Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Review

Release Date
November 1, 2019
Developed By
Published By
Sports, Party

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is the newest game to feature Mario and Sonic characters participating in friendly summer sports competitions. As the series’ debut on the Nintendo Switch, the game provides vibrant solo and multiplayer action that allows anyone to have a good time. Even though this is the series’ 6th year, the experience still feels fresh and exciting. What sets this game apart from its predecessors are additional retro-styled events and an extensive Story Mode. These features really create a robust experience that is universally appealing.

The extensive Story Mode is among the game’s most notable features. A silly scheme splits the characters between a retro-styled 1964 Tokyo and the present day 2020 Tokyo. The way the story regularly alternates between these two worlds is pretty amusing. Characters engage in plenty of chase sequences alongside off-the-wall dialogue. With its expansive character roster, the story really pays homage to both the Mario and Sonic universes. Traveling from location to location and interacting with characters feels like playing a miniature role-playing game. 

The truly staggering part is the sheer amount of dialogue. It is well worth talking to each and every Toad, animal, and Omochao in every area due to their unique lines. For instance, these non-playable characters mention facts about real-world landmarks such as the Sumida River, which is actually quite educational. The main playable characters frequently chirp about competing in Olympic events, and they accurately reflect their personalities from their respective games. Eggman, Bowser, and Bowser Jr.’s over-the-top boisterousness and planning are especially comical and entertaining. Mario and Luigi are silent protagonists who pantomime their reactions, but they still seem just as expressive as everyone else. The characters’ motivations for challenging each other are silly but are believable, well-written, and entertaining.

Furthermore, the game’s audiovisual craft is compelling and inviting. The game lets players travel across both retro and current maps of Tokyo, which contain real-life landmarks. While the stadium arenas mostly serve as functional backdrops, the recreations of larger outdoor areas. Places like Shibuya Crossing and Tokyo Tower are quite breathtaking. The game also generally runs at a stable locked frame-rate of 60 frames per second for most events and 30 frames for specific situations such as split-screen multiplayer. Naturally, the characters are quite vibrant with plenty of facial expressions. The potential dream match-ups such as Vector the Crocodile duking it out with Donkey Kong are amusing and worth the price of admission. While the game does not feature voiced lines, the dialogue quips all befit their respective characters. The tunes are rather mellow and suit the game’s friendly competitive theme. 

Even though the retro aesthetic borrows sprites from Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog, it has some fun touches. Little touches like a lower fidelity announcer ground the whole experience together. Some mini game sequences pull obstacles right from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. However, the fanservice always feels appropriate for the situation in play. There are also some pretty amusing scenes in which characters such as Eggman and Bowser perform over-the-top escape shenanigans that they would not ordinarily do in their respective series. While the retro aesthetic is a bit of a limited gimmick, it is an effective way to really diversify the game’s visual appearance.

Naturally, the game primarily features a wide variety of sporting events. These are divided into three main categories: those that simulate actual events from the 2020 Olympics, Dream Events, and retro-styled events. These Olympic events feature some newer additions to the actual 2020 line-up such as surfing and skateboarding. The Dream Events are unique competitive events that embrace the Mario and Sonic franchises’ whimsical nature with items and freeform antics. All of the events can be played with one to four players on one console, between multiple Switch units locally, and with ranked and casual online matches. 

Mechanically, these events are essentially bite-sized pieces of actual sporting events. They generally use a combination of button inputs, timing, or motion. Players can choose to play events with motion controls or traditional inputs. Fortunately, the game displays extensive tutorials and on-screen input prompts that always guide players. Some events follow some common sequences such as holding R and pressing A to activate Super moves. The Dream Events are a bit more complicated as they often involve multiple characters interacting simultaneously. Dream Racing borrows pages from a few games such as Mario Kart and Sonic Adventure, which is fairly entertaining. I especially enjoyed Dream Karate which is practically a party free-for-all fighting mode. Some events such as Archery and Surfing have some slightly fiddly controls due to environmental conditions, but they do emulate the challenge of their actual counterparts. 

This game’s replayability is quite extensive as players receive frequent rewards for just playing the game. As players play through Story Mode, they will encounter trivia questions regarding the characters’ game backgrounds and the actual areas of the Tokyo 1964 and 2020 Olympics. There are several questions to find, and players can always review the questions on a giant list of unlockables. The game also provides an extensive list of players’ event records as well as all of their event placements across three different difficulties. There is even a numerical list of achievements that unlock as players hit certain milestones.

However, knowing what to do can initially feel a little mysterious since the entire list is comprised of question marks. There are also unlockable mini games that are tied to story events, and these are quite silly but amusing. There are even some unlockable event-specific characters which serve as fan service for those who enjoy Mario and Sonic history. These characters include a wide variety of characters from games such as Super Mario Bros. 3, Sonic Rush, and Sonic Lost World

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 packs plenty of ways to keep players entertained. The Story Mode, trivia, and varied events are well-crafted, and they really make full use of the Mario and Sonic brands. With its sheer amount of character interactions and dialogue, the game stands out in a fun way and will undoubtedly amuse even those who typically do not play sports titles. Its off-the-wall humor and character interactions are a silly joy to behold. We wholeheartedly recommend the game to anyone remotely interested in the Mario and Sonic franchises. 


Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Review
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Pop-Culture Gems: John Lester (Gamester81)