Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble Review | A Platformer and Party Game in One

This new Super Monkey Ball brings lots of new levels, but its multiplayer features make it a surprisingly good party game.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is finally out now, and it’s the latest entry in the long-running platforming series from SEGA that many fans have been waiting for. That’s because it’s the first proper new game in the series in over a decade.

Technically, the last Super Monkey Ball game was Banana Mania which was released on consoles and PC back in 2021. That game isn’t exactly an all-new entry though as it is basically a remake of the levels in the first three games in the series. As such, the 2012 Banana Splitz for PlayStation Vita was the last proper release.

Banana Rumble is a proper addition to the series as it packs 200 new levels that promise to delight long-time fans. It should also be a good entry point for newer fans as it features a range of accessibility options that should make the difficult levels more manageable. On top of this, the game features a co-op feature for all of its main levels, not to mention that it has 16-player online multiplayer.

I’m not a Super Monkey Ball player. In fact, this is the first game that I played properly in the series, so this review will be from the perspective from someone that’s entirely new to the franchise. As such, I was able to explore the game from the perspective of someone that’s new to Super Monkey Ball. In my experience with the game, Banana Rumble is easily a great starting off point for any player new to the series like myself.

Devilishly Difficult but made Accessible

Super Monkey Ball is a platforming series, though it’s far from your typical 3D platformer. Instead of jumping across platforms in big levels, the games in the series feature short levels that players must traverse by rolling. Specifically, players control a monkey in a gachapon ball, and the goal is to get to a level’s endpoint without falling and while collecting bananas along the way. To move the ball, players essentially tilt the stage instead of moving like you would in other 3D platformers.

For Banana Rumble, SEGA didn’t stray far from the series’ main formula as its gameplay seems to be mostly similar to the previous series entries, though there may be some tweaks to how the movement feels. What’s new though is the Spin Dash move that gives the players a boost — important to get across ramps or discover shortcuts in each level. You’ll need to use this move at many points in stages as going slow and steady isn’t the best option in some levels given that each level has a minute-long timer.

It may seem simple, but the levels quickly ramp up in difficulty as I’ve found myself falling out of stages numerous times even though I was only in the third world (out of 20). Many of the levels in this game will require multiple tries for players who are new to the series as mastering the movement and momentum of the character is important to not fall out and start from the beginning.

Even though it gets quite difficult, it is in no way frustrating as restarting the level is a breeze. There’s also the fact that movement mechanics feel great, meaning fall out moments are really down to player error. As such, even the difficult levels feel fair.

What’s also a welcome feature to have is the game’s assist system. After falling out of a level multiple times, the game will let you know about the various assist features, including the ability to restart from checkpoints along with a ghost player that you can follow to get through a level. Using these assists to clear levels means progress in challenges won’t be recorded, though you’ll still be able to progress through the Adventure Mode (aka the main story mode) with them.

As someone who’s new to the series (and also as a player who isn’t great at platformers), I welcome the addition of assists as I found that many of the later levels were devilishly difficult. It’s also nice that after getting a hang of a difficult level with assists, it’s simple to restart it with no assists so that my progress gets counted in the challenge system.

By completing various challenges in each level (such as finishing a stage in under 10 seconds or collecting the special golden banana), players get various cosmetic rewards. Progress can also even unlock new characters in the shop. Yes, that means this game lets you select the monkey of your choice to control. These characters aren’t just different visually as each character has their own stats for speed and maneuverability.

Choosing your favorite character isn’t just for the Adventure Mode though as the game’s 16-player online multiplayer Battle Mode also allows players to choose which character they prefer to control.

Online Multiplayer is a Quick Dose of Fun

Aside from the 200 levels in Adventure Mode, one of the main highlights of Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble is its multiplayer Battle Mode. Here 16 players can face off in five game types that aren’t all about platforming. For instance, there’s the Race mode where players must race others to the goal in courses where it’s easy to fall out. Think of these courses like even harder versions of Rainbow Road in Mario Kart. Thankfully, there are checkpoints here given that bumping against other players can cause you to get rolled off the stage.

There’s also the Banana Hunt mode where 16 players must try their best to collect as many bananas as they can in a stage. Perhaps my favorite though is Ba-BOOM!, a game mode where a certain number of players are given a bomb each round that they must pass off to another player without a bomb. At the end of each round, players without bombs will get points, and the player with the most points after round 5 wins. Even though there’s no real danger of falling out of the stage in this mode, the frenetic pace of it makes it an incredibly fun mode.

Finally, the other two modes are team-based battles. The first is Goal Rush where teams must go through as many goals as they can to win. The other team-based mode is Robot Smash where the challenge is to smash through as many robots as possible as a team.

In a way, you can think of these games like stages from Fall Guys (without the battle royale aspect). As such, they’re a fun change of pace from the game’s solo mode. Personally though, I would’ve liked a feature to select which mode to play when playing against random players given that I like some of the other modes more than others.

This multiplayer mode is fun, but it’s not the only one as the game also features a co-op mode that, if you ask me, might just be Banana Rumble’s highlight.

Best Played with Friends

Banana Rumble’s adventure mode can be played with up to four players on a single console via split-screen. Yes, this means you can play through the entirety of the game’s 200 levels with friends and family. After playing this mode, I believe this to be the best way to experience the game.

Sure, if you love platforming or speedrunning, playing solo is still the way to go, but the couch co-op feature is the most fun I’ve had with Banana Rumble while reviewing it. This is because of how chaotic it can get, all while being a surprisingly fun way of getting through some of the more difficult levels.

That’s because even if only one player in the group gets to the end of the level, everyone can move on to the next stage. As such, the couch co-op mode can be a good way to split objectives. For instance, one player can be designated with collecting golden bananas while another can aim to get to the level’s goal as fast as possible.

This type of gameplay is great for players  who want to achieve objectives, but Banana Rumble can also be a great party game that gets chaotic as there’s a collision setting. This means you can turn collision off if you want to play seriously, or you can turn it on so that players who are supposed to be working together can inadvertently cause their friend to fall out.

Given how chaotic this can get, I can imagine four-player couch co-op as the perfect party game for friends. It might even be a hilarious test of friendship like Overcooked as knocking off a friend (by accident or otherwise) may lead to a lot of lively back-and-forth.

Thankfully, the game works well on the Switch even with up to four players. You also won’t need a lot of controllers as one Joy-Con is enough to easily be able to control the characters. This makes it a compelling game to get for Switch owners who are looking to add more titles to their party game collection alongside the likes of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Mario Party.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble Final Verdict – 8/10

Even though I haven’t had much experience with the series prior to playing Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble, I had a fun time with this game thanks to its simple yet challenging 200 levels. Having the various accessibility modes was also helpful for me given that I’m not particularly good at platformers.

More than the solo experience though, Banana Rumble shines in multiplayer. The 16-player Battle Mode is nice to have, but its local co-op feature is what makes it worth checking out for Switch owners as it is definitely a great match for parties.

Overall, this game should be worth a look for both long-time fans and those who are new to Super Monkey Ball like me.

This Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble review was made with a Switch game code provided by the publisher.