Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope Review: Hopped-up on a feeling

What do you get when you combine the iconic Italian plumber with annoying rabbit critters? An entertaining game actually.

by Jeremy Cheong

It is the year of the rabbit and maybe if Ubisoft had released Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope this year instead of October 2022, it might have fared better. According to reports, Ubisoft has stated that the game has underperformed in terms of sales, which is a shame as this is easily one of the most entertaining games I have played.

The lacklustre sales could be chalked up to the fact that the game released in the same month as heavy-hitters such as Overwatch 2, A Plague Tale: Requiem, Gotham Knights, New Tales from The Borderlands, Bayonetta 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The following month wouldn’t have done the game any favours either.

I have spent quite a bit of time playing Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope and here is why I feel like it deserves more love and attention from gamers.

Fun story without the fungi

As a sequel to Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battles, the story of Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope picks up right after it as the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom and the Rabbids have found a way to coexist peacefully. That peace is short-lived as Rabbid-Luma hybrid critters known as Sparks descend from the sky and on their tails is a gigantic manta ray covered with the corruptive substance, Darkmess. After defeating the manta ray, befriending the Sparks and rescuing Rabbid Peach, Mario and his motley crew then jet off to stop the Darkmess from spreading across the galaxy.

Like any other mess, Darkmess is really not the best kind of mess.

The story of Sparks of Hope reminds me of weekend-morning cartoons and how it all plays out really feels like one. The crew will travel to five different locations, meet quirky characters and a whole lot of hijinks ensue with some heartstring-tugging moments. As to be expected from a Mario spin-off, the story isn’t too grim or heavy so it is suitable for younger gamers who would undoubtedly be entertained by the annoyingly-charming Rabbids.

Combine all that with the colourful and cartoony art style, funny dialogue and wonderful soundtrack, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope really feels like it would make for a good cartoon series.

A fun spin on the tactical-RPG formula

As mentioned above, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is a tactical-RPG but not in the traditional sense. Ubisoft takes cues from 2K Games and Firaxis Games’ XCOM-series and gives it their very own spin, which is in my opinion a double-edged sword as it makes the game less frustrating but at the same time also a lot easier compared to XCOM, which might put off hardcore tactical-RPG fans. However, with that said, there is quite a bit of depth to strategy and tactics in combat.

What’s better than a jump? A team jump of course! I’ll see myself out.

Combat is turn-based but unlike the aforementioned XCOM-series or even Larian Studios’ Divinity: Original Sin series, the movement of your characters is not bound to action points. Instead, it is limited by range. However, this can be remedied by the Team Jump mechanic. To do this, characters have to be next to each other and by pressing “A” the chosen character will jump up and has the ability to glide for a few seconds letting them move further than their range would allow. This is a really nice mechanic as it allows you to either glide up or down a platform, behind cover or behind enemies.

Another fun mechanic is the ability to Dash in and out of combat. When you are near an enemy, dashing will knock them up into the air, which has several benefits. Outside of combat, dashing into an enemy, which also puts you into combat, will give you an advantage in terms of location placement, for example, you will be placed at a higher vantage point or in an area with more cover. In combat besides reducing an enemy’s health, it can also be used to trigger Bob-ombs, which will give you a few seconds to pick them up and toss them at other enemies or take out an entire row of Goombas without spending an action point. If you have a character using their overwatch technique (Mario’s Hero Sight or Luigi’s Steely Stare), knocking an enemy up into the air will also cause them to fire at the enemy.

I am almost at the end. At least not my wit’s end.

Unlike other tactical-RPGS, you are free to choose which character moves first and it is not based on a stat, like initiative, reflex or speed. You also won’t have to “commit” to a movement as you are free to move your characters around unless you have attacked or used up your action points to activate Sparks’ powers, use an item or go into overwatch.

Combat is also kept interesting as certain combat situations have different objectives. These can range from simply eliminating X number of a certain enemy, destroying all Darkmess eyes or reaching a certain area in the arena. The game will keep you on your toes as well as more often than not, enemies will gain reinforcements through portals that appear around the map.

The menus are large and clear, just a little too cumbersome to navigate.

Before initiating combat in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, you are free to change team members and Sparks, scan enemies to discover their weaknesses and resistances and even heal up your team by spending some coins. All of these do make the game a little easier but one major complaint I do have is the menu system to swap team members and Sparks is very cumbersome and time-consuming. The menus to swap heroes and level them up are separated and the same goes for Sparks. It would have been a lot easier if it was contained in the same menu using a pop-up instead of having to not only switch to different menus but also then access yet another menu for a specific character or Spark.

It’s just a sparkling good time

Overall, combat is extremely fun due to the freedom and not being shackled to typical tactical-RPG tropes. The characters in your party are also all very unique and part of the fun I had was figuring out what characters and Sparks work best together. Of course, I do have a preferred ‘loadout’ but that didn’t stop me from constantly switching characters just to see what they can do. In short, I was always finding a new favourite character and Spark pairing.

Tired of combat? You can take part in a spot of sillyfish chucking. It’s just a little silly.

Other than combat, you will also be doing a range of sidequests while exploring the five different planets you travel to. These planets are effectively open-world and are free for you to explore as you see fit. Like any good open world, it is filled with roaming enemies, sidequests and challenges for you to complete. You can ignore these side activities but completing them gives you extra experience, coins to purchase items, Star Bits to level up Sparks and Planet Coins, which are used to purchase Planet Keys, Memories and Weapon Skins. Planet Keys are costly but they open up secret zones that contain Sparks and Weapon Skins.

These planets are also very nicely designed, each with its own theme and with plenty of details put into them. The planets are all very much alive as not only do you have wildlife roaming around but also a host of NPCs who are usually in need of a helping hand. I played this game mostly on my Nintendo Switch OLED and the colours of the environments are so vibrant and each planet has its very own charm.

In terms of performance, I played the game mainly in handheld mode and the game ran very smoothly with only occasional item pop-ins and dropped frame rates. If you plan to play the game in docked mode, be sure to change your TV settings to 720p as it was very sluggish in 1080p.

Mario is fired up and so am I! Not because of a spicy meatball but for the upcoming DLCs.

Overall, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is a really fun game to play and you don’t even have to be a hardcore tactical-RPG fan because Ubisoft has made the game quite easy to pick up, play and enjoy the entertaining story. On the flip side, if you are big into strategy and tactics, there is enough depth in here to keep you going and experimenting as well. For selfish reasons, I do hope more people would give Mario+Rabbids Sparks of Hope a look as I do want to see how Ubisoft can up the ante if they are given a chance to work on a sequel.

I am now going to complete all the puzzles and challenges while waiting for the three DLCs to be released throughout 2023.


  • Fun and less punishing spin on the XCOM formula
  • Unique characters make experimenting with team builds fun
  • Worlds feel alive and are packed with sidequests and puzzles
  • Entertaining story brought to life by a cast of quirky characters
  • Good looking graphics and a soundtrack filled with earworms


  • Performance issues in docked mode
  • A cumbersome and clunky menu system
  • Might be a little too easy for tactical RPG fans

Review code provided by Ubisoft South East Asia.

  • 9/10
    Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope - 9/10

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope

Graphics ✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅☐
Plot ✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅☐
Gameplay ✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅☐
Addictiveness ✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅☐

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is an easy game for me to recommend to any gamer especially if they are a fan of Mario or tactical-RPGs because there is a whole lot of fun packed into this game.

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