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What Happened to the Rio 2016 Simulation Game?

Olympic Games

What Happened to the Rio 2016 Simulation Game?

The Olympics are back, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve fallen prey to its alluring qualities. I’ve been watching it all, from grueling cycling races to nail-biting water polo matches. Normally, this is the time where I give into temptation and opt to purchase the official video game tie-in. This year, things are a bit different.

Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is the only official console game of the Rio 2016 Olympics, releasing back in March for the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS. For mobile and tablet enthusiasts, there’s also an officially licensed Android/iOS game.

What about the rest of us? In the four years since Sega released the respectable London 2012, you’d have thought that a simulation-based Olympics title would provide the perfect cash-in opportunity. That game did pretty well for itself, having sold 680,000 copies as of March 31, 2013. Nothing similar has surfaced for this year’s Summer Games, though. Allow me to offer some thoughts as to why Xbox, PlayStation and PC devotees won’t be winning any virtual gold medals this year.


You’d have to go back over 20 years for the last time that a so-called “simulation” Summer Olympics game failed to make an appearance. However, this isn’t the first time in recent years that Mario & Sonic has dominated the scene. Two years ago, Sochi 2014 was conquered by Nintendo and Sega’s most popular mascots.

Recent history offers some potential explanations for this. In 2013, the developers behind London 2012 (Sega Studios Australia) closed down, putting an end to future developments on their part. The same thing happened to Eurocom in 2012 — developers of the official Beijing 2008 and Vancouver 2010 games.

Sega has continued to provide official Olympics games since the Beijing tie-in, but now, the company’s focus appears to have shifted to the Mario & Sonic series.

Gold Standard?

Can you remember a truly great Olympics game in recent years? London 2012 wasn’t bad — it wasn’t great, either. The majority of Mario & Sonic Olympics games fall into the same category, as do Beijing 2008, Athens 2004 & so on.

Additionally, these games haven’t aged well. Other sports series have found ways to innovate over the years, but games like Beijing 2008 and London 2012 struggled to find a perfect formula, offering awkward control schemes and a continued over-reliance on button mashing.

That said, a challenge like this must be somewhat of a nightmare from a developer’s point of view. Ask a major studio to focus solely on a table tennis game, and you might get something spectacular like 2006’s Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis. Add another forty events alongside it, and even Rockstar would have arguably struggled to offer anything more than mediocrity on a tight development schedule.

Four More Years

Despite their downsides, I’ve always enjoyed satisfying my craving with these games. Mario & Sonic gives us a fun take on Rio 2016, but it won’t be enough to satisfy the hardcore fans. For now, a copy of London 2012 is the closest you can get to a realistic representation of the Olympic Games. Will things be any different two years from now? Hopefully, London wasn’t the closing ceremony.


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  1. Too much money to make Olympic games for consoles, especially when you consider they have such a short shelf life before they get tossed into the bargain bin.
    First things first. Someone needs to make a Tennis game. :y220:
    +100 I rather see a tennis game before a Summer Olympics game. Oh and I most definitely prefer the X games. Imagine a video game based on the X games. If done right it will give SSX, Skate and Tony Hawk a run for their $$$$
    I thought the London game was pretty good and was disappointed there wasn't another one coming out. would have been okay with them just giving that one an update just to get my Olympic game fix during the actual games.
    if they could include basketball and boxing, they would have me sold.....maybe wrestling too (something similar to UFC). beach volleyball would be nice as well. just include some sports that translate better to video games.
    they could use just player numbers (no names) for basketball....just have the ratings correct. guess they had beach volleyball in London 2012. hockey in the winter one would be great too-and do the same as what i suggested for basketball.
    London 2012 was actually quite good. The game went away a bit from the typical button mashing and focused more on rhythmic movement, endurance and timing. The swimming events forced you to push the sticks in a certain rhythm, punishing you if you just tried pushing them as fast as you could. The running events required strategy with saving up enough energy to reach the finish. The archery and other events were good as well. It may have been the best Olympic video game ever.
    I would KILL for an Olympic video game that included team sports such as handball, rugby sevens and water polo. And if they'd make the players on the teams completely editable, so that you could edit names, appearances and ratings, that would be a dream come true. I was waiting for a Rio 2016 game this year, but it never came. I settled for the Mario & Sonic game, which does have a pretty decent rugby mode, but just isn't the simulation experience I was hoping for. I'll keep my fingers crossed; maybe in 2020 we'll be lucky enough to get a full-blown sim game as well as NCAA Football returning by then.
    Not sure but if you're interested, there's a New Free sports game app coming soon that looks to be a real game changer. Just let me know if you would like to learn more about it :woot:
    Crazy Packers Fan
    I would KILL for an Olympic video game that included team sports such as handball, rugby sevens and water polo.

    You and me both, my friend. If we ever get a fully-fledged water polo game, I'll be too excited for words.
    If you are interested, you can find out sports video and discussions and can even update your own sport video.
    Fanlyfe foe all sports fan
    it's always really disappointing, i always look for sport games other then madden, nhl,nba,fifa,racing , saw handball for ps4 that wasn't bad.... but always dissapointing that as far as i know there is no current gen game for track/swimming/volleyball//diving/archery, can someone make an awesome volleyball game?? ugh

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