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Mario Hoops 3-on-3

by Mike Gamin - September 25, 2006, 10:05 am EDT
Total comments: 8


Square Enix does sports and comes out ahead.

When Mario Hoops was first announced, many people scratched their heads. Why would Square Enix make a Mario Sports title? The result is a very entertaining title with the level of polish that Square Enix is known for.

Mario Hoops is one of the best looking DS games to date. Character models are detailed and well designed. Animations are different for almost every character. Everything looks great. The visuals only come up short in one spot, and it's an execution issue. The game includes an exciting multi-angle replay system after great plays. The only problem is they usually look less like a game and more like a slam dunk competition. For some reason every character and item but the player with the ball gets removed from the picture. Mario could unleash a huge dunk right in the face of Luigi, and the replay would make it look like he was all alone on a break away.

The single player modes are consistent with most of the Mario Sports titles. There is a series of tournaments to compete in, ranging from Mushroom Cup to Rainbow Cup. Difficulty ranges from stupidly easy to almost impossible and ramps up between the two fairly evenly. Consistent with how Square Enix makes most of their games, Mario Hoops may just be the hardest Mario sports game yet. The tournaments themselves are either three or four rounds. If you lose at any level, you are free to try again without starting the entire tournament over, but you can't select new characters.

Besides the tournament mode, you can also play exhibition games, compete in dribble races, practice each player's special shot, or run through some tutorials. The tutorials do a great job of explaining the rather complicated gesture-based controls. Gestures are used for most everything, including passing, shooting, stealing, and spin moves. The scheme works most of the time but has its problems. Spin moves can turn into throwing the ball in the back court. Pass attempts can often turn into shots. The dribbling possibilities make up for some of this though. This is the first basketball game I've played where how you dribble the ball can drastically affect your opponents' ability to steal it from you. Where you tap the screen directly translates to where your character dribbles. This can be used to power dribble away from your opponent while standing still, or crossing over while running up the court. If the ball isn't near your opponent when he tries to steal it, he won't be successful. It really feels like the next best thing to actually dribbling a ball.

The best part of every Mario sports title is the multiplayer. Mario Hoops comes up a little short here. The amount of effort put into things like your personal profile makes it seem like there were bigger plans for this title. There is even a feature you can turn on while playing the single player mode that searches for other players over local Wi Fi. It's hard to figure out why such a cool feature would be included if you can't play the game online. They didn't even take local multiplayer as far as most would like. There is a single-card mode, but it doesn't include an actual game of basketball. With one game card you can play either dribble race or coin hunter. Dribble race is the same mini-game as in the single player mode. Players race to collect 100 coins as fast as possible. This is about as exciting as it sounds. It's fun the first one or two times you do it, then it gets boring. Coin Hunter is a little bit better. This mode has nothing to do with basketball. Instead, players run around collecting items and attacking their opponents. It's an interesting change of pace and can be entertaining. Most people buy a basketball game to play basketball, though.

When two people each have a copy of the game, you can actually play basketball together. The games can get very competitive, and it does a good job of tracking personal records. Players can even choose what their basketball looks like. As fun as multiplayer is, I have to wonder why you can only play against one other person. “3 on 3" is in the title. It would be nice to take part in some six player games.

It's hard not to fault such an otherwise entertaining game for the lack of strong multiplayer support. This game could easily be better if it were online and supported six players. It almost seems as if it was planned all along, but the developers ran into a problem at some point and had to drop those features. Still, Mario Hoops is an innovative adaptation of the sport, and the multiplayer is worth trying, even with just two players.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9.5 8 7.5 9 8 8

Mario Hoops is one of the best looking DS titles yet. The only fault comes in some execution issues with replays.


Sound effects are strong, and the music is good.


The best dribbling controls ever are brought down by some other issues. The stylus doesn't do everything well.


The single player mode is great and the difficulty level is balanced. This one will stay in the DS for quite a while.


There are tons of unlockables and some entertaining multiplayer modes. If only it supported more players and was online.


It is a very solid package that could have been a lot better. It's hard to fault a game for what's not there when what is there is so much fun.


  • Amazing visuals
  • Dribbling controls are perfect.
  • It's a great basketball title with an arcade feel
  • Controls can be inconsistent.
  • So much more could have been done with the multiplayer modes.
  • Why can't we see other players on replays?
Review Page 2: Conclusion


CericSeptember 25, 2006

So in the end it was a good game that had the potential to be great.

FortysevenSeptember 25, 2006

The review isn't complete without mentioning the completely *absent* AI on your teammates. It truly is more like '1-on-3'.

And, personally, I felt the single-player game was embarassingly easy until I hit the Rainbow Cup on Hard mode. It seemed as if the difficulty took a very sharp turn -- the sliding all over the ice certainly doesn't help. I've never gotten to so pissed off at a game before -- I love my DS, but Bob help me I almost destroyed the friggin' thing trying to impale it with the stylus... face-icon-small-frown.gif

PaleMike Gamin, Contributing EditorSeptember 25, 2006

I disagree on the difficulty jumping right up. I think it ramps up evenly, but I will admit that some arenas are harder than others. The ice arena allows people to slide tackle each other, thus removing the strategic dribbling from the picture. It becomes much harder to score.

As for the AI of your teammates, I'm not sure what you expected. They run to open areas when on offense, and guard the people you aren't guarding on defense. They even rotate if you switch men. It works pretty well in my opinion. About the only thing they could do better is having them go for loose balls a little more, but you are supposed to switch to them for that... You don't want the game playing for you.

TJ SpykeSeptember 25, 2006

It's times like this that it really sucks to not have a job, all my spare money is going towards the Wii.

GoldenPhoenixSeptember 25, 2006

I could not stand Mario 3 on 3, the controls felt clunky and unintuitive. The touch screen element did not add anything to the game, and in fact took away alot of the control (it would have been much better suited to buttons). I'm sorry but I found nothing good about the controls, too bad it couldn't have came out for GC or Wii instead. Very dissapointing, which is sad because I was really anticipating it, too bad controls ruined any potential fun.

davidctaylorSeptember 26, 2006

What the last guy said. The controls were horrible! I had NEVER had a BAD Mario sports experience (I have every one for the GameCube) until this one. I'm going to have to put it on Ebay. I was sooooo looking forward to it, but the controls are horrible, single player is boring and the multiplayer (the real reason I got it) SUCKS since it doesn't include an actual game of basketball. This was very misleading IMHO. When it says it support multiplayer I expect to have some decent functionality with one cartridge. The whole reason for getting it was to play against my son. I should've waited for the reviews and not assumed what was included with the single cartridge multiplayer.

CericSeptember 26, 2006

You guys do realize that there was a reason that most of the Gameboy Series didn't do Single cart play? Then only limited on the GBA and the DS it was only really meant for demo type things. Next you'll complain because you can't play WoW with your friend because they don't have a copy.

GoldenPhoenixSeptember 26, 2006

In a way I hope it sells decently so we can see a sequel for Wii or something, I just hope that they axe alot of the touch screen controls.

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Mario Basket 3 on 3 Box Art

Genre Sports
Developer Square Enix
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Mario Hoops 3-on-3
Release Sep 13, 2006
jpn: Mario Basket 3 on 3
Release Jul 27, 2006
RatingAll Ages
eu: Mario Slam Basketball
Release Feb 16, 2007
aus: Mario Hoops 3-on-3
Release Oct 26, 2006
RatingParental Guidance

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