For the first time in more than a decade, Mario returns to the pitch. Mario Strikers: Battle League, a revival of Nintendo’s long-dormant soccer series, hits the Nintendo Switch on Friday. Nintendo did not provide Kotaku with an early copy of the game for reviews. We’re experiencing it, and its press cycle, alongside the rest of you.
As of this writing, Mario Strikers: Battle League is sitting at a 75 on Metacritic, the review aggregation site, indicating reception is all over the field. Most reviewers agree that it sports some solid soccer gameplay mechanics. They also say that it certainly brings back the antics from the original games, serving as a patently ridiculous — and more entertaining — antithesis to that certain other soccer series. But Battle League has received criticism for a lack of engaging single-player modes and a notable absence of some key characters who’ve been part of the series since its mid-2000s heyday (sorry, Daisy fans).
Kotaku will have its own thoughts on Mario Strikers: Battle League soon enough. In the meantime, here’s what critics are saying:
“[Battle League] presents itself more like a Mario Kart than something like Mario Golf: Super Rush. In other words, there is no underlying story or exposition to its campaign or world. It’s a colourful series of short, roughly four-minute-long matches of 5v5 soccer. If you’d like, the game’s forgettable robot mascot offers you a tutorial. But otherwise you just boot up the game and get right to the pitch. Unfortunately, if you’d like to know more about the characters or how to intercept a lob pass, the game hides additional information in a guide only accessible between matches. Unlike many sports games, and many sequels, really, Strikers avoids the ethos of more.” — Ana Diaz
“This Strikers instalment is not without character — every so often I’ll see Wario determinedly carrying around the football under arm like the big cheat he is, or watch another celebration dance from the truly weird Waluigi, and be left with a chuckle. The ability to just pull off a Hyper Strike as an opponent slides in to stop you is immensely satisfying. And already, there’s suggestion the game will receive a roster of post-launch updates with more characters to follow. But even with these, and even if the weekly Strikers Club ends up taking off, it’s hard to look at the slim package of modes on offer right now compared to something like Rocket League, that other non-football football game, then factor in Nintendo’s typical boxed Switch game RRP, and still be able to recommend Battle League for a quick kickabout.” — Tom Phillips
“Mario Strikers: Battle League is part skillful soccer game, part ruthless brawler, and almost always a complete blast to play. If you’ve played any games in the series before, there won’t be many surprises in store for you and the small roster of characters and game modes is definitely disappointing, but what’s there is incredibly fun and replayable. I’m impressed by the online mode in the time I’ve had with it so far too, as it sets the stage for a ranked playlist that I look forward to grinding my way to the top of..” — Travis Northup
“Honestly, Mario Strikers: Battle League is a slightly thin experience overall. No story campaign, only 10 playable characters, six items (including the completely broken Mario Invincibility Star, which might as well equate to a free goal), and a bunch of other odd design choices that feel hollow enough to leave an empty echo when you tap them. … I just really wish that joie de vivre had carried over to the gameplay of Mario Strikers, which at its core is an average football arcade game with a few Nintendo-brand bells and whistles resting on it. I guess I had fun at times, but I suspect deep down that if I’d paid full retail price for it, I would’ve come away feeling a lot less charitable about the whole thing.” — Joel Franey
“Mario Strikers: Battle League may be the most mechanically dense Mario sports game I’ve played. The latest Mushroom Kingdom spin on soccer looks to take the sport seriously, allowing you to juggle passes, tackle, dodge, and cancel moves as the situation demands, even before factoring in its uniquely silly Mario twists. That makes for a high skill ceiling that could conceivably give the game a long lifespan, but its potential is held back by the fact that there just isn’t all that much to do.” — Steve Watts
“As far as modes and content go, Mario Strikers is a little light, depending on how many people you have at your disposal. … In the modern era of bells and whistles and season passes and hyper-progression, it’ll feel light to a lot of prospective players, and refreshingly simple/non-exploitative to others. But it transcends that discussion. Even in the context of “old-school arcade action,” the general lack of unlockables (especially early on) is notable. Similar to Switch Sports, you really need to be in the mindset that Strikers is a multiplayer game first, whether that’s done locally or online.” — Chris Carter
Game Informer (7.5/10)
“Mario Strikers: Battle League may not be the ultimate version of the world’s most popular sport, but its strategic matches, fun online modes, and energetic animations make for an enjoyable experience. While the single-player crowd may find the game a bit lacking, Nintendo’s return to the pitch is bound to create the same triumphant highs, and friendship-ending lows the company’s suite of other party titles is known for.” — Alex Stadnik
This is not to say Mario Strikers: Battle League is destined to disappoint. For fans who’ve waited more than a decade, sure, the lack of content (just 10 characters!) may be a bit of a letdown. But Nintendo recently confirmed to Game Informer that more Mushroom Kingdom stalwarts will be added to the roster as free DLC, though didn’t clarify who’s coming or when they’ll join up. Fingers crossed for Daisy!