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Mario Strikers: Battle League (for Nintendo Switch) Review

Mario-focused sports games are nothing new, but some reappear more reliably than others. As great as they are, we have enough Mario Golf and Mario Tennis games to last a lifetime. However, it’s been 15 years since the last entry in the fan-favorite Mario Strikers franchise. Fortunately, Mario Strikers: Battle League resurrects Nintendo’s wacky take on soccer as a rowdy and ridiculous $59.99 multiplayer game for Nintendo Switch. Solo players will have fun, too, but this game is best for teams. 

Mario Strikers: Battle League

Mario sports games appeal to people who want to enjoy a fun, accessible, arcade-style take on a genre dominated by FIFA and other complicated sims. In that spirit, Mario Strikers: Battle League is the closest Mario has come to matching the frantic and fiery NBA Jam. If you love Rocket League, but can’t quite get a handle on its tricky ball physics, Mario Strikers: Battle League is the soccer game for you. It’s far superior to the soccer mode in Nintendo Switch Sports.

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Moves are easy to perform, but the game requires you to execute fast tactics in the heat of battle. With the right timing, you can give the ball a boost as you pass it to your teammate or charge it slightly to increase your shot accuracy. While playing alone, swapping between characters puts them in a winning position. You can also offensively tackle opponents to steal the ball or defensively tackle teammates to boost them forward. Mario Strikers: Battle League isn’t a fighting game in disguise, unlike Knockout City or Mario Tennis Aces, but it has enough depth that you’ll want to play through the tutorial before attempting a serious match.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Mario sports game if things didn’t get silly. For example, you can trip up opponents with bananas and shells, Mario Kart-style. In addition, your team gains access to a powerful Hyper Strike shot by snagging its orb when it appears on that field. Charging the strike takes time and leaves you vulnerable, but you can score two points at once if you pull it off. Feeling even more devious? Fake out opponents by initiating a strike only to cancel it with a dodge.

Similar to Windjammers 2‘s super-powered disc tosses, Hyper Strikes have many effects. Bowser’s sets the ball on fire, while Peach’s makes the goalie fall in love with the ball, and gently roll it into the goal. Thankfully, this mechanic isn’t totally unbalanced. Unless you have absolutely perfect shot timing, the goalie will block your Hyper Strike. That results in a dazed goalie, which creates a perfect opportunity for another shot on goal. However, you must still deal with the defending team. Blocking a Hyper Strike is also the only time you directly control your own goalie, since you must mash a button to resist the score. 

Mario Strikers: Battle League

It’s a Mad, Mad Mario

One reason Mario Strikers went on hiatus might be because the developer, Next Level Games, has been extremely busy. After working its magic on Luigi’s Mansion and Punch-Out!!, Next Level Games was acquired by Nintendo. Mario Strikers: Battle League brings things full circle, as the first Strikers game was the initial partnership between the two companies. 

Even if you didn’t know this backstory, Mario Strikers: Battle League has a unique, Next Level vibe that fans love. Instead of happily jumping through mushroom fields, Mario and friends strap on battle-ready combat armor and slam each other into electrified fences while hard rock music blares. It’s not that violent, but sprinkling in just a little danger into Mario’s otherwise safe world really amps up the excitement. A game about playing a sport has higher dramatic stakes than games where Mario literally saves the universe. 

Enhancing all of this is the stellar presentation and bouncy animation. Unlike Mario Golf: Super Rush, Mario Strikers: Battle League maintains a crisp resolution and smooth 60-frames-per-second action, quickly giving you all the visual information you need to keep the competitive edge that sports games demand. 

Mario Strikers: Battle League

Characters express their colorful personalities during short video clips whenever anyone scores a goal, celebrating their wins or lamenting their losses. They emote through on-field movements, too. Instead of kicking the ball, famous cheater Wario just carries it with his hands. Speaking of the field, each pitch consists of two arenas bolted together. For example, you can pick a jungle background, but your opponent might prefer a spooky mansion. These dynamic hybrids make the game look even more unpredictable. Finally, the signature Hyper Strikes feature elaborate animations that resemble a sequence from an anime fighting game as the characters unleash their most powerful moves. It’s a beautiful representation of the beautiful game. 

World Cup

Like other recent Mario sports games, Mario Strikers: Battle League puts more of an emphasis on compelling mechanics than packing in a lot of launch content. I think this is a fine trade-off, but I understand why other people may be disappointed with a 10-character roster. And, except for Toad and Yoshi, you can’t place duplicate characters on a team. Matches are 4v4 (not counting goalies), so I quickly grew tired of seeing the few faces. Fortunately, more characters are coming as free DLC over the next few months.

The single-player modes are a bit thin; the game just challenges you to compete in various tournaments. Each tournament focuses on a certain skill, such as passing or shooting, so playing them will make you better at the game. I had to rethink my dumb, aggressive tactics after facing a heavy team that shook off my tackles with ease. I finished the final championship cup game leading by nine goals after just a few sittings.

Mario Strikers: Battle League

As you play, you earn coins to unlock custom gear. This equipment raises a character’s stats in one area, while weakening them in another. It also makes characters look even more outlandish as you strap on futuristic visors and metal armor. You could use gear to improve Rosalina’s shooting or give Donkey Kong extra speed, for example. The stats make a significant impact while playing, and add an extra layer of strategic depth. You can easily ignore this gameplay aspect, too. 

Mario Strikers: Battle League shines as a multiplayer game. Alongside the expected local multiplayer mods, the game has some of the most fascinating online features we’ve seen in a Nintendo title. You can play a quick match, but dedicated players will want to join or form Strikers Clubs. These clubs serve as online teams where like-minded people find each other. You can join a club that genuinely wants to improve or just wants to have fun. You can also name your club, choose your main character’s jersey number, and customize your home turf. Clubs compete against each other to go up the rankings during a season. This isn’t Football Manager, but having this meta layer encourages you to stay invested once you’ve seen all there is to see from the gameplay itself.

Before launch, I hopped online using a wired connection to play against Nintendo representatives and other reviewers in a few matches. Some matches contained slight slowdown, while another match froze entirely and granted me the win because the other player dropped out. However, I enjoyed the overall online experience. No issues stopped me from winning most games. I even had a heart-pounding match that went into overtime. I lost, but it was great. Note that your own experience may vary once the game fully launches.


Mario Strikers: Battle League was worth the wait, despite its skimpy solo content. Sports fans and non-sports fans alike will get a kick out of this chaotic, soccer-adjacent, multiplayer fracas. Even better, the online Strikers Clubs has the potential for satisfying, long-term progression. Plus, Waluigi strikes some glorious athletic poses. If you’ve been waiting for a fun spin on soccer that FIFA doesn’t deliver, Battle League should be on your to-buy list.

For more recommended Nintendo Switch titles, check out The Best Nintendo Switch Games and The Best Nintendo Switch Games for Kids. For in-depth video game talk, visit PCMag’s Pop-Off YouTube channel.(Opens in a new window)

Mario Strikers: Battle League (for Nintendo Switch)


  • Fast-paced, hard-hitting, arcade-style soccer

  • Playfully edgy presentation

  • Deep online multiplayer features

  • Lets you customize character stats with gear

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The Bottom Line

Mario Strikers: Battle League makes its long-awaited return as a deliriously fun and accessible soccer game that’s packed with character customization and online modes.

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