Super Smash Bros. Melee is divided up into specific play modes. The single player modes are described in the Walkthrough. The multiplayer modes are the main draw of the series. They can be played with 4 people or AI controlled characters. The AI characters can be at different difficulties. Aspects of the battle can be changed, such as the damage ratio and stage selection, and handicaps can be added. Any mode can also be played with teams of different colors.
Up to 4 players can fight for a certain amount of time. KO's count as 1 point to a players score, and self destructs count against a player's score.
Players have a certain amount of lives, and play until all but one has no more lives.
Like timed melee, except when you attack someone, coins will fall from the sky. The more powerful the attack. the more coins fall. Coins also fall sporadically around the stage. If you touch a coin, it is added to your total coin count. If you die by normal means, you lose half your coins. Whoever has the most coins at the end of the game wins, regardless of KO's or falls.
Like Timed Melee, except instead of counting KO's for wins, The bonus score is counted. The bonus points from the awards your player receives counts for your score. Whoever has the most points wins.
Special condition melees, with settings like slow motion, permanently big characters, and invisible mode.
- Lightning Melee
The game runs twice as fast.
- Slo Mo Melee
The game runs half as fast.
- Invisible Melee
Everyone is permanently invisible. Temporarily visible when you attack.
- Giant Melee
Everyone is permanently big, as if they had touched a super mushroom item. Grab a super mushroom for a ridiculously large character. Grab a poison mushroom to turn to normal size. Bad fight for small levels.
- Tiny Melee
Everyone is permanently small, as if they had touched a poison mushroom item. Grab a super mushroom for a normal-sized character. Grab a poison mushroom to be about 1/3-1/4 the size of a capsule. Oddly, the items are still regular-sized and may be picked up, making it easier to hit other people.
- Fixed Camera Melee
The game camera stays at a full zoomed-out state for the entire battle.
- Stamina Melee
Instead of time or lives or percentage damage, each player has 150hp. 1hp is equivalent to one percent of damage. Attacks decrease hp. When a player's hp reaches 0, the player is out of the game. Have fun beating knocked out bodies off of the arena because they will get in the way. If you fall off the stage you immediately die.
- Single Button Melee
You can only use the , the control stick, and the . People who use the and buttons may find it hard to jump well, and there is no triple jump, since in this mode the is disabled. This melee is better for beginners, as there aren't very many buttons or combos to take into account.
- Instant Death Melee
Everyone starts out with 300% damage, creating a very quick game if played by beginners. It is advisable not to play this at Brinstar Depths. The original damage may be healed by any healing item.