When I picked up Mario + Rabbids Kindgom Battle earlier this year, I knew I was in for a treat, but I had no clue of just how rewarding an experience it would be. The game had long been on my radar, but with so much else jockeying for my attention, it slowly faded from being a priority. It wasn’t until I happened to catch the game on sale that I jumped at the chance to finally see for myself just how good a title it was.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is exactly as its title says – it lays out battlegrounds between Mario and his familiar friends and the Rabbids, those oddball creatures that were spun off of the Rayman series years ago. After a bizarre incident merges these two universes, and some of its characters, over the Mushroom Kingdom, it’s up to Mario to save the day. Yes, Mario, again. Unless there’s some way to not make him your constant team leader…? But, Mario’s not alone in his journey. Here he’s able to take two companions, either of the merged sort: Rabbid Peach, Rabbid Luigi, Rabbid Mario, or Rabbid Yoshi; or not-merged: Peach, Luigi, or Yoshi. I tried out many different grouping throughout my first playthrough, but I tended towards the very first trio that’s made available – Mario, Rabbid Peach, and Rabbid Luigi. That eventually changed to Mario, Rabbid Peach, and Rabbid Yoshi. Once I got the real Yoshi, however, I swapped him in for Rabbid Yoshi, and that was my trio till the end.
Technically, though, Mario didn’t exactly lead the way throughout the game. That task was taken on by an endearing if somewhat mouthy robot named Beep-0. Like any good leader, Beep-0 always seemed to know just what to do at the right time, especially since he had a mysterious stranger named “F.B.” helping from afar. (I won’t spoil it, but the reveal of “F.B” was nicely done.) Beep-0 could perform various tasks, such as move block or carry objects, and garnered new abilities throughout the game. (Before the final boss, I attained most but not all of them, so it seems I have more to do.) While Beep-0 was a necessary part of getting from level to level, his abilities also opened up secrets upon secrets, so many secrets! Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle isn’t a huge game, but it’s designed with different planes of movement. If you’re just following the arrows to the next battleground, it’d be easy to miss secrets passages leading above or below or around or behind.
While I don’t have the numbers for it, I probably spent more time finding and opening up secret spots than I did in battle. The secret “prizes” often had little to do with gameplay, but occasionally I’d get something really useful, like power orbs that were needed to upgrade characters’ abilities. The game doesn’t offer exploration in the traditional sense – Beep-0 and crew were essentially “on rails” throughout – but there was still plenty to do and see, especially when it came to the Rabbids being Rabbids, within each of the games four areas and their individual eight levels.
As much fun as the game’s world was, its battles were the highlights. Save for a handful of titles (South Park: The Fractured But Whole comes most recently to mind), turn-based, tactical games are not in my wheelhouse. But, the game did a nice job of explaining the “rules” of player and enemy movement and actions available during each turn. It also allowed plenty of wiggle room for players to get used to the mechanics. The time given to adjust characters’ abilities, and even the team itself, before the beginning of each battle was a really nice touch. Though more often than not I just dove headfirst into battle without thinking, when I remembered to “fix” my team to meet the needs of any given battle, it paid off heartily. I spent much of the first world – Ancient Gardens – just bumbling around the battlegrounds hoping that luck would be on my side, which it was, mostly. That strategy didn’t work in later, harder worlds.
With difficulty in mind, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle never felt difficult or punishing. But the game definitely became more challenging in its later stages. If I tended to get stuck at one spot more often than others, it was at each worlds’ mid-bosses. Appearing at the middle of each world, as the name implies, battling these unusual characters (among so many unusual characters!) was unusually arduous, even when compared to each world’s end boss. The worst encounter was that of World 2’s mid-boss, the duo of Blizzy and Sandy. (The world was called the Sherbet Desert, hence the play on the hot and cold themes.) That fight made me put down but not fling, thankfully, the controller more than a few times. But it also showed me the importance of upgrading characters and changing the make-up of my team. I swapped characters in and out several times before finding the right communication to make this troubling mid-boss history.
Even with mid-boss and other hiccups, the pace of the game is nearly perfect. With frequent save points and easy access to each world/stage, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is great for when you have lots of time to play or, especially, only a little time to play. It became my go-to for when I needed to fill thirty minutes here and there. Even if I could only play long enough to complete a single battle, or work my way around a single puzzle, it still felt satisfying, and I could easily pick up where I left off then next time another spare thirty minutes rolled around. Add to that an amazing soundtrack, crisp graphics, and plenty of silly humor, and you’ve got yourself a darn fine game!
If you’re not as late to the Mario/Rabbids party as I am, then this piece is probably old news. If you’re not, then I can’t yell it loudly enough that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a must for any Nintendo Switch owner. It’s as delightful as it is challenging. It turns the Mario formula on its head in the best ways, and it provides hours of sheer enjoyment. From its sweetly charming moments, to its humor-filled drawl, to its harrowing yet gratifying ending, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is an excellent time.
All images, including lede, were taken by author during gameplay of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (© Ubisoft, Ubisoft Milan, Ubisoft Paris).