Mario Sports Superstars is a salad bowl of hastily tossed in sports games that Nintendo has made before in much better, individual games. This collection does nothing to add to the line of good Mario Sports games, and is your time is better spent playing those.
If there is one thing Nintendo does no longer need to prove, it is that they can take popular sports and turn them into something more colorful and playful, add a few Mario characters and still make it into an enjoyable and solid game. A long line of Mario-themed Sports games are a testament to this, starting as far back as the NES if you want to count Golf and Tennis. But even when you have a concept down, you occasionally lose focus. That’s when you get things like Mario Sports Superstars on 3DS.
It must have sounded like a good idea: take the groundwork presented in successful earlier games and combine them into one mega-mix collection. The thing is, this still only works if the individual parts of the collection are actually good, and that is this game’s biggest flaw.
There are five different sports to choose from when you start up Mario Sports Superstars: Tennis, Golf, Baseball, Football/Soccer and Horseracing. Each of these five individual games are playable solo or in multiplayer. Singeplayer modes, regardless of which game you pick, include a tournament or a free, separate game and nothing else. Multiplayer games can be played locally or online, against friends and strangers.
Golf and especially Tennis are the highlights, probably because their respective gameplay elements have been carefully ported over from previous stand-alone installments of the Mario Golf and Mario Tennis series. Both Golf and Tennis are very reminiscent of what you may have played before in Mario Sports games, but stripped of all the content and options those games used to have. There’s no special moves, modes, options or any of the features that made the game different from regular tennis. The basics work very well and it even looks good, but it lacks every bit of soul the Mario Sports games usually have and it makes these games more of a chore to play than actual entertainment.
And that’s the good games in the collection. The soccer section of Mario Sports Superstars sadly bears close to no resemblance to other good football games and is a simple game of running the ball to the opposing goal and firing off a special shot to score. That may sound like a sarcastic sneer in the direction of soccer overall, but this is no FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer. Worse, it is no Mario Strikers – Nintendo’s earlier attempt at combining Mario with football and a prime example of how it should be done. It is simplistic and with far too little variation to keep things interesting.
Horseracing may not have been a standalone game before and therefore seem like the ideal opportunity to show something new, but it immediately feels like Mario Kart with horses – only nowhere near as good. You can jump to collect powerups and speedups along the way, and need to avoid obstacles so as not to lose precious speed, but that’s the extend of it. There is also the option to groom, feed and bond with your horses, and while that is a funny addition, it can’t save the overall experience from getting boring quickly. You’d wished you were playing Mario Kart. It is a trend that returns in every facet of Mario Sports Superstars.
And then, there is baseball. Oh my, baseball. Whereas all the other games at least make you feel like you are playing a game that you are in control of, Baseball is just a button-press simulator. If your team is the batting side, you press the right button at the right time to hit the ball. When you are the field side, you throw the ball by adjusting a targeting reticule and hitting the button when you want to throw. Hitting the ball correctly is a feat that is unreasonably hard, throwing the ball is too easy. You have no control of any other aspects of the game, and points can only be scored while you are on the batting side, making the game frustrating to play. You almost wonder what Nintendo could do with this sport if they really tried, but this outing sure isn’t appealing or showing any promise.
Winning games or tournaments in any of the games award you with coins, which can be spent on card-packs. These packs contain in-game collectible cards that you can look at in an in-game album. There’s also physical Amiibo-cards in a special Mario Sports Superstars theme that were released alongside the game itself. It is a pointless feature that I’m sure will satisfy the most hardcore collectors out there. Or maybe not.
You can play all these games in multiplayer as well, but you’ll probably get bored quickly. There’s even an online component, but it is unlikely you’ll find much opposition as most people probably won’t be spending their time playing Mario Sports Superstars online.
In summary, Mario Sports Superstars just isn’t very good. It lacks all soul and depth that earlier Mario-themed sports games had and made them so much fun to play. Mario Sports games have been excellent entertainment on occasion, but this collection does nothing to honor that. This late in the life of the 3DS, a game as mediocre and lazy as this seems like it wants to scrape just a bit more cash out of the 3DS now that the Switch has been released. I’d say the 3DS was perfectly fine, and certainly not in need of such treatment. Mario Sports games have been excellent entertainment on occasion, but this collection does nothing to continue that legacy. This is one Mario-themed game everyone should avoid.