If you’re looking for a basketball simulator with amazing and accurate ball physics, killer ball handling moves, and pinpoint play control, Mario Hoops 3-on-3 is probably not for you. In fact, when first attempting to play the game, you’ll likely be confused by the controls and even the premise of the game (hint: it’s not basketball).
There is a ball. There are two “hoops”. Each team scores points by making a basket. After that, the game is pretty much insane. Players build coins to act as point multipliers when a basket is made. “Points” are closer to Tony Hawk trick points than any sports score outside of darts—I managed to squeak out a victory over Peach, Daisy, and Diddy Kong with a final score of 563 to 65.
As with Mario Kart, Mario Hoops gives players the chance to fight dirty with items like turtle shells, lightning bolts, and banana peels to “even the odds.” Tricky characters are more adept at instigating chaos on the court, but quicker characters are able to compensate by catching up to loose balls or fast breaks.
Many will be frustrated by the deception and simply refuse to play; this is a mistake. While the controls take some getting used to, using the touchpad to shoot is actually pretty entertaining and novel. While it is possible to change the scoring to reflect traditional basketball points—2pt, 3pt, and 4pt for special—the control style favors a more fast-paced coin accumulation melee ball.
What it lacks in basketball simulation, Mario Hoops makes up for in entertainment value. Familiar Mario mythology characters possess special moves and skill proficiencies (i.e. Waluigi is technically capable, while Bowser is powerful) and the variety of team combinations makes for frantic competition.
Rewards for completion and ranking yield custom “easter eggs” like extra characters, ball colors, and player outfits, but the biggest incentive is the pick-up-and-play style highly conducive to portable gaming. You can even break up and resume tournament play between games.
Short and Sweet: GIVE THIS GAME A PLAY. While it’s not going to change your life, Mario Hoops 3-on-3 is a fun end fairly addictive game…and where else can you throw down a 360 jam with Waluigi over Princess Toadstool?