In 2013, the Super Smash Bros. Melee competitive community collectively raised a grand total of $94,683 for breast cancer research in a contest to be (re-)included as an official Evolution Championship Series (Evo) fighting game. After winning the contest, Melee found the birth of a new era at Evo 2013, shattering its own attendance records with 709 entrants to the singles tournament.
Now in its fourth consecutive year at Evo, Melee shows no signs of slowing down with an unprecedented 2,372 singles entrants, and the stage only continues to get bigger. On day three of the event, the top eight finalists will compete at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, where legends such as Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan have fought before.
In the last two months, an aura of uncertainty has developed around the pantheon of top players. Adam "Armada" Lindgren and Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma won the lion's share of events in the beginning of 2016. Then, William "Leffen" Hjelte surprised everyone to win Get On My Level 2016 in May and Joseph "Mango" Marquez took first at WTFox 2 in July after having lurked in the shadows of second place for months. At this point, who is the favorite? It's a tough question to answer. They're all coming in strong and have everything to gain. So what are they fighting for?
Hungrybox has never had an extended reign throughout the course of his career as the greatest in Melee. He's had moments where he was debatably at the top, only for Armada or Mango to quickly take back the throne. A win at Evo 2016 would cement his place as best in the world, which is a title he's been craving for nearly a decade.
2. The Two-Time Tie
Armada would love to repeat his 2015 feat and earn his second Evo trophy. Having won two Evo trophies is one of the few accomplishments that Mango can boast over Armada. Winning the largest tournament of all time would safely give Armada the title of best in the world and possibly that of the most accomplished Melee player of all time.
3. The 3vo
After Mango won his second Evo trophy, he immediately had his eyes on a third, which he called the "3vo." Last year, his run fell short in fifth place and he's been dying to come back to the Evo stage. A third trophy would establish him in very elite company, as very few in all of the fighting game community have ever accomplished such a task.
Gunning for More
Still, this short list doesn't include the momentum and stories that other players have cultivated in the past few months. Ever since he signed with Echo Fox this past May, Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman has seen noticeable improvements in his mindsets and results. He swept Hungrybox 3-0 at WTFox 2, which may be the confidence boost he needs right now going into Evo.
Players such as Justin "Plup" McGrath, Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson, and Weston "Westballz" Dennis have been knocking on the heaven's door of godhood for years. Can they work their magic and pull off some upsets? Additionally, some players recently resigned with new teams and others are still looking for one; good performances could mean the difference between earning a coveted contract with a new team and going home solo.
The Evo tournament series has created classic moments, from Mango's "He read that roll!" bit on Hungrybox to Axe's dirty four-stock on Otto "Silent Wolf' Bisno. Plenty of new moments will be forged this year, but this time it will be on an even greater scale among a roaring, sold-out crowd in the Mandalay Bay Events Center.