One of Nintendo’s most long-lasting spin-off series, Mario Tennis has had its ups and downs. Which is the best game in the franchise?
By Stephen Lagioia
Published 7 hours ago
The various Mario Sports efforts by Nintendo and a few other studios have remained some of the most fun, memorable party games to hit the Big N’s consoles,?dating back to?the ’90s. Though the plumber has at least dabbled in a number of sports,?the?Mario Tennis games are among the most notable examples.
The tennis formula has proven a great match for the frantic, arcade sensibilities of the Mario brand, while also serving as highly addictive?multiplayer romps. The?franchise has certainly varied in both style and quality but has remained a go-to for social gatherings and online showdowns.
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But which title can be crowned champion? This article will?serve up an overview of each entry of Nintendo and Camelot’s hit spin-off?series, ranking them from worst to best.
This title remains largely overlooked — and while Wii U’s lack of sales is a factor, it’s not the only reason for the?game’s lack of success.
There’s really little going for this obscure version of Mario Tennis outside of its vibrant visuals and occasionally fun Mega Mushrooms. But most even view these powerups?as more of a detriment than a plus, being fairly?overused and overpowered. It implements the Wii U GamePad in a handy manner,?allowing a second player to get a closer, clearer view of their own character’s perspective.
At the end of the day though, Ultra Smash’s?slew of gimmicks, bare-bones content, and spotty online support tend to bog the game down beyond redemption for most.
In a very un-Nintendo move, this 3DS title seems to stress quantity more than quality, with a hodgepodge of sports that include tennis as well as soccer, golf, and even horse racing. Though this diverse?lineup may?entice some gamers, the somewhat shallow nature of most events — and shallow online play — harms its longevity. Many critics and fans alike view it as a jack of all trades situation, even?if?these jacks have their fun moments.
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Not only are most of the games pretty straightforward, but Bandai Namco and Camelot don’t particularly take advantage of the unique hardware. Still, many have pointed to its local multiplayer features as a highlight, and its variety of sport romps which are at least competent.
Even in the early 2010s, there wasn’t an ideal way to play a portable version of Mario Tennis that wasn’t somewhat archaic and flat. For this alone, the 3DS game deserves some props, especially with its subtle but solid stereoscopic 3D visuals that add to the experience.
The game utilizes more 3DS bells and whistles, including QR codes, gyroscope movement, touch screen functionality, and online multiplayer.?At the same time, the focus remains on a solid, enjoyable tennis experience at its core. Certain fans and critics have regarded Mario Tennis Open as?fairly dull, rough around the edges, and lacking on the campaign front in particular.
Still, there’s plenty to appreciate about this colorful, varied version of Mario Tennis — including a neat minigame that has players interact with an on-screen projection of classic Mario.
For a game confined to early ’90s tech, Game Boy Color’s rendition of Mario Tennis?is surprisingly decent, especially for a game that would seemingly demand 3D visuals. Of course,?the depth of the tennis is a bit limited given the?meager hardware and stiff D-pad controls, but Camelot pulls off a lot with a little in its 2001 take on the franchise.
While it’s still ultimately tennis, the game takes a refreshing deviation from the norm. It focuses on new characters Alex and Nina, who embark on a quest to topple the tennis champ, Mario. Along with some pretty solid tennis mechanics, the game also explores uncharted terrain by dabbling somewhat in the RPG realm.
This makes it feel a bit like a Golf Story prototype more than a Game Boy version of the N64 classic. While purists of the original may be turned off by this, Camelot makes this version stand out by utilizing its RPG pedigree and crafting a fun, unique experience.
With (relatively) more potent hardware to work with this time, Camelot?shines?even more with its?GBA rendition of Mario Tennis. Even as the DS was starting to hog some of the spotlight, the studio proved that the GBA hardware could still get the job done with this vibrant, fun, and in-depth tennis romp.
Power Tour?continues the handheld trend of sprinkling in role-playing elements while stressing the single-player experience. Those expecting a thrilling party romp may be disappointed, especially?compared to the?fan-favorite?Power Tennis, which released a year prior. Still, fans of the?more campaign-focused, RPG direction of the series are almost sure to get a kick out of this one.
Dating back two decades, this originator may not have aged too well compared to some of its Mario Tennis peers. Regardless, it’s tough to deny the fun, nostalgic charm, and still-solid mechanics of this addictive sports game. Being the humble first entry in the series, Camelot and Nintendo didn’t deviate too far off the beaten path, keeping the focus on enjoyable, fundamental tennis.
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Though there’s a touch of nuance, Mario Tennis balances arcade elements (such as items) with fairly swift pacing that gives it more appeal than a tennis sim would. The handful of moves is diverse enough for skilled players to shine, while the controls are simple enough for almost anyone to jump in and get the ball rolling. These traits round out one of the most enjoyable 4-player games the N64 has to offer.
Seemingly hearing the critiques shot at?Ultra?Smash, Nintendo and Camelot fired back in convincing fashion with this blast of a party game for Switch.
Aces?largely shores up issues fans had with its Wii U predecessor, offering a more solid,?robust online mode, dialing back the gimmicks a bit, and adding a diverse palette of gameplay options. This includes a motion-controlled Swing Mode, co-op challenges, and even a dynamic solo campaign more akin to the handheld games.
The range of shots — including flashy Trick Shots and epic Special Shots — allow for ample chaos and skill. At the same time, the game retains much of the accessibility and instant fun the series is known for.
GameCube’s debut of Mario Tennis?emphatically checks most of the boxes, with a?sleek presentation, robust content, and addictive gameplay. Mario Power Tennis hosts a slew of multiplayer options, colorful courts, amusing minigames — including a wall-painting romp — and a vast lineup of distinct characters.
Power Tennis?taps into the successful formula of its predecessor while polishing and fleshing things out with more depth and variety. Though the core campaign is slim,?completionists can take several dozen hours to cover all the ground and earn each goodie the game has to offer.
Camelot offers?ample?off-the-wall?arcade flair and quirks such as game-changing power shots and Item Battles. At the same time, the studio grants the option to strip things down to a more basic, classic game of tennis. The result is a well-rounded party title whose appeal is about as broad as can be.
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About The Author
(173 Articles Published)
Stephen is an avid Nintendo, Indie, and retro gamer who dabbles in Xbox on occasion, mainly in the form of binge sessions of Overwatch. He’s a history buff, an aspiring writer of short fiction, and a devout metalhead who enjoys poorly drumming along to Black Sabbath on his cheap drum set. When his beloved Chicago Cubs or Bulls are not playing, he typically likes to watch random documentaries or campy horror films.
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