Mario Strikers: Battle League review: I’m sensing a trend

Mario Strikers: Battle League

MSRP $59.99

“Mario Strikers: Battle League delivers the deepest Mario sports experience yet, with surprisingly nuanced soccer gameplay. There’s just not much to do once you’ve got mastered those skills.”


  • Excellent core gameplay
  • Tense matches
  • Strikers Club has potential


  • Deceptively steep learning curve
  • Not much content
  • Odd online rules

If you happen to desire a clear picture of how much Nintendo’s approach to games has modified through the years, look no further than Mario Strikers: Battle League. Previous Mario sports games was once filled to the brim with characters, unlockables, and modes designed to check players’ skills. But Battle League, like last yr’s Mario Golf: Super Rush, is more of a sparse framework that Nintendo plans to accumulate over time with free updates.

It’s an approach indicative of a more modern Nintendo, one which seems enthusiastic about getting more mileage out of its titles. To do this, though, it needs to supply games with a rock-solid core experience. That’s what Mario Strikers: Battle League goals to deliver at launch. The title is the primary dedicated Mario soccer game since 2007 and as such, developer Next Level Games put lots of care into refining and modernizing the experience. That part is a smashing success; it’s the remainder that needs work.

From a pure gameplay perspective, Mario Strikers: Battle League is likely to be the deepest and most nuanced Mario sports experience yet. The query is just whether its bare-bones approach to content can hold your interest long enough between its much-needed updates.

Surprising depth

While Mario Strikers: Battle League is the primary Strikers game because the Wii, Mario did briefly return to the pitch in 2017’s middling Mario Sports Superstars. That game featured sluggish 11-versus-11 soccer matches with hardly any depth or gimmicks to maintain things interesting. Battle League’s highest quality is that it takes a full pivot from that title to deliver faster games that lean into motion and strategy.

I’m surprised by how much nuance there may be here in comparison with other Mario sports games.

“Strike” matches pit two teams of 5 against each other in quick four-minute matches. Players control 4 characters while a computer-controlled goalie holds down the web. On a basic level, it’s easy to know. Gain possession of the ball, pass it to teammates, and take a look at to attain a goal. There’s a good little bit of rough-housing too, as players can tackle each other into the electrified sides of the sphere or toss items like oversized bombs and shells. But as I went through the sport’s lengthy tutorials, I quickly learned that there’s rather a lot more depth than I often expect from a Mario sports game.

As an illustration, I can tap B to pass to my teammate normally or Y to perform a lob pass. Easy. But when my teammate holds B or Y while I’m passing to them and releases it when the ball gets to them, they’ll send it flying back as an ideal combo pass, setting me up for a strong follow-up. There’s a normal tackle, but charging it up and releasing it at the correct time will lead to a more powerful charge attack. The identical goes for shooting, as players can launch a stronger hit with precise timing. Matches are gripping consequently, requiring precise timing, constant risk assessment, and sterling communication if fiddling with friends.

Luigi shooting a green soccer tornado.

I’m surprised by how much nuance there may be here in comparison with other Mario sports games. Simply taking loose potshots on the goalie isn’t a viable strategy. There’s an actual sense of mastery to every little move, from standard shots to dodges, that rewards high-level players. I learned that the hard way once I dove right into a match with CPU players set to “hard” and got trounced 8-0. My jaw dropped when I noticed how quickly and efficiently a well-oiled team could string together moves.

That does put the sport in a tough position. Ultimately, it functions best as a celebration game, with support for as much as eight players locally. All those little complexities aren’t exactly easy to elucidate to kids or friends — the tutorial took me something like half-hour to finish and I still didn’t have every bit mastered by the tip. It almost looks like it has a skill curve more akin to a fighting game, especially since AI goalies don’t leave much room for early points. All of that makes it a a lot better competitive game than perhaps any Mario sports game, nevertheless it may not be a go-to party pick.

Mushroom squad

The core soccer gameplay is powerful enough by itself, however the Mario setting gives it extra charm. The sport features a few of the most effective character animations I’ve seen in any Mario game. You’ll have already seen some popular ones going around Twitter, like Princess Peach having to suppress her boiling rage after her opponent scores a shot. Each of the sport’s 10 playable characters really get to indicate off their personality here between victory dances, frustrated suits, and gorgeously animated special shot animations. My personal favorite involves Wario using his giant butt to send the ball hurtling toward the goalie like a cannonball.

Finding the proper role for every character and creating a superbly balanced team has been my favorite a part of the experience to date.

Characters aren’t just there for Mushroom Kingdom set dressing. They’ve an incredibly impactful role on gameplay. Each character has stats that affect their speed, tackle strength, shooting ability, and more. Those traits could be tweaked through unlockable gear across 4 slots (head, arms, body, legs), which can reduce one stat, but raise one other. On my go-to team, I arrange Waluigi to be a speed demon who could move the ball downfield easily. Meanwhile, Wario is slow and lumbering, but able to tackling anyone. Finding the proper role for every character and creating a superbly balanced team has been my favorite a part of the experience to date.

