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Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Review

  • First Released Aug 29, 2017
  • Reviewed Aug 28, 2017
  • NS

A new kind of Mario party

How Ubisoft's Rabbids become intertwined with Nintendo's Mushroom Kingdom, featuring Mario and friends, is unimportant. Ambivalence towards Rabbid-style toilet humor might cause you to question this dubious marriage, but there's an admirable and wholehearted commitment in Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle that triumphs in creating a magical game world that is undeniably delightful, and within it, houses a deep, challenging turn-based tactical combat system.

The invasion of the dimwitted Rabbids brings out the sillier side of the Mushroom Kingdom, reminiscent of the Mario & Luigi RPG series, but with some interesting oddities. The humor is self-aware, a little more twisted, and conscious of the real world. This is likely the first time we've seen Mario's email get hacked, or heard antagonists threaten the plumber with actual death, for instance. But there's so much charm packed into every cartoony crevice of Mario + Rabbids--everything from the vibrant world, the incredibly expressive enemy animations, right down to the chuckle-worthy text descriptions of every item--that it's hard not to find something that makes you smile. But the most significant and strangest disruption to the lives of the Mario Bros. (aside from their new, creepy, Rabbid doppelganger allies) are guns, explosives, and an imperative to use them.

Those familiar with Firaxis Games' reboot of the XCOM series will know what to expect: Turn-based conflicts take place on a gridded, isometric battlefield where projectile weapons, cover, and flanking are a major focus. However, Kingdom Battle twists that design heavily by introducing abilities and options which encourage a more aggressive style of fighting, as well as situational urgencies to create a faster-paced, more exciting ebb and flow to battle compared to its influences.

Unlike other tactical games, combatants are allowed to perform movement, attacks, and special abilities in a single turn and in any order. This means using a special ability doesn't stop you from attacking during that same turn, movement doesn't need to be your first consideration, and you don't need to finish performing all actions with one character before using another. Characters also can use their movement phase to attack, by selecting enemies to "dash" into on the way to an end point, and reach out-of-range locations by moving into allies and getting a boost, a technique called 'team jump'. A variety of special abilities across characters allow you to perform actions such as increase weapon damage, scare enemies away from a location, and attack on enemy movement--a parallel to XCOM's Overwatch ability. Altogether, the flexibility of how these abilities can be used and how they can be combined, as well as the reward incentive for exceptional performance, means that you're pushed to perform elaborate team maneuvers every turn and take big, satisfying risks.

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You might use Rabbid Luigi to dash through an enemy and into cover (stealing health at the same time), finish them off with a shot from his Bworb weapon, and send Mario in to use Rabbid Luigi as a springboard to execute a team jump and stomp on the head of another enemy hiding behind cover, softening them up for a finisher with Mario's hammer. Or, you could use Rabbid Mario's Magnet Dance ability to draw three enemies closer together, use his movement ability to Boom Dash through them all before returning to safety, before switching over to Luigi and activating his Steely Stare ability to attack enemies on movement. Then, you can send in an explosive Sentry drone which bounces the group of enemies up into the air, whereby Steely Stare is activated and Luigi snipes--and eliminates--each enemy like a clay pigeon, proving himself as the cold-blooded deadshot he has always been. Finding opportunities to perform complex action strings like these and having them pay off is incredibly exhilarating, and it's in these moments where Kingdom Battle is its best.

But these moments don't happen all the time, and they're not always worth the risk. Reaching these highs in battle is all the more sweeter since the combat design incorporates factors that constantly keeps you on your toes. Most cover is easily destroyed, for example, and a firing position you set yourself up in at the end of your last turn can just as easily be vapourised by the first enemy to act, leaving you completely exposed to follow-up attacks. Similarly, you could be hit by a weapon with a super effect, potentially setting you on fire and causing you to run out of cover like a maniac, or blocking your ability to perform certain actions.

