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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Nintendo Switch Reviews L-M

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Grade: A+
Publisher: Nintendo (2017)
Posted: 2017/5/9
Rating: Everyone 10+ (fantasy violence, mild suggestive themes, use of alcohol)

screenshotWe all knew full well that Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was going to be good. It was in development for five years for crying out loud! This journey begins with Link emerging from a 100-year slumber and gazing across a sunny rolling landscape of distant castles, ruins, and volcanoes. I usually stick to the main quest in open-world games, yet Breath of the Wild made me want to explore every inch of its vast uncharted wilderness.

That's partly due to the tight, responsive controls. The dash move lets you cover a lot of ground in a hurry, and the new climbing controls mean nowhere is out of reach. The crisp, cell-shaded graphics are more realistic than previous Zeldas but still possess an anime charm. The control scheme is so well designed that sifting through your inventory is a pleasure.

In addition to a captivating storyline there are endless side quests and over 100 shrines scattered around the world. Each shrine is a dungeon offering mind-bending challenges requiring you employ the powers of magnetism, time, fire, and energy. As jaded as I am, I found myself constantly amazed at this game's ingenuity. Awe-inspiring boss encounters feature four "divine beasts" which brought back fond memories of Shadow of the Colossus (PS2, 2005).

I was skeptical about some of the new features. but they won me over. The stamina meter adds a lot of suspense as you try to climb a peak without losing your grip. I scoffed at the idea of cooking, yet it turns out to be surprisingly entertaining to toss ingredients into a pot and see what comes out. The fact that weapons break down adds a layer of strategy as you try to conserve your best items for the toughest beasts.

Breath of the Wild is a massive game that will not only dominate your Switch but leave your other systems starved for attention. An NES-style manual would have been nice, but frankly it's hard to find fault with this. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a title you'll anxiously look forward to playing every day after school or work, and when was the last time a game made you feel like that? © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Grade: B
Publisher: Nintendo (2023)
Posted: 2023/9/25
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotThis new Zelda may recycle the engine of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch, 2017), but it's a completely different animal. Tears of the Kingdom is flush with new ideas that will force you to think in different ways. Much of the game takes place on massive floating islands, so watch your step! A thinking-man's Zelda, Tears places heavy emphasis on construction, allowing you to build sophisticated devices to overcome challenges.

Link is once again out to save Zelda, this time with the help of a bionic arm that allows him to levitate large objects and attach them together to build structures like bridges or rafts. Link can also fuse items together to make weapons extra effective. He can turn back time to travel to ride up a waterfall. Most impressive is his "arise" ability which lets him pass upward through solid earth, emerging on top. It's a simple yet boldly original concept.

The artistic graphics get the job done but the oversaturated colors can make the landscape look a little harsh, especially when the sun is beating down. As you wander the mountainous landscape you'll sneak around avoiding freaky robotic creatures made of green stone. You'll enter shrines that imbue you with new powers and give you the opportunity to put them to work.

Like any Nintendo game, Tears helps you along by providing just the right items at the right times, whether it's arrows, explosive materials, or a specific cooking ingredient. The building aspect can yield big payoffs, like when you create a fan-powered rollercoaster. That is awesome.

I thought the cooking in the first game was a little much, but here you're crafting, fusing, and smelting. Weapons break after even minimal use, which is a bummer. I spent much of the game struggling to keep freezing to death. Maybe Link should put on some pants?

The maps are confusing, especially when they represent overlapping floating "islands". The mechanism for fusing objects together is so clumsy I wondered if I was doing it right. Likewise trying to orient an object in the correct position takes a lot of finagling. And trying to steer my horse feels so counterintuitive it gave me flashbacks of driving the Warthog in Halo (Xbox, 2001).

Tears of the Kingdom is a lot to digest. This adventure is less about action and more about problem solving. It's easily the most ambitious Zelda but also the most demanding. While brilliant at times, I just feel like it's just too much. I give Nintendo credit for pushing the limits, but for me the series has reached a tipping point. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Legendary Fishing
Grade: F
Publisher: Ubisoft (2018)
Posted: 2019/8/20
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI like a good fishing game but this one just sucks, man. The user interface is a nightmare. No matter what control scheme I tried to use the game complains it's not supported. "You cannot play with dual-controller grip in Arcade Mode. Please adjust your settings". WTF? Setting up a two-player contest was such a headache that Kevin and I completely gave up on it.

The single player experience feels like a colossal chore. Only one rod and lure is available from the outset. When trying to examine locked bait the menu automatically cycles through them all like your controller is broken. In terms of graphics Legendary Fishing would be a good-looking title... on the Wii. The water surface looks realistic but the scenery looks far too clean and artificial. After casting your line the camera focuses in on your lure just below the surface, removing any sense of suspense or mystery.

