Mahjong 3D – Warriors of the Emperor – 3DS

8 Overall Score



I’m going to assume that the vast majority of people reading this review know how Mahjong works—if you’ve ever played a version of Mahjong solitaire, you’re familiar with the tile-matching system and the goal of (usually) clearing the board through matches.

With Mahjong 3D – Warriors of the Emperor, you’re still getting a Mahjong game, but with an added bonus of a storyline and various game modes to add an extra dimension to what might otherwise have simply been another round of standard Mahjong fare.

And before you get up in arms, yes, I know—this isn’t “traditional” Mahjong, it’s technically Mahjong solitaire, and the original game is completely different, blah blah blah. But, this is Mahjong as we know it in North America (thanks to computer games from the 80s), so if you’re a stickler for terms, I apologize now. For the sake of getting through the review, we’re just going to call it Mahjong, without the “solitaire”, okay? (And if you’re really upset, tell video game developers. Look at the title—they’re the ones perpetuating the issue.)

Let’s move on.

mahjong3d-1In this game, Chinese history is blended with a fictional storyline to create a game that motivates players to advance through each board. The character you play—a young Qin Shi Huangdi—levels up with each win, which is a fancy way of saying you get more power-ups the higher your character level gets. As you advance through the story, you meet “allies” who have their own power-ups you can access.

The game map itself is interesting, because rather than just plopping down a list of boards for you to choose from, the loose historical setting and story means the levels are placed on a map of ancient China, which is divided into different Chinese territories. Once you’ve completed all the levels/boards in a territory, it’s considered “conquered”—appropriate, considering your character’s goal is to conquer and thus unite China under the State of Qin.

As for the levels themselves, there’s plenty of variety for even the most seasoned Mahjong player. You’ll progress through standard boards and timed boards (called “battle stages” and “building stages”), and boards where you take on the computer, called “debates.” In the debates, you and the computer play at the same time; whoever makes the most matches (ie. earns the most points) wins the debate. You’ll also find special tiles in various levels (swap tiles, transform tiles, gold tiles, etc.), which should be no surprise for anyone who has played computer versions of Mahjong before.

Other features of gameplay include quick play levels (which you unlock as you progress through the game) and a level creator. While I haven’t ventured into the level creator yet, you can actually activate Street Pass for the game and send your original levels (and high scores) to someone else with the game—a fun way to “get your work out there” and share your creativity with other gamers.

But of course, the question everyone is asking is, what about the 3D? Never fear! The developers did an excellent job with this game, giving the board depth and making it very clear which tiles are on top and which ones are free on the lower tiers—and if you’re having trouble seeing it from the top, the circle pad allows you to control the camera and look at the board from other angles.

That said… the controls are, shall we say, rather bizarre. I literally couldn’t figure out how to get into the game at first, and had to ask for help. It turns out that the game occurs on the top screen, while the touch screen is used to control what happens on the top screen. Confused yet? Let me explain another way: you use the stylus on the touch screen to make the cursor move up top. The 3DS control buttons? Don’t work. Only the Y button is used, in this case for power-ups.

Why on earth would anyone do this? I have no idea, and it’s extremely counterintuitive at first. The disconnect between where you place the stylus and the motion response elsewhere is jarring. However, once you get used to it, the controls are simple and highly responsive. It’s just that first 5-minute learning curve barrier (approximately one game) that might cause someone to give up on the game, which would be a real shame.


I’ve heard some complaints about the price point of Mahjong 3D – Warriors of the Emperor, but honestly, if you’re a fan of Mahjong solitaire, you probably won’t think twice about dropping $10 on a game with new boards and interesting features. The traditional Chinese theme is carried out very well, from the soundtrack to the animation—mind you, the animated talking heads are done in a rather minimalist, budget-saving way, but for a puzzle game? It works just fine.

It’s refreshing to see Mahjong given a bit of a twist, along with some additional substance added to the game. Instead of simply clicking away on tiles, you get a story-driven experience that makes this title stand out from the pack of past Mahjong iterations.

If you can make it past the initial “what the…?” of the gameplay controls, there’s plenty here to enjoy for both casual and hardcore gamers alike.


Want to know what our review scores mean? Read about it here.


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Author: Faith View all posts by
Faith likes games and books and cake and writing and Lara Croft, not necessarily in that order. She also thinks a Skylanders cartoon show is a really, REALLY good idea...

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