Masahiro Sakurai (桜井 政博 Sakurai Masahiro, born August 3, 1970) is a Japanese video game director, designer, and writer, best known as the creator of the Kirby and Super Smash Bros. series. Apart from his work in those series, he also designed Meteos in 2005 and directed Kid Icarus: Uprising in 2012.
He is currently the director of software development for Sora Ltd., a company he founded in 2005. He is also the author of a weekly column for Famitsu magazine, and has developed a cult following for his streamlined, yet deep gameplay. He also voiced the character King Dedede in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards and in Super Smash Bros.
One of Sakurai's earliest experiences in the video game industry began when he worked for HAL Laboratory, where he created the character Kirby at age 19 and directed his first title, Kirby's Dream Land. Sakurai left HAL on August 5, 2003, after growing tired of the sequelization from HAL, ending his work on the Kirby series. "It was tough for me to see that every time I made a new game, people automatically assumed that a sequel was coming," said Sakurai, in an interview with Nintendo Dream, two weeks after he resigned from HAL. He explained that, "even if it's a sequel, lots of people have to give their all to make a game, but some people think the sequel process happens naturally."
His resignation came just days after an interview where he openly criticized the company for circumstances surrounding the development of the GameCube racer Kirby Air Ride. Soon after, Sakurai began working with Q Entertainment, along with Tetsuya Mizuguchi. This collaboration resulted in Meteos in 2005, a unique puzzle game for the Nintendo DS. On September 30, 2005, Sakurai announced that he had formed his own company, Sora. Two titles were announced to be in development but no information on the titles (other than that they were in development) had been divulged. As for the future of the Super Smash Bros. series, Nintendo and HAL Laboratory's President Satoru Iwata, during Nintendo's E3 2005 press conference, promised an online iteration of the game would come to Nintendo's video game console, Wii.
In issue #885 of Famitsu magazine, Sakurai first revealed that he would be serving as a director and game designer on Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii. Super Smash Bros. Brawl was finished and released in 2008, after personnel borrowed from 19 different developer studios assisted in development. Sakurai had also been updating daily the official Super Smash Bros Brawl web site called the "Smash Bros. Dojo". Starting a year previous the release, he revealed Brawl secrets and gameplay content through the site. The Smash Bros. Dojo had regular updates from May 22, 2007 to April 14, 2008.
On the final day of updates, it was revealed that Sakurai provided the voice for King Dedede in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. He and his company, Sora Ltd. alongside Nintendo, started a first-party studio, Project Sora, which was 72% owned by Nintendo and 28% owned by Sora Ltd. It was revealed at E3 2010 that Sakurai and Project Sora were working on Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. Project Sora was officially closed on June 30, 2012. At E3 2011, Nintendo announced that Sakurai was working on Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Sakurai began full development of the title upon the release of Kid Icarus: Uprising in March 2012.
In February 2013, Sakurai was diagnosed with calcific tendinitis near his right shoulder, which caused him pain whenever he moved his arm. He mentioned that this could substantially slow down his work, as he does some game testing himself. Sakurai's wife, Michiko Sakurai, has worked on the graphical user interface for many of his games, including Kirby Air Ride, Meteos, and the Super Smash Bros. series.
- Arcana (1992) — Special thanks
- Kirby's Dream Land (1992) — Director, designer
- Kirby's Adventure (1993) — Director, designer
- Kirby Super Star (1996) — Director
- Super Smash Bros. (1999) — Director
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (2000) — Voice actor (King Dedede)
- Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001) — Director
- Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (2002) — Director
- Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade (2002) — Special thanks
- Kirby Air Ride (2003) — Director
- Kirby & the Amazing Mirror (2004) — Special advisor
- Meteos (2005) — Designer
- Kouchuu Ouja: MushiKing -- Greatest Champion e no Michi (2005) — Designer
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008) — Director, scenario writer, voice actor (King Dedede)
- Kid Icarus: Uprising (2012) — Director, scenario writer
- Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U (2014) — Director, voice actor (King Dedede)