Mario vs. Donkey Kong - Switch Review

"Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a fine game. Just fine."

Mario vs. Donkey Kong - Switch Review
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The titular Donkey Kong has stolen all of the Mini Marios in a materialistic frenzy, causing the hero Mario to recover them and save the day, just like any protagonist should. Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a 2D platforming puzzle game akin to the old Donkey Kong arcade titles of the early 80s. This version is a remake of the Game Boy Advance title of the same name, but comes complete with the ability to play in co-op and additional new levels. 

Players will need to rely on their wit (alongside some platforming finesse) to retrieve the key (or two) and collect the Mini Mario at the end. But for all you completionists out there, don’t skimp out on those present collectibles. Shiny!

The Good

Achieving a perfect balance between puzzles and platforming action can be tricky as there is a need to keep implementing new gameplay and puzzle elements. Luckily, as you progress from one world to the next, the gameplay evolution keeps players on their toes, with intuitive puzzles that lead to fun experimentation.

After beating six levels in each world, you’ll be tasked with two challenge levels: the first features having to lead the troupe of adorable Mini Marios over to a chest whilst collecting the letters to spell the word TOY; the second is defeating Donkey Kong by throwing trash cans at his head, loosely inspired by the boss fight sections in Donkey Kong Jr. The former challenge requires pure strategic puzzle solving, using your action abilities to traverse the landscape while guiding the Mini Marios, whereas the latter challenge is more about the action platforming aspects.

The variety of levels and strategies, especially with the use of colours, avoid making the game feel tedious (to an extent). This may seem like a basic pro to list, but with the simplicity of the levels and gameplay concept, this does help and goes a long way.


  • Creative puzzles 
  • A good balance between strategy and action
  • Cute Mini Marios 
  • A variety of levels and aesthetics

The Bad

As with many recent Mario games since the Wii era, the lives counter feels arbitrary. The point of a lives system is to create a sense of consequence for missing a jump or getting hit. However, if you reach zero, you simply go back to the level select screen to restart the level. This made collecting 1-up lives feel redundant and overall, the system just became an annoying hindrance to the overall progression system.

While Mario vs. Donkey Kong does harken back to the classic arcade titles, the controls for Mario and Toad feel, more or less, just as sluggish. It works in the sense of puzzle solving, but controlling the characters rarely feels fluent or satisfying, resulting in awkward time jumps and frustrating loss of lives (which, as stated before, feels arbitrary). 

And lastly, Mario vs. Donkey Kong just doesn’t feel like a memorable experience. It’s fine and serves its purpose as a video game, but so too does a plain slice of bread serve its purpose of being food. For most of the game, I was simply going through the motions, progressing from one level to the next without any sense of excitement or awe.


  • Lives system feels arbitrary
  • Sluggish controls
  • Nothing particularly memorable

Final Score: 7/10

Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a fine game. Just fine. It doesn’t do anything particularly memorable, but what it does, it does so well. It’s entertaining on a basic level, and I did have fun, but I’m not going to look back at the Switch library and think of this game as a standout. Not every game needs to be a The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey, that much is certain, but as far as Nintendo published games are concerned, this one barely scratches the itch of memorable joy that one would expect from them.

Thank you for checking out our Mario vs. Donkey Kong Switch review, thank you to Nintendo AU/NZ for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: