Undeniably, Super Mario Bros. changed it all in 1985. I have fond memories of playing it on an NES more than a decade later, as well as via Super Mario Bros. Deluxe on my Gameboy Color. I was never especially good at the game, but I do fondly remember beating it at least once back in the day and feeling extremely proud. Today, in celebration of the Jumpman’s 35th anniversary, Super Mario Bros. 35 has made its way to the Nintendo Switch as an exclude, timed-release for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers.
Similarly to last year’s Tetris 99, Super Mario Bros. 35 takes the classic game and turns it into a battle royal. This time around, you compete against 34 other players to survive the longest against the timer and a deluge of enemies sent to your screen every time an adversary kills an enemy themselves. You can toggle which opponent you want to target enemies towards or let it go random, but ultimately, the name of the game is played through somewhat randomly ordered levels and survive.
The concept is novel. I enjoy every round just for how it takes the simple perfection of Super Mario Bros. and adds an extra layer of challenge. For every enemy you kill, you gain time back on your never-ending timer. Fireball kills add one second and every other kind add two. If you combo jumps or hit multiple enemies with a single shell, you’ll rack up three, four, five, etc. seconds for each enemy in the chain. You also gain bonus time for complete if stages and landing higher up the flag pole, and for collecting flowers while already powered up. For those quite familiar with the stages, the enemies send by your opponents are blue to mark them as additional enemies. You lose by either dying or running out of time.
It’s fun for a while, it the rounds start to drag on. You either find yourself in a war of attrition simply trying to not die a silly death because you have so much time on your clock, or, you get stuck with numerous levels in a row with few enemies and thus no fodder to throw at the other players or to replenish your timer.
Because you are playing a full-on platformer we and not just a Tetris game, it’s hard to really be strategic about where to send your defeated enemies. There’s not an obvious measurement of how many rows they’d already have or anything to help judge the most vulnerable or most advantageous players. Even when I did try to pay attention, it never felt like anything I did made a difference. I never caused any other players to KO. So, I just concentrated on surviving and platforming.
Apparently, Super Mario Bros. 35 has two different modes, 35-Player Battle and Special battle, but they are basically the same. The only difference is the former has random levels where you can select which one you want to start with, (though it doesn’t seem to actually work) while the latter has a predetermined set of levels and starting conditions like a powerful and certain number of coins. The set will rotate once a week.
Coins are used in-game to roll a chance box that nets you either a mushroom, a flower, a POW box, or a power star. They cost 20 coins and could save you in a pinch. Outside of each round coins can be used to start a game with a power-up. You also level up your profile as you wrack your coins via play and completing daily challenges, but leveling up only nets you new profile icons every few levels and nothing more.
A small thing, but the default controls are confounding. Super Mario Bros. 35 is set automatically for the analog pad to control movement and for Y to be run and B to be jump. While you can change the controls, it feels strange that it doesn’t default as B to run and A to jump like on an NES controller. I know it matches more modern Mario controls, but still.
Super Mario Bros. 35 is fun and a novel idea, but it falls short with its main battle mechanic feeling like an afterthought during play. The extra enemies on the screen add some fun tension to this ultimate classic, up until the late game stagnates and stalemates. I would have liked to have seen this game mode integrated into Super Mario Maker 2 to allow a distinct replayable challenge vía player-made levels in addition to playing through the classic levels. Nevertheless, the game is free for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers and worth giving a go to see if you can come out on top at least once. Just get it while it’s still available.
Super Mario Bros. 35 is available now through March 31, 2021, on Nintendo Switch for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers.
Super Mario 35
Super Mario 35 is fun and a novel idea, but it falls short with its main battle mechanic feeling like an afterthought during play. The extra enemies on screen add some fun tension to this ultimate classic, up until the late game stagnates and stalemates.