Top 10 best Smash Melee players of 2022

by Ryan Tarney

2022 was an amazing year for Super Smash Bros. Melee, with newcomers bursting onto the scene and the first Yoshi winning a Supermajor in the 21-year history of the game. Some unfortunate events led to the cancellation of two year-end events in the Smash World Tour Championships and Panda Cup Finale, but Ludwig “Ludwig” Ahgren created the Scuffed World Tour to fill the void and close out the year.

Masaya "aMSa" Chikamoto won that tournament, which featured 16 of the best Melee players in the world, but the debate over who the top 10 players were across all of 2022 is ongoing. We got the first official Melee rankings in over two years this summer, but for the third year in a row it doesn’t appear we’ll be getting year-end rankings. With that in mind, I wanted to share my opinions on the best of the best this year.

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Before getting to my top 10 for 2022, here are some players who didn’t crack the top 10 but deserve a shoutout.

William “Wevans” Evans

This Samus from Florida is one of the top Samuses in the world but isn’t often ranked among them. He had some great performances at regionals in Florida this year. He got second place at SOAR Summer 2022 only losing to Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma, seventh at CEO beating Luis "Smashdaddy" Rangel in the process, first at Fall GatorLAN 2022 taking down Brandon "Panda" Orooji twice and 17th at The Off-Season beating Matthew "The Leaf" Schaeffer and winning doubles at that event.

Davis "Palpa" Scherer

A Jigglypuff from Texas and the No. 1 player in Austin, Texas, who has good wins over bobby big ballz and Sasha "Magi" Sullivan and a winning record over Duncan "SDJ" Meara this year would be more well-known across the country if he ever competed out of state. This didn’t stop Palpa from placing fourth at Low Tide City, fifth at Dreamhack Dallas and 13th at Lost Tech City and The Off-Season.

Read more: Power rankings at the heart of local Super Smash Bros. scenes

Te Tuhi "Spud" Kelly

Hailing from New Zealand originally, Spud is the former No. 1 player from Oceania. He took a bit of a hiatus from 2020 until mid-2022, but after the time away Spud came back swinging with a ninth-place performance at The Off-Season. The Marth main also qualified for the main bracket at the Ludwig Smash Invitational beating Edgard "n0ne" L. Sheleby, Miles "Soonsay" Foster, Sufyan "Suf" Hassan, Ralph “Ralph” Arroyo, Elliot "Frenzy" Grossman and Michael "Nut" Silver.

Vicente "Chape" Sánchez

The undisputed best player in South America, this Fox player also has some strong wins over North American players Derek "Aura" Olsen, Yasin "Mekk" Mekki and Eduardo "Eddy Mexico" Lucatero Rincon this year. It’s disappointing that he did not get to prove himself further at the canceled Smash World Tour Championships, but 2023 could be the year he puts South American Melee on the map.

Joshua "Joshman" Lyras

The best player from Australia, this Fox had some great wins including sets over Cody "iBDW" Schwab, aMSa, Arjun "lloD" Malhotra and John "KoDoRiN" Ko. His highlight of the year was getting fourth place at Get On My Level. What is keeping him out of the top 10 is inconsistency; losses to Adrian "Skerzo" Chavez and John "John Wick" Uriarte stopped him at Majors this year.

Read more: Jmook, KoDoRiN showcasing greatness for FlyQuest in Smash Melee

John "KoDoRiN" Ko

KoDoRiN is the 11th player on my list and deserves a huge shoutout for being perhaps the most active player all year. Frequently going to locals and flying out to many Majors across the country, KoDoRiN has shown his dedication to the community in different ways by also hosting the online weekly TMT along with FlyQuest.

10. Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson

Photo credit: Bekah Wong / @AlonelyChime

The best Pikachu player in the world had a weak start to the year which led to his fall from fourth in the 2019 SSBM rankings. However, he still showed some strong results such as fourth at Shine, third at The Off-Season and fifth at Apex 2022. He capped the year off with perhaps the best result of the year getting fourth at Scuffed World Tour taking down Shephard "Fiction" Lima, lloD and William "Leffen" Hjelte in the process in three straight loser’s bracket Game 5’s before finally falling to his bracket demon Hungrybox.

9. Hugh "SluG" Hegarty

Photo credit: Bekah Wong / @AlonelyChime

The best Ice Climbers player in the world hails from Philadelphia. SluG had some impressive placements like his fourth place results at Mainstate, Double Down and the Ludwig Smash Invitational. He’s not the most active player, but wins against Zain “Zain” Naghmi, Jake "Jmook" DiRado, Leffen and Joseph "Mang0" Marquez, makes SluG a threat in any bracket.

