Mario Tennis Aces Review: Amazing Multiplayer Redeems Tyrannically Poor Execution

mario swings for the ball

You Got Served in Mario Tennis Aces

There was a point where I was ready to give up playing Mario Tennis Aces. One strike was being bored to death with a text heavy tutorial. Then I was brought to frustration because of the mediocre story mode filled with tedious challenges. I even lost 7 straight games against one of my buddies. I then began to question why I even bought this game to begin with. However, I did get this game at full launch price so I decided to give it another chance.

After playing some online matches and studying the tutorial a bit I started winning matches. It takes some time to fully understand how Mario Tennis Aces is played but it is worth the effort! Mario Tennis Aces is an amazingly fun and fast paced experience for Nintendo fans alike. Even though Mario Tennis Aces is lacking many key features that will hopefully come in future updates, it can feel awkward and frustrating before the learning curve; I eventually found myself more and more eager to jump into online tournaments once I broke in my new tennis shoes.

luigi gets read to serve

Hype Online

Originally, I wasn’t even planning on purchasing Mario Tennis Aces on launch. I have so many games on my backlog at the moment that I figured I didn’t have time. Downloading the online tournament demo convinced me that this game would we worthwhile. These games focusing on online multiplayer have been catching my interest with their betas. Like Splatoon 2 and Arms, Nintendo held a free online tournament in the form of a demo. This marketing strategy works on me every time. Once I get my feet wet and taste first blood it’s hard not to get invested.

I logged on two weeks before release to get a taste of Mario Tennis Aces. Like most novices, I got my ass served on my first couple matches. However after winning a couple of games and gaining some confidence to feel good enough to impulse buy off of Amazon. The way Mario Tennis controls and feels is the main selling point. After a couple of hours with the demo I thought it would be fun to play at social gatherings. I figured that tennis is a pretty straightforward game and shouldn’t be too difficult for a bunch of adults in a room to figure out.

the overworld view in mario tennis aces

Dropping the Deuce

I was busy on the actual launch date so I did not even touch the game until a couple of days later. I popped in the cartridge and was immediately greeted with a painful tutorial. The tutorial was overbearing, unskippable to my knowledge, and had lots of excess text. I’m pretty sure this is the exact same tutorial that was in the demo as well. I already felt uneasy about enjoying this game. Finally the story mode begins and it is nonsensical and boring. I was not expecting a deep and involving story for a Mario Tennis game but what they came up with was ridiculous.

They turned Mario Tennis Aces Story mode into another excuse for Mario to save the Mushroom Kingdom… with tennis. I would have preferred the story be a simple setup like a tennis invitational for the Mushroom Kingdom. Simple as that. The entire adventure mode only allows Mario to be playable. I would have enjoyed a story that was more flexible with playable characters. There is no need for Mario to defeat his enemies by besting them on the court when he can just stomp on their heads and move on.

mario serves to the piranha plants

What’s at Fault

At this point I’m already getting tired of Mario Tennis Aces.

As expected, the first matches in the single player adventure are incredibly easy due to idiotic AI. I expected the AI to become very difficult late game, but the range of difficulty seems overly widespread. The difficulty spikes very quickly especially for a three to four hour campaign. After insultingly easy AI matches, expect challenge levels that are aggravating. Some challenges involve keeping a rally of 300 hits against the AI with only three errors. Frustration often stems from accuracy and time restraints.  I do not find any type of pleasure from playing these challenges. The rally challenges and obstacle stages are designed to be challenging but left out the fun factor.

The worst part about the challenges is that a loss will force you back onto the stage selection screen. This causes the player to go through many unnecessary cut scenes and loading screens. I saw myself chucking my pro controller out the window if I kept playing so I decided to step away. With perseverance I could have completed the challenge, but I wasn’t having fun. The only motivation for completing the story mode is to unlock the different courts for multiplayer, but even that isn’t worth the time investment.

performing special shots in mario tennis aces

Break-ing Point

I’ve come to a point in my life where I realize I will never be world champion in any competitive video game. Now, I often approach multiplayer games with a more casual mindset. It’s more fun when I deviate my focus away from winning because I’m not counting how many times I’ve lost. To my dismay, the single player portion of Mario Tennis Aces is simply not enjoyable. I had fantasized playing imaginative tennis mini games with creative obstacles and stages, but in reality I just got a package of frustration.

