Review: Mario vs Donkey Kong Switch Port Is Perfectly Fine
Image via Nintendo

Review: Mario vs Donkey Kong Switch Port Is Perfectly Fine

Nintendo decided to remind people the Mario vs Donkey Kong games didn’t always focus on puzzles with the Minis with a Switch port, and that’s great! It’s was a solid game before and, now that it’s back on a modern console with a few quality of life changes and additions, it’s once again a perfectly fine and enjoyable puzzle platformer. 

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Think of Mario vs Donkey Kong as an origin story for the Minis we see in subsequent installments. DK saw a commercial for cute Mario toys. He went to go buy some. They were sold out. So, like any reasonable individual subject to the supply and demand nature of corporate greed designed to incentivize splurging, he heads to the factory and steals all of the Minis. Mario happens to be walking past when this happens and assists the Toads by going to various worlds to reclaim the stolen figures and face DK.

Each world progresses in a similar way. There are six levels. Each one has a first half that involves finding a key and getting it to a door, which is a puzzle platformer challenge. Once you do, you reach a second half of a level that has one Mini at the end. After collecting all six Minis, you go through a stage where you have to guide the six through obstacles and hazards by leading them as Mario, getting blocks that spell out “TOY” so they can eventually be returned to the box. The number of Minis you save this way become Mario’s health points for the ensuing fight against DK in the final stage of each world. As with the original, finishing all the worlds means you unlock more difficult plus versions that involve leading a Mini Mario.

So really, some of the elements from the other Minis entries like Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis are here. You are just dealing with a time limit, limited health if you aren’t playing on the easier Casual difficulty that eliminates the health and timer limitations. Rather than typical Super Mario platformers, a big part involves knowing how to reach additional platforms, determining when Mario should do a handstand to gain access to his higher jump or prevent projectile damage, working out when switches should be flipped, and managing the movement of the key across levels. That final one can be especially critical, as you have 15 second when you aren’t holding it before it returns to its original placement and you often need to toss it into certain places and retrieve it later to progress.

As far as being a remake, a lot of what’s here in Mario vs Donkey Kong is designed to make it feel more comfortable on the Switch. The co-operative multiplayer feels like a nod to younger or newer players who might join with an older or more experienced one, given the base levels aren’t all that difficult. The Casual mode, likewise, feels like a response to that. Plus, it of course looks a little spiffier than it did before.

I do appreciate that some of it does feel geared toward making the experience a little more challenging as well. The new Merry Mini-Land and Slippery Summit worlds are both great. So much so that it almost feels out of place when you consider how much fun some of the new wind-blowing-flower and ice-floor mechanics are compared to the other stages. This was most evident with Merry Mini-Land, since it comes in after two worlds that are much less usual and don’t really stand out as much in terms of difficulty, while Slipper Summit is placed in such a way that the new mechanics and difficulty feel more appropriate when sandwiched in later. The new Time Attack feels like a nod to folks who know the game, get how to handle levels, and want to test themselves. Combine all this with the Expert levels, and it’s solid. 

It’s also nice to see some quality of life changes too. While it was always just me playing the game, knowing there are multiple save files in case I needed to be in a situation where I’d have to share was great. It’s also much easier to scroll around and get a better view of the level. This is especially helpful once you get past the first two worlds, given the sizes of the stages. I also must admit that I really did appreciate the Casual Mode once I turned it on to test it. It helped me better appreciate and investigate the design of the new worlds.

Though while what is here is great, I do have to admit it sometimes felt a bit like the remake, as a whole, was unnecessary. The new worlds are well done and add the the experience for sure. I really appreciated Time Attack! But if someone does have the original Game Boy Advance game, I don’t really see this as being the remake they need to play. Especially after the rather excellent Another Code: Recollection collection. As I went through it, it felt like something of a placeholder while waiting for the next big Switch game.

I like Mario vs Donkey Kong on the Switch a lot, mainly because I liked it a lot on the Game Boy Advance. This remake isn’t all that dissimilar, and that’s why I think it is so much fun. However, even with the new worlds and multiplayer option, it doesn’t feel all that different. If you missed it before and have never played it, then it is absolutely worth picking up. However, it is probably okay to start saving up for whatever Nintendo has planned next if you owned the original. 

Mario vs Donkey Kong will come to the Nintendo Switch on February 16, 2024.

Mario vs Donkey Kong

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. Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

Mario vs Donkey Kong is totally fine on the Switch, with levels and modes for players of all difficulty levels.

Food for Thought:
  • Of the two new worlds, I felt like Merry Mini-Land was the one that added the most value and challenge.
  • I really appreciated the care and design that went into making the Minis versions of all the enemies for this release.

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Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.