After an intense competition in over a dozen Nintendo games, Thomas Gonda, a 21-year-old from Oakland, came away victorious at the 2017 Nintendo World Championships on Saturday.
Gonda, better known as Ito, is a professional Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player. He is well-known as one of the best players of the character Meta Knight in the competitive scene.
Ito’s gaming background would serve him well throughout this year’s Nintendo World Championships, the third of its kind since its inception in 1990. After qualifying rounds were held across the nation, 16 top qualifiers and eight special invitees came together in Manhattan to compete in a grueling gauntlet of Nintendo titles. The lineup included games on consoles ranging all the way from the NES to the Nintendo Switch.
In a recap statement issued by Nintendo, Doug Bowser, Nintendo of America’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, said the following:
“We congratulate Thomas Gonda on his victory tonight. Nintendo World Championships 2017 showcases the best competitive spirit and sportsmanship of the Nintendo fan community. Whether players compete on a global stage or with friends and family members in the living room or on the go, Nintendo games always deliver fun times and big smiles.”
Players had to qualify by performing Time Trials in Mario Kart 7 at one of eight Best Buy locations across the United States. Eight top racers in the 13-and-older and 12-and-under divisions earned the right to advance to the main event.
In addition, Nintendo of America invited eight special participants, most of whom were well-known professional gamers from the U.S., Canada, Germany, and Mexico. However, two of these invitees were celebrities outside of the gaming world. WWE superstar Bayley and British actor Asa Butterfield, known for starring in Ender’s Game, threw their hats in the ring of the Nintendo World Championship.
After each round of competition, players who failed to advance were sent to the “Underground,” a series of additional do-or-die challenges. With each round adding and eliminating more players, the ultimate Underground winner would join the two remaining competitors in the main bracket to enter the three-stage Finals.
In Stage 5 of the main bracket, Ito was defeated in the Switch fighting game ARMS and sent to the Underground. On the brink of elimination, he was able to stave off three other players in a free-for-all of minigames from Mario Party 2 and advance to the Finals.
In the end, Ito survived to face reigning Nintendo World Champion John Numbers, also a competitive Smash player, in the final challenge. Ito and Numbers played through a level and boss fight of the unreleased Super Mario Odyssey in a gripping finish, with Ito defeating the boss in the nick of time.
— Nintendo Versus (@NintendoVS) October 8, 2017
An impressive array of titles were brought to bear at the 2017 Nintendo World Championship. The three-part Stage 1 consisted of a shield surfing competition in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a home run contest in the latest Smash Bros. and a Diggernaut chase sequence in Metroid: Samus Returns. Players who did not advance were sent to play Balloon Fight from the NES in the first Underground challenge. Stage 2 returned to Smash with two rounds of eight-player, items-on madness, where both Ito and John Numbers excelled. The second Underground stage featured the surprise appearance of the event: Bird & Beans for the GameBoy Color.
Bayley seemed out of her league and was quickly eliminated, but Asa Butterfield held his own against the pro gamers and impressed in the early rounds. He seemed to have the Smash home run contest down to a science, scoring one of the highest totals of the night. He would eventually be eliminated after reaching the top 15.
Stage 3 pitted the top 12 players against each other in a two-race Grand Prix in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, while the third Underground challenge featured a mine cart level from Donkey Kong Country Returns. Stages 4 and 5 stuck with the Switch in Splatoon 2 and ARMS competitions, while the two corresponding Underground levels challenged players in Tetris and Mario Party 2.
The three-prong Finals centered on Nintendo’s poster child, sending the finalists through Super Mario Maker, Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, and Odyssey.
With two Nintendo World Championships held in the last three years, it seems the gaming giant may be planning to make the event a somewhat regular occurrence. In the meantime, Ito will retain the golden Mario trophy and the title of Nintendo World Champion.