It’s been a while since we’ve been able to kick around a football as Mario, and Nintendo made the surprising announcement earlier in 2022 that Mario and friends would be back Mario Strikers Battle League Football this summer. We may not have the World Cup this summer, but Mario Strikers is a perfectly fine replacement when it comes to action on the field.
If you are new to the concept of Mario Strikers Battle League Football, then think of something like FIFA crossed with Mario Kart, and you pretty much have the concept of the game. It’s five-a-side football with Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Bowser and co… plus you have a whole bunch of items like shells, banana skins and hyper shots, no referee all surrounded by electrified fences. It’s high octane stuff, and especially good fun when you play with a group of friends. This is a franchise that Nintendo has not touched in about 15 years, so it was a welcome surprise when they announced this game would be coming during their Nintendo Direct earlier in 2022.
Mario Strikers may look on the surface like a button-mashing football title, but it’s far from it. It’s surprisingly easy to pick up, but also has some welcome depth to it. This is a 5v5 play, with four outfield players and an AI controller goalkeeper. There are power shots, dodges, passes, and then you have the chaotic special moves, otherwise known as Hyper Strikes, which are very hard to stop and you can score two goals rather than a single one. It’s end-to-end stuff and doesn’t really feel like football because of the size of the pitch. It’s very similar to Smash Brothers, there’s depth, it’s fast and frantic, plus all of our favourite characters are here.
The items in the game make the action loads of fun. You have bob-ombs, green and red shells, and classic Mario Bros stars. It doesn’t feel too overwhelming with the number of things going on onscreen at once, it’s busy but it’s manageable. One of the reasons is because the basics of football are still very important in the game. You have to pass, shoot and tackle your way to victory. Some players like Donkey Kong and Bowser can even pick up the ball, in a total disregard of the rules. I should say, Mario Strikers Battle League Football is based on ‘football’, it’s actually a sport in its own right, called Strike.
Many of your favourite Mario Bros cast are here; we have Mario, Luigi, Princess, Toad, Donkey Kong, Bowser, Wario, Waluigi and more. I imagine Nintendo will release more characters down the line too. Each character has their own set of stats; for example, some are faster but need more time to charge up shots. Some are heavier, like big ol’ DK himself, who knows how to throw his weight around the field, but he’s much slower than the rest. It’s similar to the stats and attributes from Mario Kart, the same principles apply, but in the context of a football match. To boost the stats of characters you can pick up new pieces of equipment, which allows you to boost various stats across the board. Characters have headgear, pads and body gear, all of which can make a big difference in the way you play. As well as having an impact on the stats of players, the gear also changes the way players look, which is a good idea.
Hyperstrikes are another defining feature of the cast. These are unique abilities for players that allow you to pull off amazing shots, packed full of special effects, that also award you 2 goals rather than one. For example, you’ll see a glowing orb on the pitch, and you have to pick that up. Do that and your whole team glows, which allows you to fire off a huge super shot. These are hard to stop, although not impossible. Hyper Strikes range from huge whirlwinds to Peach simply making the other team fall in love with her, so they score their own goals. The game is mechanically good as a football game, but it’s also got personality and charm too – much like Princess Peach herself.
There are different game modes too. You can play both on and offline. If you don’t want to jump online then you have Cup Battles, where you play in a tournament against AI enemies to try and win the cup. The tournaments are fairly short, but all good fun. It’s all a good training exercise for when you play against other players, and that’s really where Mario Strikers comes into its own. Playing with a group of friends really spices this up.
You can play up to 8 players together on a single Nintendo Switch in local co-op play. This is going to be great to take round to a friend’s house and play. Unfortunately, you can’t control all the players on the field as the goalies are always AI characters, which would make it more of a competitive game. Goalkeepers aren’t the most intelligent of AIs either in the game, leading to easily preventable goals more often than not.
The online multiplayer is perhaps the most fun you’ll have with the game. You can manage your own Strikers Club where you and your friends can take on other clubs to compete in ranked playlists and get seasonal rewards. Previous titles in the series had very limited online capabilities. This is still Nintendo, who aren’t the master of online, however, with that being said Mario Strikers is a very good effort and I didn’t have any issue connecting to other players, or any issues when I was playing games themselves. It feels good, there wasn’t much latency and the overall online package for Mario Strikers is very good indeed.
Mario Strikers Battle League Football is a great football game with a star-studded cast on Nintendo Switch. It shares as much DNA with Super Smash Bros Ultimate as it does with FIFA, plus I think this is much better than Mario Golf or Mario Tennis, also found on Nintendo Switch. This is faster, more frantic, and more fun. Throw in a great online system, plus gear and reasons to come back time and time again, I think you’ll get plenty of value out of Mario Strikers Battle League Football.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 10th June 2022