Back in 2018, at the dawn of the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds phenomenon, designer Brendan Greene told Ars Technica he thought every genre—not just shooters—could potentially benefit from sampling the last-man-standing concept of the battle royale genre. Since then, games like Tetris 99 and Fall Guys have proven how flexible and robust that idea can be across the industry.
Super Mario Bros. 35 (available for free today through March 2021 as part of a Nintendo Switch Online subscription) should be a welcome addition to that collection, mixing the time-tested gameplay of the Mario series with the endless competition of the battle royale genre. Unfortunately, some odd design decisions have made my first day with the game a repetitive, overly simplistic mess that doesn’t feel like the game will have much staying power.
All hail the Fire Flower
Here are the basics: Super Mario Bros. 35 looks a lot more like Tetris 99 than it does PUBG or Fortnite. (No, 99 Marios aren’t dropping from a Koopa airship to find a single Princess Peach.) You and 34 online competitors get your own self-contained instance of levels from the original Super Mario Bros., and everyone plays the classic game simultaneously in isolation, as opposed to 35 Marios jumping around the same playfield. (You can see everyone else’s progress in tiny preview windows around the screen, and you’ll recognize when they’re underground or in a dungeon while you’re elsewhere).