At this point I did not even want to try playing online because I knew I would only be seeing myself lose more. I had even played a match over at a friend’s place and did not stand a chance. So I thought to myself, “this probably isn’t the game for me.” Like many of the multiplayer-centric games on my Switch, Mario Tennis Aces was doomed to get buried alongside other games like Splatoon 2, Arms, or Mario Kart 8. These are all fantastic games, but I found myself losing more than I won so I drifted from these titles. Now I only pop in these games on a rare occasion to play with the homies.

mario runs toward a boss piranha plant

Going Cross-Court to Online

The next day I decided to give Mario Tennis Aces another chance because I was challenged by a buddy in Oregon. I had not even played online because of how discouraged I was. I paid the full price for this game so naturally I’d at least give online a shot. Playing a singles match online with another human-being makes this game a completely different experience as I soon realized.

The first enjoyable thing I noticed about this game is the character selection screen. Mario Tennis Aces has a big colorful roster to fit different play styles and add variety to match-ups. Online multiplayer is what sold me on Mario Tennis to begin with. I still lost 7 matches in a row against my friend, but at least I was having fun.

I decided to keep playing online after receiving some pointers from my friend before logging off. The online connection and net code worked very well. Online play was smooth and I did not notice any game breaking lag like I did during the beta. As long as my opponent had a decent connection the game was enjoyable. It’s no problem to search for a new opponent with a better connection. Better yet, online match ups are fast so you’re constantly back on the court having fun.

a single match donkey kong vs someone on the tennis court

Breaking in the Tennies

After getting the hang of playing Mario Tennis Aces against other people I decided to review the “How to Play” section. After remembering all the mechanics involved and applying it to my matches I began winning. Within two hours of going 0-7 and playing online I had actually won a tournament! This consists of defeating 5 people consecutively without any losses. My perspective on this game had completely flipped. The grand finals match went down to the wire and I was at the edge of my seat. My heart was pounding as adrenaline rushed through my veins. I leaned in with intense focus and prevailed. I felt so damn good about myself and how far I had come in such a short time.

Thanks for teaching me nothing, story mode.

A few hours after taking a break we had 4 friends online and decided to try out a doubles match. It was a bit of a mess at first because of the confusing menus and the lack of an invite feature. The options and rule customization are also much more limited than we hoped. You must recreate a new room to change the rules of the game. Since there is no option to invite your friends into a room we had to use a 3rd party application to organize and communicate. If Nintendo could implement a party chat system into the online service that would resolve this issue, but I won’t get my hopes up.

mario looks at the payer, swinging his racket

Double the Fun

Playing doubles in tennis is a whole different game than singles and this is also the case for Mario Tennis Aces. Suddenly we were playing a whole new game: cooperation and teamwork is necessary and the game becomes even more fast paced. Competition intensifies with four rackets on the court. The cooperative aspect of doubles made this game even more fun for me. We had to figure out positioning so we did not get in the way of each other’s shots. The energy bar is also a shared resource in doubles so strategy is key in the utilization of specials and trick shots.

We tried the different courts with obstacles and hazards, adding to the experience. All of a sudden the game became less about competition and more about having fun. Playing doubles in Mario Tennis Aces is no doubt my favorite part about this game and I cannot stress how much fun it is. The tension is real when you and your mates are going back and forth from a deuce for match point. This mode renewed my faith in this game being a great game to play in a room with friends at a social function.

Ace the Test

There are other great online and local features: simple mode and swing mode.

Simple mode takes away the energy based mechanics like trick shots, zone shots, special shots, etc. and turns the game into a pure game of tennis. If you’re looking for a solid tennis game with great controls play simple mode and rally back and forth to your heart’s content.

For new players who want to drop in without a tutorial, swing mode will be ideal. Simply hold the Joy-Con like a tennis racket and play a game similar to the ping-pong mini game in 1-2 Switch. Mario Tennis Aces can work for people of all skill levels.

