Competition has been the cornerstone of many video games since the very beginning. The thrill of comparing high scores with your friends in the arcade or on a handheld is a tradition that has been only slightly lost with the prominence of online leaderboards, but the battle royale genre has reintroduced high octane competition over short periods of time in more recent years. Now the question might be; “What does this have to do with Mario?” Mario now has a battle royale of his own in Super Mario Bros. 35, a celebration of the 35th anniversary of the franchise with more modern elements. Now reliving the good old days of Mario has never felt more thrilling, allowing you to duke it out with 34 other players.
The concept of Super Mario Bros. 35 is actually really simple, you play through a set of levels from the original Mario game at the same time as 34 other players, looking to be the last one standing. My initial belief was that this was going to be something like a race, but I was proven wrong almost immediately. This is a battle of attrition, and rounds can get really long if you’re in the final group. The game is mostly about staying alive the longest, and about time management. If you die, it’s game over. That part is simple, but the levels actually get more complex over time. The level format doesn’t change at all, but as other players earn points and complete levels, they send enemies over to your instance of the game. These start off as really minor annoyances, like Goombas and Koopas, but as you get further down the line the enemies get stronger as well. In the final rounds, even copies of Bowser can spawn in every level. Even the smallest changes can throw off an experienced player who has their rhythm set, so managing to stay aware of all the new enemies popping up while also looking to take out as many possible for time bonuses is not only challenging, but the most integral part of the game.
What really surprised me about Super Mario Bros. 35 was the UI and music, which are actually really bright and fun. I had half expected this to be very close to a mobile game, with a cluttered UI and minimal customization. What I found was a game with a lot of love poured into it, and a lot of little things that allow for both player personalization and appreciation for the older days of Mario. There’s a player level tracker and daily quests which reward you with coins for completing them. Player level goes up as you play of course, but this unlocks different courses for the battle royale. This adds to the variety since the levels can be switched around as you complete them, so you need to stay on your toes. Aside from the player level and stage selection, you can unlock icons for your player profile. These range from different sprites of Mario to all the different enemies and some objects as well. It’s a nice little addition that adds that small bit of personalization. What I enjoyed the most, personally, was the color scheme and loading screens. It was the type of loading screen that I never got annoyed being on, since it was so bright and fun. Nintendo always manages to pack so much into a pleasant looking UI that it never ceases to amaze me. Not only do you see all the other screens loading up, you can see the power up you chose as well as how many times you’ve cleared the stage you’re loading into, and it all looks very natural. It’s all the information you need, and it feels completely natural.
While I haven’t played the original Super Mario Bros. in a good while, Super Mario Bros. 35 was nothing but an enjoyable experience. It’s the type of game that’s both casual enough to pick up and play for 5 minutes and intense enough to keep your focus for hours if you get really far. This was nothing but a labor of love for the franchise, and best of all, it’s free! I can easily see Mario fans sinking an insane amount of hours into this game just for a few wins. Even as someone who hasn’t played the original in a very long time, I found myself sinking hours into it just to make it into the top 10 once I figured out some of the more general strategies. There’s a surprising amount of depth to this game, and it’s a lot of fun learning how to get better at it.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch