The Mario Party series is one I have mixed thoughts about. It’s the very definition of what trolling is, and it’s a game that promotes it. I personally hate trolling and while Super Mario Party has its fair share of that, it also provides that familiar breath of fresh air that longtime fans of the series have been longing for since the Wii era–thus making it one of the best entries in the series in a long time.
What Is It?
If you haven’t played a Mario Party before, this would be a fantastic place to start. It’s a hell of a party game and was probably the definitive multiplayer Nintendo experience before Super Smash Bros. reared its head into the world. In its simplest form, Mario Party is a collection of four-player movement-based board games with minigames taking place in between turns. The point of the game is to do well enough in each facet to become the Superstar, but that’s easier said than done.
Why Should I Care?
Here’s the rundown if you’re unfamiliar with how Mario Party works, especially if your only time with the series came during the last generation. In standard Mario Party, stars are placed around the board and you can purchase them for 10 coins (down from 20 in previous entries) when you get to them. The player with the most stars at the end of the game wins. You amass coins by landing on blue spaces which give your character three coins (while landing on a red space loses you three coins) and by winning or doing well in the game’s various minigames that take place at the end of each turn. The kind of minigame you play is based on the color of the space you land on during your turn. There are 4-player games which happen when everyone lands on the same space, 2-on-2 games when players land on split spaces, and 1-vs-3 games when one player lands on a color that the rest of the party didn’t land on.
Previous versions of Mario Party gave you the option to practice each minigame, which was definitely useful for newcomers to the game who didn’t know how to play the chosen minigame. Super Mario Party still does that but also includes the ability to practice the game and controls while you read the rules, and that’s a fantastic addition. Practices before forced you to play the minigame in its entirety before actually playing the game for real, which can lead to some controversy amongst your party.
That said, don’t let Super Mario Party‘s colorful exterior fool you. This is the ultimate troll’s game. Even if you spend most of your time dominating the board, there’s still a good chance you’ll lose for a handful of reasons. The most obvious of which is with the Bonus Stars handed out after a standard board game is over. Longtime players of the series will remember that such Bonus Stars included the Coin Star (the player that had the most coins throughout the game), the Game Star (the player that won the most minigames during the game), and the Happening Star (the player that landed on the most green spaces in the game) — all of these are back. The only problem–if you want to call it a problem–is the fact that instead of these three stars being the bonus, two at random are chosen, and there’s a bunch of other random ones as well. Some bonus stars that we encountered during our playthroughs included the Sightseer Star for moving the most spaces, the Slowpoke Star for the least spaces, and the Ally Star for having the most allies. So for those who are really competitive, the only way to guarantee a win is to have at least a three-star lead at the end of the game.
For the most part, the dice you roll in the game rely on a random number generator (RNG), and they try to mask this by giving each character in the game their own special die. Take Wario for example. You can choose to roll a regular dice block to make your way across a game board, but you can also elect to use Wario’s special six-sided die that features four 6s, and two sides that’ll lose you two coins, so you’ll have to see if some of these specialties are worth the risk. So with this, the characters you can choose in the game actually matter, which explains why Super Mario Party boasts the bigger roster of characters the series has ever had.
The exclusive dice are actually more useful in the game’s new Partner Party, which pits you and a partner against two other players. The Team game boards are more vast with spaces, and movement is more similar to that of a game like Fire Emblem, where you’re moving so many spaces. The overall rules are the same–it’s all about who has the most stars at the end of the game, but to make things more difficult, you have to land on the star space rather than just passing it, so it’s possible to actually roll too high and not have a path to the star.
In addition to this, Super Mario Party has a bunch of modes that are definitely worth playing but probably won’t get much attention just because they aren’t typical Mario Party fare. One of the most interesting of which is Sound Stage, which pits players against each other in a gauntlet of rhythm and sound-based minigames. While the motion-based gameplay will come off as gimmicky to hardcore gamers, the people I played with generally found this mode to be the most fun because of how fast-paced it was despite their simplicity. My favorite of which was a horse racing game where you pull the reins to the beat of the music. It’s just the kind of action that’ll leave some sweat underneath your arms when you’re really into it.
Another mode that’ll garner a fair bit of attention is Toad Rec Room, which forces players to play the game in tabletop mode to make use of even more unique features to showcase the Switch’s capabilities. Some are more simple like Banana, Split which requires players to solve matching puzzles by lining up their Switch screens in a way for the broken pictures to be complete. There’s also the more collaborative Puzzle Hustle which has players move 8-bit pieces around a plain to complete pictures of various characters and moving them from screen to screen using warp pipes. The most popular of the games is Shell Shocked Deluxe which has you build a unique path by drawing a line across two Switch screens for tanks to go through and blast opponents to oblivion. As gimmicky as these come off, they’re actually a pretty appealing way to showcase what the Switch is capable of and it arguably does a better job at that than 1-2-Switch did.
Now if you’re wondering about an online mode, there’s the Online Mariothon, which cumulative tracks how well you do in five consecutive minigames. That’s it. You can’t even play a regular Mario Party board game online. Because Nintendo.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
As long as you can get over randomly losing, which’ll happen a whole lot when it seems like you’re in control, there’s all sorts of fun to be had with Super Mario Party. Alongside games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Overcooked 2, Super Mario Party widens the gap that Nintendo has with its competitors when it comes to couch multiplayer. Yes, there’s a lot to be desired when it comes to online play, but Nintendo knows there’s nothing like watching your friends gloat in triumph as they beat you or pout in disappointment when you beat them.
Super Mario Party isn’t quite in the class of Mario Party 2 (the boards aren’t as fun, and there’s no winner-take-all duel mode), but it’s definitely a return to form for the series and should be a joy to play for any newcomer or fan of the long-running series. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I want my Mario Party Ultimate, a Mario Party that includes every game board and every minigame from the best Mario Party games–we had half of that with The Top 100, but that only came with half the fun.