Mario: A Retrospective Part 6

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Why don't all sports titles look this stupidly epic?

We’re coming close to the end of the Mario Retrospective in anticipation of Super Mario Galaxy 2, but which to cover today? Sports or parties? Parties or sports? I feel pretty sporty today, so let’s kick off this Mario sports edition of the retrospective. Play ball…Mario style!

Mario Golf:

Really, it was just golf with Mario characters, but who cares?

While Mario had dinked around in sports a few times before, such as in Open Tournament Golf on the NES, it was pretty much just golf with Mario slapped on. But it wasn’t until Mario Golf on the N64 where there really seemed to be something to this concept of sticking Mario and his friends in various sports. Mario Golf wasn’t overly complex by any means, nor was it even that heavily seeped in the Mario universe, but it was a great game with tons and tons to do. Just the task of unlocking all the characters and courses was enough to keep you playing for quite some time since the task was incredibly difficult. Try unlocking Metal Mario, if you can. It will require you to get a Birdie Badge on every single hole in the game, and while the first couple courses aren’t insanely challenging, once you get to the final few the difficulty will spike exponentially. You could download this off the Virtual Console for $10, or you could check Amazon for a cheaper price. It’s up to you.

Mario Golf Game Boy Color:

Really, it was just portable golf with Mario characters, but who cares?

I was big on my Game Boy Color and since I already enjoyed Mario Golf on the N64 so much, I figured I’d pick up the Game Boy Color version as well and see if it matched its N64 counterpart. The good news is that the game was excellent and played just like its bigger brother. The downside was the difficulty since you actually played a career as a character exclusive to the game (so not a Mario character). I found it impossibly difficult to correctly level my character up and spend points the proper way to stand any sort of a chance of having a decent golfer, but after a certain point it gets easier. Plus, you could upload your GBC golfer to the N64 version and play with them on the big screen in 3D, so that was certainly cool. I kind of wanted more of that whenever possible. You can literally find this used from Amazon for one cent.

Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour:

Really, it was just wackier golf with Mario characters, but who cares?

Eventually, a new Mario Golf was announced for the GameCube, dubbed “Toadstool Tour.” It played almost exactly as the first game, keeping the solid gameplay without an over abundance of Mario-ness to the title. It’s very nice that there were never any little things like power-ups to futz with the gameplay. It all came down to the swing and how careful you could play, and I was more than glad to give it a spin. But of course, this isn’t one of those titles that’ll have you constantly excited. You’ve really gotta love golf at a certain point to keep going, otherwise it’ll feel like a grind. Still, it’s a super solid game for any golf fan, and it’s under $5 used on Amazon, so it’s not a huge setback.

Mario Tennis:

I felt like this was naturally where Pong had progressed to.

Mario had dabbled with tennis before the N64 as well, but the 64 version became the title that everyone thinks back to first, partly because it also was just awesome. It sparked an intense interest in the actual sport of tennis and prompted me to take real-life tennis lessons. Not much came of it, but it got me going. The game itself was noteworthy for two important characters. The first was Daisy, previously seen all the way back as the princess from Super Mario Land, now officially Luigi’s counterpart, more or less. Also introduced was Waluigi, a character that tons and tons of gamers hate (and I really like for some reason). Mario Tennis played perfectly every step of the way, allowing me to get really good with it without ever feeling it was being unfair. After spending way more time with it than was probably healthy, I started looking forward to the possibility of more Mario Tennis games. I highly recommend snagging this one used off Amazon since it’ll run you under $7.

Mario Tennis Game Boy Color:

This game was just HARD! ARG!

Same as Mario Golf, Mario Tennis got a Game Boy Color version that played the same but which allowed you to play an actual career as a unique character. I really liked that aspect of the game since I thought it did a lot to encourage constant play with a definite point rather than just playing for the heck of it. Eventually things would have grown tired for me unless I was actively pursuing a goal, and it was one heck of a difficult goal to meet. The same held true for the GBC version of Mario Golf as in Mario Tennis that having to train your character means for a hefty portion of the game they really suck. It took a long, long time before my character started to show any signs of not sucking, but when I got there, my was it sweet. And hey, what do you know, I could transfer my characters from the GBC to the N64 version here as well. Excellent.

Mario Power Tennis:

Get your rainbow out of my tennis game! What the heck?!

