Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is a curious little Nintendo Switch game. As the sixth installment of the Mario and Sonic series, Sega spruced up the stakes by splitting up the Mario and Sonic clans between parallel realms: one, a gorgeous 3D render of Tokyo's upcoming 2020 Olympic park and the other, a 8-bit recreation of the city when it last hosted in 1964. Both hold a number of sporting events—some surprisingly challenging and others ridiculously simple—and an expansive collection of beloved characters.
Story mode is a short, fun nostalgia trip
Finishing the Story Mode of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on my Nintendo Switch Lite took mere hours, but the plot amused me for that time. While preparing for the 2020 summer events, Mario and Sonic get sucked into a boobytrapped Toyko 1964 game console created by Eggman. But Eggman and accomplice Bowser wind up stuck in the 8-bit world, too. While the four of them face-off in races and ragadas for medals, Luigi and Tails corral a larger posse of gold-getters back in 2020.
There are 10 events in the 1964 map and 21 in the 2020 map. But they’re not all track and field events. You can skateboard as Yoshi, surf as Silver and rock climb as Peach, too. My favorite part of story mode, though, are the mini-games used to collect park passes. I had more fun scaling Tokyo Tower and playing a version of Where’s Waldo with Shy Guys than I did with my gymnastics floor routine versus Donkey Kong
Great for kids
Story Mode feels best suited for kids. You can’t skip dialog or make game-alteration decisions—the game play is rather efficient for reaching the end. You don’t need to guess where on the map you need to go next, and if you’re struggling to win an event you can skip it after just three tries (Which I admittedly resorted to for discus).
There’s also a neat education component to Story Mode. Each landmark is filled with factoids about Tokyo city and its vivid history of hosting the Olympics. All in all, the scripted adventure feels more like an homage to past summer games than a gripping athletic competition.
Good party game, but limited options
If you’re looking for less plot and more adrenaline, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is one of the best Nintendo Switch games for casual multiplayer parties. You’ll need the standard Switch for multiplayer Quick Match mode, but from there you’re armed to face off in Olympic Events with friends. With the flexibility of the Joy-Con controllers and a plethora of characters to choose, expect to see the competitive sides of your pals.
There’s split screen Local Play and Online Play, for when you want to arrange matches with fellow owners of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. I didn’t use these modes, though. They don’t offer anything that Quick Match doesn’t. There’s no option for randomization or tournaments brackets or even an ongoing Olympics competition against virtual opponents. The game falls a little short in this regard.
Dream Play delivers
Dream Play is a fun addition to Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. A first for the Mario and Sonic series, the 3D Dream events have nothing to do with the Olympics. Rather, it seems Dream Play is in place to add 2-minute tastes of top game genres. Between Dream Racing, Dream Shooting and Dream Karate, there’s a Quick Match game everyone will like.
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 goes for the 8-bit gold with a nostalgia trip perfect for parties. Though face-off modes feel limited, the simple story mode is fun the first time around. I wouldn’t revisit it, but I think kids will enjoy encountering their favorite characters while learning up on Tokyo's illustrious Olympic history time and time again. Or at least until the summer games kick off in July 2020.
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Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.