I’d been looking forward to Mario Strikers: Battle League Football because of the chaotic fun I remember having with Mario Strikers Charged, the incarnation of Mario’s souped-up sort-of footy series which launched on Wii an astonishing 15 years ago. Battle League (without the Football outside Europe), which arrives this week for Switch, is the first new version of Strikers since then. But the more I played, the less I found of what I used to enjoy.
Battle League is, arguably, a more focused game – and ultimately likely the better representation of small-team football. Aside from the occasional frame-rate wobble, it is also slicker in presentation, and certainly hosts the most visual customisation seen in the series to date. But I don’t really play Mario Strikers for football, in the same way I don’t really play Rocket League for football either. I play Strikers – or I did, back on Wii – because it was a weird and very Mario version of football. To Battle League’s detriment, it feels like there’s less of that this time around.
The game’s core offerings are its Cup Battles – a series of small tournament brackets where up to four players can make progress to earn customisation-unlocking coins – and Strikers Club, an online mode where your victories contribute to a weekly seasonal ranking for Clash of Clans-style groups of up to 20 members. At the end of each week, your club’s founder can use tokens earned by members to tweak the look of their preferred pitch.