Mario Sports Superstars (3DS) Review

The Spring season is now upon us, and with Spring comes warm weather and the start of outdoor sporting events. Qualifier matches for FIFA 2018 are underway, the PGA Masters Tournament will be taking place in just a few days, the Kentucky Derby and the French Open are just over a month away, and soon it will be opening day of the baseball season. Spring brings the start of many types of sports, and Nintendo is inviting gamers to partake in the festivities with the release of Mario Sports Superstars for the Nintendo 3DS.

Mario Sports Superstars offers the player with a variety of sporting events to appreciate. In this sports compilation release, players can participate in games of soccer, baseball, tennis, golf, and horse racing. Whereas titles like Mario Tennis Open and Mario Golf: World Tour for 3DS offer a lighthearted and whimsical approach to the sports they headline, the sports presented in Mario Sports Superstars are done so in a more authentic manner. Nevertheless, special power-ups and skills remain existent for players to make use of as tools of excitement.

Although the five sports featured in the game are quite different from each other, the main offerings of each sport are identical – meaning all five sports provide the player with the same single player and multiplayer game modes. In single player, you can compete in Tournament or Exhibition play. In Tournament Mode, you compete in a multi-cup challenge as you work your way towards the Champion’s Cup and vie for victory against challenging opponents. Successfully completing the Champion’s Cup will award you with a Star version of a playable character, who will have increased stats. You can also unlock Star characters by purchasing the Mario Sports Superstars amiibo cards.

Star characters are tied to the sport in which you unlocked them. So a Star Mario unlocked while competing in the Champion Cup from baseball can only be used in baseball. You will have to unlock a Star Mario in tennis, soccer, golf, and horse racing in order to use them in each sport.

Tournament Mode serves as the game’s campaign with its Cup and character unlock structure, but there are other solo activities to enjoy. Exhibition Mode is available for when you want to play a quick match with custom rules and settings. You can shorten the length of a match and have the option to disable power-ups- along with a handful of other convenient options.

There is also a Training Mode, and there is a lot of entertainment to be found here. The training is dependent on the sport selected, but they do share some common training mode mini-games. All sports have a Ring Challenge in which you are tasked with the trial of scoring a set amount of points within the allotted time. Completing a Ring Challenge will unlock a higher difficulty and when you complete the Hard ranking you will unlock a new playable character.

There are other training mini-games specifically tailored for each sport – like pitching/batting practice for baseball or shot and putting practice for golf. Soccer and horse racing have Free Training options available and this will let you practice shots or race on any track to get a better feel for its design.

Training Mode is enjoyable and presents some welcome challenge. It’s fun to push yourself and improve your technique through the mini-game options made available. Though the mini-games don’t offer anything truly innovative in terms of creativity, the training mini-games are entertaining distractions from the main game.

Mario Sports Superstars features local and online multiplayer. Local multiplayer will require each player to have their own copy of the game. Online multiplayer has the option to play against friends or to play against random players worldwide. You can customize the type of match you want to participate in while playing online – for example, baseball allows you to choose between having special moves active or not and whether you want to play a 3 or 9 inning game. If such options have no important to you, then you can select the ‘Either’ option. The online multiplayer ran well in our play sessions of each sport.

What’s curious about this collection of sports titles is that the Nintendo 3DS already has standalone entries of two of them – those being golf and tennis. While the tennis and golf offerings in Mario Sports Superstars are solid experiences in their own right, one must consider that Mario Golf: World Tour and Mario Tennis Open feature more game content than what is offered here. If you have played the two aforementioned games, then you will feel a sense of déjà vu while playing Mario Sports Superstars because golf and tennis feel and play exactly the same. This signifies that the games are enjoyable to play, but don’t offer anything new.

The remaining three sports are entertaining, although a bit simplistic. Baseball will have you select a team from the character roster, and each will have their own set of strengths and weakness – like Mario is a ‘Balanced’ player but Bowser is a ‘Power’ type. To quote one of the great baseball movies of all-time – Bull Durham: “It’s a simple game. You hit the ball, you throw the ball, you catch the ball.”

Mario Sports Superstars puts this philosophy to use as the game pretty much just wants you to hit the ball and throw the ball. Most of the on field action is automatically controlled by the AI – though you can field manually and choose which base to throw to. Batting is simple as you can either swing for contact, power, or punt. If you want to get fancy, you can have players steal a base. Pitching has a bit more depth to it as you have a number of pitches to select from, and you’ll need to hit the A-button at the right time to throw an accurate pitch.

Baseball in Mario Sports Superstars may be simple, but it’s fun and the computer AI can prove to be quite the formidable foe. Soccer and Horse Racing are solid games and do a fine job at representing their respective sports. Soccer has all the core elements of the game – like corner kicks, for example. Passing and shooting are all done with the push of a single button, and you’ll need to time your passes well or the defense will intercept the pass. The goalie AI does a fine job at defending the goal. Soccer may lack the flare of a Super Mario Strikers title, but it scores a goal in fun.

Horse Racing has the most depth out of all the games offered in this collection. Winning a race may sound simple, but you need to learn to pace yourself and carefully time when to use Star Dashes, jumps, and your standard dash. Horse Racing can be an exciting game to play and it offers a nice change of pace from the other sports.

Verdict: Mario Sports Superstars succeeds at delivering a competent collection of sports games to the Nintendo 3DS. The games are fun to play, the mini-games in training mode are entertaining, and the local/online multiplayer is enjoyable. Mario Sports Superstars’ biggest fault is that the overall package feels a bit uninspired when compared to other Mario sports titles. With that said, there is fun to be had here.

[Editor’s Note: Mario Sports Superstars was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]