Hooking a fish isn't a challenge because there's always plenty around. As several converge on your line a creepy announcer coos in your ear "Oooo - I like that! Here it comes!" We're still talking about "fishing", right? Once a fish is hooked the game goes from bad to worse. To keep the fish on the line you need to "center him" within some kind of half-assed viewfinder as he darts from side-to-side. Am I trying to catch a fish or snap a photo of the damn thing?! Trying to keep it in the frame is an agonizing experience, and your reel is so slow. Taking a picture of Bigfoot would be easier!

Adding insult to injury, the announcer won't shut up ("Get that fish!" "Get that fish!"). Legendary Fishing's career mode offers an extensive number of missions and locations, but what's the point if it's no fun? The only thing legendary about this game is its level of incompetence. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Luigi's Mansion 3
Grade: B-

screenshotI always enjoyed the innocent brand of "horror" served up by the Luigi's Mansion (GameCube, 2001) series. This third edition takes place in an expansive hotel, opening up the possibilities for all sorts of unlikely paranormal hijinx. Each floor offers a unique location to explore, including a shopping center, plant conservatory, restaurant, concert hall, and even a Medieval Times arena!

Luigi is outfitted with a ghost vacuum that doubles as a flashlight, blower, black light, and plunger shooter. I feel like Luigi's Mansion 3 wasn't so much programmed as crafted. Each room has its own story to tell, chock full of clever puzzles, loot, and hidden secrets. The hotel exudes atmosphere with stereo storm effects and terrific situational music. The music is the arena has a distinctive Game of Thrones vibe, and I love the hilarious "cop show" music that kicks in during the shopping stage. The pictures on the wall are vaguely creepy, typically depicting a dark figure in the woods.

Fighting ghosts requires scaring them with your flashlight before sucking them up with your vacuum. I love how smaller ghosts scream with high-pitched voices, sounding like my cat being restrained. A new teamwork element is facilitated by Luigi's doppelganger "Gooigi" - combination T-1000 shape-changer and green Jello.

What's surprising is the game's destruction quotient. You can wreck everything in sight, causing copious coins, gold bars, and dollar bills to pour forth. Raising havoc in the dining hall reminded me of Ghostbusters. In the conservatory you even get a chainsaw attachment, letting you reduce furniture to splinters.

The fact that a Virtual Boy serves as your radar display provides tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating humor. The puzzles are devilishly clever from the start but soon progress to the "try anything" variety before becoming so obtuse even YouTube can't help. The controls are problematic as well. I felt as if I needed an extra set of thumbs to pull off certain maneuvers until I learned the shoulder buttons can duplicate the face button functions. So why does the game train you to use the face buttons in the first place? This is why we need manuals. Luigi's Mansion 3 is inventive and charming but may be too clever for its own good. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Grade: B
Publisher: Ubisoft (2017)
Posted: 2018/2/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotConsidering Ubisoft's sketchy track record as of late, Mario + Rabbids comes as a pleasant surprise. Kingdom Battle has the look and feel of an Nintendo title, and that is high praise indeed. It's a turn-based "strategy lite" title designed for casual gamers. Like a kid-friendly version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Xbox 360, 2012), it features wacky characters, simplified gameplay, and a gently-ramping difficulty.

During the chaotic intro mischievous "rabbids" wreak havoc with a virtual reality machine, causing objects to fuse together with crazy results. To restore order Mario finds himself teaming up with two friendly "cosplay" rabbids (dressed as Peach and Luigi) in a fanciful world that looks like a Candyland board game. There's some lightweight puzzles and exploration but the game is mostly a series of short battles.

During each turn you methodically position your three characters, attack exposed enemies, and employ special abilities (like healing or weaken) to tilt the advantage. The first few battles are mindlessly simple and it takes a while for the game to gain traction. But once you get down to business Kingdom Battle is one heck of a good time. Battle concepts tend to build upon each other and the multi-tiered environments provide all sorts of strategic possibilities. Each character can cover a lot of ground per turn by utilizing transportation pipes and "team jump" techniques.

