GameplaySuper Smash Bros. uses a battle system different from usual fighting games. Choosing from a variety of characters, two to four players fight on various stages, while trying to knock their opponents off the stage. Instead of using health bars like other fighting games, the game features percentage meters to indicate the character's vitality. At the beginning of the match, the meters start at zero percent. As the characters take damage, the percentage meter goes up, causing the characters to fly farther back each time when hit. When a character is knocked off the stage, they lose either a life or a point depending on the mode of play. The characters can attack each other with a variety of different fighting moves. Each character can perform an array of attacks when prompted with the press of a button in conjunction with a tilt of an analog stick. In addition to basic attacks, characters have access to more powerful attacks as well as three special character-specific moves.
There are nine playable stages. The stages are three dimensional arenas (although players only move in two dimensions) that are mostly based on levels from the represented series of the game. They range from floating platforms to stationary land stages. Each stage has a boundary that cannot be passed, or the character will be "KO'd", thus losing a life and counting as a "fall" against that player. The characters can make use of a variety of items, ranging from projectiles, melee weapons and health.