JV - Mario Strikers: Why the return of Nintendo-style football is an event

He returns. After 15 years away from the pitch, 15 years trying out every possible sport imaginable, 15 years of unfathomable waiting that will probably never reveal their secret, the most famous plumber in the world is finally going to put on his cleats again. This Friday, on Nintendo Switch, comes out Mario Strikers: Battle League Football, one of the most anticipated sports games of the year, guaranteed commercial and critical success. In line with the Wii episode released in 2007, it takes up a concept left in the closet by Nintendo, whose fans have been asking for a return for a long time.

The principle of the game is as transparent as its name: Mario and his friends play football. Far from realism at FIFA, which tries as much as possible to get closer to the experience of the pitches, Mario Strikers is based on a much more arcade gameplay, with special moves, super strikes, and unbridled matches, without referees, where all shots are allowed. Very nervous, the result, developed by Next Level Games like its predecessors, is really satisfying controller in hand, as no match resembles the previous one.

2.6 million sales on Wii

History will never be able to prove it, but there is strong reason to believe that, even if it had turned out to be average, Mario Strikers: Battle League Football would still have been a hit. First episode of the series, released on Gamecube in 2005, Mario Smash Football had already sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide. An amount largely exceeded by the Wii episode (2.6 million), two years later. Figures that should be dusted off again by the Switch opus.

“Nintendo’s strength is that it’s ultra-wide. They affect both children and adults who have experienced the first “notes Olivier “Bronol” Bron, author of a documentary on Youtube on the license Mario Strikers. Sold 103 million copies worldwide, the Switch, family console on which the new opus is released, has also had time to settle in homes since its release in 2017. “And then there’s a very simple thing, it’s that football is super popular, the concept speaks to everyone, completes Aurélien “Ponce” Gilles, very popular streamer on Twitch and specialized in Nintendo games. Especially since the typical games Fifa go around in circles for some, so it’s a good alternative”

“Waiting increases enthusiasm”

But nothing plays so much in the excitement around Battle League Soccer than nostalgia around the franchise. “In general, Nintendo always releases one game from each license per console: a Mario Kart per console, one Mario Tennis per console, one Mario Golf per console, one mario party even several, lists Ponce. And there since the Wii, nothing at all for Mario Soccer, while the license is very popular. As we have been waiting for this for a long time, it is increasing the enthusiasm. »

For many players, the Wii episode was also the discovery of online games, Mario Strikers Charged Football having been one of the first games to benefit from online. “It also sold very well because it featured characters from the Mario universe in a universe where you don’t play sports nicely, raises Bronol at the time of opening the memory box. It was brutal, you could tackle without the ball… It really scored. »

A pause still unexplained

In Mario Strikers Charged Football, the cult characters of the Mario universe indeed constantly carried their adversaries, were dragged in the mud, celebrated their goals by showing their crotch… An adult bias, wanted by Next Level Games, which clashed with the other games of the genre. And can partly explain that the license has been put on hold. “It seems that the transgressive side, it did not really appeal to Nintendo. More than the characters hitting each other, it was the humor that was sometimes borderline », says Bronol. Officially, however, the Japanese studio has never communicated on this subject.

To justify its fifteen years without new Mario Soccer, Nintendo never even gave an explanation at all, leaving room for the craziest theories. Without any indication, fans were hoping for a big comeback at each Nintendo Direct, the quarterly conferences where the studio’s new games are announced, without ever seeing their wishes granted. Until February 9. “When the video started, I saw a field that looked like a football field, I understood… I screamed, I did not expect it at all”laughs Ponce.

A euphoria to maintain

On social networks, the euphoria is collective, even if the game is immediately presented in a more polite way than the previous opus. She hasn’t fallen back since and the new features announced have been enthusiastically received, whether it’s equipment to modify the skills of her characters, the inclusion of an online ranking, the possibility of creating teams with her friends … Only the lack of content at launch, which should be compensated by the release of additional paid content in the coming weeks, was deplored.

If the launch should be a success, the challenge for Nintendo is now to build a game that will live over time, beyond the frenzy of the first days. For this, it will imperatively be a powerful online mode, which will allow players to compete at a distance and competitions to be organized, which is far from guaranteed. But if these conditions are met, Mario Strikers: Battle League Football should radiate as expected… To the point, perhaps, that fans will still be playing it in fifteen years?

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