Super Mario Bros. 35 review: 8-bit throwdown

How does the classic Super Mario Bros. translate as a battle royale? Our review.


For many people who grew up in the 80s, the original Super Mario Bros. game is one that needs no explanation. It's the side-scrolling platform that started it all. It's one of the most iconic video games in history. And it's one of the least likely to get thrown into the crowded battle royale genre. Super Mario 35 was an interesting idea from Nintendo, but they clearly know what they're doing, because this game is a hoot.

Sorry, your enemies are in another person's game

As noted, Super Mario Bros. needs no explanation. It's the quintessential side-scrolling platformer. Mario just needs to run from start to finish, stomping enemies along the way. So what makes this a battle royale?

The battle royale element comes in when defeated enemies get tossed into other players' games. Using the right control stick, players can try and aim at specific players, though the strategic element doesn't quite work as well here as it does in Tetris 99, the other game that utilizes this same idea. Aiming at Attackers, Highest Coins, or Lowest Time doesn't feel like it matters in the grand scheme, especially as the game reaches its final moments. What does matter is which enemies you can throw at your opponents.

The fun in Super Mario 35 is that you can throw any Mario enemy at your opponents. If sessions last long enough, you'll start to see Hammer Bros., Bullet Bills, and even Bowser infest your game. What's great about this mechanic is that these enemies are not placed entirely at random. There's a degree of intelligence in where new enemies appear. Piranha Plants will be placed at ledges, Koopa Paratroopas will be placed right before a Bowser fight, and Bowser himself will often times be placed either right in your way or out of the reach of Fire Mario's fireballs.

Defeating as many enemies as possible is the name of the game arguably more than simply surviving. Players only get so much time on their clock, but can extend their timers by defeating enemies. That means it's worth the extra time that it takes to defeat dozens of Goombas or grab power-ups. If there aren't a lot of enemies around, it's fine to sprint to the flagpole, which will also add time to the player's clock. What's interesting here is that stages are not played in order. When a player grabs a flagpole, they're then taken to a random stage. This settles any issues with warp zones or players trying to avoid water levels, but it does present a different problem in that players will often repeat the same stage multiple times in a single session. Hope you like World 1-1 and 1-2, because you'll see those stages a lot. Inevitably, Mario masters will find themselves in a deadlock after playing the same levels over and over, but fortunately Super Mario 35 eventually speeds up the clock to finally determine a champion.

Mario for Dummies

Coins are still the currency of choice in this Mario game and they serve a greater function than ever. Collecting 20 coins will allow players to spin the roulette block, which can land on any one of several Mario power-ups. Any of them can save players in a pinch, but to me, it's an element that only serves to drag games out. Skilled Mario players can go nearly the full game without resorting to the roulette block and when it's down to two or three players, they have enough coins in the bank to access it multiple times. I'd have liked to see this mechanic scrapped to help shorten sessions a little more.

Mario veterans may think that strategy in Super Mario 35 simply involves planning around the original game, which is true to an extent. However, it should be noted that this is a more optimized version of the original game. That means a lot of those 8-bit era tricks, like scrolling enemies off the screen, will not work here. If you're relying on old-school glitches, they will not help. In some ways, this messes with the purity of the game, but it's ultimately better for the spirit of competition. No cheating allowed, after all. May the best player win.

Speaking of that, however, one of Super Mario 35's biggest issues involves playing it in TV mode. Precision platforming is a must in order to succeed, so having noticeable input lag is a killer. Imagine my shock when I was trying to jump my way through 1-1, as has always been second nature to me, only to jump right into a Goomba or fall off a pit. Once I started compensating for the input lag, I was able to fare much better, but it's still bothersome and has managed to cost me a few games. Thankfully, Handheld Mode has no such issues and has quickly become my preferred way to play this game.

As much as I love playing Super Mario 35, it's a downer that I can't jump into a lobby with friends. Sister battle royale showcase Tetris 99 initially did not have this feature, but eventually added it about a year after launch. And that leads to the biggest problem with Super Mario 35. It won't be around a year after launch. It's only here for six months. Why? Why does that have to be the case? Do Switches self-destruct if the game is on the eShop longer than six months? There's no reason for this to be a limited offering and it's sad to think that I won't be having this kind of fun six months from now.

35 plumbers enter, 34 get flushed

Super Mario 35 is an absolute pleasure, taking the usual Nintendo nostalgia and offering a different way to experience it. I couldn't have pictured anything like a classic Mario game working in a competitive battle royale environment, but Nintendo has made it happen and it's loads of fun.

Just make sure to get your battle royale on while you can, because in six months, your Mario battle royale game will be in another castle.

This review is based on a Nintendo Switch digital code downloaded by the reviewer. Super Mario 35 is available now on the Nintendo eShop for free, but requires a Nintendo Switch Online membership to play. The game is rated E.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

  • Simple 2D Mario platforming translated amazingly into a battle royale format
  • Enemies thrown at other players are placed cleverly
  • 8-bit bugs and glitches fixed for fair play
  • Input lag on TV mode
  • Can't play with friends
  • No reason for this game to leave us in six months
From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 2, 2020 7:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Super Mario Bros. 35 review: 8-bit throwdown

    • reply
      October 2, 2020 7:43 AM

      If you’re experiencing noticeable input lag in docked mode but not handheld, I would first double check your TV or controller. It makes no sense to blame the the game in that situation. I didn’t experience any input lag on handheld or docked.

      • reply
        October 2, 2020 7:53 AM

        The lack of urgency if you can get a ton of time and the non integer scaled game window bothers me the most. The top 5 is more of a test of who will fuck up first more than who can outsmart the other players right now. The game window issue isn’t too bad but you can see the shimmering in the ground tiles when scrolling.

    • reply
      October 2, 2020 10:42 AM

      Kinda shady on Nintendos part here.... force the shut down of the fan made game a couple years ago then blatantly rip off the idea.

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