We’re still about nine months away from the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some Olympic-style video games. Once again, Mario, Sonic, and their Nintendo and Sega friends are back at it with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games 2020. Thanks to the sheer number of playable events and a pretty fun story mode, this is without question one of the more enjoyable games available on the Nintendo Switch.
Like the earlier Mario & Sonic Olympic Games, you have the two titular characters and others from their respective franchises play in over 30 different sporting Olympic events (with a few other minigames thrown in for good measure). But, what makes this edition different and even more enjoyable than earlier versions are the retro-style Olympic events and a lengthy and varied story mode.
When not playing with others, the story mode is where you’ll spend most of your time. Dr. Eggman and Bowser have concocted an idea to trap Mario and Sonic in a retro video game meant to celebrate the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games. However, when Luigi turns on the unit, it not only manages to trap Mario and Sonic but Dr. Eggman, Bowser and Toad all get sent into the game as well.
For the rest of the story, Mario and Sonic will take part in retro-bit Olympic events in a 1964 version of Tokyo. At the same time, Luigi will wander around current-day Tokyo in the hopes he can find a way to get his friends back. Sporting events in 1964 will always see Mario or Sonic face off against Bowser or Dr. Eggman to earn enough Gold medals to send them back. In the present day, you’ll start as Luigi but as you progress, you’ll control other characters to win medals, earn venue passes, and hopefully brings everyone back to the current day.
The story mode does a really good job of experiencing most, if not all, of the available sporting events. It also nicely mixes it up so you’re getting a chance to play a few modern events followed by a few retro ones.
Both versions of Tokyo slowly open up to explore with new venues unlocking as the story unfolds. While it’s cool to explore each version of Tokyo, there isn’t much else to do except to advance the story or to find bits of trivia about both Tokyo Summer Games, the Olympics, or the characters in the game.
To further mix up the gameplay, there are also a series of different non-sporting mini-games. These are all story related and for the most part, don’t involve the playing of sports. A few standouts include playing as Sonic as he chases Dr. Eggman on a Bullet Train, sneaking around as Mario in a museum, and climbing the Tokyo Tower as Tails.
Outside of story mode, you can play any of the sporting events alone, with up to four friends or online against others. When playing solo, you may find the game’s default “Normal” difficulty a bit too easy. In most cases, you’ll be hard-pressed to not earn a Gold medal on your first or second try. For those who want a bit more a challenge, you’ll probably want to play everything on at least Hard.
The only other real downside to playing the events on your own is the lack of any sort of progression. It would have been nice to see something along the lines of a tournament structure where possible. With events like Rugby Sevens, Football, and Fencing, it’s frustrating that there was no way to play against a few computer players on your way to the Gold medal.
Most of the current-day events are playable with some sort of motion controls, either with one joy-con or two. Depending on which even you’re playing, this can sometimes make them a bit harder. While running the 100 meters with the joy-con was still pretty easy, others like the Javelin or the Equestrian race were not as precise. For the most part, you may want to dabble a bit with the motion controls but stick to the standard button controls.
With such a small catalog of quality sports games on the Nintendo Switch, I was pleasantly surprised at just how much fun I had with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games 2020. The sheer variety of sports available to play and the fairly lengthy story mode will certainly keep you entertained for many hours. I was consistently coming back and either trying to improve upon my best times or seeing if there were more secrets to unlock. I can see this being a go-to party game to entertain guests and if this wasn’t already on your radar, I hope it is now.
Sega supplied a retail code of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games 2020 for the purpose of this review.