Review: Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Mario and Sonic are back to nab some medals, but will they come out gleaming with gold or sullen and empty handed?

The Mario & Sonic series often turns heads for many reasons but not always for its actual gameplay. Whilst initially the novelty of having both worlds colliding and playing sports together was pretty bizarre, in this age of Sonic in Smash Bros and with the bitter 90’s rivalry an entire life time ago, it needs to do more than just throw a load of classic characters together and hope for the best. Thankfully, this version of Mario & Sonic does do more, a whole lot more.

As always, this title offers a bunch of Olympic events to play such as 100m, triple jump and equestrian but also provides us with a host of new and interesting ones for the Rio Olympics such as Rugby, BMX and Duel Events.

There are still a hefty amount of events on offer but not as many as in previous titles, but what this lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. The events on offer in this title have a lot more depth and re-playability than any of the previous titles in the series.

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This title has 14 events on offer, with three also having ‘duel event’ variations which are over-the-top versions doused with Mario and Sonic influences. These are the new versions of ‘Dream Events’, so whilst there’s not as many as in previous titles that doesn’t particularly matter, as these are events that you’ll want to keep coming back to as oppose to the more throwaway ‘Mario Party’ type Dream Events of yesteryear that were fun for one or two plays but got old rather quickly.

Rugby and Football are particular stand out games, with the normal and ‘duel event’ versions of Rugby being my favourite games in the entire Mario & Sonic Olympics series.

I spent hours in rugby perfecting my passes, timing my jumps just right to dodge an incoming tackle and pounding the pig into the goal that it started to feel like an entire game itself. The normal mode offers a relatively sane approach to rugby but with some slight Mario and Sonic flair whereas the duel event changes things up to make it feel a bit more like an actual Mario sports title.

Playing on a glass field above a lake in the duel event version of rugby, blobs of water will come falling onto the field, causing you to fall over if they hit you but forming a rainbow if you manage to dodge them. By running through that rainbow you can become momentarily invincible, smashing your way through other players, racking up your score whilst you’re at it.

Duel modes are all about building up scores as you play, which will then be awarded to you if you score a try. You can gain these points by hitting the opposing team with items or by going through the rainbows and powering up.

It’s not just the likes of football and rugby that have added depth and longevity this time around though, as even the most simple of events such as 100m can now be played time and again for many different reasons. Now not only will you be going for gold in the single player campaign but you can hop online to compete against ghosts, either ones in your level bracket or one of the top world athletes, receiving a hefty bunch of coins and rings if you beat them to then spend on Mii outfits, stamps and music tracks.

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Single Player Campaign
Mario & Sonic Olympic titles have always been fun multi-player affairs but not held up well as single player games. By simply offering the single events on one screen with the task of getting gold in all, it sometimes felt a bit pointless and disjointed. The Rio Olympics have overcome this problem though and offer the most robust single player campaign the series has seen to date.

The single player adventure takes part on Copacabana beach, a relatively small hub world but a constantly buzzing and exciting one, similar to the hub of Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Upon first arriving, there will be a few familiar faces by stands that you can go and talk to, Toad over at the Tournament Stand where you can enter yourself into events, Orbot and Cubot of Colours fame at the Single Events stand and everyone’s favourite odd-ball, Big the Cat, who offers the online rankings, Mii outfits and collectibles.

Between these classic characters the beach is just oozing with charm, with Mii’s happily playing volleyball over on one corner, relaxing and nodding off to sleep by the sea or running up and down practising for an event, it’s the most charismatic and life-like Mii’s have been since Tomodachi Life.

The beach constantly grows as you progress in your adventure too, with new stands and characters arriving as you gain more medals, such as Shy Guy playing host to online ghosts or the Pianta stall offering Super Mario goodies in return for coins. The arrival of permanent new stands gives a great sense of progression and something to aim for, but there are also fleeting appearances to look out for too.

As you partake in tournaments, you’ll momentarily return to the beach before heading into semi-finals and finals, giving you a chance to kick back and chat with a few Mii’s (obtaining a flag from their country of origin or tips on events) or guest characters that make sudden appearances. For example, for the rhythmic gymnastic Tournament, Rosalina will pay a visit to the beach, offering a match after you’ve completed the event. If you manage to beat her, you’ll unlock her as a playable character for that event. There are loads of instances like this, such as the arrival of Sticks in archery and Zazz in table tennis and it adds yet another sense of progression and something more to work towards, trying to unlock all of the extra side-characters as you continue your adventure.

