Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble Review: Bananas, Betrayal, Balls!

Bananas, betrayal, balls! All of this can be found in Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble!
Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble - Launch Trailer
Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble - Launch Trailer / SEGA

Title: Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble
Release Date: June 25, 2024
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Publishers: SEGA
Nintendo Switch (reviewed on)

My gaming journey, which some may call an obsession, began with the sixth generation of video game consoles, my first being the Nintendo GameCube. That generation was defined by innovative new intellectual properties that aimed to showcase how video game developers were mastering their understanding of the 3D frontier.

The Super Monkey Ball games are a fantastic example of how 3D platformers could redefine what the genre as a whole could be. Physics-based platforming was unheard of during the 2D era of gaming due to technical limitations. When 3D gaming swung the door of possibilities open, SEGA ran full force through it and created one of the most addicting series of games that has ever graced my television screen.

While the previous two entries on the Nintendo Switch, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD and Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania, were subpar compared to the originals on the Nintendo GameCube, Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble delivers everything that fans have been asking for and more! Three major additions to this game make it worthy of discussion: the spin dash mechanic, online play, and refreshingly creative level design in the two hundred stages.

I am the first to admit that I have yet to master the spin dash mechanic truly, but I still appreciate what it does to add variety to the gameplay. One of its most pertinent advantages is helping players achieve better speedrun times. I have even seen some streamers get through stages in as little as three seconds. 

Online play in Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble leaves much to be desired but overall, it is a welcome addition to the game. You can team up with friends and go through the adventure mode together or jump into battle mode to compete for first place in different challenges. The matchmaking can take a while compared to games like Mario Kart or Call of Duty where online servers are often overflowing. There is a noticeably small number of maps in battle mode, and there is no option to choose the map yourself, matchmaking simply throws you into a lobby with a pre-determined game mode and map. Despite its shortcomings, I am still finding myself enjoying being able to compete with others to collect the most bananas or get through goals the fastest.

The quality and creativity of the stages go beyond all of my expectations. Some of them frustrated me, admittedly due to my lack of skill, yet each of the two hundred levels offers superb artistry that makes going through a stage over and over again quite enjoyable. World Six, Neon Arena, is my favorite visually. There is something about the F-Zero art style that works incredibly well with the speed-focused nature of the Super Monkey Ball series. What is even more impressive is that the game looks just as good in handheld mode as it does in docked mode. The game manages to bring out the best of both unique art styles and strong graphical quality, something that is not easily achieved. 

Adventure mode provides a storyline that is about as deep as one would expect. The game opens with Ai-Ai and his friends hanging out on the beach when a new monkey, Palette, shows up and steals Ai-Ai’s banana, causing him to chase her down. Ai-Ai and his monkey friends learn about Palette’s goal to find the legendary bananas and the Ooparts scattered across the land. The monkies team up to do this, only to discover that a rival group, the Gala Family, has the same mission but for sinister reasons. There are cutscenes spaced out in between the different worlds that build on this story throughout the game. It is not a deep or lore-heavy story by any means, but it does offer a good bit of detail that is not found in previous Super Monkey Ball games. 

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble’s addictive charm cannot be overstated. This is the first game that has made me genuinely interested in speedrunning, and one of only a handful of games that I strived to reach one hundred percent completion in. I am pretty sure that I went through stage 2-4, Wonder Maze, at least ten times while trying to complete all of the challenges in one attempt. Even though I have already completed all of the stages I fully intend to go back and find every last legendary banana!

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble (Nintendo Switch) Score: 8.5/10

The game is well worth its price tag, only being held back by its online mode that I hope is expanded upon in updates down the line. If you have ever been a fan of the franchise, or platformers in general, this is a surefire bet to pick up.