Well, here we are, 15 years on from Mario Strikers Charged, the Mario soccer franchise (or football to me) has finally seen another entry; Mario Strikers: Battle League. I have such fond memories of the first two games in the series and was delighted when it appeared that Battle League didn’t appear to mess with the formula too much. Most Mario sports games, even the second party ones, are just downright fun, and hopefully Battle League keeps up that tradition!
If you’ve played any Mario sports games, you’ll know the formula; wacky characters in colourful settings going around hurting each other, all the while some tennis/kart racing/soccer/golf is getting in the way. Realism does not feature here, of course. There’s the usual roster of characters on offer in Mario Strikers: Battle League that you would expect to see in a Mario Kart game; Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Peach, Toad, etc. They all also come with their usual traits; you want physical power but not worried about speed? Bowser is your guy. A great all-rounder? Sure, Mario will be your first pick. A squeaky voiced little runt trying his best? Toad, of course! There is something for everyone here.
As for the gameplay itself, my goodness is it fun. You will have a blast. I mainly played it in couch co-op with my wife (as I did with the wonderful KeyWe) and what struck me was how accessible the game was. She had never played a soccer game, let alone a Mario one, yet within about an hour, she was an enforcer on the pitch. We played in a fashion whereby one of us focused on getting the ball and making things happen, while the other one did the dirty work; tackling opposition players off the ball and grabbing Hyper Shot balls when they appear (Hyper Shot is a power up that, if pulled off, means you score two goals for the price of one). You pick a team of four outfield players (the goalie is always Boom Boom) and each cup you choose to tackle has opposition with a different bias such as shooting, tackling, movement, etc. So you need to pick your roster accordingly for each cup in how you think is best to win, which puts a fun tactical spin on things.
I did briefly try out the online mode and it was exhilarating. You can set up online leagues with leaderboards either with your mates or with randoms. This is where the real longevity of the game manifests itself because with the online Club Mode, there are endless possibilities of fun, and this is where I really see Mario Strikers: Battle League becoming an everlasting product in the market.
Oh and the music slaps, by the way; kind of a modern take on 90s/00s soccer game menu select screens. You’ll know what I mean as soon as you hear it.
- Typical fun and raucous Mario sports action
- Superb couch co-op mode
- Endless possibilities online with Club Mode
On the flipside to the online benefits, if you, like me, enjoy playing games on your own offline, then there really isn’t much on offer. There are cups but there is little replay value with them; it’s not like Mario Kart where each cup can be tried on different difficulties/CCs. In Mario Strikers: Battle League, each cup can be won by winning as few as four matches, and when you do, it’s a great feeling, but then, you kind of move on and that’s it. The unlockables are also non-existent, which further negates the replayability.
The stadiums in Mario Strikers: Battle League look great for as long as you can see them. By that, I mean you initially choose which stadium to play in; there’s a Mario Castle inspired one, a Donkey Kong Jungle one and other such classic Mario sports game settings. However, you see them in the preamble and intro to each match and then the camera is permanently looking down towards the pitch. Thereafter, you might see the stadium in a replay and at the end of the match but it does feel like a cop-out. Having said that, the camera angle is conducive to following the fast-paced action, so I guess you can’t have the handy camera angle PLUS the stadiums in view. But it’s regrettable nonetheless.
Finally, there is some frustrating RNG at play in Mario Strikers: Battle League as well. We all know in Mario Kart that the further behind you are, the better power ups you’ll receive, and the game tends to ‘bunch up’ the racers so you can catch up, and that feels fair and proper in a kart racing game. Here, the RNG manifests itself in the opposition just randomly scoring absolute wonder goals whenever they feel like it. I lost count of the amount of times I was winning 2-0 then straight from kick off after my second goal, Waluigi just blasts an absolute worldie into the top corner (or top bins as we say in the UK) to claw them back into the game. It just felt a bit cheap and irritating, but maybe that was because it was always Waluigi.
- Severely limited single-player offline content
- The stadiums look great but you hardly ever see them
- Annoying RNG!
Final Score: 8/10
My life was a sadder place without Mario Strikers: Battle League, but I do wonder if the advent of online gaming has made the developers lose focus on the old fashioned way of playing video games. It was always fun to hunker down and grind your way through a story or career mode while trying to unlock that elusive character (like TT in Diddy Kong Racing, for example), but Mario Strikers: Battle League offers absolutely no incentive to play this way. You all better have fast internet, readers!
Thank you for checking out our Mario Strikers: Battle League Switch review, thank you to Nintendo AU/NZ for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: