Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble review: Go bananas

Even with some egregious omissions, Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is a strong new entry for the series.


The Super Monkey Ball series has become known for its welcoming aesthetic, its whimsical world, simplistic gameplay, and deceptively challenging courses. Just when it looks like you've gotten the hang of what it means to guide your monkey to victory, the courses ramp up in difficulty and you're falling off more edges than Wile E. Coyote. Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble keeps that spirit alive while also tossing in some fun multiplayer modes, minus a few fan favorites.

Monkey business

Collecting a banana bunch in Adventure Mode in Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

Source: Sega

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble's story is a simple one. AiAi and company meet a new friend who's seeking out mysterious artifacts in an effort to find the Legendary Banana and her missing father. They run afoul of a villainous troupe of animals (Fes, Tee, Val, and their mysterious leader) and the search for the precious OOPArts quickly turns into a race.

Solo players will find a fairly lengthy Adventure Mode campaign that spans 200 courses, across a full story and additional stages. Like with previous Super Monkey Ball titles, these stages start off fairly easy, gradually introducing various stage gimmicks and challenges. At first, the biggest question is how many bananas you can collect en route to the goal. However, after passing the story's halfway point, the stages begin to noticeably ramp up in difficulty, almost to the point of frustration. The worst stages are the ones where it feels like you're not even sure what's happening, but you just launch yourself skyward and hope for the best. The best thing I can say about the more difficult stages is that there are helper functions that offer ghost data as a way to guide you down the right path.

There are a few new ideas that make the new Adventure Mode feel a little more fun. Spin Dashes offer a quick speed boost and led to at least a few makeshift shortcuts in the campaign for me. The design feels like it's more suited to competition, which makes this a good time to note that Adventure Mode has four-player local and online co-op. The story's hardest courses feel a little less frustrating knowing that you're in a race against friends.

Speaking of playing with friends, Banana Rumble does offer a satisfying multiplayer mode, though it may not necessarily be what some long-time fans hoped for.

Barrel of monkeys

Collecting bananas in Banana Hunt in Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

Source: Sega

Beyond a fairly robust single-player story, Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble has some entertaining multiplayer modes. Up to 16 people online can jump into Battle Mode with two players able to dive into online sessions on the same console. There are straightforward modes like Race and Banana Hunt, which are pretty much exactly what they sound like. A full session can lead to some mirthful chaos, whether it's from players bumping into each other or from Mario Kart-style items flying around. Those who want to get some practice in (or who'd rather not interact with folks online) can opt to play against bots, which is always a nice touch.

Three newer Battle Mode types vary in quality. Goal Rush has two teams battling to control multiple goals scattered around a course with bonus goals showing up on occasion. This is delightfully fast-paced, but it feels like there's too much downtime as a player hits a goal and then has to wait to get warped back to the start of the course.

Ba-Boom is a hot potato-like elimination mode that has players pass bombs to opponents and run away. This one didn't feel very fun, since there's more time spent fiddling with the camera and rolling around the course than there is in playing out any kind of coherent strategy. This is without even mentioning how many poor suckers (ok, it was mostly me) got passed the bomb with tenths of a second left on the clock.

Lastly, there's Robot Smash, which is another team-based mode that has players trying to smash robotic monkeys. Points are awarded based on how hard you hit the robots, meaning players hoping to score big need to build a good head of steam. While I didn't see a lot of teamwork exhibited in Robot Smash, I did get an overall sense of satisfaction after scoring the final blow on a big monkey bot, smashing it to pieces, and getting a big points bonus for it.

These modes are hit-and-miss and it's nice to see Sega experimenting with some new ideas. With that said, long-time Super Monkey Ball fans are going to lament the loss of some favorite multiplayer modes. No Monkey Target or Monkey Fight feels devastating, as do the loss of classic party games like Monkey Soccer, Monkey Billiards, and others. Sega does note that additional modes will come down the road, but not having those staples at launch stings.

The last thing to note is that Sega is anticipating a long shelf life for Banana Rumble, which is why there are numerous customization items unlockable through online play and through the game's main offline modes. The major positive is that none of these items are tied to microtransactions, so even beyond the simple enjoyment of racing or collecting bananas with over a dozen other players, there's an incentive to keep playing. Unlockable characters, unfortunately, are a whole other kettle of fish and are tied to a separate Sega Pass. That's a shame, especially since Sega heard one of the common criticisms from Banana Mania and have made the guest characters playable in multiplayer.


There hasn't been a new Super Monkey Ball game in over a decade and Sega certainly approached this new entry to the series like it had some catching up to do. There's a lot to enjoy in Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble, from the lengthy story to the local and online multiplayer. It certainly isn't perfect, especially given that some of the series' most recognizable multiplayer modes aren't here. Seriously, no Monkey Target might cause an uproar among fans. However, even with those missing staples and some over-the-top difficulty spikes, this is no rotten banana. Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is a strong comeback for the series and will hopefully keep rolling for years to come.

This review is based on a Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher. Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble will release on Nintendo Switch on Tuesday, June 25 for $49.99 USD. 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?

  • Adventure Mode is enjoyable solo or with friends
  • Mostly strong multiplayer modes, both local and online
  • Simple to get into with numerous assist features
  • Many unlockable customization items
  • Difficulty spikes can hurt Adventure Mode
  • A few multiplayer duds
  • Some classic multiplayer modes left out
  • Guest characters sold separately
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