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Enemy Rabbids can be highly aggressive and cunning, especially in later stages. Rabbid Smashers gain free movement and can potentially hurt your team with devastating attacks if you hit them during your turn. Rabbid Shield Bucklers can only be hurt from the side or from behind, but also pack a powerful weapons that shred through destructible cover and can bounce your team around the map, making it hard to get the upper hand. You could also be the cause of your own demise, since friendly fire is a factor, and powerful characters like Peach, Rabbid Mario, and Yoshi specialise in area-of-effect damage. Escort and traversal missions, as well as the handful of boss battles, introduce additional objectives to chase. On top of that, you'll have to keep in mind the long cooldowns on secondary weapons and special abilities, as well as your party's health status, which persists within a chapter--a close victory might mean using the same team members in the next fight puts you at a disadvantage. Kingdom Battle's combat will have you agonising over every facet of every possible action during each of your turns, hoping you make it out okay enough to keep fighting, and well enough for a 'Perfect' grade to earn more coins and Power Orbs needed for upgrades.

Thankfully, agonizing is made easy because of the game's clean combat interface and the clear communication of pertinent information. At a glance, you're able to see the kinds of actions your team members still have available to perform in a turn. Full and half cover is clearly marked, and the visual design of the arenas makes it obvious what is and isn't destructible. Kingdom Battle uses a numerical percentage system to denote the chance for an attack to make contact, but unlike its clearest inspiration, XCOM, the only numbers you'll see are 0%, 50%, and 100%. This means you know what the hit outcome of your attack will be with confidence--including how much health you'll take off and whether your attack will eliminate the enemy--or you'll be completely certain that the outcome will be uncertain. There's a larger variety of chance when it comes to inflicting status effects, but at no point will you throw your hands up in frustration because Princess Peach missed a 90% probability shotgun blast to a Rabbid's stupid face.

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Kingdom Battle also features an incredibly useful tactical camera view, which can be used both before and during battle. Here, the camera pulls back and gives you an opportunity to better survey the landscape freely, and get precise information on the movement, abilities, and attack ranges of your foes. The game also gives you the option to completely redistribute character skill points on a whim, and restart a skirmish at any time--both without punishment. You might find yourself fighting a losing battle due to completely unsuitable team composition, but Kingdom Battle encourages you to experiment with different strategies by restarting the mission, re-surveying the battlefield, swapping out team members, and changing their strengths in order to suit the situation. The game offers an easy mode option that boosts your team's health, but still demands the same tactical thinking. The result is that, despite its difficulty, Kingdom Battle radiates a feeling of encouragement much more than it does frustration in its mechanical design alone.

There's another layer on top of that, though. Outside of the battles, you run Mario and friends through the silly, lighthearted world of a Mushroom Kingdom that's been invaded by butt-scratching Rabbids and their slapstick antics, and spending time in this world is the perfect dose of positivity to keep you going after a tough fight. It's the seamlessness of the world which gives Kingdom Battle its greatest feeling of character and place--exploration and puzzle segments blend into battle arenas, and a small checkpoint banner is the only distinction between stages. Each world feels like a huge, tangible location as a result. Mildly challenging environmental puzzles occasionally gate the way forward, but never halt the pace of events, and mainstays of Mario platforming games, such as red rings and coin rooms, provide the odd distraction every once in awhile. There are compelling reasons to go back and revisit worlds, too. Upon the completion of an area for the first time, you'll unlock a new exploration ability and are invited to search previously inaccessible areas for chests and secret stages, as well as take on new challenge battles for additional rewards.

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There were some slight technical imperfections that occurred during our playthrough. Clipping would occasionally occur during scene transitions, and framerates would sometimes drop visibly in combat during cinematic action shots, especially those with a large amount of particle effects. On rare occasions, characters and enemies would become stuck, meaning we were forced to load from checkpoints and restart battles. But the sting of these problems was quickly forgotten, washed away by the attractive world, absorbing battles, and lovely orchestral reinterpretations of classic Mario themes.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle exudes off-beat optimism that never dissolves. It's a consistent delight, no matter how challenging the road becomes, because Kingdom Battle's unique turn-based tactics system is in every way a pleasure to engage with. Coupled with the annoyingly infectious allure of Rabbids, and the always delightful, colorful world of the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is an implausibly engrossing formula that is positively challenging and endlessly charming.

