Shortly after the release of Mario Golf: Super Rush, I took a look at all of the other sports titles Mario had neglected in recent years, and came to the conclusion that Mario Strikers was surely next in line for a revival. Flash forward a few months, and it was revealed, with Mario Strikers: Battle League set to launch in the very near future. That still leaves Hoops and Sluggers languishing in obscurity, and with Switch Sports neglecting both basketball and baseball – despite both being hits in the Wii Sports series – it still feels as though there's room for both of them to make a comeback. If the pattern continues, that means by 2024 the classic Mario sports will all be readily available on Switch (Tennis was the first to grace the console, and still currently the best), as will Mario Kart if you want to count that. The sports titles have always felt like ragtag spin-offs, but maybe it's time for them to become a bona fide part of the Mario machine.
The biggest criticism of Mario Golf at launch was how thin on the ground it was. The courses and golf mechanics were solid, but it lacked that signature Mario flair, and while it gave us a story mode, it did so little with it the prevailing feeling was that it might as well not have bothered. The roster was interesting (Chargin' Chuck and Pauline made the cut), but also sparse (Birdo and Toadette did not – though Toadette was added later). Mario Strikers' roster is even thinner, dropping from Golf's 16 characters to just ten, even cutting Daisy from the squad. We won't know how much depth the game itself has until launch, but it seems to be relying heavily on online competitive modes, which feels like a cop out.
Despite all this, I'm excited for Strikers. The GameCube version is the Mario game I'd want to see remade, even ahead of Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door. I can't wait to two-foot Bowser as Peach, to rabona the ball in from out wide as Rosalina. If playing football minute to minute is fun then all the flaws of the game will melt away, just as they did with Golf. They just mean I might not keep playing the game for very long, just as they did with Golf.
Mario is a pretty casual game, but I still think I'd struggle to convince my parents to sit down and have a blast with Odyssey. Mario Golf though? They gave that a go. Mario sports titles have an even wider casual appeal, and with Nintendo actively flirting with your mom, more games in that area seem like a no-brainer. The case I made for Hoops and Sluggers last year still stands, and I'm sure you'll all agree it's entirely because of me that Nintendo fast-tracked the new Strikers. But if Mario sports is to become a permanent, more regular thing – which it absolutely should – then it needs to look a little further afield.
The best rugby game I have ever played is Mario & Sonic at the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020, where Rugby Sevens is one of the most interesting and creative offerings the game has. Those Olympic titles are based on the simplicity of 'move your arms up and down to run', which Sevens goes against a little, but a fully fleshed out rugby game could be much more interesting. Rugby is significantly less popular globally than football, but a quick switch to American Football, a tweak to the ruleset, and we're off and running. With the ball in our hands. Because it's not real football.
In a way, it doesn't really matter what sport you pick. There's no narrative reason for why the Mario gang are playing golf, or football, or tennis, shaking up cans of lemonade to see who can get the highest fizz, with the likes of Wario and Bowser. All that we need is an arcade sports sim that's easy to pick up, has a decent amount of mechanical depth, and has a Mario skin on top of it. That, and Daisy. Please put Daisy in the next one.
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