Super Mario Bros. 35 Review: Taking a Classic to the Next Level

by David Sanchez October 2, 2020 @ 10:34 am

Super Mario Bros. 35 on Nintendo Switch.

Well, folks, they did it. Somehow, Nintendo and developer Arika have managed to take the original Super Mario Bros., an all-time great game, and give it a modern spin. How do you take a 35-year-old game and modernize it properly? You turn it into a 35-player online battle royale game, apparently.

Having previously worked on the well-received Tetris 99, Arika decided to shake the foundations of the beloved Super Mario Bros., too. The result is a highly addictive online multiplayer game that feeds off of nostalgia, adrenaline, competition, and precision platforming. Straight-up, the bite-sized Super Mario Bros. 35 is, in its own way, every bit as incredible as the original.

This Ain’t Your Grandpa’s Mario — Actually, It Is, but It’s Kinda Different

If you’ve ever played Super Mario Bros., you should have a good grasp on how Super Mario Bros. 35 works. It’s essentially that same NES original — you’ve got tight platforming, tricky jumps, and devilish enemy placement. Everything here plays just about the same as it did all those years ago — which is to say it’s fantastic — and it still feels great to control.

Super Mario Bros. 35 gameplay.

The main difference in this update is that you’re taking on 34 other players who are simultaneously playing the game. You all start in the same stage with same countdown timer. Defeating enemies will send them to other players’ games. You’ll notice extra Goombas and Koopa Troopas in areas they didn’t appear in back in the original game — that means other players are defeating enemies, targeting you, and sending those enemies your way.

Things get trickier — and tougher — when you have Cheep Cheeps flying around in stages they normally wouldn’t. Oh, and don’t expect Bowser to stay confined to his castle. In one round, I took down four Bowsers back-to-back in the first level of the game. Then two more. Then three more. Yes, Super Mario Bros. 35 can get pretty ridiculous and insanely tough, but the chaos is all a part of its charm. It’s during these moments of craziness and high enemy saturation that the game actually feels vastly different from its 35-year-old foundation.

Coins work differently here than they did in the original Super Mario Bros. Rather than collecting them to earn a 1-Up, you’ll grab coins to purchase upgrades while running through levels. Twenty coins grant you a shot at the roulette block. Pressing the X button will give you anything from a Fire Flower to a POW Block. This micro-economy is refreshing in a way that it’s never been before. Coins actually feel more valuable here than they do in most other Mario games.

Clock’s Ticking, Mario

As the timer counts down, you’ll get that same sense of urgency that’s synonymous with early Mario games. And because you’re taking on other players, that counter feels even more crucial to your success. Defeating enemies adds seconds to your clock, so while seeing a long line of baddies might seem stressful, this is a great way to add up some extra time. This is especially true if you have a Fire Flower or Super Star, as you can easily mow those suckers down, all the while sending them to attack other players.

Super Mario Bros. 35 battle royale gameplay.

Like Tetris 99, you can target random or specific players. You can send enemies to the players with the most coins, the least amount of time on their clock, or anyone who’s targeting you. Alternatively, you can also opt to select any specific player, so if you notice a lot of people targeting one poor fool, you might want to join in and make things extra difficult for that player.

Super Mario Battle Royale

At this time, Super Mario Bros. 35 doesn’t allow you to enter a game with players on your friends list like Tetris 99 does. That’s a bit of a bummer, but it’s not much of a setback. Either way, here’s hoping the devs add this functionality down the road.

The game does, however, include a Special Battle Mode. This is a variation of the standard 35-Player Battle mode that starts players out with power-ups equipped, coins, and other minor modifications. The mode’s description states that the rules will change periodically, though the first Special Battle has made for much faster rounds, which is cool if you’d rather jump in and get going with some power-ups from the start.

Super Mario Bros. 35 Daily Challenges screen.

As is customary in online multiplayer titles, Super Mario Bros. 35 features daily challenges. These include collecting a specific amount of coins, jumping on three enemies in a row without touching the floor, and clearing a certain number of stages. These little challenges make for some good fun, though they’re fairly easy to accomplish.

Super Mario Bros. 35 is about as close to perfect as you can get combining the classic style of Super Mario Bros. with a battle royale game. You will revisit the same areas repeatedly, so you might feel a bit of burnout if you want to see different stages. I didn’t feel that way myself, and because this is a battle royale, it’s hard to expect much of a change in scenery given how quickly some rounds can end. It also helps that those iconic levels are so well-designed that they’re just really fun to play through over and over.

Nintendo and Arika have a winning formula yet again with Super Mario Bros. 35. There’s a frantic newness to the existing formula that somehow makes the game even more inviting. Above all else, though, it’s just a really fun remix that works in every conceivable way. This mashup of Mario and battle royale doesn’t just work well — it’s absolutely phenomenal.

Score: 9.5 out of 10

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