Read our review of Mario Strikers: Battle League, the long-awaited return of high-octane football in the Mushroom Kingdom!

The Mario Strikers series brought a fresh take on both football (or soccer) and Mario games back when it arrived on the Gamecube and, later the Wii. They were beloved by sports fans and Nintendo gamers alike, not only for their tight, arcade-style football gameplay but also for their style.

Despite going for a cartoony take on the beautiful game, both Super Mario Strikers and Mario Strikers: Charged managed to deliver gameplay that was easy to pick up but had a surprising amount of depth for hardcore players.

Although, what really set this series apart from the other Mario sports titles was its edgy art style. This gave the games some added attitude and personality that can be lacking in not just Mario sports titles, but sports games in general.

Therefore, it was a big surprise that Mario hung up his boots for 15 years, after Mario Strikers: Charged was released for the Wii back in 2007.

Now with Mario Strikers: Battle League, everyone’s favorite plumber has decided to get some new boots. These boots might look flashy, but they’re mostly just for show. They certainly don’t have as much character as Mario’s beaten-up old ones and they are a lot more flimsy.

Mario Strikers Overhead Kick

The gameplay leans towards the casual side, but is still a bit too complex for people to pick up and play immediately.

Mario Strikers: Battle League pits two teams of five players (four outfielders and a goalie) against each other to see who can score the most goals within the time limit. The aim is very simple – to kick the ball in the goal – and so are the rules. You don’t have to worry about being offside, the ball will never go out of play as the pitch is surrounded by walls and instead of free kicks after being fouled, you get items to use. However, the gameplay itself isn’t all simple.

Battle League is more beginner-friendly than its predecessor Charged, but it’s still a bit too complex for anyone to pick up and play straight away. This leaves it in limbo where I’m not too sure who this game is really for. The ‘perfect’ shots and passes require exact timing that can only be learned from experience and the new dodge system is great but also has a steep learning curve.

On the flipside, a lot of the mechanics from Mario Strikers: Charged have been simplified for Battle League to the extent that they no longer feel satisfying for hardcore players. The pitch feels too small, making for chaotic games, especially with items being thrown everywhere, which means that passing is nowhere near as impactful as it should be. This is especially the case as that passing in quick succession doesn’t charge up the ball and increase its speed as it did in Mario Strikers: Charged.

Mario Strikers Gameplay Shell

Because of this, for most of my time playing, I would focus on dribbling and dodging to progress up the pitch. And while I like the new dodge mechanic and perfect dodges, they just don’t have the individuality of the dodges from Charged.

Everyone dodges the same and it’s another simplification that is for the worse. You can’t flip over the keeper as Toad or hide in your shell as Bowser to bounce players off of you like you could in Mario Strikers: Charged.

This lack of individuality also extends to Skillshots being removed Mario Strikers: Battle League too. While I much prefer Hyper Strikes counting for 2 goals in Battle League to Wii motion control goalkeeping from Mega Strikes of up to 6 shots in Charged, the lack of Skillshots is a shame.

While Skillshots were reserved for Sidekicks (which are not present in Battle League), they added a lot of strategy and variety to the game. Every Sidekick had a different one, like Monty Mole burrowing under the ground, that would be effective from a certain position on the pitch. Learning when to use all of these added some extra depth to the Charged that is sorely missing from Battle League.

Overall, the gameplay leans towards the casual side, but is still a bit too complex for people to pick up and play immediately. Despite the complexity for casual gamers, Mario Strikers: Battle League also suffers from a much lower skill ceiling than the last installment in the series. Mario Strikers Charged veterans (like myself) would want more depth, additional skills to master, and less chaos to make it a more competitive experience.

Read More: Our Nintendo Switch Sports Review

Mario Strikers Hyper Strike

There’s no challenge mode or anything else to do once you’ve breezed through the cups in a couple of hours.

Even more disappointing is the lack of game modes in Mario Strikers: Battle League. In addition to Quick Battles, which are one-off matches against the CPU or a real-life opponent, you have Cup Battles and Strikers Club.

The Cup Battles mode is nothing short of disappointing. Unlike the marathon that was Mario Strikers: Charged’s Road to the Striker Cup, Battle League’s Cup Battles boils down to playing 3 games. If you win them all, you win the cup.

These tournaments are very brief and even give you the chance to lose one game and lift the trophy. Plus, there is next to no challenge on normal difficulty and even the galactic difficulty (which you unlock after beating all cups on normal) is relatively easy. And that’s it for single-player. There’s no challenge mode or anything else to do once you’ve breezed through the cups in a couple of hours.

Mario Strikers Mario

Then, there’s the online Strikers Club mode. This seems to be the mode that the game was designed around and it shows. You can create your own club or join an existing one and face off against other teams, alongside three other players online.

