Mario Hoops 3 On 3 Review / Preview for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Mario Hoops 3 On 3 Review / Preview for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Mario Hoops 3 On 3 is an enjoyable novelty but it doesn’t have much lasting power.

As an arcade basketball game, Mario Basketball 3 On 3 is definitely on the right track. It’s fun, easy to play and features many of your favorite stars from the Mario world such as Luigi, the Princess, Wario and even Donkey Kong. It has the added advantage of the DS’s touch controls which is something you won’t find in the arcades. The touch controls make the gameplay a little more intimate and intense but the longer that you play the game the more you realize the shortcomings of this control system. It’s not a big problem if you’re a casual gamer but if you’re looking to really master this game I suggest you get your hands on a basketball sim and leave this one to the weekend warriors.

Mario Hoops 3 On 3 screenshot

Using the stylus you touch, draw and tap various commands that include dribbling, shooting, passing, blocking and stealing. Some of the commands are more responsive than others. For instance, the dribbling is great. Simply tap on the screen and you’ll bounce the ball just like in real life. Question mark block containing coins make great platforms for dribbling on. As the ball bounces on the block, coins are collected. The more coins that you amass the bigger your score will be if you happen to make the next shot. You can collect up to 100 coins at a time on some blocks which will increase the basket score by five times the regular amount which is 20 points. Power-ups can also be found in some of these blocks such as the star that makes you invincible, the mushroom that makes you faster and the bomb that will temporarily stun your opponents.

Blocking and stealing are also good touch commands. Make a downward slash with the stylus and you’ll attempt to swipe the ball from another player. Move toward them by pushing the D-pad and you might be able to complete the steal of the ball. Slashing upwards will enable you to jump and hopefully block the ball while it’s in the air. If you can manage to time another slash at the right moment you will unleash a double jump that should guarantee you control of the ball. When landing, slashing down will cause you to hit the ground like an earthquake, once again temporarily stunning your opponents.

Mario Hoops 3 On 3 screenshot

Passing involves drawing a straight line in the direction of the character that you want to pass the ball to. Keep in mind there are two other AI-controlled characters on the court with you at all times, even though they don’t really do much to help you out. The character that you’re passing to will not always be located on a perfect horizontal line and all too often you will advertently draw an angle instead of a straight line and the ball will end up somewhere else, such as at the basket which makes it vulnerable for interception by the other team. The further along that you get in the game the more difficulty you will encounter with this touch style of control. Things get faster and more frantic later on. More advanced moves will require the drawing of a symbol or a letter which lacks any kind of basketball feel. Not only does it feel unnatural but it wastes time and gives your opponent the advantage, not that they need it because they virtually every move they attempt is pulled off flawlessly. This style of control should be confined to casting magic spells.

Mario Hoops 3 On 3 screenshot

Your opponents in the single-player mode have an unfair advantage over you. They appear to have no weaknesses. Even after you get used to the control system and the lay of the land, so to speak, you will be thrust into a new arena which is a typical madcap Mario world filled with platform elements such as cannon balls, man-eating flowers and rolling barrels. So now you have to contend with the dangers in the environment as well as attempt to play an intense game of basketball. The environments, or courts, are very well designed but they just interfere too much with the gameplay, the main focus of which should be basketball. Some of the courts include a ghost ship, the beach, a volcanic island, an icy level, Bowser’s castle and a casino filled with slot machines that can increase your score much like the coins in the question mark boxes.

It’s the multi-player mode that unleashes the full potential of this game. If you use the single-player mode as a training exercise, you’ll be in good shape to take on the most skilled of human opponents. It’s refreshing to play against an opponent that will actually make mistakes. Since the playing field is leveled, the controls seem like less of an issue since you are both hindered by them. This game was designed for four-players, it’s obvious that it wasn’t an afterthought. You can see all of the players clearly on the screen and although they obscure each other when they all converge at one point, it’s not unlike real football in that regard. Otherwise the controls work well and there is no lag, framerate of collision detection issues.

Mario Hoops 3 On 3 screenshot

Square Enix has really done its homework to deliver a great looking, colorful package that is so Mario that it should make Nintendo a little jealous. It blends traditional Mario 2D graphics with 3D environments for extra depth and visual impact. You’ll hear a lot of familiar sound effects including the Mario-running-out-of-time panic music. The characters all have a few different words of dialog they use when they score or leave the court. The in-game animations blend seamlessly with the actual game to display great dunks, dekes and other entertaining asides.

