I can still remember how much time I spent playing Mario Party on N64. Every weekend I’d go to my friend’s house and he, his younger brother and I would play non-stop until we were told to go to bed.
The N64 was when Mario Party was in its heyday. Four controller ports on a console was a novelty and digital boardgames hadn’t really yet become a thing. We’d also not grown tired of minigame collections.
It was a different time and hence, Mario Party flourished. In the time since, the series has seen a gradual decline in both quality and popularity. Audiences tastes changed and players weren’t interested in Mario and friends’ minigame collections. I wasn’t at least.
But that’s all changed now. It’s been three years since the last Mario Party game for console and with the success of the Switch and a seemingly renewed vigour with which to create entertaining minigames, Nintendo has crafted one of the best Mario Party experiences ever.
Super Mario Party Review
Super Mario Party doesn’t stray too far from the series’ traditions in that the meat of the experience is found in the standard competitive board game mode. Dubbed simply ‘Mario Party’ this mode lets up to four players compete for the most Stars and Coins across several different boards.
Players take turns rolling a die, moving spaces, using items and activating special squares before all participating in a round-ending minigame. Minigames come in a few different flavours; free-for-all, 1 vs. 3, 2 vs. 2, Team, Co-op and Rhythm.
Unfortunately, there are no single-player minigames in Super Mario Party. They were one of my most loved features in the original and I was hoping to see some creative new ones on the Switch. Thankfully though, the 80 included mini-games are generally of high quality.
Sure, there are a few duds here and there (Penguin Pushers & Juice Box, I’m looking at you) but for the most part, each of the games has, at least, some entertainment value. It might be surprising to learn that many of the minigames feature some form of motion control. Not surprising that it’s been included, but surprising that it actually works and works well.
Even better though, very, very few of the minigames require you to mash a button. Instead, most only require one or two inputs to play. Those that do use motion controls use them in such a way that it makes sense, doesn’t feel gimmicky and very rarely fails to recognise what you’re doing.
Ain’t no party like a Mario Party
In Mario Party mode, you’ll largely see motion controlled games that require you to tilt or shake your Joy-Con. One example is a race to the top of a pole. To climb, players need to swing the Joy-Con downwards while pressing and holding L or R. As they reach the bottom of their swing, players will need to release L or R and swing the Joy-COn back upwards.
The smoother the motion, the higher your character will climb the pole in one go.
Another excellent example of the way Super Mario Party uses motion controls is in the new ‘Sound Stage’ mode. Here, you’ll be exclusively playing rhythm minigames. There is only a handful of them, but each is simple and fun.
Think of Sound Stage mode as Super Mario Party’s version of Guitar Hero. As you bop along to a remix of both the Super Mario Bros. theme and underground theme you’ll need to make deliberate motions to stick to the beat and earn points.
One game has you raising and lowering a baton, another requires you to hit a baseball and yet another makes you skewer fruit with an epee. It’s ridiculous, but also lots of fun and a real laugh when you start nailing the timing. Sound Stage reminded me of the Wii game, Beat the Beat. Another rhythm title I loved.
In addition to Mario Party and Sound Stage, there is also Partner Party and River Survival modes.
Cause a Mario Party Don’t Stop
Partner Party is a two vs. two mode that completely opens up the boards allowing free movement. Players combine their dice rolls and are able to move to any square on the board, provided they land exactly on it.
Earning Stars in this mode becomes much more difficult when you realise you need to land on the Star space rather than just pass by it. All minigames in Partner Party are co-op or team based too, which limits the number you’ll see, but also gives you a much better chance of playing some games you might otherwise have missed.
River Survival is an odd mode and one that I liked a lot at first but quickly grew tired of. In River Survival, you hop aboard a raft and make your way down a river with the three other players. To move — both down and across the river — you need to paddle your oar by moving the Joy-Con.
At first, it was fun to see Mario and friends paddling down the river, but then the need to move side to side to hit balloons which contain minigames became a pain. Compounding the issue is that you’re given a time limit and only by completing minigames and collecting time bonuses do you earn more time to keep going.
Even with three AI characters, keeping the raft going without fighting for control was a nightmare. I can only imagine the frustration you’ll face when playing with three other humans, all fighting to steer the raft where they want to go.
What is this? A game for Ants?
If the minigames themselves are what you’re after, there are two modes that will keep you happy. Minigames is quite simply a collection of all unlocked games which you can play at your leisure. There’s also a mode called Mariothon which sees players “compete for score in a series of five minigames.”
Mariothon is also available online, however, playing pre-release there were few people to play with. You’ll also need a Nintendo Online Account to play Super Mario Party online. Once you’ve unlocked all 80 minigames, you can take part in the Challenge Road which sees you tackle each one, one after another.
While the motion controls in Super Mario Party are well implemented, it, unfortunately, means that you can’t play the game with any controller other than a single Joy-Con. This makes it hard to play in off-TV mode and it means that handheld mode is out altogether.
Party at Home
Super Mario Party is not a game to take with you on the road, but instead, one that’s meant to be played with friends in front of the TV. It is a party after all.
Additionally, as with all Mario Party titles, a lot of the time, it doesn’t seem to matter how well you play, how many minigames you win or how many Stars you have, the game seems intent on stealing them and giving them to others. Super Communism Party more like. And the less said about the post-game awards, the better.
I’ve lost so many games because the CPU awarded two stars to some loser player because they hit the most ‘bad luck’ spaces and got jumped on the most that it’s not funny. However, I feel like the spirit of Super Mario Party is in the playing, not the winning.
In that regard, Super Mario Party is a definite good time.
Super Mario Party was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by Nintendo.
Game Title: Super Mario Party
Great use of the Switch and Joy-Cons - 8.2/10
Lots of modes and minigames - 8.5/10
No fun by yourself - 4.2/10
No button mashing - 9/10