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Mario Strikers: Battle League Football Review

Just Striking Enough

mario strikers review header

With another June month comes another Mario-flavoured sports title from Nintendo, bolstering the Switch’s library with yet another discipline – this time bringing the world of football (or soccer, if you must) back to the Mushroom Kingdom for a decidedly chaotic take on the sport. Next Level Games is back on development duty after a lack of new Mario football games since 2007’s Mario Strikers Charged for the Wii, giving us Mario Strikers: Battle League Football.

The first thing that struck me when booting up this new Strikers entry was the fairly unexciting front-end menu peppered with a very standard selection of game types. Unlike the recent Mario Golf: Super Rush or Mario Tennis Aces, Battle League Football doesn’t offer much in the way of content for solo players outside of a series of basic, bracketed Cups, which is immediately disappointing. When it comes to playing with friends you’re able to tackle said Cups with up to three others or jump into a quick match with up to eight players locally or two online and…well, that’s it. Sure, there isn’t much else you could feasibly do with the game of football but it’s still a remarkably slight offering compared to its peers.

Thankfully, once you’re actually on the field Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is a ton of fun. Matches are fast, frenetic and full of uproarious clutch moments thanks to things like items and Hyper Strikes to balance out even the most dire odds. Naturally, it’s a game best played with a full roster of real-life friends yelling and swearing at the screen as the action heats up – just try to keep the numbers even as a lack of parity in AI and human participants can throw things pretty wildly out of whack.

The basics of passing, tackling and shooting are easy enough for most to pick up and play (though I’d recommend running your mates through at least the basic tutorials before you start squaring off), and there’s enough hidden depth and scope for strategy that seasoned players can still be surprised. Despite matches only being four-a-side and lasting between four and ten minutes, there’s a ridiculous amount of chaos packed into every pitch. It’s practically a blood sport at times with players flinging their extremities, and themselves, at opponents with no referees in sight to keep them in check. It’s glorious in motion, and the amount of times I’ve seen Wario being electrocuted on the perimeter fences or eating absolute shit after getting too close to a goalie is incredibly satisfying.

The rules of the game in Battle League Football have been distilled down to the bare essence – get the ball into your opposing team’s goal by any means. That opens the door to tackles galore, which can even be used to launch players into each other, as well as the use of classic Mario items as weapons and the much-touted Hyper Strikes. These are probably the biggest game-changer, dropping a special pickup on the field that temporarily powers up the team that nabs it and allows them to pull off a risky but potentially very rewarding shot. Hyper Strikes require a bit of work to use though, and are open to a skilled opposition cancelling them out completely, making them less of a cheap and easy win than I was expecting.

It all works wonderfully when you take the action online as well. Though I wasn’t able to dabble too far in the Strikers Club systems where players can form their own clubs, customise their kit and even unlock new bits for their home stadium using a special currency, I did manage to get a few online quick matches under my belt. Everything worked incredibly well from a technical standpoint with no perceptible issues caused by latency and although it definitely doesn’t match the thrill of a couch multiplayer game, I can imagine the higher skill levels brought on by dedicated players making for some tense and exciting matches.

What very little sense of offline progression on offer comes by way of some light character customisation, with success in Cup Battles, tutorials and multiplayer matches awarding coins that can be spent on new gear for the roster of ten characters. Each gets their own variations on half a dozen or more gear types across four body parts that further augment their already-varying stats. It really does pay off to craft and hone a team of players that fill specific roles in-game, like shooting or activating Hyper Strikes, which is great but makes the paltry rate at which the game doles out match rewards (10 coins for a win when a single part can cost up to 300??) and the lack of any way to save a specific team loadout all the more annoying.

Battle League Football at least looks great, with an appropriate chunkiness and physicality to everything to match its penchant for violence. It’s fun to see the roster of Mario staples find glee in beating each other silly and flagrantly breaking the rules of the sport by absolutely pegging the ball into the goal by hand, setting it on fire or swallowing and forcefully ‘ejecting’ it (thanks, Yoshi). If I had to level any complaints it’d be that the stadiums themselves don’t really look all that different from each other at ground level, which is where you’ll see them the majority of the time, and that the character-specific Hyper Strike sequences – cool as they are thanks to slick animations and a sketchy cel-shaded filter – are unskippable and get old pretty quick.

Final Thoughts

I can wholeheartedly recommend Battle League Football to those with football-loving friends or family that want a distinctly Nintendo-flavoured take on the sport, or anyone willing to put the work in to play it competitively and regularly. As a curiosity for Mario diehards looking for another game to sink their teeth into though, it’s simply too slight a package to suggest picking up at launch over waiting for the inevitable future content updates.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch // Review code supplied by publisher

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mario strikers review header
Mario Strikers: Battle League Football Review
Bit Of An Off Season
Mario Strikers: Battle League Football excels on the field, but it struggles to make a compelling offer for solo players or anyone not willing to invest time in forming and maintaining a Strikers Club. It's just pick-up-and-play enough to work as a party game with mates and it's compelling to watch in action, but the lack of embellishments is sure to hurt its long-term appeal.
The Good
Fast and chaotic football-esque action is great
Visually striking with some impressive animation work
Online play is technically solid
Couch multiplayer is a hoot
The Bad
Incredibly barebones content offering
Stadiums lack on-pitch diversity
Very little sense of progression for offline players
Coin rewards for multiplayer matches are a joke
7
Good
  • Next Level Games 
  • Nintendo
  • Switch
  • June 10, 2022

mario strikers review header
Mario Strikers: Battle League Football Review
Bit Of An Off Season
Mario Strikers: Battle League Football excels on the field, but it struggles to make a compelling offer for solo players or anyone not willing to invest time in forming and maintaining a Strikers Club. It's just pick-up-and-play enough to work as a party game with mates and it's compelling to watch in action, but the lack of embellishments is sure to hurt its long-term appeal.
The Good
Fast and chaotic football-esque action is great
Visually striking with some impressive animation work
Online play is technically solid
Couch multiplayer is a hoot
The Bad
Incredibly barebones content offering
Stadiums lack on-pitch diversity
Very little sense of progression for offline players
Coin rewards for multiplayer matches are a joke
7
Good
Written By

Kieron's been gaming ever since he could first speak the words "Blast Processing" and hasn't lost his love for platformers and JRPGs since. A connoisseur of avant-garde indie experiences and underground cult classics, Kieron is a devout worshipper at the churches of Double Fine and Annapurna Interactive, to drop just a couple of names.

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