What I'm about to say is actually kind of shocking: there hasn't been a Mario Strikers game in 15 years. 15! 2007 was the last time we had the pleasure of kicking around some balls with everyone's favorite plumber, the dinosaur thing he rides to work on and the sweet crush who is way out of his league. Finally, it's time again, with Mario Strikers: Battle League being out now for Nintendo Switch. And we are excited. But was it worth the wait?
Mario Strikers: Battle League Review | Kicking Luigi Is Fun
Mario Strikers: Battle League is very similar to other sports games by Nintendo (think of Mario Golf or Mario Tennis). That means that senseless, chaotic fun is the alpha and omega here. You don't even necessarily need to be a fan of the sport to enjoy this game. Just grab one of those tiny Joy-Cons, smash some buttons and watch Mario do a silly dance after scoring a goal. Everyone is happy, fantastic. Similar to something like Mario Kart, Mario Strikers works wonderfully as a fun party game.
That's because developers Next Level Games did a fantastic job in translating the game of soccer into the Mario universe. It's very silly, very chaotic, and just a lot of fun. If you played one of the old games, Battle League will quickly feel familiar to you. The fast-paced action still works like a charm, after all the years. The shots feel powerful, the movement is smooth and my god, it never stops being fun to kick Luigi against an electrified fence.
Mario Strikers: Battle League Review | Easy To Learn, Hard To Master
The best part of Battle League is the fact, that the gameplay actually goes much further than the superficial action stuff I just described. There is actually a surprising depth to the gameplay systems in Mario Strikers: Battle League. From manual passes and tackling to special tricks, there are a lot of different moves to be mastered.
The problem is just, that the game rarely asks you to use all the tricks that are up its sleeve. At least in the single player mode. If you're looking to play Mario Strikers on your own, you will mainly have the Cups to go with. Similar to Mario Kart, there are six different cups, including some special unlocks. And... that's it. You can do single matches. You can train. That's it. Unfortunately, Mario Strikers: Battle League lacks a solid offer of single player content. The cups are fine to get into the game, but the weak AI and the same-y nature of them makes them pretty boring pretty quickly. The single player part of the game is unfortunately a bit disappointing.
Mario Strikers: Battle League Review | Online Is Where The Fun Is
However, don't worry folks. I'm not gonna trash the game. I already said the gameplay is fun, and that it has a surprising amount of depth to it. All of that fully shines in the online modes. Here you can play 1v1 or 2v2 against real people. And let me tell you: those kids online kicked my ass. Whereas the AI is pretty bad and doesn't offer much resistance to getting pummeled, it's a whole different story online. And it's so much fun. This is where Mario Strikers: Battle League is at its best, when you have an exciting challenge and need to be clever and actually use all the different systems.
The big highlight of the online mode is unfortunately not available yet: the Strikers Club mode. Here you can create your own club and compete against other players in a league system. With fun customization and a competitive angle, the mode promises to give us the long-term motivation that the single player lacks. Strikers Club is slated to start its first season on June 20, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll take anything that gets me away from those goddamn cups...
Mario Strikers: Battle League Review | Verdict
Mario Strikers: Battle League is a very fun game that leaves us hanging a bit. I want to love this game: I love soccer, I love Mario, I love how this game looks and feels. But it is just a bit too thin right now. The online modes are the absolute highlight, but the crown jewel hasn't been fully unveiled yet. The single player offering is just not nearly enough to satisfy. After a few hours, I had finished every cup and then that's pretty much it.
Nintendo has promised free content updates, including new characters. If they can bolster up the available modes a bit and if the Strikers Club mode ends up fulfilling its promises, I can see Mario Strikers: Battle League becoming a genuinely great game. In its current state though, it is a bit of a letdown.
- Rating: 6/10
- Release Date: June 10, 2022
- Developer: Next Level Games
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Genre: Arcade Soccer Game, Party Game
- Players: Single Player & Multi Player
- Platform: Nintendo Switch