Mario Sports Titles Should Go Beyond Mario Strikers’ Energetic Art Direction

I think it’s fair to say that Mario Strikers: Battle League wasn’t exactly an expected title at the time of its announcement. As for the lineup of Mario Sports spinoffs that could have been chosen for a 2022 sequel, the Strikers the series didn’t seem like a likely contender, with only two fairly well-regarded titles in the form of Mario Strikers in 2005 and Mario Strikers loaded respectively in 2007. Fifteen years later, and the new game Mario Strikers: Battle League quickly came and went from the speech, leaving behind mixed, perhaps even forgettable, impressions. I’m glad that’s the case, because it reminds me of a thought I’ve had for a long time about Mario sports titles: visually, they’re usually pretty uninspired.

“Usually” is a key word here, because of course there are glimpses of visual brilliance in these titles. To say they’re all bland would be doing the show a disservice. What I can say with confidence, however, is that there is clearly much more they could do, and Mario Strikers: Battle League demonstrates this better than any of them.

Mario Strikers 2D art

The Mario Strikers series, and especially its latest release battle league, shows us a small but tangible example of that quality missing from the multitude of Mario sports titles we’ve seen over the past decade: footage of a distinctive visual style. This can be seen in various aspects of the game, in its cover art, character designs, and animations, mimicking a visual direction that was loosely defined by the first game in the series in 2005.

Super Mario Strikers for GameCube launched with a particularly energetic cover art that says a lot about the game’s aesthetic intentions, even if it doesn’t pay off in the game itself. The cover depicts Mario on a soccer field, kicking the ball towards the opposing goal, but what it shows us is much less impressive compared to how it shows it. The somewhat aggressive style uses scuffed, messy, overlapping lines as a form of shading to give bold definition to these iconic characters. Back in 2005, it was surprising to see Mario’s iconic lineup of characters rendered in this way.

Mario Strikers Charged Mario Special Attack

Unfortunately, 3D models of Super Mario Strikers Don’t try to render these characters analogous to this exciting 2D illustration, go for a more generic look. The Wii suite, Mario Strikers loaded, loosely attempted to bridge the 2D look of the series with 3D assets, adding elements of the visceral aspect of the original art style to the game’s special moves, but ultimately settles for something that only reaches not its full potential. In 2014, Unseen64 uncovered details of content cut from Mario Strikers loadedand it’s interesting to note the variety of ideas that were left out of the final game, especially the stadium designs, which seemed to try to match the energy of the “cutting edge” 2D artwork. “.

Mario Strikers: Battle League Shows visual brilliance tips

Which brings us many years later to Mario Strikers: Battle League, a game that understands what makes the series’ 2D artwork compelling and finds how to incorporate some of its magic into the game itself, though again it doesn’t go all the way to its true potential. For all of battle leagueThe faux pas, the way the characters seamlessly transform into their special attacks by becoming cel-shaded, messy avatars against a brightly colored background is truly something to behold.

For the first time in the history of the series, something in a Mario Strikers game fully captures the look and feel of its cover artwork. When Donkey Kong gobbles up a banana and launches into his volley of punches, I believe in the raw determination depicted therein, that is, I think battle league nails that particular element.

Mario Strikers Battle League Peach Special Attack

But despite the quality battle league often looks like, and how it sometimes conjures up a vision of what a more visually entertaining Mario sports title might look like, I can’t help but yearn for more. Not just for Blittle league, but whichever Mario Sports spin-off we’re about to follow. There are many dormant Mario sports concepts (Mario Hoops 3×3-2, anyone?) alongside many still unexplored, so there are plenty of opportunities for these games to tackle new, engaging visual styles as a means of attract people.

Upcoming Mario sports games could do a whole lot more

We’ve seen many interesting visual renditions of Mario outside of its core platforms. All Mario RPGs, from paper mario at Superstar Saga, give us a taste of the iconic plumber brought to us from a different artistic angle. So would it be so hard for the next one Mario Super Punchers make a Kirby’s Epic Yarn and give us the Mario baseball-inspired arts and crafts experience we all deserve? It’s a strange example, of course, but it’s one that could interest me and many others if it were to manifest itself in reality.

Given that Mario sports titles are now commonplace, it’s safe to say that they would have a lot more impact if they each had a unique aesthetic. Now that we’ve recently had new entries for Mario Golf and Mario Strikers, we know it’s only a matter of time before the next Mario Tennis arrives, and I have little doubt that in terms in design and art direction, it will look functionally similar to the previous game in the series, based on what the history of these titles has shown us.

Mario Strikers Battle League's Energized Mario

The Mario character designs are iconic, of course, and in many ways the default method of depicting them in Mario sports titles is usually adequate. But the iconic nature of their designs, alongside the pristine nature of a Mario sports game, is exactly what makes them perfect for adapting to a range of creative visual styles. Why can’t the next Mario Tennis game be 2D, or clay-mation, or emulate the Nintendo 64 graphical style? You know, just for fun.

Given that the Nintendo Switch isn’t capable of the highest fidelity graphics, it seems logical to lean into a more ambitious or wacky art direction to make up for disappointing visuals elsewhere. If a particularly bold style were chosen, that kind of approach could liven up what many might consider an outdated part of Nintendo’s annual releases.

With Mario Strikers: Battle League, there’s hope that the developers behind the upcoming Mario sports title will see the splashes of color and energy present in the game’s visuals and be inspired to go even further beyond incremental milestones. It’s a winning goal waiting to be scored; someone just needs to shoot.

Christopher S. Washington