The awkwardly named PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PSABR) was a pretty underwhelming game.
With poor balancing, shoddy presentation and a roster filled with glaring character omissions, it was a cheap-looking Smash Bros. “clone” that just never took off. The only sales info we ever heard was that it topped one million copies — a soft performance, to say the least.
But the market — and PlayStation itself — are in decidedly different places now than in 2012 when PSABR was originally released. With support for Smash Bros. Ultimate officially ending on October 18th with the release of Kingdom Hearts‘ Sora, the future of that series is very much uncertain. The best-selling franise will undoubtedly continue, but it will surely be years before another Smash, and it will likely need to undergo some sort of overhaul. At the same time, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, the most recent would-be Smash competitor, is a technically solid game that’s lacking in pretty much every department.
Meanwhile, PlayStation is riding higher than ever after a massively successful PS4 generation and record-breaking first year of the PS5. All the while, it’s released such heavy hitters as The Last of Us, Bloodborne, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War (2018), Marvel’s Spider-Man and Ghost of Tsushima.
With all of that in mind, there’s no better time to reintroduce PSABR. Now, to be clear, I think this should be a spiritual successor with a different name to start fresh. But for the purposes of this story, I’ll refer to the hypothetical game as PSABR2.
Admittedly, Sony’s given no indication that it’s even interested in PSABR2. It’s quite likely that one will never even see the light of day. But it’s also fun to imagine the possibilities, and there are obvious business benefits to such a game. PlayStation boss Jim Ryan recently spoke of his frustration over the number of players that consoles can reach.
While the biggest way to address this is through cloud gaming like (Xbox aims to do over the course of many years), a more interim solution would be something like PSABR2. What better way to expand the audiences of certain franchises than through a Smash-like experience?
It all just starts with making a PSABR game with the love and care that Masahiro Sakurai and his team put into Smash. I have no doubt the developers at the now-defunct Superbot worked hard on PSABR, but it was clear they weren’t afforded nearly the same level of resources that Sakurai has been given. Sony would have to invest more heavily in PSABR2.
From there, the focus would be on the roster. That’s because the biggest shortcoming of PSABR was that it was missing so many obvious character picks. No Crash Bandicoot or even Spyro, the mascots of the PS1 era? No Final Fantasy rep, which has given PlayStation some of its best games? I could go on.
Making these omissions even more glaring was the fact that Nintendo has characters like Final Fantasy‘s Cloud and Sephiroth and Metal Gear‘s Snake in Smash, despite them being far more closely tied to PlayStation. While we don’t know the specific licensing discussions behind-the-scenes, the fact of the matter is PSABR was woefully lacking in the character department.
But think of the potential roster!
- Spike (Ape Escape)
- Cole/Evil Cole (inFamous)
- Colonel Radec (Killzone) — or a different Killzone character
- Dante (Devil May Cry) — modelled after the “classic” Dante, not the much-maligned 2013 “DMC” version
- Jak and Daxter (Jak and Daxter)
- Heihachi Mishima (Tekken)
- Kat and Dusty (Gravity Rush)
- Kratos (God of War) — modelled after the recent games and featuring his Leviathon Axe and son Atreus in his moveset
- Nathan Drake (Uncharted)
- PaRappa (PaRappa the Rapper)
- Ratchet & Clank (Ratchet & Clank) — with a Rivet alt or Smash-like ‘Echo Fighter’ from Rift Apart
- Sackboy (LittleBigPlanet)
- Sir Daniel Fortesque (MediEvil)
- Sly Cooper (Sly Cooper)
- Sweet Tooth (Twisted Metal)
- Toro Inoue (Doko Demo Issyo)
That gives you a solid base ground while removing some of the questionable additions, like BioShock‘s Big Daddy, Starhawk‘s Emmett Graves, Dead Space‘s Isaac Clarke and God of War‘s Zeus.
From there, though, it gets really fun. Part of what makes Smash great is you can have lesser-known or otherwise dormant characters like R.O.B., F-Zero‘s Captain Falcon, Kid Icarus‘ Pit and Xenoblade‘s Shulk alongside icons like Mario, Link, Pikachu, Mega Man, Ryu and Sonic the Hedgehog. With that in mind, it would be great for PSABR2 to really get wild with the picks, mixing up the bigger names with those you might not even know.
