It’s difficult to think of sports that Mario has yet to tackle, the plumber often taking a break from Goomba stomping for a quick football match or a round of golf. His latest sport outing isn’t just another Mario Tennis or Mario Golf game though, Mario Sports Superstars uniting five separate sports. Alongside the classic tennis and golf, the game returns to baseball and soccer for the first time since the Wii and even introduces Mario to horse racing. Nintendo is keen to emphasise that these aren’t watered down minigames either, the collection priding itself on each sport being a full standalone experience. Seeing that Bandai Namco and series veterans Camelot co-developed the game, a lot of effort obviously went into faithfully recreating the sports for this package.
Superstars’ simplistic menus may give the impression that game is light on content, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. It would be ridiculous to say that each sport is equally deep, but the game does a great job making each one engaging in its own right. Camelot’s involvement in the Tennis and Golf modes is obvious, anyone familiar with the Mario Golf and Tennis franchises instantly recognising the influence of those games here. Superstars may lack many of the extra modes and power-ups from Camelot’s earlier games, but the basic gameplay is just as satisfying as ever. Though the developers behind Mario Strikers and Sluggers haven’t returned for this collection, their influence on the game’s Soccer and Baseball modes is clear too. Superstars’ Soccer mode is particularly impressive, pitting the Mushroom Kingdom’s finest against one another in a full 11-a-side match.
Don’t think that everything in Superstars is a rehash though, horse riding making its Mushroom Kingdom debut. While Mario has experience riding Yoshi, this is an entirely new venture for the plumber. However, when considering the madcap courses of Mario Kart 7, this mode’s tracks do seem remarkably bland. An interesting stamina mechanic and extensive customisation options go some way to solving this, but this might be the weakest game of the bunch.
Nintendo may have a patchy record with online, but Superstars promises to feature full online multiplayer for all five of the sports. As with any Mario sports game though, the real fun is surely to be had in local multiplayer. Superstars’ lack of Download Play is a disappointing oversight, but it is sure to be a laugh when you do manage find enough players who own the game. However, this isn’t the only way to test yourself. Even without a group of friends, the game’s AI can provide a fine challenge in the Tournament and Exhibition modes. This is certainly seems like a good place to start before jumping into the potentially fierce online too, each sport featuring a simple tutorial to help get your head in the game.
Anyone lucky enough to own a New Nintendo 3DS will be pleased to hear that Superstars also launches alongside a new series of amiibo cards. Just like Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, scanning each of the character cards promises to unlock something in the game. While they don’t sound essential to enjoying the game, a Breakout style ‘Road to Superstars’ minigame is hidden behind each card. This certainly isn’t the worst amiibo integration we’ve seen, but it does feel like a token addition for any diehard collectors.
Mario Sports Superstars doesn’t knock it out of the park, but what’s there is certainly quality. Anyone looking for a deeper experience would probably be better looking for the 3DS versions of Mario Tennis or Mario Golf. However, this collection isn’t trying to rival those games in complexity. Superstars instead feels like a greatest hits album for the series, celebrating the last twenty years of Mushroom Kingdom sports.