We have a list of 14 confirmed characters and intelligent speculation on how many and what secret characters you can expect!
At Nintendo's pre-E3 press conference, the first GameCube footage they showed was of Super Smash Bros. Melee. The second half of the clip revealed 14 playable characters, and after playing the game and re-examining the clip, we can give you a pretty good idea of how many secret characters there will be, and who they are.
Pretty sweet eh? That's 14 characters, 10 of which come from the list of 12 that made up the first game. So how many secret characters will there be? Well, the E³ version had five boxes at the bottom of the screen with question marks in them. They were well out of the way, and it definitely implied five secret characters. We also have this modified shot of the character selection screen from Rave 3 that suggests there could be up to ten secret characters. However, five is a more reasonable number (keep in mind that only 10 of 14 were playable at E3).
So who might the extra characters be? We're pretty sure that one of them is Jiggly Puff. Not only was he in the original game, he is also prominently displayed in the opening cut-scene when he sticks his head in the front of the screen obscuring about 30 Pokémon in the background. The next candidate is Luigi. He wasn't seen anywhere in the clips, but he was in the first game as well, and actually had significantly different fighting style from Mario. I'm sure plenty of people would be angry if Luigi gets cut out. In my mind, the only question is, will he come with or without a vacuum cleaner? The next possibility is Ganondorf. In the pre-show FMV, Ganon's hand was very discreetly shown for a small amount of time. We know it was Ganon's hand, because there were three hands with tri-forces emblazoned upon them, and the other two belonged to Link and Zelda. Does this mean Ganon is in? Maybe, but you have to admit that the huge sword he sports in the SpaceWorld videos would make him a force to be reckoned with.
That leaves us with at least two openings. I'm hoping for Ridley as he took a couple of missiles from Samus during the opening cut-scene, and he would make a wicked addition to the lineup. However, PGC staffer Mike Sklens thinks that Ridley's ability to simply fly around will make it difficult for the designers to put him in and keep the game balanced. I think we're all hoping that Pit (better known as Kid Icarus) makes the final cut. If I'm not mistaken, someone at E3 saw some kind of Pit icon during a single player level which might have represented a way to unlock him. Pit could certainly make an excellent fighter.
Some other possibilities include Mr. Saturn from Earthbound and Samarai Goroh from F-Zero as they were both spotted in the opening cut-scene. Almost all of the footage of Ice Climber showed a companion climber dressed in pink. At first I thought you might control them both at the same time, but gameplay footage proves that this is not the case. Perhaps there is a second Ice Climber with a different style, although that seems like overkill for such an ancient franchise (maybe this is a hint at an upcoming game). Finally, there is the possibility of duplicate versions of other characters such as Metal Mario or Princess Zelda. How about Fox McCloud in Dinosaur Planet garb complete with that magic stick? Nintendo certainly has no shortage of mascots, it's just a matter of how much work they are willing to do, and how much time they have to do it in (and how many mascots they're saving for SSB3).
UPDATE: Hey PGC readers, Max here! Don't know if David saw this but there was footage being shown which had figurines of several Nintendo characters, as items you had to earn. The figurines included: Pit (Kid Icarus), Koopa Troopa, and most surprising of all, the character from Balloon Fight. Are any of these playable characters you can unlock? We're not sure, though the Smash intro we were shown at Nintendo's pre-show conference began with a Mario figurine coming to life, so ya never know... The footage in question will be on our video, so you'll be able to see for yourself. There is also a RUMOR that Sonic the Hedgehog might be in there, though this is probably more wishful thinking than anything.
So, what characters would you like to see in those five (plus?) secret spots? Discuss it in the forums!