New first-party characters
- Astro Bot (Astro’s series)
- The Hunter (Bloodborne)
- Ash (Concrete Genie)
- Sam Porter Bridges (Death Stranding)
- Jin Sakai (Ghost of Tsushima)
- Aloy (Horizon Zero Dawn)
- Ellie (The Last of Us)
- Joel (The Last of Us)
- Spider-Men (Marvel’s Spider-Man) — while not a strictly video game character, this would be a fun addition, especially if it’s both Peter and Miles
- A baseball player (MLB The Show) — either a generic one or a real-life athlete could make for a fun and relevant “meme” character
- Nathan Hale or a Chimera (Resistance)
- Selene (Returnal)
- Wander (Shadow of the Colossus)
- Gabe (Syphon Filter)
And on the third-party front, PlayStation could finally make up for some of the historically big PlayStation-related franchises that were neglected in PSABR…
New third-party characters
- Alucard (Castlevania)
- Crash (Crash Bandicoot)
- Cloud (Final Fantasy) — if they want to avoid the overlap with Smash, Zidane from FFIX would be a splendid pick
- Carl “CJ” Johnson or Tommy Vercetti (Grand Theft Auto)
- Darth Revan (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) — to coincide with the upcoming PS5 timed exclusive remake
- Kain (Legacy of Kain)
- Snake (Metal Gear) — if they want to avoid the overlap with Smash, they can make him “Old Snake” from MGS4
- Yu Narukami (Persona 4)
- Aya Brea (Parasite Eve)
- Jill Valentine (Resident Evil)
- Pyramid Head (Silent Hill)
- Spyro (Spyro the Dragon)
- Tomba (Tomba!)
- Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
- Tony Hawk (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater) — another fun meme character but also one with big ties to classic PlayStation
One of the many smart things Smash Bros. has done is show us that you can represent games in ways beyond playable fighters, be it stages, items, songs, collectibles (think ‘Spirits‘) and more. So even if some of these characters couldn’t make the roster, there are a slew of other means through which you can feature them. For example, Journey‘s The Traveler might make for an odd fighter (especially since that game featured no combat), but having a stage with the game’s gorgeous visuals and Austin Wintory’s phenomenal music would be perfect. Likewise, Gran Turismo is a massive and important PlayStation franchise, but a playable car might be too much, so some sort of stage and other representation might be ideal.
Of course, a lot of this would take significant licensing deals. But if there’s one thing Smash Ultimate taught us, it’s that characters people never dreamed would be possible, like Cloud, Banjo-Kazooie and Sora, could make their way into the game. It’s also worth noting that PlayStation has seemingly grown closer than ever to some of its external partners since PSABR.
For example, Activision, which owns Crash and Spyro, has worked closely with Sony on those franchises for exclusive reveals and marketing, as well as similar initiatives for the likes of Destiny and Call of Duty. Likewise, Square Enix has several exclusivity deals with PlayStation right now, including Final Fantasy VII Remake, Final Fantasy XVI and Forspoken. Naturally, those existing partnerships should make talks for PSABR2 go smoothly.
Sony even struck countless licensing deals with third parties for Astro’s Playroom, which was a free pack-in with all PS5s. If it went to the trouble for that, it’s not hard to imagine it doing the same for a PSABR2 that could be sold at full price and supported with paid add-on content. If Crash can be in a free PS5 game, surely he can be in a PSABR2? Even better, PlayStation can even coincide PSABR‘s release (or, at least, promotion) in 2024, when it celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2024. A Smash-like crossover sure would be a nice way to ring in that milestone.
Ultimately, there’s no telling what PlayStation might do with PSABR. But with the publisher having made a name for itself, especially in the PS4 generation, for being the place for tons of quality first- and third-party games, it seems like a missed opportunity to not celebrate that. Find a developer with even a fraction of the reverence for gaming as Sakurai, give their team considerable resources and put the effort into negotiating licensing deals. Do all of that, and we could finally have a worthy “Smash Bros.” for PlayStation