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Roundtable: Shovel Knight

Roundtable Shovel Knight

I decided to do something a little different today, and created a small collection of some of the staff’s reactions to the Shovel Knight rumor. While we don’t know 100% if Shovel Knight is going to be in Smash, I thought it would be interesting to post our reactions to it. In case the last two sentences weren’t clear: as of right now this is just a RUMOR and not a leak.


Sometimes hardcore Smash fans ask, why is Shovel Knight so requested?

The reason that Shovel Knight is popular is because his game is “NES” style retro, which resonates with a lot of people who had the console growing up. Reportedly, his game is very well made. In addition, his fanbase extends past the regular group of Smash fans, and general gaming fans have taken a liken to him. A lot of people apparently think of him as a Nintendo inspired character which is why they voted for him in the Smash Ballot (plus their are fans that believe that there should have been some sort of indie representation). If you think of it like that it makes sense why he’s popular on places like reddit.

Shovel Knight by the Smashified Team.

Shovel Knight by the Smashified Team.

Personally, my main issue with Shovel Knight is that he has one game, from an indie developer and he is an obscure choice if you consider a worldwide view. He appears nowhere on the list of characters that are talked about on Japanese forums (tentative data). In addition, third party characters are a special guest in Smash, and honestly having Shovel Knight in kind of ruins the special recognition that the honor is. For example, I consider 3rd party Smash characters as the ‘hall of fame of video gaming’, and right now we have no idea if Shovel Knight is going to have any long term relevance like Pac-Man or Ryu. He’s had a lot of crossovers, and DLC is coming for his game all the time + new amiibo…so for an indie game he is one of the top contenders. But for overall gaming? That is still very debatable.  

I’ve been against indies in Smash since day one (I wrote that post about Indies not being likely in Smash at the start of the ballot if you remember) and my feelings haven’t changed. I even repeated some of my sentiments a day or two before the rumor went live. This is honestly my #1 concern with the rumor. Sakurai has surprised us before (sometimes on purpose), and SK could be a “surprise selection” while still being confined to the ballot. I’m not denying that he got a sizable number of votes, but his inclusion in Smash would be unprecedented in a lot of ways, and it’s still hard to believe. I’m eagerly awaiting additional information.  CBwpQLJUMAACnKG

In the end, I’ll accept Shovel Knight if he’s in it, and I’m sure he will be fun to play as. Its probably the interesting/ unique aspect of Shovel Knight that got him a spot in the roster. How many other character’s in the roster use a Shovel as a weapon? Are knights? Are light blue? That’s probably why he got in (again, besides the large amount of suggestions).

I’ve talked about how if Shovel Knight is indeed in, the two newcomers so far are 3rd party. It’s almost a theme. Maybe Nintendo/ Sakurai are using DLC for 3rd parties because it’s easier to negotiate the rights/ distribute the profits. After all they did stress you could vote for whoever you wanted to, as long as it was a video game character.

I get why people are both upset or happy if he ends up getting in (again, if the rumor is true). However, at the end of the day, it’s not the end of the world.


I want to start by saying that i am a huge fan of Shovel Knight. The character is incredibly likeable with an interesting yet simple design that throws back to the NES era of gaming. The game itself is wonderful. Shovel Knight was one of my favourite games last year despite being fairly short. The music is great, the art direction is great, the humour is great and the gameplay is solid all around. With all this said, Shovel Knight really does not deserve to be in Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS.

Shovel Knight comes with a massive list of problems that all contradict Sakurai in how he picks out his characters. Shovel Knight has had one game that launched last year. He is not iconic to video games, not even in the Indie scene where characters like Shantae and Super Meat Boy are leagues above him. He might be iconic in the Kickstarter scene as that is where it all began for the character but to be honest, there is not that many iconic kickstarter games in the first place. Shovel Knight is the ‘any’ character and his inclusion opens the floodgates for all kinds of suggestions.

In terms of how important they are to Nintendo, Shovel Knight is hardly the forerunner. He has had 1 game that has been multi-platform. The only Nintendo exclusive stuff that Shovel Knight has is that it launched first for Nintendo systems and then the newly announced Shovel Knight amiibo. That is it. There are many other 3rd party characters that mean so much more to Nintendo like Rayman, Bomberman and Simon Belmont. Any one of them would have made a better representative than Shovel Knight. You can try and argue that Shovel Knight represents Nintendo’s indie support but even then he is not the forerunner for that either; if we had to pick an indie character Shantae should have been the one as Wayforward have been avid Nintendo supporters for 25 years now.