Mario Hoops 3 On 3 is packed with characters, modes, mini-games and unlockables. If you can play through the single-player mode on the most difficult setting you will unlock some characters from Final Fantasy. My only complaint is that a lot of gamers will get bored long before they ever complete the single-player mode. But as long as you’ve got the Wi-Fi mode and some friends to play against, this might not be a questionable purchase.


  • Get that magic touch. There are plenty of basketball games out there, but none with the hands-on control of Mario Hoops 3-on-3. Players use the touch screen to get their game on as they execute tricky dribbles, special passes and sweet shots all with strokes and taps of the stylus.
  • Players choose their teams of three characters from the Mario universe and hit the parquet. Power-ups like Red Shells and Bob-ombs can turn the tide as they chase down coins they will affect the score, so players collect as many as they can as they drive to the hoop.
  • Whether playing against friends on a local wireless connection, jamming through a tournament or just playing mini-games, there’s a mode for everyone.

    Rating out of 5 Rating Description


    Excellent graphics. Colorful and crisp. Each character is well defined and easy to see on the court. The animations are equally good.


    The entire control system is a novelty that most players will grow weary of after a while.


    Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
    The sounds are great. Many familiar Mario tunes from past games are included as well as some new voiceovers.


    Play Value
    There are tons of unlockables in this game but the reason to continue playing is the four-player, wi-fi mode.


    Overall Rating Good
    Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
  • Preview

    Nintendo fans will be dribbling all over themselves when this one arrives. by Adam Brown

    Life is good. Nintendo and Square Enix have finally made up and are working together again. So what can we expect from this long awaited kissing and making up? Is it a new handheld Final Fantasy? No. Then could it be a new portable Kingdom Hearts Franchise? No, again. Perhaps if we are extremely lucky it may be the long awaited sequel to Mario RPG. Oh… it’s a 3 on 3-basketball game. Are you serious?

    Nintendo and Square Enix are very serious and may have a great game on their hands. For the first time since his cameo in NBA Street volume 3, Mario takes to the basketball court to show that short, chubby, and mustached white men can jump. This time around he brings along more of his friends, a stylus based control system, and the over-the-top gameplay we’ve come to expect from Mario sports titles.

    The fundamental structure of the game is what you would expect, a 3 on 3-basketball game where the team with the most points when time runs out is the winner. Short shots will earn you 20 points and long shots will earn you 30. Coins can be collected during a game by dribbling over the coin blocks that litter the wide variety of Nintendo themed courts. Once collected, the coins can be added to your score by sinking a basket. If you collect enough coins before scoring, you can put Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game to shame with just one shot. To keep your opponents from scoring, you will be able to steal, block, and use various weapons and power-ups (turtle shells, mushrooms, Bob-ombs, etc) that come from question blocks that are also scattered around the courts.

    Mario Hoops 3 On 3 screenshotMario Hoops 3 On 3 screenshot

    Mario Hoops 3 on 3 will allow players to control their characters with a combination of the D-pad and the touch screen. Players will move their characters around on the top screen with the D-pad while using the system’s touch screen for everything from dribbling to throwing turtle shells. A horizontal swipe with the stylus will pass the ball while a vertical swipe will result in a shot. Each character in the game will also have special moves that can only be used by tapping specific symbols on the touch screen. Mario’s special move is done by tapping the shape of an M (lower left, upper left, middle, upper right, then lower right) on the touch screen while Luigi’s involves tapping an L shape. These special moves are unstoppable and will greatly aid the player as long as they can complete the tapping sequence before they get spanked by a turtle shell or an opponent’s fist.

    Mario Hoops 3 On 3 screenshotMario Hoops 3 On 3 screenshot

    Mario Hoops 3 on 3 will include both single and multiplayer modes. The single player mode is set up just like Mario Kart’s single player game. Players will progress through several different cups (Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, etc) with ramping difficulties. Hoops’ multiplayer mode will support both single and multiple cartridge games. With multiple cartridges, you will be able to play full basketball games with up to four people wirelessly. The single cartridge multiplayer however, will consist of a Mario Kart-esque battle game.

    Mario looks to conquer the hardwood as he has conquered most of the other mainstream sports (I’m still waiting for Mario Football). While this game may look like an unnatural choice for a Nintendo and Square Enix collaboration, the game should not be overlooked. Mario Hoops 3 on 3 looks to deliver a solid arcade basketball game to the DS this September.


    • A variety of classic Nintendo characters to choose from.
    • Over the top 3 on 3 combat basketball controlled with the D-pad and stylus.
    • Unique Nintendo themed weapons and courts.
    • Wireless multiplayer with up to four players.
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