In gaming, a metagame refers to a set of commonly used strategies developed and employed by a competitive community. In competitive Smash, "the metagame" usually refers to the trends in strategy that appear in high-level play under tournament conditions, and these tactics are often the most influential. The metagame is not static; it evolves over time as players adapt to counter frequently used strategies, and new strategies are discovered or become popular.
For example, suppose Tactic A is effective and popular within a gaming community, and Tactic B offers advantages over Tactic A, but is considered a poor choice in most other circumstances. Some players may employ Tactic B in response to Tactic A, creating a shift in strategy. Tactic C, while usually effective, may be avoided because of its vulnerabilities to Tactic A. Eventually, Tactic A may become less common, as more players begin to use Tactic B to counter it. As a result, Tactic C may then return as a common strategy, or an entirely new effective tactic may be discovered, creating another shift in strategy. These shifts are examples of the way in which the metagame progresses and develops over time.
At the top level of play, "the metagame" can specifically refer to the habits and skills of the highest performing players. These players focus on employing strategies to win against the small number of other top players who compete with them, as opposed to the trends among players who do not perform as well as they do.
Routine analysis of the metagame has allowed the community to draw conclusions about the relative performances of playable characters in Smash Bros games, and publish them in the form of character tier lists. Each tier list changes over time, alongside the development of the metagame it references, and is updated as significant changes occur.