Nintendo Switch Review: Mario vs. Donkey Kong

Gaming’s oldest rivalry heats up once more…

Run, jump, and backflip your way to rescuing the stolen Mini-Mario toys in this puzzling twist on Mario action. Obstacles like spikes, moving platforms, and falling bricks stand in your way – put your brain to work and figure out the best way to reach the Mini-Marios. The rivalry that originally heated up on the Game Boy Advance system reignites on the Nintendo Switch system with newly-added co-op play and updated visuals.

I always thought it was funny that up until the GBA original of Mario vs Donkey Kong, Nintendo had let the two bury the hatchet. Especially since DK tried to kidnap Pauline in the original 1981 arcade game and the other “Donkey Kong” titles before Donkey Kong Country. While Donkey Kong’s mellowed since then, the story goes that there are Mini-Mario toys that are apparently sold out everywhere, so he goes “bananas” (sorry, couldn’t resist) and breaks into a toy factory to steal the remaining ones before Mario pursues him.

It’s not the greatest reason for them to revive their rivalry, but it does enough to get things cooking. The game itself is not as much a platformer as it is a puzzle game, it’s more aligned to the original Donkey Kong games with it’s controls and layout. You will need to climb ladders, grab hammers to smash enemies, grab keys to open doors and flip switches to reach the doors or to get to Mini-Marios.

Each level is short, but after a while you’ll have a boss fight against Donkey Kong which can result in you throwing barrels at him while he flips switches for coloured blocks to appear and disappear or other surprises down the line. There’s also a stage where you need to get the Mini-Marios to follow you to a present box for shipping which is more puzzle-like than the rest of the game.

This is a remake of the original GBA game but with new additions. There are two new worlds, an amusement park called Merry Mini-Land and the icy mountain of Slippery Summit, which adds up to 30 extra stages. Toad can join the fun as a second player via co-op and there’s two play styles to choose from. Classic is what you’d expect, but Casual does away with the time limit, adds checkpoints and even lets Mario take 5 hits before Game Over.

The controls are easy to get to grips with and it handles well. The enhanced visuals are well done and the game runs at a steady framerate with no drops, plus load times are short. The music is classic Nintendo and even has sound effects that pay homage to the original Donkey Kong arcade game.

The Verdict

This isn’t the next Super Mario Wonder or Donkey Kong Country Returns, but it’s a damn good puzzle-platformer. A solid remake with some worthy additional content and spruced up visuals. A treat for anyone who missed out or played the original GBA outing.

Score: 8.5