Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble Review – A hardcore Rolls-like

Reviewed June 25, 2024 on Nintendo Switch


Nintendo Switch


June 25, 2024




Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

More than 20 years since the series debut, Super Monkey Ball is a property that just won’t quit. Did you know that, including ports and remakes we’ve had 22 entries in its 23-year existence? Simply put, there’s something so innately satisfying, addictive and proven as the simple gameplay mechanic of controlling a little monkey inside a little ball through an obstacle-ridden course. You are the ball. Be and control the ball to your will. This mantra is simple and effective in the new Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble entry.

Like all those years prior, the franchise is still more or less at the top of its game, proving to be one of the most fun arcadey platformer games to date. Oh yeah, and it’s also a borderline horror experience thanks to how terrifyingly difficult it can be.

AiAi, MeeMee and the gang are back on a new, totally bananas romp. As is custom with the franchise, there’s a new campaign available to play, this time with 200 levels to work through. Though a little thin on plot, I at least appreciate that Banana Rumble is providing at least a semblance of a story. The gang is traveling around the world with the new character Palette, on the hunt for the ‘Legendary Banana,’ said to be the key to finding the newcomer’s missing father. Also, the crew are in term collecting these coloured gems called ‘OOParts’ (but are essentially the chaos emeralds found in the Sonic franchise) whenever they clear a world. The specifics and motivations kind of pass you by but hey, at least you’re seeing the entire Super Monkey Ball cast interact in cute monkey speak in colourful cutscenes. As a lover of the adorable and dressed to the nines in pink MeeMee, this is all I need.

Of course, that all takes a backseat to the simple pure joy of the pick-up-and-play nature of the Super Monkey Ball formula. I haven’t played a game that is easier to pick up but more difficult to master than this franchise. Banana Rumble is simply the clearest example of that. In the initial worlds, you’re cruising along pretty seamlessly, picking off the challenges of each level (clearing under x time, collecting y amount of bananas, clearing with the golden banana collected) without much fuss. Then you clear the first ten worlds and you’re in what is known as the ‘EX’  (extreme) worlds, themed the same but with levels ten times more difficult. Along comes the uphill battle ahead of you. From here, you are merely Sisyphus pushing a monkey in a ball up a hill.

Banana Rumble asks great feats of the player, as you navigate narrow scaffolding, try your best to control your bounce on moving platforms or perform leaps of courage to barely clear a gap thus reaching the end goal. One had me working my way through a constantly rotating funnel with gaps that I could’ve plunged from at any moment. With its speed, it was way too common to lose control entirely. I know it’s in the name, some of these are going to be, well, extreme, but some of the levels feel nigh impossible without using the assistance tools. Do not be ashamed to turn these on, I did many times.

What these tools allow you to do is now have checkpoints in levels that didn’t otherwise have them, rewind time and also have a ghost that guides you to the correct path to clear a level. These are all incredibly handy and welcome tools, I just wish they weren’t a little too needed nor did they register the challenges as unachievable. I’ve played a good selection of Super Monkey Ball titles now, spanning even the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. As someone well familiar with the series, I shouldn’t have needed these functions as much as I did, pointing to what I believe to be some levels that were just that little bit too hard and obtuse for artificial difficulty’s sake. They’re a bit annoying sometimes, but at the end of the day you eventually clear them and you move on. C‘est la vie.

Two decades in and the meta hasn’t changed all that much for Super Monkey Ball. There are occasionally some gimmicks that can be hit or miss. In Banana Rumble, this is the simple addition of a Sonic the Hedgehog-esque spin dash that is charged up and then released to gain extra speed. Super Monkey Ball’s vanilla design of just learning the mechanics intimately and bending the game to your will is incredibly strong, but this implemented spin-dash is just that extra-welcome flavour of spice. Not only will it make for easier clearing of gaps and ramps, but now you’re avidly experimenting with it even more. If you hit that fence at that angle with my dash maybe you can bounce off and over it. Suddenly more skips become more apparent. This experimentation is exciting and also builds into a considerably higher amount of replayability.