The graphics look extremely polished and the shimmering blue water is gorgeous. I noticed a few collision detection and camera issues but not nearly enough to derail the fun. The cut-scenes are funny and I found the frequent "progress saved" messages reassuring. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle isn't the type of game I'd play for hours on end, but it's a terrific option if you're in the mood for a quick fix. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Mario Golf: Super Rush
Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (2021)
Posted: 2021/7/22
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI was a bit wary of Mario Golf: Super Rush after suffering through the gimmick-laden debacle Mario Tennis Aces (Nintendo, 2018). I'm all for spicing up a sport with video game magic, but not to the point where it ceases to be a sport! Mario Golf strikes a reasonable balance with simple controls, brisk pacing, and only the occasional physics-defying "super shot". Built upon decades of golf game experience, Super Rush combines time-tested mechanics (three-press swing meter) with a few new twists (bending your shot while swinging). Despite its polished look however this game has its share of odd missteps.

At first the course selection is sparse. I figured the Golf Adventure mode would teach me the ropes while unlocking courses. That's exactly what it does... only at a glacial pace. If you've played any golf game in your life you'll be bored stiff. Not only is the difficulty non-existent, you're forced to sit through endless excessively-cute banter between characters. Fortunately there is a much less painful way to unlock all the courses.

Teeing off feels practically effortless thanks to an oversized shot meter that indicates the distance to the green and hole right on the meter itself. Bending your shot and applying backspin is done while the meter is in motion, and this adds challenge but feels surprisingly awkward. There are some occasional power-ups but they aren't really an integral part of the game. Speeding things up is the ability to hold B to expedite your rolls, and anything close to the cup is an automatic tap-in. You can play 18 holes in well under a half hour.

Super Rush is the easiest golf game I've ever played and frankly it's not even close. The wide fairways and expansive greens are really hard to miss. The actual holes are twice as big as normal - if my frequent hole-in-ones and long-distance chip-ins are any indication. While putting your character is transparent, but he's so hard to see you can't tell what player is up! Also, am I putting uphill or down? This basic information is not obvious.

One pleasant surprise is "speed golf" mode. It's such a natural fit for a video game I can't believe it hasn't been tried before. Instead of taking turns, players freely whack away at the ball, chasing their shots and trying to be the first to get the ball in the cup. You can even shove opponents while dashing down the fairway. It's a great party game that I'd love to try with four players.

Mario Golf is pleasant but unremarkable. There are only six courses but the holes are well-designed with an eye towards risk versus reward. Advanced courses include hazards like wind-blowing clouds, thunder storms, and creatures patrolling the fairways. Once I unlocked all the courses my interest in single-player mode waned. The adventure mode is a drudge but the multiplayer is prime "couch" material. Mario Golf: Super Rush may be uneven in quality but with a friend or two on hand this is instant fun. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (2017)
Posted: 2017/5/11
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSo Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a blatant rehash. It's still the best kart racer you've ever played! The original Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, 2014) was spectacular, save for a weak battle mode. With Deluxe that oversight has been addressed to the full extent of the law. Instead of taking shots at players while doing laps, you battle in layered arenas with all sorts of interleaving, criss crossing paths. It's chaotic, exhilarating, and with eight players per match there are always plenty of targets.

Fun locations include Luigi's Mansion, a Japanese temple, a lunar colony, and a stage inspired by Splatoon (Wii U, 2015). All of the DLC released for the original game is "baked in", and since I never purchased any I was thrilled with the wide selection of characters and tracks. One drawback to having so much unlocked is there's little incentive to master each circuit, although you'll still win coins for upgrades.

The eye candy is mesmerizing as you race through a pristine airport, careen down jungle water slides, and zoom through an underwater kingdom. My personal favorite track is the rainy metropolis with its colorful neon lights (a la Blade Runner). Once I started playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe it was hard to stop. The gameplay is well balanced, although I wish there were more ways to defend yourself from shells. The controls feel great and the revving vibration is remarkable. Unless you are absolutely sick of Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U (not likely), this Deluxe version is a great investment. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Mario Strikers: Battle League
Grade: C-
Publisher: Nintendo (2022)
Posted: 2022/9/3
Rating: Everyone

screenshotConsidering the popularity of Mario Strikers Charged (Wii, 2007), this follow-up is long overdue. Battle League delivers frenetic arcade-style soccer supporting up to eight players (never gonna happen) with all your favorite characters decked out in their proper soccer attire.

Setting up a match itself can be a challenge, especially with multiple players. Why does the setup screen need to be so confusing? How can there be players P5 and P6 with only four people present? When I saw the option to equip "gear" I knew I was just looking at another microtransaction cash-in.

There are five arenas to choose from: Mushroom Hill, Jungle Retreat, Lava Castle, Royal Castle, and Spooky Mansion. Both teams can select a different venue, causing the two to be fused together down the middle! The resulting arena looks cool but has zero bearing on the game. Each contest is four minutes long, which feels just right.

