Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 review for Nintendo Switch

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Medium: Digital/Card
Players: 1-8
Online: Yes

I?ve always been a big fan of Olympic-style videogames in a way which will probably date me. Just off the top of my head, I religiously played the following: Track and Field at the arcade and on the NES; Decathlon, Summer Games, Summer Games II, Winter Games & California Games on the Commodore 64; Decathlete & Winter Heat on the Sega Saturn, and quite a few licensed games over the years as well. I?m also a fan of the actual Olympic Games and am very much looking forward to Tokyo 2020 — so Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 should be right up my alley.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is an Olympic-style sports game sorta packaged as a party game, which mostly works depending on what you?re looking to get out of it. There?s a ton of real life events, including most of the new additions to the 2020 games such as surfing, skateboarding, karate and sport climbing. There?s also a trio of “Dream” events which are a bit more elaborate and gamified representations of real sports, such as Dream Shooting, Dream Racing and Dream Karate. There are around 24 of these 3D events along with an additional 10 retro-style “Tokyo 1964” 2D events, which is definitely a lot of events in one package.

A nice addition to Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is the inclusion of a story mode that takes characters from Sega and Nintendo franchises and mashes them up in a quasi RPG adventure, complete with an overhead map of Tokyo with some collectables, NPCs and simple quests. The several chapter-long story mode is essentially a neat way to introduce players to all the 2D and 3D events and characters featured in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and also gives gamers who don?t play the title as a party game a sense of progression. It?s a few hours long and isn?t replayable, though it?s fun while it lasts. There are some unique mini-games based on the event mechanics which can be unlocked and played later on too.

The real meat of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are the events themselves, all of which can be played with multiple players, both offline and online. I put a comfortable amount of time into all the events, utilizing the various Nintendo Switch control schemes, both solo and with other players. I personally found the more traditional button-only scheme to be preferable to the single/dual Joy-Con with motion control methods for most events. Some of the motion-based controls can be a little inaccurate when more complex or well-timed actions are needed, in the gymnastics or discus events for example. The more modern schemes do sort of level the playing field when playing with others, since it?s not just about raw button mashing for speed or perfectly timed taps to set an angle. Playing with other local players in tabletop mode is not an easy feat since the icons are too small in split screen (which a lot of the events require), so docked is the way to go in that instance.

Visually, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 looks great in handheld and docked modes on the Nintendo Switch, and as expected, it is super bright, colorful and cheery, with great effects for when triggering a speed burst or special move. The retro 2D events, which features a blend of 8 and 16-bit sprites, sound effects and backgrounds, are also a lot of fun and some of those variations of the events I preferred to the 3D counterparts. While the Olympic-style music theme that plays on the title and menu screens gets old quickly, the voice samples and sound effects for Mario, Sonic and friends are great. The excited cheers and stomping from the audience in the arenas are also well done.

Even with 30+ events available in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, there doesn?t always seem like there?s a real hook to get players to come back and try to top their scores consistently. There is online play and rankings, though it would have been nice to see the leaderboards integrated into the game dashboard, or even better, the events themselves in order to better incentivize solo players to replay events. There?s an event difficulty setting, although there?s no worthwhile payoff or unlockables for beating scores or the competition, so that option feels a little undercooked

All-in-all, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is probably the best game in the series with a nice selection of events, features and characters, and enough gameplay variation to keep fans occupied. It seems like it would have made more sense to launch closer to the actual Tokyo 2020 games, and it definitely has more replayability as a party or multiplayer game than as a single player title, but it’s totally worth checking out if Olympic-style titles are (or were ever) your thing.

Sega provided us with a Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 code for review purposes.

Grade: B+