The Wide World of Mario Sports Superstars

Recently Nintendo released a 3DS game featuring a collection of Mario themed sporting events.  The sports you can play in these games are Baseball, Horse Racing, Golf, Tennis, and Soccer.  But there are a couple of surprises tucked away in this game as well so I thought I’d go over them here in this blog.

This isn’t the first time there has been a collection of Mario sports events on a game.  Another one was Mario Sports Mix on the Wii.  I actually really liked that game.  One really weird thing about that game is that Square-Enix made it, so some of the secret characters you can unlock are the white and black mages and the ninja from Final Fantasy games!  But there’s something even weirder about that game!  In the single player story mode, there is one final boss to defeat at the end, and it’s a giant purple Behemoth from the FF games!  And you defeat it by using the sports skills from the other games on the collection!  I’m surprised that hasn’t shown up in any “WTF” moments in gaming lists that I’ve seen.  Anyway, I know that has nothing to do with Mario Sports Superstars, but I thought it was an interesting tidbit anyway.

So you may be thinking, “Cary, why did you even get this game, you don’t like sports video games.”  Well, while that’s mostly true, I did want to get this one for a few reasons.  One, I like Mario sports games because they are colorful and cheerful and feature characters I know.  Plus they are usually arcade-like and simple to pick up and play.  But this game in particular was interesting to me because Namco and Camelot helped make this game, because those two companies specialize in making certain sports games.  So we’ll take a look at each sport that the companies helped make for this collection.

amiibo Features

But first let’s go over the amiibo features of this game.  Similar to Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, you can buy separate packs of cards with Mario characters playing sports.  I probably won’t buy any of those.  I tried to do it with Animal Crossing, but it was just too much.  I like to know what I’m getting, so I’ll just stick to the amiibo figures.  If you get a character card, you can scan it to unlock that character or a superstar version of that character in the game.  But the weird thing is that in order to unlock it after you scan it, you must play a Mario-themed version of Breakout or Arkanoid.  I’m surprised there hasn’t been a Mario style Breakout game before now (and no, Alleyway doesn’t count).  But the good thing is that you don’t HAVE to have amiibo cards to unlock everything in the game.  You can do that just by playing, but it’s easier and quicker if you have the amiibo cards.  The game comes with one, and I got Pink Gold Peach playing golf.  So I unlocked her to use in golf.  I suck at Breakout games, but I enjoy them anyway.  But luckily in this game you can try as many times as you like, and they make it easier for you if you lose too many times.  You can buy in-game cards with coins you earn by playing the sports, too, but they are different from the amiibo cards and I don’t think they do anything.  I guess they were going for the whole ‘baseball card’ collectability thing.


I find baseball boring to watch, and I certainly can’t play it in real life with my vision problems, but I’ve actually had fun playing whatever baseball video games I’ve tried.  This is one of the sports games Namco helped make on this collection.  Why Namco?  Well, Namco made the popular Family Stadium series of baseball games in Japan.  They call it Famista for short.  The first NES Famista game was brought to the US under the name R.B.I. Baseball.  Some Famista games even have Namco characters you can play as, like Pac-Man, Mappy, and even the Ridge Racer lady!  The Famista games are known for being very arcade-like and easy to pick up and play, and Nintendo even had Namco make their Mario baseball titles for GameCube and Wii.  This 3DS version of Mario baseball is very simplified.  There are only batting and pitching controls, and fielding is done automatically.  Which is surprising because Famista games have pretty fun fielding controls, and let you do things like steal bases rather easily.  In a way, I do like the simplified controls, but I do miss having fielding controls as well.  Also, in the other sporting tournaments in this game, I can get past the first cup pretty easily.  But not in baseball!  I couldn’t even get past the first tier!  But matches in the tournaments only last 3 innings long, so it really doesn’t give you a whole lot of chances for a comeback.  I guess they did that since it’s a handheld game and best played in short bursts.

Horse Racing

The other game that Namco helped with was Horse Racing.  Unless Mario and friends competed in equestrian events in the Mario & Sonic Olympic games (which I skipped out on because the first one kind of sucked), I think this would be the first time for a Mario themed horse racing game.  But why horse racing?  Well it’s actually a pretty popular sport in Japan.  And why have Namco make it?  Because they made two popular horse racing series.  The first was Family Jockey on the Famicom.  It never came out over here, but one of their arcade horse racing games did.  It was called Final Furlong and it was brought to US arcades in the late 90’s.  And I’d have to say it’s one of the most embarrassing arcade games to play because you bounce on a springy horse to make it go faster.  It’s pretty awkward especially if you’re an adult.  Maybe even more awkward than the banana-shaped joystick on the arcade Monkey Ball game.  Aside from Namco, Tecmo also has a popular series of horse racing games called Gallop Racer, but my favorite horse racing game is Pocket Card Jockey, a solitaire game on the 3DS.  I reviewed it last year.

