When Mario isn’t saving princesses and eating mushrooms, he plays sports. And lots of them.
Mario Sports Superstars brings together five classic sports, introducing them to players in a typical Nintendo way. To mostly ok’ish results. Everything looks sharp and is presented well, but you can’t escape the feeling some of this has been rushed.
Mario Football is similar to Super Mario Strikers from the Gamecube and Wii days. You have your star players on the team, with the rest made up of Goombas and Toads. From the menus, you can also select your goalkeeper and tactics for both offence and defence.
Your team plays together really well and the action flows nicely, but the emphasis always goes to the star players who has opportunities for special shots on target once the ball is charged up. This can, almost certainly, guarantee a goal, though sometimes those pesky keepers seemingly have octopus hands.
It is more like Strikers Charged lite, as the sidekicks are reduced to bodies on a pitch and there’s no real reward for passing and maintaining possession. Though you can control the corner and goal kicks.
Compared to Strikers as well, each sport only has a base single and multiplayer mode. When solo, you can either play one-off exhibitions or a tournament. But with mates, you can jump into a local match – minus download play – or against players online or worldwide.
Tennis and Golf play much the same way as the 3DS solo variations, though, and getting them here really bolsters the quality of the overall package. Having said that, the stripped back options and gameplay feels comparatively disappointing.
In Golf, there are 4 courses to choose from with only 9 holes on each. It does look, feel and play almost identically to Mario Golf: World Tour – to a fault at times as the animations and pop-ups feel like a carbon copy – but the gameplay remains as slick and entertaining as you’ve come to expect. Consistently, these sports have always faired well in the Marioverse and Mario Sports Superstars does little to change that point of view.
There are some neat shot practice challenges here, but essentially, if you want a Mario Golf game, you’re better off sticking to the individual, sole release as the functionality has been stripped back considerably for this release.
Similarly with Tennis, it is easy to draw comparisons to Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash. You’ve got just one stadium and have the option of playing either singles or doubles. However, there are no special or extra moves available for you to experiment with. You can adjust the surface you play on for different championships, but the substance is extremely limited. You’ll likely only dabble with Tennis when you have a few friends as it’s a fairly soulless affair on your lonesome. The wait goes on for a feature-rich, expansive tennis game for modern systems.
Sadly, Baseball is just as limited. Actually, you’ll find yourself more of a passenger in these games than a driver as you’re basically tapping the A button through pitching and batting. You can adjust the position of your batting and pitching, but all the baserunning and the fielding is done by the 3DS. You can, however, adjust the fielding tactics to customise the activity on the park to your liking, but the limited mode variety and options really let this down.
Horse Racing is, surprisingly, one of the best reasons to own this. It’s not in the same category as a Mario Kart, but there are power-ups to collect which can help your progress around the course.
You need to build up your boost ability and ensure you don’t let your stamina deplete, finding the right balance of both to win a race. This is done by making jumps, slipstreaming, and using the special star dashes.
Surprisingly, the controls can take some getting used to as the motions of moving left and right on the horse feel a bit weightless. It also feels like more skill is involved in each course compared to Mario Kart where an element of luck – more often than not – wins the day.
The Stable Mode is neat, however, enabling you to pet and accessorise the horse. You can also find some hidden coins in crates if you’re happy to search for them in crates.
To round out the package is Amiibo support. Each time you compete, you earn coins. These coins can be used to buy packs which contain some of the games’ 324 cards.
While you can come across duplicates, there is a way of buying packs where you’re guaranteed not to receive doubles as long as you trade some of your duplicates from your collection. The Amiibo support also allows you to get cards and even characters
The Amiibo support also allows you to get cards and even characters. These will have improved stats and offer improved abilities compared to the in-game counterparts. There are even superstar characters that can be unlocked in the ‘Road to Superstar’ mode.
This mini-game is a bit like breakout in that the better you do, the better stats your character will end up with. However, you will need Amiibo cards to try out this mode, something we weren’t able to do.
The game is a visual delight, and really boasts the power of the 3DS. While the Switch obviously offers much improved handheld visuals, Mario Sports Superstars is still a beautiful game and one with some serious polish. I didn’t notice a single technical hiccup in many hours of play.
This is a good package. The individual games are far superior, but together this package – particularly if you’re a trophy hunter and have a regular group of friends to play with – offers plenty of bang for your buck.
Now when are we going to get an expanded version of this for Switch?
+ Beautifully designed
+ Great gameplay variety
+ Lots to unlock and great multiplayer opportunities
– Individual games stripped back
– Too much AI control in some games
– Control issues hamper Horse Racing somewhat
Mario Sports Superstars
7 out of 10
Tested on 3DS