Your players can pass, shoot, and tackle at will. The controls are never explained so it took me a while to figure them out. I like how you can charge your shots and aim with precision. Things get super hectic around the goal, making it hard to locate the ball - or your own player! It's a good thing the goalies are computer-controlled.

I thought my friends would really take to this, but they were underwhelmed. The camera is pulled way back and items wreck havoc on the field with random lightning strikes and explosions blowing chunks out of the field. Frankly I had more fun playing the solo cup battles. There's never a dull moment, except for the cute celebrations after each goal, followed by gratuitous replays from all angles.

Mario Strikers: Battle League suffers from the same malady as other modern Nintendo sports titles. The flashy visuals, super moves, and unnecessary items water down the actual sport. If you're going to employ gimmicks to level the playing field, they need to be applied in a measured way. As of late Nintendo doesn't know when to say when. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 8 players 

Mario Tennis Aces
Grade: D-
Publisher: Nintendo (2018)
Posted: 2018/7/12
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI was almost certain Mario Tennis Aces would be Nintendo's latest runaway hit, yet it turned out to be a gimmick-laden mess. The default adventure mode forces you to traverse a map with more mini-games and boss battles than actual tennis matches. In addition to standard shots (topspin, lob, backspin) there's a laundry list of special moves: star shots, charge shots, leap shots, power shots, slow-motion shots, trick shots, target shots, zone shots, and more! You can even initiate bullet time for Pete's sake!

I struggled mightily to grasp the complicated controls, and can't imagine trying to explain them to a friend. What's so objectionable about regular tennis? The exotic court locations (jungle, temple, haunted house) look nice but abound with gimmicks. The pirate ship court has a mast that deflects the ball and the haunted house court has floating mirrors that intercept your hits. Stuff like that may add variety but it's not particularly fun. I hated adventure mode and found no joy in tournament mode either.

Aces is less about playing tennis and more trying to figure out what crazy shot you can pull out of your ass. And do we really need to view an automatic replay after every point? When you're not skipping replays you're mashing buttons to page through the pointless dialog. Why does a tennis game need so much dialog? Most Nintendo sports titles lean toward the arcade end of the spectrum, but Mario Tennis Aces went completely off the deep end. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Metroid Dread
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (2021)
Posted: 2021/12/15
Rating: Teen

screenshotDating back to the original Metroid (NES, 1986) this popular franchise has experimented with a variety of play styles but you can't beat the classic 2D formula. Playing as nimble space soldier Samus Aran, you still navigate caverns, blast exotic creatures, and acquire items needed to progress.

That's not to say Metroid Dread doesn't take chances. It introduces freaky "EMMI" robots that patrol designated areas in each planet location. These ruthless hunters will track you like an animal and they are scary as [expletive]. They can walk upright or scurry around on all fours like General Grievous from Star Wars. These things put the dread into Metroid Dread.

Using stealth abilities to avoid wandering EMMIs is nerve-wracking to say the least. If you find yourself in the clutches of one, you can still make a last-ditch effort to escape, and I love how this dramatic struggle plays out like a micro-game.

With the right weapon you can destroy an EMMI but it requires a well-timed set of button presses that will have your fingers in knots. This game uses every single button and it made my hands hurt.

Metroid Dread is entirely too hard, even from the outset. It's very easy to get stuck if you don't know a certain "trick" or overlook a hidden breakable block. The game is a cycle of frustration and euphoria. Frustration when you're moving in circles and euphoria when you finally get a new "toy" to play with.

The map screen is critical but that tiny representation in the top corner is useless. The game is very boss-heavy and these encounters are repetitive to the max. Think you finally defeated that guy? You might face him four more times! Worse yet, my battles were interrupted by "this game closed due to software error" messages not once but twice.

Otherwise the production values are solid, with diverse environments, responsive controls, and amazing creature designs. The save points are ubiquitous and there are automatic saves after major encounters. There's some exceptionally creepy music, including one particular composition that sounds lifted from the film Psycho.

The less said about the storyline the better, as it's incomprehensible. If you persevere through the early stages however Metroid Dread proves its worth. It can become an obsession although at times it feels more like an endurance test. The developers must have built this game under the assumption the player would be referencing a walk-through the entire time. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
Grade: B+
Publisher: FDG Entertainment (2018)
Posted: 2019/5/24

screenshotAfter recently playing through the retro-flavored Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (PS4, 2017), Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom gave me a case of deja vu. It turns out Monster Boy is the spiritual successor to the Wonder Boy series. In this vibrant 2D platform adventure you play as a boy who can assume the form of several animals including a sniffing pig, a snake who can slither up walls, and a frog with a slingshot tongue.