The carnival will occasionally come to the beach too, slowly entering with massive floats of Mario and Sonic characters to the beat of some happy Latin music. The drivers of the floats will offer specific tasks in the Olympic events to unlock certain Mii outfits or music, but you’d better complete them quick as the carnival won’t last forever!


This title plays host to the usual bunch of Mario and Sonic characters such as DK, Luigi, Peach, Silver and Wario. Unlike the 3DS version of this game, you can thankfully use them in any event too, so our dream of playing rhythmic gymnastics with our elegant Wario build is once again a reality.

This title also offers up a bunch of unique characters from both series, fans of which will be really impressed by. Slightly lesser-known but well loved characters such as Sticks, Zazz, Nabbit and Zavok appear as extra unlockable characters specific to certain events.

The biggest issue with recent iterations of this series have been the controls. With the previous Wii U outing, Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, you’d have to constantly swap between the GamePad and Wii Remote Plus, sometimes putting a nunchuk into the Wii Remote Plus, or using it for motion controls, then going back to the GamePad to use the touch screen, or to blow in the mic and then use gyro’s. It just became too complicated and required a bunch of different controllers.

The 3DS version of this very title also suffered a similar fate, swapping between touch, gyro and normal controls, with the occasional touch-screen and mic blow for good measure. It just meant that you’d spend more time getting to grips with the new and confusing control methods than actually enjoying the games themselves. After years of adding layer upon layer of different input methods, SEGA have finally gone back to the drawing board and stripped everything.

Everything is now controlled with just button inputs, no motion gestures or extra controllers needed. You can finally enjoy the mini-games for what they are, as oppose to seeing them as hosts for some crazy new way to play. It’s refreshing and a testament to the events on offer that they can be enjoyed without masses of gimmicks attached to them.

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Blast Processing
The graphics and music present in this game are fantastic. The music has that classic SEGA magic, adding layers or stripping down to the beat of songs when playing events, such as chanting as you get near the goal in football or the tune simplifying to a drum beat as you line up your goal kick in rugby. The original music made for each event fits well, but there’s also a bunch of classic and remixed Mario and Sonic music to unlock throughout the game in a similar vein to Smash Bros. but on a smaller scale with 74 songs to unlock.

The graphics are very nice in this title and as crisp and clean as they come, following a very similar style to Mario Kart 8. They’re some of the best graphics I’ve seen on Wii U with the character model of Mario being especially impressive - It could have been ripped straight from the box-art!

Whilst the models are all lovely, the animation can be a bit choppy/robotic depending on the event, but it’s only really noticeable on the close-up replays.

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This title is the start of a new direction for the Mario & Sonic Olympics series. It’s taken a new approach with less events but ones that are more robust and will keep you coming back. It’s also the first title in the series that feels like a Sports game first and party game second whilst it used to be the opposite.

Whilst previous titles were best played with 4 people in a party atmosphere, this one has shifted to more of a two player face-off like Smash Bros. or Fifa. This is also the first title in the series that I can say really holds up as a single player adventure, and is one that offers hours of fun and so many unlockables that you can enjoy this even if local multiplayer isn’t your thing.

This series is very hit and miss. I adored the London 2012 Olympics on Wii but was very disappointed with the Sochi Olympics on Wii U and Rio Olympics on 3DS – Thankfully, Mario & Sonic at the Rio Olympic Games for Wii U not only reaches the lofty heights of Wii’s London 2012 outing but actually surpasses it.

Fixing the control problems that have been prevalent in recent entries, uploading and downloading high-scores and friend scores automatically, offering the full range of characters for each event and providing the best single player yet, this is the best version of the Mario & Sonic Olympic Games to date.

N-Europe Final Verdict

If you’re a fan of previous games in the series then I can’t suggest this enough, as it retains the charm of the old games but also drags it into modern day, finally stripping itself of its different control schemes and fixing previous problems. A fun sports title that can be enjoyed as a single or multiplayer adventure, this is a great Summer title to sink your teeth into.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals4
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan3
Final Score



- Great single player experience with lots to explore and unlock
- Deeper and more enjoyable events than previous titles
- Wide range of classic and obscure Mario and Sonic characters


- No online multiplayer
- Less events than previous entries
- Big the Cat makes an appearance

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