Shovel Knight really lowers the bar for characters to get into Smash however
there is a way his inclusion can be justified. The first way for me is that Nintendo are publishing Shovel Knight in Japan. Another problem with Shovel Knight’s inclusion in Smash is that he is entirely unknown to Japanese audience. But, if Nintendo is publishing Shovel Knight in Japan then they will want to market the game as much as possible. The best ways to do this are through their games. Super Smash Bros. and amiibo are the best way to do this and it would not be the first case of Smash being used to advertise an upcoming game (Roy in Melee). This would all make sense and then it becomes understandable that Nintendo would want to push forth a small character like this because they have a stake in him now as well.

When all is said and done, I will still buy and play Shovel Knight in Super Smash Bros for Wii U & 3DS. I do enjoy the character and style wise, he would fit right in. The problem just comes down to why he is in the game, because it really feels like a let down from Sakurai, especially if he is only 1 of 2 characters left to be added.


If Shovel Knight has gotten in, I feel it would be less on his game’s own merits or “worth” (a concept I find to be almost unquantifiable in Smash), and more for two things: some sort of Nintendo/Yacht Club deal, and more important, a look_at_dat_shovel_knight_amiibo_tho__largegeneral representative of indie games. They’ve taken a disproportionate amount of focus of the ballot, but it’s understandable why. Many of them directly cite Nintendo software for their games’ inspiration (Shovel Knight being the most recent example), their own publishers have been galvanizing fans to vote for them, they’re often exciting, and yet even their biggest successes are often small, niche, and region-specific works in the industry despite having such a huge impact collectively. Should sales numbers and international appeal limit who could get in? Does the concept of an “all-star” cast diminish from minor guest fighters? I’m somewhat unconvinced by either side, though the issue of DLC purchasing makes me question their likelihood in general.

The economics involved would be an incredible risk, because Sakurai would be asking an international audience to pay single purchase for characters many of them will not know. Some Japanese fans are familiar with the game, but to most he’ll be an odd, unknown quantity at best – and at worst, another example of this game paying undue focus to odd western choices like Little Mac and Duck Hunt. Even in the center of his popularity (hardcore, English-speaking Smash fans), you can see just from many of the comments to articles here he’s incredibly divisive. He would not be a character for the benefit of a general audience, or a good percentage of a serious, embedded one. So if Sakurai deems it alright to spend the effort on a character who likely won’t sell as well, it would probably be for a specific or unique reason. And since the purpose of DLC is not for advertising, I doubt he’d do it just for the sake of Nintendo’s marketing wing or relations with smaller publishers.


Shantae has also been requested by fans.

But if indie representation is valuable – and should go further than a trophy of CommanderVideo – there is also a question of whether Shovel Knight the best choice. Certainly, he lacks the history of Cave Story or Shantae, but Shovel Knight has been very successful for an indie game, and one that seems more likely to continue than most. Most indie games’ success and longevity is fairly short-lived, so maybe going with one that is still resonating with so many fans (and openly tying itself to Nintendo history) is the best bet? To be honest, I’m really unsure about the validity of these claims, which I suppose may in a way be for the best. One of the things that have made this iteration of Smash so enjoyable has been how it plays with fan expectations, with us old hats struggling at times to get our bearings. Shovel Knight, for good and ill, would definitely help keep that feeling going, even through where it was most unexpected.


As a competitive Smash player, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really care that much about characters getting in, or getting cut, from Smash. Similarly, I can’t say I’m all that well attuned to what characters are popular, and which ones are not, from the perspective of the “core” Smash fanbase. All those disclaimers aside, I’ll throw in my two cents.

First, if Shovel Knight is in Smash, that’s great for Yacht Club Games. It gives them a lot of publicity anShovel_knight_coverd while they may garner some “hate” from people who believe that Shovel Knight devalues the Smash roster, I feel that this has to be a positive thing for them in the long run. On the other side of the coin, this has to
really sting for Wayforward, given that Yacht Club Games is comprised of former Wayforward employees, and is a company that has a longer association with Nintendo, released a game recently most likely sold comparably to Shovel Knight, and was actively campaigning for Shantae in Smash.

