'Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games' Review: Why You Gotta Do Mario & Sonic Like This

Mario and Sonic in the latest iteration of the Olympics games for Nintendo 3DS. (c) Nintendo

Look, the Mario & Sonic at the XX Olympic Games series seemed off from the beginning. The Olympics are about as obvious a bit of sponsorship as you can get. Looping in both Mario and Sonic to wash down the taste of blatant corporatism only makes the fact of it more egregious somehow, as it makes no sense these two franchises have anything to say to each other, especially over the Olympics. I mean, it makes no sense.

Still, I love Nintendo as a child loves their puppy, as a mother loves her child and as a divorce lawyer loves the absence of a pre-nup, so when offered the opportunity to play a review copy of Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, I nodded bravely and did my best.

One of the mini-games that makes up the heart of gameplay in 'Mario and Sonic.' Photo: (c) Nintendo

The thing is: Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is less a game than a collection of mini-games. If you like simple mini-games like the ones in Mario Party or whatever, you’ll probably like this game well enough. None of the mini-games are especially hard, though some may require a skosh more coordination than others. The mini-games mimic different Olympic events, like fencing and water polo, and try to use as many of the 3DS functions as possible to varying success.

(ATTN Nintendo: literally no one likes to blow into the mike, for any reason. It makes you look like a freak when you’re trying to play in a public place. Whether yachting or blowing steam off of your Fire Emblem waifu, it’s just not a good look.)

Some of the mini-games are more fun than others: I really enjoyed the synchronized swimming mini-game set to an absurdly dramatic piece of classical music (I think it was Mozart’s “ Dies Irae ”). Some are more annoying: the twist on the Archery game where you have to shoot the arrow through several Boos in a row requires monstrous precision, and I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to grow accustomed to the water polo controls.

Mario & Sonic features a local multiplayer mode, but no online multiplayer, which is ridiculous in a glorified mini-game collection. There’s also a “marathon” mode that’s basically just “walk over 40km with your 3DS turned on,” which, okay? Where’s the fun game part of that?

Pick a crew and beef with your enemies! Or, you know, respectfully support one another on your journey to Olympic stardom. Photo: (c) Nintendo

Anyway, there is also a story mode called Road to Rio that’s boring and incomprehensible because these two franchises don’t and have never made any sense together, but at least they tried, I guess. You pick either Mario or Sonic’s gym and beef with the other’s crew, kind of, but actually everyone’s good friends and very supportive of each other, so I dunno. You go around training at the various ginasios to receive leveling up points and apples. The apples you exchange for outfits that help give you an edge in your different games.

But the thing is… guys, the thing is… you control your Mii in this whole game. And I don’t know about you, but I find the Miis ugly. They’re repellent, blocky little facsimiles that look like they belong in a previous generation of handhelds, and all the basic games that ship with the 3DS use the Mii, and I couldn’t take Tamagotchi Life seriously because of those stupid little Miis, and basically I don’t ever want to see the Mii unless someone else’s ugly Mii is handing me a missing pink piece in Puzzle Swap. Being forced to go through the whole game as that polygonal Mii with other characters only available by unlocking them in tedious mini-games is lame. The outfits you can unlock are ugly like your Mii. It feels low-budget, but not in a hip indie way, more in a “Mario and Sonic didn’t deserve this” kind of way.

And that’s basically it: Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games feels low-budget, a sad stab at that corporate Olympic money that devalues both the Mario and Sonic brands for no real purpose. It has moments of fun, kind of, but to pay MSRP of $40 for a collection of mini-games is not a cute look. At least the game isn’t buggy, and clearly the team that slapped this together tried to put a modicum of thought into it, but Mario & Sonic just isn’t all that fun.

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