Casual vs. Ranked Case Studies

We’re almost done, here’s a summary of the skills that are tested in each game’s modes:

Smash Bros.:



  • Item mastery
  • Item avoidance
  • Stage navigation
  • Stage hazard avoidance


  • Reflexes
  • Ability to anticipate opponents moves
  • Nothing else




  • Use full team of 6
  • Have to guess what the first one is
  • Use any item
  • Use any Pokemon


  • Use 3 or 4 Pokemon
  • So you have to guess which Pokemon they bring
  • Have to guess which Pokemon are first
  • The strongest Pokemon can’t be used
  • Duplicate items aren’t allowed
  • Guess which Pokemon has which item

Splatoon 2:



  • Paint as quickly as you can
  • Paint the gaps when you can
  • Fight off opponents when you encounter them


  • Score 100 points as early as possible
  • Get in the lead if you can’t score 100 points
  • Maintain the lead
  • Create vital paths, but not much else
  • Control mostly the middle
  • Fight off opponents very often, so they can’t score, or continue to score

As you can see the rules and often the skills tested are different in each mode. In some cases, it is essentially a different game.

Few board and card games change the core game for competition based play (except trading card games, like Magic the Gathering). Much of the time, the number of games played and/or a time limit is most of what changes in board games for tournament play. Chess, for example doesn’t change the rules of the game, but requires a player to win a specific number of games in a round to proceed.

So what should video games in general do instead of altering the core game? Well, in games with a lot of characters or play options, some characters or play options should be banned if they are without any doubt too strong. This should be adjusted based on play data and win/loss records. Extensive testing for finding counter plays are a must. Additionally, some balance updates are a must, in case a ban list doesn’t work, or takes too much away from a game. This works great in action games.

The last thing to note is that the skills tested in both casual and ranked modes should be the same. I’m not sure of the best way to do this for every game, but ranked modes should test the same player skills in a more concrete way than in casual mode. If the skills are too different between casual and ranked, it doesn’t make any sense to say one mode requires “more skill” than the other. In fact, they should have a ranked and casual mode for each play mode instead (I’m looking at you, Splatoon).

So those are my thoughts and observations on the difference between casual and ranked modes in Smash Bros., Pokemon, and Splatoon. Is there something I missed? Is there a custom mode you like better than the options these games provide? Think I should cover them in another article? Do you disagree with my findings? Tell me all this in the comments, and why you feel the way you do!

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