor—Jigglypuff is much higher in this list, above Captain Falcon and Ice Climbers—Sheik remains the No. 1 character, a preposterous notion to anyone familiar with the modern metagame.
Over the next decade or so, the Smashboards Back Room continued to produce tier lists, but the rate at which they released them slowly decreased—from every few months, to once a year, then finally to roughly once every two years. On December 10, 2015, the Back Room published its most recent tier list (pictured above).
Viewed through the lens of the 2015 metagame, the current tier list appears reasonable. At the time, William “Leffen” Hjelte and Adam “Armada” Lindgren had just spent the summer chasing each other across both America and Final Destination, playing high-octane Fox dittos in so many major Grand Finals that 20XX seemed nigh-inevitable. Though he’d scrapped his way to a 2nd place finish at Evolution Championship Series 2015, Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma still had a lopsided losing record against Joseph “Mang0” Marquez’s Fox, and few would have foreseen the dominance he exhibited in 2017. And while Kevin “PPMD” Nanney was already suffering from the medical issues that would eventually cause him to put his competitive career on an indefinite hiatus, he’d won Apex 2015 earlier in the year, and his fellow Falco main Weston “Westballz” Dennis looked poised to take his spot in among the gods of Melee.
Looking back at the 2015 tier list now, it’s riddled with debatable placements. Hungrybox’s dominance during the latter half of 2017 is evidence that Jigglypuff might be one of the top three characters in the game, while the rise of technical and high-ranking Captain Falcon players such as Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett, Johnny “S2J” Kim, and Edgard “n0ne” Sheleby suggests that Falcon deserves to be above Ice Climbers, if not higher. There are some potential shake-ups in the lower tiers, too: Doctor Mario has faded out of competitive relevance, while Yoshi player Masaya “aMSa” Chikamoto has taken four sets off of top 10 players over the last six months.
Furthermore, the notion of a numerically-ranked tier list might be a bit outdated. Since top-level play is often defined by player, not character, matchups, a specific ordering of characters would be somewhat meaningless; tier groupings are more important. We know that Fox, Sheik, Jigglypuff, Marth, Falco, and Peach have it in them to win majors, and that Ganondorf is probably the worst character that can sort-of-kind-of hack it. Sticking numbers next to those characters’ names doesn’t seem all that important.
It’s been over two years since the last tier list was released, the longest stretch ever without a new official tier list. Perhaps the Back Room will release a new one soon, but let’s be honest—we’ll all have our own opinions anyway.