I was very happy with the announcement of Mario Power Tennis, the GameCube Mario Tennis game, but after playing it I realized they did exactly what I feared: They added too many Mario gimmicks. Now every character had both a special power smash and a special power save that made the game really, really annoying. When playing a computer character, you keep hitting back and forth until you charge up your special power smash, then you let it fly, only to have the computer use their special power save and hit the ball back from anywhere on the court. This exchange would inevitably happen in reverse directly after, meaning any strategy was thrown right out the window in favor of just not messing up until the computer allowed you to have an opening to score a point. While it wasn’t a bad game, it pushed the limits of what I’d allow a game to do to me. But things were only getting started.

Mario Superstar Baseball:

Baseball's cool and all, but a cheating computer totally isn't.

By the time they announced Mario Superstar Baseball for the GameCube, it seemed almost like a complete instance of “Well duh.” The roster of Mario characters had swelled over the years, especially post-Mario Sunshine, meaning there were more than enough characters to fill out two full baseball teams. “Excellent,” I thought. “Time to get me excited for baseball in the same way Mario Golf and Mario Tennis had got me into those sports.” That didn’t happen this time. While Superstar Baseball wasn’t awful, it was ridiculously difficult due to one simple flaw: the game would cheat. The manual said the game wasn’t PROGRAMMED to cheat, but that if it was losing, it would shift variables in its favor. I found myself at the game’s mercy during one particular final game against Bowser where I was up by 9 runs in the top of the ninth inning. I was going to shut Bowser’s team out, no question about it. And then all of a sudden Bowser’s team scored a triple play on me without any warning. The bottom of the ninth came, Bowser’s team stepped up to bat, and they proceeded to hit ten homeruns in a row. I could do nothing to trick the computer with pitches or fielding. I just had to sit back and accept the loss. And I wasn’t even playing on the harder difficulty settings. What the heck?

Super Mario Strikers:

Wow, soccer suddenly looks really cool. How'd they do that?

Soccer? Mario? Sure, why the heck not? I heard that Mario would be getting a soccer game and I was skeptical but at the same time I was hopeful since someone at Nintendo Power mentioned that Strikers was like Smash Bros in soccer form. That was definitely the right thing to say to me, so when Strikers came out I made sure to rent it and see if it was really all that worth it or not. And I can definitely say that it made for a good rental game, though I’m glad I didn’t buy it since, yes, the core game was fun, but it was very, very limited. There weren’t a lot of characters and really not too much strategy beyond “Use your team captain’s special kick as soon as you reach half-field,” but it was still fun. And it also solidified something very odd for me: Mario characters have genitalia. How did I learn this? Because Waluigi would make the classic “Suck it” motion after scoring a goal. This motion only makes sense if there is something implied that you can suck, so infer from that what you will. You can come to your own conclusion for $7.

All the Others:

Let it be known that the ball Mario is about to dunk is also on fire. That counts for something.

Now, I realize it’s cheap to lump another eight or some odd games into this category here, including the Mario Golf and Tennis games for the Game Boy Advance, the Wii versions of Tennis, Strikers, and Sluggers, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, and the Mario Basketball game for the DS, but to be honest, I either have nothing to say about them since they’re exactly the same as their counterparts on other systems, or I haven’t played them. Specifically, I’ve played the Wii ports of Strikers and Sluggers and both of them were basically exactly like the GameCube versions except the controls were slightly different and slightly broken. Other than that, I’ll leave the job of talking about these titles to someone in the comments section, so go nuts.

Overall, Mario has hit every sport now except for football. Everything else has been covered, if even for the briefest of moments in a Mario Party game. Oh hey, we’ve got some Mario Party games to talk about, don’t we? That’ll be tomorrow. For now, leave a comment and hit the showers.

To catch up on the Mario Retrospective, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

Want to read more about Mario? He’s found in these articles here:

Mario: A Retrospective Part 7

Tips From a Grandmaster: Super Mario Galaxy 2

Let’s Think Deep: Rethinking Remakes

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About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.

2 Comments

  1. For the most part, Mario sports titles were never really overly “Mario” in their approach. Later versions tend to throw more power-ups into the fray, but yeah, they tend to be just simple sports games.

  2. PuppetDoctor on

    Mario still needs to make a Hockey game.

    I loved Mario Power Tennis for the Gamecube. I always thought the power ups were a lot of fun but then again I have never played Mario Tennis on the N64.

    I hated though Mario Baseball (whatever its called) on the Gamecube and Mario Soccer (again whatever it is called) on the Gamecube I never really understood the game.

    Mario Golf Toadstool Tour I rented from Blockbuster and I guess because there was many golf elements I never enjoyed the game at all.

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