Nowadays, there seems to be a loads of Mario sports games and when a new one comes out, it usually isn’t a big deal. But when Mario Tennis was first released for the Nintendo 64, I was really excited.
I wasn’t a huge tennis fan or anything like that, but what really drew me to this game was its large cast of characters. It may not look like much compared to the rosters of later titles but back then it was really exciting. For the first time, you could control Bowser in a 3D space! You could be a Boo or a Para-Troopa. Waluigi was introduced and was a mysterious fourth ‘Mario brother’ with a slick colour scheme and devious design – I loved him then and ever since. Birdo was back for the first time in years. Good old Donkey Kong was there and he’s joined by a super cool unlockable character (whose identity I won’t spoil.) It was amazing and they’re all portrayed with such charm – especially in it’s opening cutscene.
In terms of gameplay, it’s pretty much just a solid tennis game. You work through tournaments to unlock trophies, new courts and a couple of secret characters. I think it stands up really well and will always provide a solid tennis experience.
Of course, there are also a few ‘wacky’ extras, such as a mini-game where you return tennis balls spat at you by Piranha Plants. Another has you playing on a court in Bowser’s Castle where there are items to use, much like in the Mario Kart games.
All in all, it’s among the best side games for Mario. There are a lot of hours of fun to be had, as you’re encouraged to play tournaments as every character – not just to get the trophies for all of them, but to see their unique victory celebrations when they are awarded them. There are lots of extra courts to unlock and the options to play with friends. It’s a comprehensive package and one which I still find fun to come back to every now and then.