That replayability also translates into the progression found in-game. Each clear of a level and its challenges nets you in-game Shop Points that you can take with you to buy dozens upon dozens of cute and cuddly cosmetics. Suddenly I’m taking MeeMee’s pink colour design and expanding it tenfold, dressing her up like my own princess in pink sweaters, mittens, boots and the like. As the base designs for the monkeys are already so darn cute, it’s fun to mix and match styles to then later show off in the Photo Mode and online multiplayer. The customisation potential is endless and adorable.

The fun can also be taken to multiplayer either locally or online. Adventure Mode’s 200 levels can helpfully be played cooperatively with up to four players, with clearing levels potentially easier as only one needs to reach the goal to count. While Battle Mode can have upwards of 16 players in one of its game modes, unfortunately, only 2 can play it locally. I sort of see why; with Super Monkey Ball being as HD as ever, there’s always a lot of colour, vibrant lights and particle effects going on at one time. The second at least one additional player gets added into the mix, there are so many more distractions for your eyes that it’s hard to parse exactly what’s going on. This could’ve been ever so slightly alleviated by having the option for 2 player split-screen to be divided horizontally but alas, you’re stuck to vertical views and never quite getting the full picture you need.

Regardless, multiplayer play is good fun. Returning are races, where up to five maps can be played, doing your best to overcome your foes and use power-ups Mario Kart-style to come out on top. Banana Hunt is exactly what it sounds like, tasking players with rolling around an arena in an attempt to collect the most bananas. One of my favourites has to be Ba-Boom which works like a hectic game of Hot Potato where players are randomly given a bomb and must attempt to pass it on to someone before the time’s out. Robot Smash is set in another arena and has targets in the form of varying shapes of robots. How much damage you do depends on the weight of your character, the speed with which you hit the robot and where is how you maximise your points. It’s a really fun one for watching numbers on a screen go up. I thought I’d seen it all in Super Monkey Ball games at this point. Though nothing prepared me for the joyously terrifying new Goal Rush mode.

Goal Rush feels like it is taking a page out of Fall Guys‘ book, depicting maps with a downward slope and dozens of goals to score points in. The match is split up into two teams and you can make a goal your team’s colour to then maximise domination and points. Periodically, rarer more valuable goals with higher value points will be introduced. In my pre-release review period, I wasn’t able to find a session online for this with a full 16 players. Still, the vibe and experience are just as effective with 2 players and six bots. Goal Rush is a minefield of chaos, bodies and balls are flying everywhere. Everything is moving fast and score positioning is constantly on the move. Often you’re just about to get that shiny goal worth 50 points only to be knocked by an enemy into the measly 10-pointer. You are in the trenches and at the whim of the game’s kooky physics. Good luck.

As fun as online and local multiplayer is, even offering incentives of daily free goes at an in-game gacha machine for bonus cosmetics, I was left a little wanting at times. You don’t get a say in what game mode you’re playing unless you’re playing privately with friends and the host. There are no playlist setups, and no searching by the game mode you want to play for sessions. None of that. This feels a little detrimental to the idea of fostering a community and is something even the most barebones of multiplayer games have worked out how to implement at this point.




  • Endless replayability across 200 campaign levels and battle mode
  • A cute, simple story that highlights the adorable cast
  • Spin-dash mechanic feels quintessential for the franchise
  • What feels like endless adorable cosmetics and customisation options to unlock


  • Online play is in need of better matchmaking options
  • Some EX levels feel artificially hard

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble‘s offerings are exactly what you’d expect, a fun and bananas time that is easy to pick up and hard to master. The new gimmick of the spin-dash feels quintessential and juices the experience of working through 200 arcade levels just that little bit more. Though there’s room for improvements with online matchmaking and some levels perhaps being a bit too hard for hard’s sake, there are just as many quality additions in gameplay assistance tools and the ability to doll your monkey up in dozens upon dozens of cute fits. There’s no monkeying around here when it comes to quality— Super Monkey Ball as a franchise remains the belle of the ball.