Second, when I first heard of this rumor the only way I really thought it would be possible would be if Shovel Knight was in Smash 4 as more of a Roy/Marth in Melee situation, where they were basically promotional/extra characters, as Fire Emblem hadn’t seen a Western release yet. I assumed that if Shovel Knight got into Smash, Nintendo might have worked some sort of exclusivity deal with them, as either a first or second party studio. I think that if he does get in, this is still a strong possibility, although I have no actual proof to back that up, just a hunch.

Finally, I still don’t really think Shovel Knight will make it into Smash (or at least, not into Smash 4). I just think he’s lacks too much general relevance, and don’t see Sakurai adding Shovel Knight as very likely.



The interesting thing I noted about the Shovel Knight rumors was that there was a lot of fans who were upset by it. It seemed odd since usually third party characters, especially one as requested as Shovel Knight, are met with feverish excitement. But this time, that was not the case. The common factors was that he wasn’t that recognizable as compared to the like of Ryu, Megaman and Pac-Man, and there were too many third party characters. Josh Thomas of the Bit Block even tweet out that Smash isn’t about Nintendo anymore.


The problem with Shovel Knight is just that: he’s not iconic. Third party characters in Smash have worked based on their longevity and their relationship to Nintendo. Fan feverishly requested Sonic because he was Mario’s rival in the eyes of gamers and Megaman ah he is almost a Nintendo character himself. Although Ryu may seem like an odd choice, Street Fighter 2 was a huge success on the SNES. But what claim to fame does Shovel Knight have? Not very much. His game is only a year old and sold about 700,000 copies according to the game’s developer, Yacht Club Games. While 700,000 may seem good for an indie developer, it is nothing compared to the multiple million sellers that have come out of Pac-Man, Megaman, Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter, and Metal Gear Solid. Smash’s roster thrives on discrimination and careful choices. Adding a character that is so new and not even a Nintendo character throws that concept to the wind.

But the most important fact is that the soul of Super Smash Brothers is Nintendo. Yes, Super Smash Brothers is a very fun game and is successful for multiple reasons, but what gives the games heart is the Nintendo lore. Consider why fans loved the Melee adventure mode. The mode is loved, even to this day and in spite of its shortcomings, because you were exploring the worlds of Nintendo. You jumped through the Mushroom Kingdom, explored dungeons, and escaped Brinstar. The mode was a romp though familiar Nintendo worlds. A major complaint with the Subspace Emissary is that it used generic enemies. We don’t want to fight primids. We want to fight goombas and octorocks.

I think adding Shovel Knight would be Smash jumping the shark. No longer would the soul of Nintendo matter to Smash. Instead, it would be which character would be most interesting from a marketing standpoint, and Shovel Knight would perform that job quite well. Already, Super Smash Brothers for Wii U and 3DS has added 3 new third party characters and has 4 in total, double the amount from Super Smash Brothers Brawl. The only new DLC characters was a third party character. To add another new third party character would be a slap in the face to the concept of Nintendo lore. I’ve longed theorized that there would be an end to third party characters. As I discussed in my DLC Econ 101, the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility states that we eventually reach a negative utility when we consume too much. I think Shovel Knight would be the tipping point where no longer are third parties interesting, but instead would make the game feel cheap.

In closing, I do not think the rumor is real. The original Nintendo Everything article stated that the rumor came from “multiple sources within the video game retail sector.” However, retailers would not know about Smash Brothers DLC, but would know about amiibos. With the Shovel Knight amiibo being revealed, it is likely the tipster and others assumed this meant he was coming to Smash. I also doubt that Nintendo would have two Shovel Knight amiibos running around if the character is coming as DLC soon. It remains to be seen if Shovel Knight is really in the game, but I do feel that his inclusion will not only be met with scorn but may negatively impact the persecution for Super Smash Brothers.   


  1. Hehehe, SmashChu really doesn’t like his third parties (thinks Mega Man and Sonic should be cut next game).

    You all might have to eat your words from previous articles about the influence of ‘millions of casuals’ on the ballot if Shovel Knight gets chosen from it. Not only do few casual gamers know him, an entire country has no idea who he is!