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The Good
Deep and exciting turn-based combat system
Satisfyingly challenging difficulty
Flexible options and helpful tools encourage progress and experimentation
An undeniably charming, vibrant world
The Bad
Some minor technical imperfections
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Edmond Tran loves turn-based strategy, and has been into tactical games ever since he played Front Mission 3. He's also one of those people that owns too many Amiibo. GameSpot was provided a complimentary copy for the purposes of review.
291 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for moviespot

Kid games are for nintendos

Avatar image for jimmieb90

It's not bad it's just not a challenge or fun

You walk down a linear corridor, fight some guys - by which I mean you move around the arena turn based and shoot the guys (there are very little tactics to it) then carry on down the corridor & occasionally some rabbids being "wacky" are pointed out. That's about it

Avatar image for PicklesHardly

@jimmieb90: Surely if a game is neither challenging or fun then it's bad?

How far through did you get though? I'm just curious because your comments through this thread don't read true of the game. There are plenty of tactics to the game beyond the first world, and they are absolutely crucial to beating the entire game including challenges. I don't mind, if you don't like the game you don't like the game, and that's fine. But if you gave up on it early I would encourage you to stick with it for a bit longer.

Avatar image for mattock1987

I just bought it, it's like XCOM, only fun.

Avatar image for romeothebeast

What's up with all the "Nintendo games are for kids" comments? Must be coming from teens because I refuse to believe grown men give a shit about what "society" thinks of us. I'm in my 30's and though I don't own a switch I'd play a Mario game in public no problem.

Avatar image for jimmieb90

@romeothebeast: played mario cart 8 deluxe on the train with a stranger the other day - it was excellent, I'm 27 and I'd say he was a similar age lol

Avatar image for Shadowmax889

So i have to post this quote again so haters can learn.

“Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence... When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” C.S. Lewis

Avatar image for silv3rst0rm

My love for this game started slow as I tought at first it was a bit shallow and easy but now that I'm midway through world 2 and some more strategies/perks are involved, I'm falling more and more into it!

It reminds me of my good 'ole days playing Final Fantasy Tactics!
(Which my love for grew over time too!)

At first it was rather easy as most ennemies could only do simple attacks but as I'm getting farther into it, now ennemies heal, counter attack, do AOE, etc, it requires more strategy!

I'm glad I got this game as it's a great game to pickup and do only 1-2 battle for 10-15 mins or spend hours into!

Great great game!

Avatar image for super-khalid89

What do you think guys! is it time to buy the switch?

Avatar image for Gemmol

@super-khalid89: my cousin looking for one now in new york

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

Another thing that I would point out about this game is that it lets players plot movement paths for characters. That is something many present-day tactical turn-based games do not have, if they are not using the ages-old Time Unit system.

Avatar image for mari3k

Heard that it is too eazy for (smart) adult gamers....

Avatar image for jimmieb90

@mari3k: you hear right, it's easy to a dull level, very simplistic almost no tactics, just shoot the dude

Avatar image for tibua

@mari3k: it's very easy, but still fun

Avatar image for jkittleson

@mari3k: this game is very difficult.Your that person that I could tell you something and you'ld believe it.Sort of like how a kid would think.

Avatar image for xolivierx

I just had an epiphany.

Yes, Nintendo does make games for kids. It always has. I think most gamers that want Nintendo to release more ''mature'' games just don't realize something. You grew up with Nintendo. You've experienced its magic during your childhood.

You just wish you could re-live the same magic again in the form of mature games. Because if you grew up with Nintendo products, you know they deliver a unique experience and you know they are very genuine(in general). Therefore you can only dream of this kind of experience but without all that cartoonish crap.