The layered forests and colorful underwater scenes are a real feast for the eyes. The controls feel crisp and responsive, and if that laid-back, jazzy soundtrack doesn't put you in a good mood, nothing will. The various animal forms add variety and the weapons are fun too. The ability to hurl multiple boomerangs at a time is great, but even better is unleashing little tornados that bounce around and clear a path for you. The platform action is mixed with clever puzzles and I love the Zelda-esque fanfare that plays when you solve one.

As much as I enjoyed Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, the game did test my patience at times. It's frustrating when you're sinking in mud while trying to avoid a swooping bat, or getting pushed off a platform into a bed of spikes. Your pig has a "poke range" of about a millimeter. Switching weapons is a hassle. Instead of just clicking a shoulder button to cycle through them you need to select from a "wheel" using the right thumbstick.

Otherwise the game's polish is commendable. There are ample save points and if a boss is giving you a hard time, the game will begin doling out more hearts to give you a hand. The box contains a glossy, full-color booklet that harkens back to the NES days. Friendly, fun, and not too hard, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a good-looking title that's hard to dislike. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

MudRunner: American Wilds
Grade: F-
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive (2018)
Posted: 2020/12/27
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhy would an arcade junkie such as myself indulge in a tedious grind like MudRunner: American Wilds? Well, a few weeks ago I was watching one of those reality shows about tow truck drivers called in for the biggest, heaviest wrecks - an overturned tractor trailer for example. Watching these guys work was an awesome display of raw power and ingenuity. I guess I was hoping this game would be like that, but Mudrunner is more about performing fetch quests in the mud, using mechanisms like differential lock, winches, and all-wheel-drive to power through swamps and rocky streams.

It's a unique premise but is it fun? I think it could be fun, but the user interface is abysmal, the controls unresponsive, and the game is buggy in general. Every button serves some kind of function except what you need at a given time. You tend to get stuck in different control modes with no apparent way out. I constantly have to turn off my parking brake, despite never once turning it on. Good luck restoring your view if you inadvertently change it. The trucks move incredibly slow - even on the highway - and the controls are laggy as hell.

The first mission requires delivering logs to a mill. Okay, so where are the logs? Would you believe I had to check the internet for this information? From there I was in for a painstaking slog, moving like a snail through the hilly, muddy terrain, constantly getting stuck or incurring damage by some unseen rocks. The grimy trucks look realistic enough but the mud looks chunky and the grass grows before your eyes. Upon finally reaching the log depot I was told I couldn't load logs without installing the log carriage. Didn't I do that at the beginning?!

Demoralized, I gave the "challenge" mode a try. Once again I became hopelessly stuck early on while trying to hitch a trailer to my truck. MudRunner is awful. It won't be the first time I've described a game as an "ordeal", only this time I am not being facetious at all. You have been warned. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Mutant Football League
Grade: F
Publisher: Digital Dreams (2018)
Posted: 2019/2/24
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, drug reference, mature humor, strong language, violence)

screenshotThe original Mutant League Football (Genesis, 1993) was an offbeat sports game pitting monsters against each other on trap-laden fields. It looked good on paper but the action was choppy and the hazards proved more annoying than fun. Still, it was interesting in concept. This updated version actually has more in common with NFL Blitz (PS1, 1998). They even brought back the same announcer!

The teams are a mishmash of armored creatures including skeletons, werewolves, demons, aliens, and trolls. The action kicks off with a horribly non-intuitive kick meter, complete with incorrect on-screen instructions. The play-calling interface is easy enough although the play selection is paltry. It's easy to initiate a run or pass, but what happens next is hard to discern. With all those spikes, tails, and wings flying it's impossible to tell what the [expletive] is going on!

After a chaotic scrum you'll assume the play is dead, only to push the thumbstick up and continue running. It's hard to tell how a fumble or interception occurred, and no instant replay either. Hazards like spikes and mines add gratuitous gore, and occasionally players will brandish weapons like a shotgun or chainsaw! In a game like this where anything goes, how could there be penalties?! I had three touchdowns called back in a single game! So dumb.

I will admit the stadiums look awesome and some resemble gothic cathedrals. There's a little "shoot the ref" halftime game that plays like an overhead shooter. Wanton violence is something you would expect from a game like this, but who thought strong profanity was a good idea? The play-by-play is unfunny to begin with, and the raining F-bombs make it downright embarrassing. My friend Chris assured me that this game would be hilarious... if we were 12 years old. The problem is, this is supposed to be a mature (17+) title. I'm glad the quarters are mercifully short because I found Mutant Football League extremely hard to stomach. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, MobyGames.com, Nintendo Everything, Nintendo Life, Polygon, Nintendo Difference