    BigBill on August 29 |
    • I may write more about this in the future, but I think there is some truth to the idea that you can go too far with third parties. Josh Thomas’s tweet was interesting as it seems, even now, that the series is shifting focus away from Nintendo. When the rumor first came out, the Reddit thread was very divisive and there was a surprising amount of people against it. I did get some interesting quote from 4Chan as well where they complained there was enough first party characters as DLC and Shovel Knight didn’t fit in.

      Most of us were confused by the rumor because of most of the reasons here. Shovel Knight doesn’t have the same presence. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of game enthusiast didn’t know who Shovel Knight was. Heck, Sakurai may not have even known the character exist.

      With rumors, its best to consider them false until proven otherwise. Most of the time, they come up false.

      smashchu on August 29 |
    • “You all might have to eat your words from previous articles about the influence of ‘millions of casuals’ on the ballot if Shovel Knight gets chosen from it. ”

      First off, those articles were mainly written by myself…and some extent SmashChu too. I don’t censor opinions from the other writers and translators as long as they are clearly identified as opinions. The thing about opinions, is that they can be misguided. And some of my opinions have been misguided in the past (…like way before when I thought Pit was considered for Smash 64).

      As of right now, I’m literally against the wall. Either I’m backing a rumor that isn’t true and was correct in my speculation, or I’m wrong about my speculation and the rumor is true. At the end of the day, the speculation was purely opinion and (at least for me), my opinion is constantly changing as new information becomes available. I feel like I need to rewrite my article on how I think Sakurai chooses the roster (even if Shovel Knight doesn’t get in). There are very good reasons to believe in the rumor, but until more evidence comes forth it’s probably best to assume it’s fake (as SmashChu said in the comments). It’s not a clear lock like Ryu/Roy/Lucas was.

      If Shovel Knight does get in, then it’s a success of the ballot. Not necessarily #1, but the one that had the highest vote + worked out favorably for development.

      Personally, I think Sonic will stay. Megaman has a 50/50 shot in the next game.

      PushDustIn on August 29 |
  2. The roster is currently 92% Nintendo (more if you count the Mii Fighters separately). An additional 3rd party character would barely make a dent in that. It’ll take a hell of a long time to reach the saturation of Playstation All-Stars.

    (A greater percentage of newcomers are third party, of course, but the novelty of being “new” is unimportant in the long run.)

    Igiulaw on August 29 |
  3. I still support Shovel Knight for Smash. Is he my first choice? Of course not.

    Above all, I’d, of course, love to have Nintendo characters as DLC. A lot of suggestions that are going around I’m not too keen on, but if Sakurai can make the character interesting, I’ll be satisfied. As said in the article, Smash is first and foremost Nintendo’s all-stars. Too many third-parties of any kind will detract from that, but that’s not to say that third-parties are not part of Nintendo history. I can’t really speak for Pac-Man or Snake on that issue, but Mega Man, Ryu, and (more indirectly) Sonic have definitely been a pretty big part of Nintendo in their own ways.

    With that said, Shovel Knight isn’t even my first choice for a third-party. However, I do feel he has some things going for him:

    + He’s an indie character, and the indie scene is pretty big in gaming right now (Nintendo seems to support it as well, just look at their Nindies event at PAX.)

    + His game in NES-inspired, and also is a representation of the “modern retro” thing that’s going on.

    + He’s getting his own Amiibo, which obviously puts him ahead of other indie characters. If it’s true that SK is being published in Japan by Nintendo, that also puts him ahead.

    + He’s been highly requested by fans.

    But he also has some issues, like mentioned above; mostly that he’s an indie character (and a relatively new one at that), and thus doesn’t have the legacy other characters do (yes, him being an indie character is both a pro and a con in its on way.) I don’t think SK being multi-platform is really a huge issue, considering every other third-party character has also had multi-platform games. He also doesn’t have recognition in Japan, but on the other side of that coin, neither did Marth, Roy, or Lucas when they were first in Smash… yes, I realize they were part of the core game and not DLC.

    That said, I don’t know if we necessarily NEED an indie rep in Smash… but if we do, I think SK is the best choice.