8. Justin "Plup" McGrath

Photo credit: Ian Witlen / Red Bull

With a slight fall from his peak of fourth in the 2018 SSBM rankings, Plup had a slightly inactive year but still had strong showings getting second at Smash Summit 13, Riptide and Lost Tech City. His Sheik appears to read aMSa like a book and can beat anybody in the top 10, so increasing attendance can see Plup move up in the rankings next year.

7. William "Leffen" Hjelte

Photo credit: Bekah Wong / @AlonelyChime

This Swedish Fox is a very scary player for any bracket because you have no idea what Leffen you are going to get. Do you get the Leffen who won Battle of BC 4 beating Zain, Hungrybox and aMSa in the process or the Leffen who lost to Kurtis "moky" Pratt to get knocked out at The Big House? Leffen has been outspoken about the difficulty of getting strong practice in Europe and has been splitting his focus on Guilty Gear, but he still has strong performances to show in Melee.

6. Jake “Jmook” DiRado

Photo credit: Bekah Wong / @AlonelyChime

A newcomer to the top echelons of Melee, this Sheik player burst onto the scene this year finishing second at Genesis 8 and earning a sponsorship from FlyQuest to help him travel to more events. However, a Major victory has eluded Jmook all year with second-place finishes at Get On My Level, Shine and The Off-Season too. After losing twice to Zain at Genesis, he has now gained the upper hand in that matchup. If he can do the same to his other bracket demons in aMSa, Cody "iBDW" Schwab and Hungrybox, we can expect to see Jmook win his first Major and the first for his character in many years.

5. Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma

Photo credit: Kenneth Rodriguez / @XenosMccloud

It says a lot about your historical performance when fifth place for the year is a down year, but that is the way it is for the former world No. 1. Although his Jigglypuff still strikes fear into players’ eyes and leads even the most dedicated players to question their main’s matchup, Hungrybox didn’t have enough tournament victories to justify a higher placement than fifth. That being said, he did take home trophies at Get On My Level and Riptide. His weak records against iBDW and Zain are the main reasons for him not being higher on this list, but if he can figure out those matchups, Hungrybox can regain his No. 1 position.

4. Cody "iBDW" Schwab

Photo credit: Mike Solinas / @mike_e_solinas

With winning records in 2022 against everybody in this top 10 besides Mang0 and Leffen, iBDW was doing work all year. The year was highlighted by this Fox player’s victory at Smash Summit 13 and wins at the Las Vegas Major, Double Down and a trip to the Australian Major, Phantom. It was his overwhelming losing record against Mang0 (1-7) that cut other runs of his short and led to him not having as many marquee Major championships in 2022.

3. Joseph "Mang0" Marquez

Photo credit: Bekah Wong / @AlonelyChime

After a slow start to the year including an infamous loss to Colorado Sheik Evan "Fizzwiggle" Akhavan at Genesis, Mang0 defied expectations and took first at Super Smash Con, Mainstage and Smash Summit 14 in the second half of the year. Putting those together with a second-place performance at The Big House and third at Scuffed World Tour, Mang0 showed that the greatest of all time has plenty left in the tank. If the Spacie main can keep up these performances next year, he will be a serious contender to be the No. 1 Melee player in 2023.

2. Masaya "aMSa" Chikamoto

Photo credit: Bekah Wong / @AlonelyChime

To quote the great Bobby Scar, “A Yoshi???”

AMSa had perhaps the greatest tournament performance of any player ever this year at The Big House. In arguably the most stacked tournament of all time, the Yoshi main from Japan came out on top. He followed it up with a victory at The Off-Season, Apex and Scuffed World Tour that would have led to aMSa likely having the No. 1 spot if this ranking was only for the second half of the year. After moving to Vancouver during the fall, aMSa is looking to move up one more spot in 2023.

1. Zain “Zain” Naghmi

Photo credit: Mogul Moves

Zain deserves the No. 1 ranking. It’s a crown that wasn’t recognized until this summer due to the COVID pandemic, but Zain has been at the top of the Melee world since 2020 and now has the ranking to show for it. He won the most prestigious tournament of the year at Genesis 8 and got the trophy at the Ludwig Smash Invitational, the largest invite-only tournament of the year. Combining these with wins at the Shine and Pound Majors and top four performances at Apex, Big House and GOML round out a great year for the Marth main.

Read more: For Zain, success at Genesis has been integral to his rise

***

That does it for my 2022 year-end rankings, but there’s more great Melee around the corner with Redemption Rumble happening Dec. 30-31 and Genesis 9 in January to set the tone for the new year.

Lead photo credit: Kenneth Rodriguez / @XenosMccloud

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