At Fault

There’s a lot of potential with Mario Tennis Aces. The single player mode has different tennis rackets that Mario can equip, but these are not used in multiplayer. I think it would be interesting to add a customizable racket feature so players can take pride in their gear. This would open up more unlockable items which would add a very interesting level of play and depth to the game. Customizable rule sets and options would also be a great addition to the game.

Players should be able to change match rules with everyone in the same room. For some reason there is no option to choose a stage or adjust match length, not to mention there’s no way to invite your friends to a Mario Tennis room. A redesign may help the menu interface to be less confusing. I would adjust this by filtering categories into Online and Local play modes. Most importantly they need to add a retry option for story mode stages. I would like this to be included so that I may one day go back and complete the story mode. I went online and never looked back.

Possible Future Content

I hope they continue to update Mario Tennis Aces in the same way they supported Arms. At launch, Arms was an awkward and clunky fighter. Over the past year they provided multiple free updates. These updates included new characters, more customizable options, re-balancing and more.

More characters are sure to come, but I’d like to see much more than that in the coming year. I would like to see the story mode revamped into a Tennis Tour mode where you can play as your favorite character. It would be great to play doubles in this story mode. I would like to see an inclusion of the story mode challenges played in a multiplayer setting. I bet I can return more fireballs back at piranha plants than you.

mario jumps for the tennis ball

Worth Waiting For

Mario Tennis Aces is a great game at its core. It is fun, fast, and challenging. The controls are responsive and makes matches competitive and intense. Overall I do not regret purchasing Mario Tennis Aces but there is still much to be desired. Over time I can see this game becoming a must have for most switch owners. Unfortunately at this time I can’t say that the $59.99 price tag will justify a purchase for a well made online experience alone. Nor would I expect someone to buy this game just to play with me online. However I am confident that this game will be worth its value with future updates and support. I wouldn’t have minded waiting a bit more for this game but I’m glad I have it now to play.

9 Tips to Not Suck at Mario Tennis Aces

  • Use your energy meter as often as needed. Energy builds fast so use it to your advantage. Often times using your own meter will cause them to spend meter on zone speed.
  • Charge your shouts as often as possible. The more you charge the more energy you will build.
  • Use zone speed to help you block special shots and zone shots. This will be an essential part of your defensive game. Avoid breaking your rackets because it can result in an instant loss.
  • Use zone shots and special shots to damage the opponent’s racket. Use them wisely many players have practiced the timing of the block. Try to destroy their racket and cause an automatic win.
  • Try different tactics and exploit their weaknesses. If you notice that your opponent cannot block zone shots consistently try to break their racket.
  • Try reading your opponent. Try placing your shots in an unpredictable fashion. Take advantage of the different shots. Don’t forget about drop shots.
  • Before returning the ball position yourself as close as possible. This will reduce the chance of your opponent’s ability to perform star shots.
  • Use your power shots to control the court. The opponent will have less control over the ball if you return the ball with a lot of power.
  • Skip Story mode.

Wanna Try Mario Tennis Aces for Yourself?

You can buy the game on Amazon right now for slightly under retail if you get the physical copy (weird, right?). If you enjoyed the time we put into writing this review, use that button to buy the game. That’s an independently chosen link to support our site (we earn commission if you purchase) so we can afford to keep writing these reviews and not boil cans of beans under the highway overpass.

Buy Mario Tennis Aces on Amazon
Daryl Pebenito

Post Author: Daryl Pebenito

An SF Bay Area native, perfect imperfectionist, and everyday legend. Photographer extraordinaire, master of analysis on the gaming scene, and creative professional. Sketching on the daily, traveling on the regular. He's a hot off the press graphic designer who's got fresh ideas that are even hotter. He specializes in photography, Illustration and packaging design, but has also done typography, web design, and print design. He's led multiple projects for clients around the Bay Area. He left California State University East Bay with a B.A. in graphic design looking to redesign the world for the better. He's passionate about everything design, art, and hip hop. Making things functional and aesthetically pleasing at the same time is something he wants to do for everyone. However, that just might be humanly impossible. So he'll start by doing so little by little.

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