Super Mario Bros. 35
Genre: Battle Royale/ Platformer
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 1st October 2020
Price: Free with Nintendo Switch Online Membership
Played using my own paid Nintendo Online Subscription.
It’s a me ….. wait … 35 Marios? You are not misreading that, or the title. This is Super Mario Bros. 35, a game that was announced and subsequently released to coincide with the world’s most famous plumber’s 35th anniversary. Does this experience reach the same heights of the original NES games or does it sink like a defeated blooper on World 1-3? Find out after the “jump”.
How To Play/Gameplay
As I had stated above, a certain plumber turned 35 back in September (despite him appearing in Donkey Kong in 1980 as Jump-Man) and the release of the utterly iconic Super Mario Bros. Developed by Arika (who also worked with Nintendo and The Tetris Company for Tetris 99), they have released another battle royale style game with Super Mario Bros. 35.
The aim of Super Mario Bros. 35 is simple: clear as many classic Mario levels from the original NES game as you can. However, this is where things are flipped onto its head. You have 34 other players all sending enemies onto your board much like Tetris 99. You can clearly identify that these are enemies from other player’s “boards”, as they will be coloured grey instead of their usual colour palette. When you defeat an enemy on your board, it does 2 things: firstly it adds an additional 2 to 3 seconds to your decreasing timer counter, which can increase if you string together combos, and secondly, it sends the enemy over to an opponent’s board in their greyed out form. It is a little bit of a strange concept to grasp at first, but it becomes very familiar and easy to digest after a few games. Adding the greyed out enemies increases the difficulty of levels naturally, giving each run through a unique level of challenge.
When you start a 35 battle game, you are greeted by a screen that gets you to choose the starting level, and whether or not you want any power-ups to aid your run (at a cost to your overall coin counter), with mushrooms costing 20 coins, a star man being 30 and a fire flower being 50. Also pressing the Y button will randomise the level selection.
However, it was unfortunate that the “surprise me” option didn’t really work as expected. Whilst it is disappointing to have this feature not work, part of me believes it is down to balancing and to leave everyone on an even playing field. In addition to the 35 mode, there is a special event mode, which was active when I started playing. It really was no different from the main 35 mode, except it removed the option to start with a power-up. As these are limited events, I didn’t continue playing it as much as the 35 mode itself. Not to say it’s bad, it is just … unpolished.
The biggest problem I have with Super Mario Bros. 35 is that nothing is explained to you, much like it was on Tetris 99. Arika has built a game that is the essence of “pick up and play” however, those unfamiliar with Mario or the Battle Royale genre may have a hard time adapting to the craziness. Even me as not only a veteran Mario player (and unashamedly put at least 120 hours into Tetris 99) I still struggled to grasp how the enemies worked, how defeating each would give you time etc. A simple “how to play” much as we see in the Smash Bros series would have been a very welcome addition.
Music and Sound
I would like to make mention of the music and sound. It is absolutely what you remember from the NES Super Mario Bros, minus the music cutting out whenever you defeat an enemy. It is still as iconic as ever, the classic Level 1-1 theme, the Underground, and Water themes are still as brilliant as ever despite 35 years of remixes, original covers, and minor adjustments. They do not need to be changed, as they are essential to the experience. However, the only original song they have included is for the Main Menu, and it is a real toe-tapper (which you can listen to below via the Youtube link).
The last thing to mention is the Online. As Super Mario Bros. 35 is a Nintendo Switch Online exclusive game, the servers needed to not only work but cater to 35 players all doing very different things. I am happy to report that, even though most of my playtime has been on day 1, I had one crash that booted me out of the game and back to the Switch home screen and 1 instance of the connection dropping out during a game. The latter is more of my own doing, as I was playing on a train using tethering to my phone (damn tunnels ruined my good run). If you have played Tetris 99, you will know that Akira are incredible at making the most of the net code and the limited possibilities available using the Switch online service. It stays very steady, with no lag, no dropped frames, and very little disconnections.
In conclusion, Super Mario Bros. 35 is a very unusual but brilliant experience that isn’t unique at all, as it has been done before by Akira with Tetris 99. But it’s a nice little FREE (if you have a Switch Online membership) addition to help celebrate Mario’s 35th anniversary in style. It is a simple yet addictive platformer with the added craziness of 34 other players trying to beat you. It is just an absolute shame that it is only available until 31st March 2021.
Please Nintendo, keep Super Mario Bros. 35 going beyond that March time limit and treat it like you do with Tetris 99, with many different themed events around other Nintendo properties. The fans will thank you in kind by playing the absolute heck out of it. I definitely will be.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can download Super Mario Bros. 35 for free if you have Nintendo Switch Online at the following link: Nintendo eShop