Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 review: As good as gold

Mario and Sonic are heading to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic games. Here's our review.

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The Olympic Games are heading to Tokyo next year in 2020, but that hasn't stopped the developers at Sega from bringing Mario and Sonic back to action this fall. The latest entry features old school graphics that will take players on a nostalgia trip of extreme proportions while getting the hype train going for the 2020 games. The Olympics are heading to Tokyo next year, but players don't have to wait any longer. It's time to go for the gold.

Konichiwa, Tokyo

Shibuya Scramble Search is a lot like a Where's Waldo mini-game.
Shibuya Scramble Search is a lot like a Where's Waldo mini-game.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 celebrates the host city in a very fun way. The map in Story Mode features some of the most iconic tourist destinations in the megalopolis. From Tokyo Skytree to Makuhari Messe, the developers did an amazing job of showcasing Tokyo for folks who have visited or for players who hope to travel there someday.

The setting seems to have motivated the teams at Nintendo and Sega as Mario and Sonic go on a serious adventure with a variety of gameplay that shows off the city of Tokyo as well as its history as a host city for the Olympics in 1964.

Going back in time

Bowser, Mario, Sonic, and Eggman are all transported back to 1964 by a handheld video game system.
Bowser, Mario, Sonic, and Eggman are all transported back to 1964 by a handheld video game system.

The Story Mode in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is surprisingly great. I was not expecting to be impressed by a single player story in this game, as the franchise is known for its collection of mini-games, but the developers have done a tremendous job with this new mode.

The plot of the game's story mode is simple enough. Bowser, Eggman, Mario, and Sonic were all suckd into an old handheld video game console. The game they end up inside of is called Tokyo 1964 and they must win as many gold medals as possible in order to get back to 2020. While most of the events in Tokyo 1964 are parts of the Olympic Games, there are some really cool moments in the Story Mode, like a level where Sonic has to chase down Eggman in a Shinkansen bullet train. 

The retro 2D part of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020's Story Mode is super charming and fun. There is something really crazy and fun about seeing a 16-bit Sonic and Eggman standing next to 8-bit Mario and Bowser. Some of my favorite moments and mini-games in the 1964 part of the game include Diving, Marathon, Museum Sneak, and an epic car chase where Sonic chases down Eggman's cab on the streets of Tokyo. He's just that fast. Other retro min-game events included in the game are Volleyball, 100 Meter Race, 400 Meter Hurdles, Gymnastics - Vault, Judo, Kayaking, Long Jump, and Trap Shooting.

It's also worth mentioning that the music in the Tokyo 1964 part of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 also features a retro soundtrack that is full of new chiptunes for players to rock out to. Sega's music team has created several retro songs that will get stuck in your head.

Back to the future

Luigi is tasked with bringing his brother back to the year 2020, and he teams up with a lot of familiar faces along the journey.
Luigi is tasked with bringing his brother back to the year 2020, and he teams up with a lot of familiar faces along the journey.

Meanwhile in the year 2020, Luigi and Tails get together to figure out how to get their best friends out of the Tokyo 1964 video game. There is something super charming about the two sidekicks finally getting their moment to shine as heroes in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. While Mario and Sonic are named on the title, Luigi and Tails play a huge role in bringing their friends back to 2020. They don't do this alone, as they amass a huge crew of characters from both the Sonic and Mario franchises.

Donkey Kong hooks up Tails and Luigi with passes to Makuhari Messe.
Donkey Kong hooks up Tails and Luigi with passes to Makuhari Messe.

Luigi and Tails find themselves running all around Tokyo to participate in events. They run into a lot of characters from the Sonic and Marios franchises along the way, and most of them help them get into venues. Many of the good guys you encounter in the 2020 portion of Story Mode join you as companions and they will also compete in events.

All the characters who appear as companions by the end of Story Mode in 2020.
All of the characters who appear as companions by the end of Story Mode in 2020.

Fans of the Mario series will run into a lot of familiar faces outside of just Mario and Luigi, including Toad, Peach, Daisy, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Bowser Jr., Wario, and even Waluigi. Sonic fans will also get to see a lot of characters from the series beside Tails and Dr. Eggman. Knuckles, Amy, Shadow, Silver, Metal Sonic, Blaze and even Vector are featured in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. There are some really interesting moments, like when you run into Yoshi at the world-famous Shibuya Crossing and end up playing a mini-game similar to Where's Waldo? 

There are more 3D events in the 2020 part of Story Mode than the 2D ones that take place in 1964 Tokyo. Players can participate in a 100 meter race, 110 meter hurdles, 4 x 100 meter race, Archery, Badminton, Boxing, Canoe Doubles, Discus Throw, Horseback Riding, Fencing, Soccer, Gymnastics - Floor Exercise, Javelin Throw, Karate, Rugby, Skateboarding, Sport Climbing, Surfing, Swimming, Table Tennis, and Tripe Jump. I would say that Triple Jump, Archery, Boxing, Fencing and Karate were my favorite 2020 events, with Soccer, Discus Throw, and Canoe Doubles being the most underwhelming in my opinion.

Both the 2D and 3D mini-game selections combine to form an overall great group of events, but there are some that I certainly won't return to for fun. Most of my complaints about the mini-games mentioned above revolve around some controls that didn't really feel great. While almost every event has a learning curve, the difficulty might be too much for some less experienced players.

A gold medal performance

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is an extremely polished and fun video game.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is an extremely polished and fun video game.

I didn't expect to like this game as much as I do, and I certainly didn't think that a Story Mode would be the biggest selling point for a game known as a mini-game compilation, but here we are. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is an excellent game with a fabulous soundtrack and fan service for fans of either franchise. The game's Story Mode does a great job of introducing players to all of the mini-games, while also teaching them about the rich history and culture of Tokyo. Sega has done a great job as ambassadors for the city of Tokyo, and the 1964 retro 2D mini-games and events are nostalgia-filled romps that will leave players smiling from ear to ear.


This review is based on a Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is available in retail and digital stores today, for $59.99. The game has been rated E10+ by the ESRB.

CEO

Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

Pros
  • Retro 1964 events are super fun
  • Excellent soundtrack
  • Solid variety of mini-games
  • Luigi gets his shine
  • Tons of Sonic fan service
Cons
  • Some mini-games' controls are not intuitive
  • Not a lot of voice acting
  • Misspelled museum in one part of the game's text
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