    Winturwulf (@winturwulf) on August 29 |
  4. “How many other character’s in the roster use a Shovel as a weapon?”
    In the end, what’s the technical difference between a shovel and a sword? Will it really feel very different? (of course they feel different in real life, but I’m talking about Smash Bros) I’m not hating, I was just thinking about that. (I don’t know much about Shovel Knight, sorry) Well, at least shovels make very satisfying metallic sounds.. I guess he has more weapons in his game, right?

    Ar on August 29 |
  5. Let’s put this into perspective here; In Smash 4 there are currently 55 characters, taking into account DLC fighters and the 3 Mii Fighter types. Out of those 55 characters, 4 of them are 3rd party, which is just below 8% of the roster. Personally, I believe 3rd party representation should be around 10%, as this keeps it exclusive while still having enough room for a character from each big company (or 2, in greedy Capcom’s case).

    Now I want to make something abundantly clear. It would be wonderful to have Shovel Knight in Smash (though not before Layton, mind you). Having played the game on 3DS, I can put my hand on my heart and solemnly swear that in terms of quality of games, Shovel Knight is absolutely up there with the Big 4 (you get three guesses for who they are, and two of them don’t count). Furthermore, Shovel Knight would be a very unique character if done right, incorporating not only his famous Cane Bounc—Er, I mean Shovel Drop, but also the numerous and varied Relics available in his game.

    The problem is Shovel Knight is new and doesn’t even have a series yet, because a series involves multiple games/films/books/etc. Again, I would love for Shovel Knight to be in, but he just doesn’t have the kind of brand recognition that even Metroid series does. Not yet, anyway. At the moment, Shovel Knight is not the best choice for the Smash roster. He needs to be given more time to build himself up as an IP first.

    So one more slot for a third party character would bump representation up to 11%, but that’s only assuming no more first or second party characters are added in the future. If this were to be given to an indie character, and I believe it should be if Snake isn’t going to return, then it should be given to Shantae. Personally, I have never played a Shantae game, but I have heard many great things about the series and from what I can see in WayForward’s Tweets about her ballot campaign, there heart is definitely there and, unlike Mr Phil Spencer, is not teasing the character just for the sake of money. And, having been with Nintendo since the GBC, is there really much of a competition? I myself would go so far as to say that Shantae is one of the pioneers of the indie genre; One of the first big indie characters out there. When it comes to indie gaming, I really can’t think of a better mascot to represent the genre in Smash.

    That is all.

  6. Is it fair to say that it’s possible that characters from independent developers, like Shovel Knight, shouldn’t even be considered 3rd party representatives? Because they are independent, negotiations to include an indie character should be less difficult than it would be if they were from Sega, Capcom, Namco Bandai, Konami, or even the Pokémon Company (even though they aren’t 3rd party, they are very restricted with who IP from Pokémon are used by other companies).
    I don’t believe the inclusion of an indie is suppose to be on par with Ryu or Sonic, and I personally feel it should be appreciated as such.

    the 101 on August 30 |
    • Unless it’s developed by a first- or second-party, it’s third-party… IE any games not made by Nintendo, Monolith Soft, Warpstar (AKA HAL), etc. (Good-Feel and Grezzo may be second-party as well, considering they only make games for Nintendo systems and have worked on some of their main franchises.)

      Yes, there is probably less red tape from independent studios, but that doesn’t make it any less third-party.

      I wouldn’t even count localizing-publishing (which Shovel Knight’s Japanese release may have to do with) as bringing it any closer either. I’ve seen companies localize and publish Western games in Japan, like Square-Enix (Call of Duty) and Capcom (Grand Theft Auto), but they’re still obviously developed by Western studios.

      Winturwulf (@winturwulf) on August 31 |
      • I know that Yacht Club Games is a third-party supporter of Nintendo, and I’m not trying to strain definitions one way or another. I’m just trying to think of this situation in a different way that makes sense. And I agree that localization doesn’t make a character anymore part of Nintendo than not. Rayman is not a Nintendo character by any sense of the word.

        Isn’t Warpstar a subsidary of HAL Loboratory made specifically for the Kirby anime series?

        the101 on August 31 |
  7. “The original Nintendo Everything article stated that the rumor came from “multiple sources within the video game retail sector.” However, retailers would not know about Smash Brothers DLC, but would know about amiibos.”

    Actually, Amazon recently started selling Smash DLC through it’s store, so…there’s several reasons people in retail might know.

    Some Dude on September 2 |