Other Mario staples fit right into the soccer formula. Mario Kart-like items aren’t just fun to have a look at, but provide players some serious defensive tools. Using a red shell to chase down someone who’s about to attain or dropping a banana peel right as someone’s about to tackle you feels much more satisfyingly sinister than hitting a first-place driver with a blue shell.

Mario kicks a ball into the goal with a backflip.

The sport’s signature feature are “strike” shots. At random intervals, a glowing orb will land on the sphere. When a player reaches it, their entire team gets supercharged. By holding down A, time slows down and players could have to do two well-timed button presses to launch a special shot. If it goes in, it’s price two points.

Strike shots are your typical Mario sports gimmick, but they add lots of tension and urgency to matches than such tricks do in, say, Mario Tennis Aces. When a team gets supercharged, they’ll only have a limited period of time to tug off a shot. That results in a mad scramble where one team must get right into a protected position to execute it fast, while the opposite must do all the pieces of their power to stop them. Comebacks are much easier to acquire since every second counts, so every moment of a match becomes critical. I often found myself gripping my Switch so tightly that I feared I’d break it.

The off-season

That every one sounds promising, but in case you’ve been following the Mario sports series lately, you most likely know the catch already: There’s not much content here.

The Nintendo 64 sports titles give players more bang for his or her buck.

If you open Mario Strikers: Battle League, you’ll have the choice to establish free-play matches, play online, and complete a brief series of tournaments (the latter takes you to credits and lasts around five hours tops). That’s about all the pieces the package has to supply in its launch state. That makes it one among the thinnest Mario sports releases up to now, and that’s counting the already-light Mario Golf: Super Rush. The Nintendo 64 sports titles give players more bang for his or her buck.

It’s an analogous story that we saw with Nintendo Switch Sports recently. That package is much more sparse, relying solely on its online play as its key feature. Similarly, Battle League wants players to spend their time fiddling with friends or partaking in the sport’s very neat “Strikers Club” mode. That option allows friends to make their very own club and compete against others in set seasons. It’s a wise idea to tug from FIFA, emphasizing the sport’s high-stakes competitive gameplay and giving teams something to chase.

Donkey Kong charging across the field.

It’s not a mode you possibly can easily hop in and play though. Based on the sport’s superb print, there are several circumstances that prevent players from hopping in casually. Seasons last one week, with an off week afterwards. If a team is created lower than an hour before a season starts, it could possibly’t compete until the following one. If no players on a team have been online in 90 days, that may prevent a team from joining a recent season. The thought of not having the ability to play the mode for 2 weeks due to a rule like that seems overly restrictive when Strikers Club is one-third of your entire content offering in the sport.

It’s all a part of a discouraging trend for Nintendo, which appears to be all-in on long-term games that hook players with a slow and unsure DLC rollout. Battle League will receive free content, which can add characters to its currently miniscule roster (10 characters at launch with no unlockables), nevertheless it’s unclear if anything substantial will get added otherwise. There simply aren’t lots of ways to indicate off your skills outside of online play, and that’s a far cry from the heyday of the golden age of Mario sports.

That thin structure might work higher if the sport were a free-to-play release, nevertheless it’s not a simple sell for a full retail game in 2022. Mario Strikers: Battle League feels great, and I would like reason to maintain playing, just as I wanted more excuses to maintain up with Mario Golf: Super Rush, Nintendo Switch Sports, Mario Party Superstars, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain, and and others. The undeniable fact that I can rattle off that many games with the identical problem shows that Nintendo isn’t protecting its Achilles’ heel well enough.

Our take

Mario Strikers: Battle League is the newest in a protracted line of probably great Switch games let down by sparse launch content. Strikers Club makes for a compelling competitive hook, but there’s little or no to do in its off-seasons immediately. That’s a shame, since the core soccer experience here is terrific. Matches are tense, team play is incredibly nuanced, and its Mushroom Kingdom solid shows more character than ever. Hopefully, a gradual DLC rollout can liven the experience up over time, but Nintendo has yet to prove that it knows tips on how to rating with long-term support.

Is there a greater alternative?

Stick to FIFA in case you desire a dedicated soccer experience with a number of depth. If you happen to just want a lightweight multiplayer sports game on Switch, Nintendo Switch Sports is ultimately a greater package at present (though its soccer isn’t superb).

How long will it last?

You’ll get five hours or so out of the tutorial and first tournaments. After that, it relies on how much time you wish to spend online in club matches or partying it up with friends.

Must you buy it?

No. Mario Strikers: Battle League sports strong central mechanics, but you’re higher off waiting for a couple of rounds of DLC to are available before paying full retail for a game that’s too thin at launch.

Mario Strikers: Battle League was tested on a Nintendo Switch OLED in handheld mode and on a TCL 6-Series R635 when docked.

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