Mario Strikers: Battle League is the third entry in the Strikers series, and it is a major welcome to the Nintendo Switch library. The original released on the GameCube back in 2005, and the Wii version a couple years later. That means it has been 15 years since the last Strikers title, and Nintendo has gone all out to make sure that this entry is the best yet.
So how does Mario Strikers: Battle League stack up? Is this a sure-fire goal? Or does this one fail to even hit the post? Let’s goooooooooo!
For those of you who do not know, the Strikers series is a Mario-themed soccer/footbol game that leaves conventional soccer off the table and does a lot of things completely different. I mean, this is a Mario sports game, so what do you expect? Certain things like handballs are not illegal, and special goals called Hyper Strikes reward the player with a pair of goals instead of the usual one. Mario Strikers: Battle League continues all of this and does even more thanks to customization options and a fun, extensive online mode.
Right out of the gate, players will notice just how beautiful this game is. From the opening animation to the standard graphics to the excellent splash screens during Hyper Strikes, the Strikers series has never looked better! Each character model is represented so well, and the wonderful animations assigned to everyone makes the actions between goals so entertaining. And as you can guess from the header image, my favorite once again is Waluigi. His goofy mannerisms and taunts are constantly amusing, and even the way he runs around after a goal should bring a smile to your face. Unfortunately, the infamous crotch chop does not return, but that doesn’t stop the evil Luigi from making you laugh constantly.
The other characters all have their expected charm and standard mannerisms that make playing as each of them a joy. Whoever your favorite character is, they are represented really well in Mario Strikers: Battle League. Another unfortunate point is that Battle League is missing quite a few main-stay characters, particularly Daisy. In previous Strikers titles, Daisy was a favorite, so it is a bit surprising to see her excluded from the roster at the moment. Other notable exclusions are Bowser Jr, Diddy Kong, and Petey Piranha, as they were all in the Wii version. Hopefully we will see these characters in future updates (And hopefully not at a premium DLC price).
One of the biggest changes this time is the Gear. In Mario Strikers: Battle League, there is a little bit of character customization that comes in the form of gear/armor you can purchase with coins earned through certain means, like completing Training or winning Cup Battles. Each character starts off with 6 types to chose from for Head, Arms, Body, and Legs, but you do unlock another set as you start winning some Cup Battles. This is a fun little incentive that gives you the opportunity to change the stats of your favorite characters to make them play more like how you want them to, even making Bowser pretty fast or Toad strong as nails.
Cup Battles are the go-to local mode, especially if you are playing alone. These are tournaments against the CPU where you earn coins and other fun goodies. Upon completing the Normal set of Cup Battles, you will unlock Galactic Mode which rewards more coins and is a much tougher challenge. I love when these Mario sports titles offer a little variety for the players, especially something like this that ultimately serves as a “story mode” of sorts.
Finally, the last big, new addition is Strikers Club, where you can either join an existing Club or create your own and compete online. This has promise, and new seasons will introduce new things, and it is fun that your created Club, if you choose to make your own, can be used across all modes (I named my team The Shuckles, because… Shuckle is the best). Customization for your club even extends to color choices, team name, jersey style, and even logo, although the logo options are rather limited. This is a wonderful addition to the series, and it will definitely add a lot more life post release, especially since soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world and Mario is one of the most popular characters in the world. Seems like a perfect fit for a successful sports title!
A rather large change to the series is how Hyper Strikes are handled, and in Mario Strikers: Battle League, they are significantly more fair and balanced. Before, Hyper Strikes felt like the Blue Shell of the Strikers series, but now it is so much better. Essentially, your team has to collect an orb in order to perform one, and then you only get a short window to pull it off. If you charge a kick to full strength, you will be presented with a half-circle wheel where you need to time the marker into the blue spots on each side. If you get it perfectly, it is an unblockable shot worth 2 goals. However, anything less than double-blue can be blocked via a quick-time event, and that makes such a huge difference compared to the previous two titles.
Outside of the major changes, Mario Strikers: Battle League plays amazingly. Controls are crisp, and you do get the option to choose between Auto and Manual. Although Manual is the preferred way to play, giving you full control of your shots and aiming, Auto is a great way for younger or more inexperienced players to still hold their own despite their skill level. I was able to play quite a few rounds with both of my kids, and my 7-year-old daughter struggled in Manual but had a blast in Auto. These options make things much more accessible while still keeping it challenging for hardcore players.
In addition to the satisfying tackles, Mario Strikers: Battle League has introduced dodging which gives players a chance to survive an oncoming assault. There is even a perfect dodge that rewards you with a boost, and this same “perfect” momentum carries over in passing and shooting as well. When you can pull it off, it feels so good and gives you such a fun advantage. And needless to say, tackles feel great this time around, as you have a basic tackle and a charged tackle. Basic is a quick one where you simply tap the Y button, but it cannot stop all player types. However, charged tackles is when you hold down Y, and it allows for basically any player to lay into another, even Toad tackling Bowser.
Online play is fantastic! You play online in either a Quick Match or in Strikers Club, and my time playing Quick Matches has been a ton of fun (Strikers Club is not live at the time of publishing). On one Switch console, up to 2 players can play online in either mode, and in Quick Match, you are given the option to team up with friends online or battle against friends online, which is a nice change and something that should be in Nintendo Switch Sports. The connection in my experience was near-flawless, as I only experienced lag a couple times across dozens of online matches.
A surprising area for the game is in its soundtrack and sound effects, because this title excels in its music and all of the voice actors for each of the characters do an amazing job of bringing these beloved characters to life on a chaotic soccer field. The music is upbeat and definitely holds the mood for what is happening on screen, and this is a nice surprise, as we don’t normally get such thrilling rock music in a Super Mario title.
Some players might become bored over time, as there are only 10 characters to choose from, 5 fields to play on (Although there is more customization here thanks to earned tokens in Strikers Club), and character animations and actions repeat rather quickly. If you do not mind a little bit of repetition, then Mario Strikers: Battle League is a whole lot of entertainment that will keep you excited whether you are playing locally by yourself, with friends, or with random people online.
Mario Strikers: Battle League is a wonderful new entry in the series and is arguably one of the best Mario sports titles to date. Although it does have its limitations and the scant roster is a bit disappointing, its improvements are massive and make for the best Strikers experience yet. Every character is represented wonderfully and they all get their time to shine, especially Waluigi, and changes to Hyper Strikes as well as adding online play, gear, and the Strikers Club to the mix makes for a rather large and fulfilling game.
At the end of the day, you know what you are getting with these types of Mario titles. Mario Strikers: Battle League is not going to blow anyone away, but it will bring joy, it will cause laughter, and it will make you want to throw your controller when a soft goal goes in against you. This is just a great competitive party game that can be enjoyed with up to 8-players locally or online, and I look forward to how Nintendo keeps this one fresh with new seasons of Strikers Club and potential (Fingers crossed) DLC.
Fantastic character designs and mannerisms
Tons of play options for local and online
Great changes to Hyper Strikes
Love the new additions, especially the gear and Strikers Club
Missing characters, especially Daisy
Slim pickings when it comes to fields
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.