Super Mario Bros. 35 Review — A Royale Take On a Classic
Combining battle royale with classic Mario gameplay, Super Mario Bros. 35 is an interesting and fresh idea that could use some more depth.
I was never any good at Tetris, so while the idea of Tetris 99 appealed to me, I just couldn’t get into it. The announcement of Super Mario Bros. 35 however: now we’re talking. Super Mario Bros. is an unadulterated classic, battle royale games are the flavour of the moment: a combination of the two on the Nintendo Switch should be a recipe for success, right?
The premise, like all battle royale games, is simple: outlast all of your opponents to claim victory. The method of ousting them this time, however, is unconventional compared to most games in this genre. Rather than entering direct combat with them, you make your way across levels from the original Super Mario Bros. while avoiding death.
That’s easier said than done though. Super Mario Bros. 35 is chaotic. Starting on world 1-1, you side scroll and platform your way across to the end of the level, as you’d expect, before moving onto the next one. This time however, any enemy your opposition wipes out on their journey has a chance of heading your way and vice versa.
That doesn’t seem too bad at first: the odd Goomba dropping on your screen is easily dealt with. The further you get though, the more carnage that ensues. Naturally, as more opponents drop out, more enemies start to make their way onto your screen. What was initially that odd Goomba here and there starts to become nine Goombas, eight Koopa Troopas, and a Bowser blasting his fireballs your way. Dodging these, while still trying to complete the level, is Super Mario Bros. 35 at its chaotic best.
The game presents a real challenge at this point, but also becomes incredibly satisfying. Picking up a Fire Flower or Super Star when there’s a mountain of enemies heading your way, only to destroy them and send them packing to one of your opponents, is one of the more rewarding feelings I’ve had in a battle royale game.
Not only do you have escalating numbers of enemies coming at you, but you also have the increasingly difficult levels to compete with. One of the pleasant surprises of Super Mario Bros. 35 is that every level from the original game is included. The further you make it through the game, the more of these levels you unlock.
The problem with this however, is despite tonnes of levels to play on, I found no real incentive to push myself. The idea of Super Mario Bros. 35 is to outlast your opponents and reaching the further, harder levels of Super Mario Bros. seemed counterintuitive to me. Sure, I would be able to sling some harder enemies at the other players, but I’d still have to beat them myself. Because of this, I regularly found myself completing level 1-1, heading to 1-2, hitting the warp zone, and then dropping back to 1-1. This loop–while still fun–made the game feel repetitive, but was almost always a requirement for me to win.
Occasionally the game would throw a curveball and move me straight from one level to a higher one, keeping me on my toes, but more often than not I’d somehow still end up back on one of the earlier levels. That meant that my 1-1/1-2 loop was too much of a regular part of my playtime.
Every match also begins on 1-1, but it would have been nice to be dropped into a different world to begin with. Saying that, it was always fun to see how many players got wiped out by the first solitary Goomba. The current Special Battle mode does drop you into a random world at the start, at least between 1-1 and 2-4, but it’s only available for a short period of time and restricts you in other ways.
Like Tetris 99 before it, Super Mario Bros. 35 encourages you to play tactically. You see all 34 other players around your screen and have the power to decide where you send the enemies. This requires a bit of precision, trying to work out who you could wipe out while still being able to play through your game. This definitely increases the skill ceiling and is almost a necessity if you want to be competitive. I lost more than a few rounds focusing on what my competitors were doing, rather than focusing on what was on my screen.
One minor issue I had with Super Mario Bros. 35 is that matches can last too long. Initially, players drop like flies and the field thins from 35 to 15-20 extremely quickly. After that, you start to run into the more competitive players and the games can slightly overstay their welcome. Each match has a timer which can be increased by defeating enemies. As you’re facing huge quantities of enemies, towards the end of the game you usually have 300+ seconds on the clock. Once you get to the final five, the timer speeds up, but at this point, it’s too little too late. With everybody having literal minutes on the clock–which they’re still constantly adding to–each game’s conclusion tends to rely on one player’s lapse in concentration, and when you’re up against 2 or 3 other Mario Bros. pros, that can take a while.
The real shame of Super Mario Bros. 35 is its impending removal from the eShop in March next year. Yes, the game is far from perfect right now, but it has so much potential should it stick around. Nintendo could add the different Mario art styles, akin to Super Mario Maker. They could add the worlds from all of the different Mario games to compete on. They could add different types of modes that meshed different Mario games together. There’s so much that could keep this game fresh, that could keep it growing and that could make it last forever, that it just seems insane that Nintendo as of now plans to remove it.
The game could really benefit from a battle pass system. It wouldn’t have to cost much, or anything at all, but Super Mario Bros. 35 is really lacking in depth and progression. The game currently has an arbitrary levelling system, in which you level up and unlock new icons, but aside from that it’s pointless. Nintendo’s back catalogue is so rich that using a battle pass as a way to unlock different skins for Mario, different music, different themes and so much more would give this game the purpose that it’s desperately lacking at the moment.
Super Mario Bros. 35 is fun. It’s a great distraction and a nice way to pass time. Unfortunately, it can be a little one-dimensional, and its gameplay can feel a little repetitive. Should Nintendo decide to use this as a platform and build on it we may have a future classic on our hands, but until then, it’s just fine. Despite its limitations though, Super Mario Bros. 35 is definitely worth checking out, even if it’s just for the alternate take on a piece of video game history.