Mario Strikers: Battle League Review

Four things I like about this game, and one I don't

Mario Strikers Battle League

By Paul Hunter

15 years after Mario Strikers charged onto Wii, Nintendo’s over-the-top soccer-like sport is back and better than ever with Mario Strikers: Battle League for Nintendo Switch. Vancouver’s Next Level Games, the team behind the original GameCube Super Mario Strikers and the action-adventure sensation Luigi’s Mansion 3, developed Battle League, which is out now on Nintendo Switch.

Let's put on our cleats and head out to the Mario-themed pitch, here are four things I liked about the game...and one I didn't.

Liked: Main Character Teams

Like previous games in the series, Battle League’s main mode is “Strike”, a five-on-five competitive sport where there are no rules and everything is fair game. Your only goal is to rule the field by scoring more points than your opponent. Do whatever it takes to win, whether that’s tackling rivals, using items or charging up score-boosting Hyper Strikes.

A big change in this latest Mario Strikers entry is your team is comprised entirely of main characters instead of generic sidekicks. The game has launched with ten playable characters including Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Wario, Waluigi, and for the first time in Strikers’ history, Rosalina enters the pitch. Boom Booms are the goalies this time around, replacing Kritters in the previous games, and are once again AI-controlled.

I really enjoyed having a roster of main characters as each one has different stats allowing you to create a truly customized team. If you want, you can stack your team with bruisers like Bowser, Donkey Kong and Wario or lean into fast and technical players like Peach, Luigi and Rosalina. You can also assign players positions by the order your choose them, opening up strategies like having best shooters play forwards while your tanks go on defense.

All that said, it's too bad that Mario Strikers' mainstay Daisy is missing, along with prior Striker characters like Petey Piranha and Diddy Kong. Perhaps Nintendo has (hopefully free) DLC planned to add new players and extend the game's longevity.

Liked: Hyper Strikes + On The Pitch Action

Gameplay in Battle League targets 60fps and it mostly hits that smoothness without sacrificing the resolution. The result is buttery-smooth action with a surprising amount of depth and precision. Your basic moves include pass, lob, tackle, charge tackle, shoot and charge shoot—plus you can select the shot curve by tilting the analog stick. It takes some practice to get a handle on each move, in particular because player stats can impact them, such as tackles factoring in the players' strength: so Toad slamming into Bowser barely fazes him, while in the reverse scenario a Bowser smash can dizzy Toad and send him flying. As you play and get accustomed to each move you'll get better and better at crushing the enemy AI and have deeper, more exciting match ups.

Another significant change is players now have their own signature Hyper Strike, which acts as the game’s super-charged special move. Mario’s Hyper Strike has him kicking the ball high into the air, then jumping and striking it with a powerful bicycle kick. Luigi’s Hyper Strike involves creating a tornado that can suck up opposing players (even the goalie!) before shooting the ball at the net.

Taking a step back, in an interesting twist the Battle League fields themselves fuse two worlds together, with each half themed after different characters. Mario’s field is themed after a traditional Super Mario level featuring ? Blocks, Warp Pipes, Brick Blocks and Coins. Bowser’s field is themed after his castle, complete with lava, turrets and torches. Luigi has a Luigi’s Mansion-themed field, while Donkey Kong’s features barrels, vines, bananas and logs.

Liked: New Gear System

New in Battle League is the addition of character gear that not only changes their appearance but can augment their stats, too. There’s gear for your head, arms, body and legs, which you can purchase using in-game Coins acquired naturally as you play. Gear can affect your character’s five attributes—Strength, Speed, Shooting, Passing and Technique—allowing you to customize your character’s play style exactly to your liking.

Gear isn't a straight stat-booster so you'll need to be very strategic about your choices. Each character's stats sum up to exactly 63, and gear will increase one stat while decreasing another by exactly the same amount. In an odd yet fun twist, this means you could beef up Toad's strength to Bowser-like proportions and becoming an on-field wrecking ball. It's really neat that you can tweak characters specifically to your liking for a truly customized team. I also like that gear is gradually acquired over time, giving you extra incentive to keep playing for those precious coins.

Liked: Multiplayer and Online

Battle League also supports local and online cleat-to-cleat multiplayer action. You can play with up to eight friends or family members on one Nintendo Switch system (additional controllers may be required), or bring a secondary striker with you for online battles. Online you can band together with up to 20 strikers by creating or joining a Strikers Club, then push and pummel your way up the ranks.

From my experience, local multiplayer is super smooth with frame drops being exceedingly rare. Online is a different situation though, as game performance largely depends and the connection speeds of those you're playing against. Another drawback, and a strange one at that, is online matches can only connect four Nintendo Switch consoles together, so if you want a full squad of eight players, each console needs to have two local players. I assume this was done for technical reasons, but it's disappointing nonetheless.

Strikers Club is clearly the most meaty online mode with your team leader able to choose team name, kit design and customize your stadium. There's a huge number of a design choices for your team's kit and stadium so the amount of tailoring is certainly welcome. Each player is able to choose their character and gear, which is then added to your roster. At first it can seem a bit limiting, but I did appreciate the realism it brings as it does make each player feel like a unique contribution to the team.

Didn't Like

My main complaint with Battle League might seem minor but it actually does get more annoying the more you play, at least for me. As mentioned, each character has a Hyper Strike ability that kicks off with a few second animation showcasing Yoshi laying and kicking a massive egg, or Mario performing a super-charged bicycle kick, among other character-specific animations. These Hyper Strike look amazing and perhaps for the first five or so times are fun to watch, but the more you play the more tiring these lengthy animations become. That there's no menu option to toggle off Hyper Strike animations is an odd omission, as that would go a long way to making matches move faster and reduce the fatigue of repetition.

The Verdict

Mario Strikers: Battle League is the perfect multiplayer sports game to get your family's adrenaline pumping. It's the best Strikers entry to date with its exceptional graphics, smooth animations and numerous gameplay enhancements. If you like arcade sports action, you'll get a hyper *kick* out of Nintendo's latest Strikers game.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great

Mario Strikers: Battle League details

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Next Level Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Sports
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)

A key was provided by the publisher.