The thing is Nintendo's always been the same(even though they don't really compete in terms of graphics). You, on the other hand, evolved.

Avatar image for locknuts84

This would be awesome to play with my daughter. Not reason enough to buy a Switch yet though.

Avatar image for Cikatriz_ESP

Anyone who gets offended by the mere sight of the words "Down syndrome" can go **** themselves. People like you having a stick up your ass are the reason we all have to suffer through a Donald Trump presidency.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

I don't see a lot of turn-based tactical games in which player characters can help each other boost-jump, as shown here. Not even XCOM does this.

The previous game which does have this that I have played is Chroma Squad, but the rest of that game's complexity leaves much to be desired.

Avatar image for xolivierx

@Gelugon_baat: AGREED! It kind of reminds me of Mario RPG. This game was a bold move.

There are hundreds of iterations of Mario. Not every single of them delivers that little special thing that makes it unique.

This game seems to have that uniqueness. Just as Mario RPG did.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

If there is DLC for this game, it would involve Rayman and pals.

Avatar image for wexorian

@Gelugon_baat: That's up for sequel i bet on IT, Rabbids will do same but acidently will integrate it with rayman world :D

Avatar image for riclyrex

Lol, its like these haters are proud of being grown ass men playing video games. News flash, you're still viewed as a kid by society even if your play "Mature" games.

Avatar image for bojan_sokol

Xcom for kids

Avatar image for IMAHAPYHIPPO

@bojan_sokol: I think they just call that XCom.

Avatar image for mari3k

@IMAHAPYHIPPO: nope, fps are for kids... usually they cant stand turn based games and games where you have to use your brain

Avatar image for Mogan

@mari3k: -_-

Avatar image for IMAHAPYHIPPO

@mari3k: Calling things childish in an Internet comments section is for kids.

Avatar image for GiveMeSomething

@IMAHAPYHIPPO: using the word kids is for kids

Avatar image for IMAHAPYHIPPO

@GiveMeSomething: kids are for kids!

Avatar image for casshan01

Pass, dont care if it got a 9. Still a kids game. How about nintendo grow TF up.

Avatar image for indzman

@casshan01: Agree completely.Nintendo should publish more games as Zelda or Bayonetta 2 or X.Im tired seeing all these Mario,Pokemon games.

Avatar image for casshan01

@asmoddeuss: Correct sir. I actually use WORDS and not abbreviations like yourself who is a kid. I also know a good game and not a kiddy game like this one that you agree with.....just like a kid as yourself.

Avatar image for asmoddeuss

@casshan01: Ok

Avatar image for YearoftheSnake5

@casshan01: Dat insecurity...

Avatar image for youngspark

I can't wait to try this out. I believe this will be the first tactical game that doesn't lose my interest.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a26ae86370e4

@metalboi: It just shows that they have nothing to trash and they're pulling the easiest and dumbest card out.

Avatar image for wicked_laugh

@metalboi: I'm going to assume most of them are Xbox fanboys that are mad because what is essentially an emulator with only 20 some games has more hype than their new uber power box.

Avatar image for angrycreep

@wicked_laugh: I have to disagree with you and I'm 99.9 percent sure that most of them are PS fanboys, they act and behave like them.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@metalboi: Yeah, dude. I have heard that for ages.

Some games for kids are better designed than some games with higher age ratings anyway.

Avatar image for amoox

Wow, did not expect a 9/10. at most a 8/10 and even that felt unlikely. Color me impressed, Nintendo/Ubi.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle More Info

  • First Released Aug 29, 2017
    • Nintendo Switch
    Mario's world gets invaded by the rascally Rabbids from the Ubisoft universe, creating an unprecedented tactical strategy game in the Mario universe.
    Average Rating46 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
    Developed by:
    Ubisoft Milan
    Published by:
    Ubisoft, Nintendo
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief, Mild Language