Anyway, so the horse racing section here is kind of like Mario Kart with horses.  Well it’s not as good as Mario Kart, but I still found it fairly enjoyable.  You can make your horse dash and jump, and you can do a double jump off your horse to reach higher up goodies.  You can pick up two kinds of power-ups.  Carrots increase your horses’ stamina, which goes down when you dash.  When you collect enough stars, a meter will fill up and let you Super Dash.  If you are nearby other horses, your stamina will also go up faster, so it’s important to stay ahead of the pack, but not TOO far ahead.  You can compete in cups of 3 races each, with a point system similar to Mario Kart’s.  There are 12 different tracks in all, so it’s not too bad.  I do have to say that some Mario characters look weird riding a horse.  Like Yoshi, who is already a rideable animal.  I also feel sorry for the horses that Bowser rides, especially if you have him ride one of the ponies meant for the baby characters.  Speaking of which, Baby Luigi is so cute riding the horses, especially when he exclaims “Yaaaa-hoooo!” and “Yeeee-haw!” as you race.

And finally, the horse racing section has one of the biggest surprises in the game.  You can also customize your own horse and take care of it in a virtual pet style simulator.  You can pet and brush your horse with the stylus, feed it goodies, and take it for walks around the farm and on the race tracks.  Doing this will increase the bond with your horse and it’ll perform better in the races.  You can also find hidden items to decorate your horse with.  It’s kind of like Nintendogs, or Ninten-horse (doesn’t have as good of a ring to it, huh).  I’ve reviewed quite a few virtual pet horse games and this one is actually more robust than many of those!  I made a horse and named it Turbo Horse, because when my brother Jeff was little he played Circus Charlie on one of my arcade collections and loved it.  One of the events has you riding a horse, and it’s one of the worst drawn horses in a video game that I’ve ever seen.  Anyway, one time Jeff was playing it and made the horse go really fast and it looked ridiculous, so I said, “Man, that must be a Turbo Horse.”  Jeff rolled on the floor cracking up so now anytime there is a horse in a game that we can name, it’s always Turbo Horse.


Camelot is known for making Mario sports games like golf and tennis, so they did the ones here, too.  They’re pretty much scaled back versions of the main 3DS Mario Golf and Tennis games.  I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour on the GameCube, as it had such precise controls that I could put the ball wherever I wanted to on the green.  Because I liked that game so much, I was excited when Mario Golf: World Tour was coming out on the 3DS.  But I ended up not liking it as much because you had to use the touch screen to put spin on your ball, and it wasn’t as accurate or fun.  The version of golf on this game uses the same control setup, but luckily you can do simple controls.  There are four courses, but they’re only nine holes each.  In the tournaments, you only play 3 holes per character.  It’s still fun, but not near as good as the GameCube game.  I wonder if any of the holes are designed after the ones on the NES golf games like the ones in the Wii Sports games were?


Camelot also made the Mario Tennis games, so they helped with this one, too.  I never really got into tennis games because most just feel like glorified Pong to me.  The only Mario Tennis game I ever had a lot of fun with was the N64 one, and the only other tennis game I enjoyed was SEGA Superstars Tennis.  But hey, any game with Ulala in it can’t be all bad, right?  This one just feels like a scaled down version of Ultra Smash.  You can only do singles, no doubles, and the courts are pretty basic, nothing wild or creative.


And finally is Soccer, or Football if you live outside the US.  The two Mario soccer games on GameCube and Wii were done by a team at SEGA, because they were well known for their arcade and console Strikers games.  One thing about their Mario Strikers games is that all the characters were a little more gritty and angry, so it was kind of funny.  I don’t think they did the version of soccer on this game because I didn’t see their name in the credits.  But the soccer game here does play a bit like the Strikers titles, except without the added angriness.  It’s still a pretty fun soccer game, but just a little more ‘vanilla’ than the Strikers ones.  I still enjoy it because it’s very pick-up-and-playable.


And those are all the sports games!  I should also mention that you can play all these online, but I haven’t done that yet, and may not.  I still enjoyed this collection as it had a lot of fun surprises.  My favorite sports games on this collection are as follows from most to least favorite: Horse Racing, Golf, Soccer, Tennis, and Baseball.  In the comments section, let me know what you think of the games in this collection, and tell me your favorite sports video games.  That’s all for now!  Later!  –Cary

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