Although Camelot has long been synonymous with the two longest-running Mario sports titles through Golf and Tennis, Nintendo has given opportunities for several other developers to step in and create their own Mario-themed take on a beloved sport. From Bandai Namco’s pair of baseball games to Square Enix’s Mario Hoops 3-on-3 basketball title on the DS, the Mushroom Kingdom has gotten plenty of opportunities to partake in a variety of competitive physical activities throughout the past two decades. Before Next Level Games stepped in to work on the Luigi’s Mansion sequels, the Canadian studio also threw their hat into the Mario sports arena with 2005’s Super Mario Strikers on the GameCube and 2007’s Mario Strikers Charged on the Wii, a pair of soccer titles that featured more chaotic and fast-paced gameplay than most of its peers. Now, fifteen years later, Next Level Games has returned to the pitch with Mario Strikers: Battle League, an upcoming Switch title that will mark the studio’s first release since their acquisition by Nintendo last year. With only several months until we lace up our cleats once more, here are several hopes for how Mario Strikers: Battle League can evolve the series after such a lengthy break.
The arenas of the Mario Strikers games have always been more over-the-top than one might expect from a traditional Mario game, as the boundaries are surrounded by an electric fence that will zap and stun players who get too close for several seconds. While Super Mario Strikers experimented with a few unique ideas for stadiums, the Wii sequel took things several steps further by introducing locations like Thunder Island, where high winds fling objects onto the field or players over the edge and deadly lightning strikes are common, or Stormship Stadium that tilts based on the position of players, giving the attacking team a clear advantage. The arenas that have been shown off so far in the first Mario Strikers: Battle League trailer feature that distinctly dangerous flair, but haven’t reached the heights established by earlier titles. Even if Next Level Games wants to keep the new stadiums relatively tame to keep the focus on the core gameplay, they could bring back some of the more memorable fields as “Classics” much like Mario Strikers Charged did with the GameCube entry’s lineup of locations.
Unlike Mario’s golf and tennis outings that are often played as solo and duos competitions, Mario Strikers has relied on a five vs. five dynamic, with an AI-controlled goalie and four other teammates that players can swap between on the fly. These bigger teams have often necessitated a deeper roster, with Mario Strikers Charged offering twelve captains and eight sidekicks to choose from that allowed room for players to form pre-game strategies and counters to their opposition based on their own team’s composition. While there could be secret unlockable or DLC characters that have yet to be revealed, however, Mario Strikers: Battle League has currently only featured ten playable characters. Plus, it still remains to be seen whether players can have duplicate members of the same character on the field at once, which could limit the potential for team-based strategies even further. As the game nears its launch, the inclusion of additional characters would go a long way towards matching that same level of rewarding strategy that the first two Mario Strikers games made a key component of their gameplay.
Perhaps the biggest new mechanic that we’ve seen for Mario Strikers: Battle League so far is the introduction of gear, which allows players to use in-game currency to purchase new equipment for each character that changes their stats to improve their capabilities on the field. While players will likely be able to earn coins simply for completing or winning matches, the opportunities presented by giving players the means to improve each member of their roster also seemingly opens the door for a more-compelling singleplayer experience. Whether that arises as a fleshed-out campaign or other solo modes that players can complete like the Striker Challenges offered in Mario Strikers Charged, the longevity of the newest Mario Strikers would be benefited by having a wider variety of solo and multiplayer ways for players to earn these coins and unlock new gear.
Mario Strikers: Battle League is set to launch on June 10 for Switch.