Battle royale is one of the most dominant gameplay forms of the last few years, and Tetris 99 showed that you could apply the battle royale concept to anything. Mario Royale turns the classic NES game into a 75-person death race that’s some of the most fun I’ve had all year.
Mario Royale, which can currently be played in web browsers, is the creation of a YouTuber and programmer named InfernoPlus and pits 75 players against each other in a race through one world of Super Mario Bros. or The Lost Levels. Players can’t directly interact with each other—a Mario can’t stomp on another Mario—but power-ups like fire flowers and invincibility stars do allow players to take each other out. That’s not really the point, though; Mario Royale is a sort of collective race to the finish. Only the first three players to make it to the end of four levels will end up on the winner’s pedestal. The real challenge is making sure your platforming skills are up to par and that you can avoid goombas and clear jumps amidst all the chaos.
At one time, I might have felt like the idea of battle royale is worn out, or that it’s a fad games need to stop chasing. Mario Royale proves there are still creative ways to approach mass competitive modes like battle royale. The experience of playing a Mario Royale match is unique, and adjusting to incoming koopa shells or ducking under fireballs is as intense as dodging enemy gunfire on PUBG or Apex Legends.
And because Mario Royale is partially a race, there are all sorts of ways to play. Do you try to get items and destroy the competition? Do you speedrun through levels? Do you take it steady and win through careful progress? These are all viable options. There’s a silliness here that makes each option a wacky spectacle, even as each option is also a worthwhile strategy. It only takes a handful of minutes to play a match, but you always walk away with a cool story.
Unfortunately, Nintendo is notorious for issuing takedowns of fan projects, and this game might be in danger of that as well. (InfernoPlus acknowledges as much in his announcement trailer, which folks have called my attention to after publication and is unfortunately colored with some memelord racist trash about drawing Miyamoto’s ire. Seriously, what the fuck, InfernoPlus?) Major works like the Metroid 2 remake AM2R and the procedural exploration game No Mario’s Sky fell victim to DMCA takedown requests from Nintendo when they were out, and now that word of mouth is spreading about this game, too, it’s hard to say how long Mario Royale will last.
That’s a shame, because Mario Royale is such a fun blast of competitive energy, and it’s approachable for players of all skill sets. Everyone should have a chance to play it. Give it go while you can, and enjoy one of the silliest games of 2019 before it needs to be rebranded as “Generic Hopping Man Royale.”