These online games are much more enjoyable and challenging than the game’s single-player offering. However, like most online games, it is very dependent on who your teammates are and whether they actually play as a team. It’s a blast when playing on a team with your friends but playing with random players can be extremely frustrating.

It’s also worth noting that from my experience, the online servers were also pretty solid. Apart from a couple of small lags, I never had any problems playing online, even over Wifi.

Mario Strikers Gear

I genuinely enjoy the gear system as it lets you have all of your faves on your team without sacrificing the all-important balance.

You also can’t mention the gameplay without addressing the biggest new feature in Battle League – the gear. Each piece of gear increases one of a character’s stats and decreases another by the same amount. This doesn’t upgrade the character but tweaks their skillset to suit your playstyle. I genuinely enjoy the gear system as it lets you have all of your faves on your team without sacrificing the all-important balance.

For instance, I boosted Toad’s shooting and technique at the expense of his speed to make him a more well-rounded character on the pitch. However, you could give Rosalina gear for her head, body, arms, and legs to max out her shooting at 25 and make her deadly from any range – of course, this would reduce her other stats too.

Earning coins to buy more gear is also pretty easy as each bit cost 100 coins each (apart from the Bushido gear which is 300). You’ll get 10 coins for winning any match but your main source of income will be the tournaments which give you 400 coins for becoming champion on normal and 1000 coins for lifting a cup on galactic difficulty. Beating all of these should give you enough to buy your favorite gear for every character in the game and then some.

Also Read: Our Kirby and the Forgotten Land Review

Mario Strikers Banana

Where Mario Strikers: Battle League really shines is with its gorgeous animations.

While the gameplay didn’t blow me away, the graphics were far more impressive when docked and in handheld mode. The Switch might not be a graphical powerhouse, but Next Level Games has done extremely well to make a beautiful-looking game.

The textures, particularly the grass on the pitch and Donkey Kong’s fur look great and add some real depth, while the bright colors and lighting make the game really pop. However, where Mario Strikers: Battle League really shines is with its gorgeous animations.

Every character moves in a unique way, whether it is running across the pitch or taking a shot at goal. These detailed animations really help the personality of each character shine through, especially with the celebrations following every goal.

Although, the aggro in past Mario Strikers titles has certainly been toned down for Battle League in favor of a more squeaky clean image. This means you won’t see Wario trying to blow himself up after conceding and there is certainly no crotch-thrusting celebration from Waluigi (as much as you’d like to see it one more time).

This is also reflected in the overall presentation of the game which doesn’t have the grit and grime of the earlier Strikers titles. Everything is now much more professional-looking and feels like a real football league and not just some kind of Mad Max meets Mushroom Kingdom deathmatch with a ball. Although, the Hyper Strike animations are still beautiful and have the classic Mario Strikers feel, complete with a sketch-like art style.

Mario Strikers Luigi

Luckily, new characters are almost certain to arrive soon, but it would also be nice to see some more stadiums too.

Clearly, Next Level Games was pretty busy making everything in the game look great, as there’s simply not much of it!

The number of playable characters at launch, just 10, is quite disappointing, especially considering the lack of Sidekicks this time round. While most of the main Mario characters are playable at launch, there are a couple of notable absences like Daisy and Petey Piranha Plant. At least Toad has been promoted to a potential team captain now though!

Additionally, there’s a severe lack of stadiums too, with just five at launch. And even the stadia that are in the game all feel very similar and don’t have an individual atmosphere like arenas from Mario Strikers: Charged like Galactic Stadium or the Lava Pit.

It’s worth noting that this could change though as Nintendo has confirmed that Mario Strikers will be getting updates similar to Mario Tennis Aces. Luckily, new characters are almost certain to arrive soon, but it would also be nice to see some more stadiums too.

Mario Strikers Hyper Strike Ball

Even if I had a good time with Mario Strikers: Battle League, playing it just makes me want to dig out the Wii again

In conclusion, Mario Strikers: Battle League is certainly a fun game to play with friends, whether it’s against each other offline or alongside one another in Strikers Club. However, I can’t help but think that it wasn’t worth the 15-year wait.

Mario Strikers: Charged had almost perfected the formula well over a decade ago and, in comparison, Battle League feels like a watered-down version. It has much simpler gameplay, fewer characters and stadiums, much less single-player content, and a fraction of the attitude of Charged. Therefore, even if I had a good time with Mario Strikers: Battle League, playing it just makes me want to dig out the Wii again.

author
Senior Staff Writer
Django grew up with a PlayStation controller in his hands and loves all kinds of games, from Football Manager to Yakuza.