Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars Game Poster Image
Safe but mediocre puzzler maintains the series' status quo.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about puzzle solving and practice their logic skills and creativity in this collection of platformer conundrums. Each puzzle requires players to think ahead, figuring out long chains of events before they happen to keep their Mini robots safe. They'll also need to make efficient use of limited resources (mechanical toys such as springboards and treadmills), working out how to use them without running out when they're needed most. The workshop, meanwhile, allows kids to be both creative and social as they build their own puzzles, play those made by other players, and leave handwritten messages about them for their designers to read. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is a simple but engaging puzzle game that encourages kids to think rationally while letting them flex their creative muscles.

Positive Messages

Promotes logical thought by rewarding players who think ahead and plan out their actions. Encourages creativity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All characters are mindless robots that would dumbly walk to their destructions without the player's guidance. 

Ease of Play

Touchscreen interactions are simple and intuitive. Puzzle solutions aren't always obvious but typically reveal themselves through a modest amount of trial and error.

Violence & Scariness

The player's windup toys can bump into enemies or fall onto spikes, making them pop up and break into pieces. They also can find and wield hammers to wallop enemies off the screen. 


Part of Nintendo's immensely popular Mario branded games. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is a puzzle platformer game starring several of Nintendo's most iconic characters, including Mario, Donkey Kong, Luigi, and Peach. Its puzzles include a small amount of cartoon violence. Miniature robots occasionally walk into spikes or enemies, causing them to pop up and break into pieces that quickly disappear. They also wield hammers to smack enemies offscreen. The puzzles aren't too hard, but they encourage players to think ahead and plan out strategies. Parents also should note that this game has an online component that allows kids to share puzzles they make. Other players can comment on them via text and drawings.  

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What's it about?

The sixth entry in Nintendo's popular puzzle series starring its iconic plumber and his simian nemesis, MARIO VS. DONKEY KONG: TIPPING STARS closely follows the formula established by predecessors. Each puzzle is a small platformer level -- some fit on a single screen, no scrolling required -- featuring two or more miniature robots that players must safely guide to a door. Tap them and they'll start marching forward. However, they're mindless robots that don't have the sense to stop marching or alter their paths, even if they're heading toward a spiky trap or enemy. You can help them avoid these pitfalls by constructing mechanical toys -- springboards, treadmills, elevators -- to keep them safe while directing their movement toward collectible coins and the level exit. Outside the main game, players can enter the workshop to create puzzles of their own, which can be shared with the Miiverse community. If other players play your puzzles, you'll earn stars, and if they really like them, they may "tip" you (hence the game's name) by throwing in a few stars from their own stash.

Is it any good?

There's not much wrong with Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. The puzzles are smartly designed and fun. The workshop is empowering and gives kids a small taste of what it's like to design games. It looks great and has a lovely soundtrack filled with reimagined versions of classic Mario songs. Plus, regardless of which platform you buy it on, you'll be able to play it on both Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, thanks to a download code included with purchase.

But it brings precious little new to this now well-established puzzle franchise. Returning players will find the construction toys nearly identical to those in Mario vs. Donkey Kong games past. And, aside from the addition of a new Mini Cursed Mario character that appears in the final puzzle of each world and that needs to be trapped and hit with a hammer to release a Mario robot, puzzle design is overly familiar. Building puzzles is fun, but other than the ability to tip players for good puzzles and the community-like enhancements enabled by Miiverse, creation doesn't feel much different from what it has in past games. Series rookies will probably have a great time, but veterans can safely skip this one without fearing they're missing anything new.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how we solve puzzles. What's your strategy when approaching a new puzzle? What sort of information do you gather? How do you analyze the problem? Do you like to work everything out before taking action, or do you prefer to experiment and collect data before trying to figure out a solution? 

  • Families also can discuss online safety. Because this game facilitates communication via handwritten words and drawings, what would you do if someone left you a message or picture that you found offensive, bullying, or inappropriate?

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii U
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, logic, prediction, solving puzzles
    Creativity: imagination, making new creations, producing new content
    Communication: conveying messages effectively
    Tech Skills: digital creation
  • Price: $19.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release date: March 5, 2015
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • ESRB rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love puzzles

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