Mario Party Series Review - The Best Way To Spend Couples Game Night.
You VS Your Partner: Who's the next Super Star?
Mario Party was first released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64 and it has been (jokingly) ruining friendships ever since. 24 years later, there have been 17 games released on eight consoles yet one thing remains constant; you are trying to be the Super Star!
All Mario Party games play pretty similarly. You and a group of four friends or AI roll dice and move around themed boards as you would in a board game such as Monopoly. Each space you land on does various things such as adding or taking away coins (more on those later), visiting an item shop or interacting with a non-playable character that may offer a shortcut or power-up.
All spaces also are assigned one of three colors: blue, red or green. After all four players have rolled and moved on the board everyone takes part in a minigame. The color of the spot you landed on determines the teams, blue versus red (green changes randomly to blue or red). If everyone is the same color then it is a free-for-all and there are no teams, otherwise it could be 1-vs-3 or 2-vs-2.
Every Mario Party always pits you against three opponents, so the multiplayer aspect is built right into each game. In a pinch you can play against three AI, but I recommend having at least one other person to play with. Who wants to play a board game by themselves anyway?
Most Mario Parties don’t have team based co-op, meaning everyone is competing against each other. If you want to be on the same team as someone I only know of two games that allow it, Super Mario Party and Mario Party 8. In the latter, the game assigns cool team names depending on which characters you pick, for example if Luigi and Yoshi team up they are called Green Machine and Toad and Toadette make Zoomin’ Shrooms. In Super Mario Party the team mode is quite different from the normal game and is actually pretty fun. Instead of going around the typical ring-like path (think Monopoly), you have free movement to go where you want. You and your partner can either stick together or spread out and cover more ground. Both of you roll a die and the total is combined which forms the number of spaces each of you can move.
So with the mechanics out of the way how do you actually win? It has to do with the coins I mentioned earlier. Winning minigames and landing on blue spots earns you coins and you exchange 20 coins for one Star. Whoever has the most stars after 10 turns (this is adjustable) wins and is crowned the Super Star!
What Makes This Game Unique
Mario Party games are fun because your three opponents can have various difficulty levels. An actual person’s skill depends on how familiar they are with Mario Party, but the AI difficulty can be Easy for beginners or cranked way up to Hard for experts, and some games even have a Master level for those who enjoy the pain of losing.
Also, just like an actual board game, every time you play is different. The dice rolls are different, you can play as a different character or on a different board (many have unique rules and challenges that keep things fresh). At the end of each turn the minigame is randomly chosen and if you were to add up all of the minigames from each title in the series the total is over 1000, so repetition shouldn’t be a problem. A lot of the minigames are really fun too.
I, being a long time gamer, enjoy the more skill-based minigames that require fast reflexes or precise movement like running, jumping or dodging. My wife Julie, who is much more of a casual gamer, loves the luck-based ones like when everyone chooses a button to press with one of the buttons setting the bomb off behind you. So there should be something for everyone.
The reason some people think this game can ruin friendships is because you can do some pretty sneaky stuff like paying 50 coins to steal a Star from someone. Landing on a Chance Time spot is another quick way to tick someone off. It randomly picks two players and an event to happen between them ranging from acceptable things like moving coins from one to the other or tear-inducing things like swapping all coins or Stars or both with each other. Imagine going from first place with five Stars and 100 coins to last place with zero stars and 20 coins through no fault of your own and there is nothing you can do about it. The former last place person is loving it, but you sure aren’t.
Individual Game Breakdown
As far as the actual games themselves, the two most recent ones in the series that are both available on Nintendo Switch are Super Mario Party and Mario Party Superstars. I highly recommend Super Mario Party as it is its own game compared to Mario Party Superstars which is a collection of five boards and 100 minigames from previous Mario Party games, mostly the first three (think greatest hits). Julie and I played Super Mario Party like crazy, all of the various game modes (Partner Party, River Survival and Sound Stage) are a lot of fun. Mario Party Superstars just can’t compare. Its boards are either too simple since they came from Mario Party 1-3 or have very annoying gimmicks that take away the fun. Seriously, there are only maybe two boards that are actually enjoyable to play and no other side game modes.
Going back in time from there, Mario Party 10 is on the Wii U. If you are one of the 10 people who actually bought a Wii U, this game is decent. Seriously though, Wii U’s 13 million sales is a joke compared to Wii’s 101 million and Switch’s 114 million. The problem with Mario Party 10 (and 9) is that all players move together in a car. Each person rotates around the car so when it is your turn you are in the driver’s seat. This forces everyone down the same route drastically reducing strategy and independence. There is also a big focus on Amiibos which we never touched.
Mario Party 9 for the Wii started the everyone-in-a-car idea. This method of movement just isn’t as fun as traditional board games, it makes everything so linear.
Mario Party 8 for the Wii is a fun game, I remember playing this one a lot too. Even after we owned Mario Party 9 and 10, Julie and I would come back to this one because the car was not “invented” yet. Toad, who is usually the host of Mario Party games, is a playable character and is replaced by a really weird guy named MC Ballyhoo and his talking hat, Big Top. The sound effects they used for these guys’ talking are so strange Julie and I repeat them to this day, skim-in-oh and who-bulla-hey!
As for the earlier games, I have only played Mario Party 1 and 2. Since I doubt most people have Nintendo 64 or GameCube lying around, it probably doesn’t matter anyway. Props to you if you actually still have a Wii/Wii U and are able to play Mario Party 8-10.
So go out there, grab one of these games, pop some popcorn, make a pizza and have fun! Don’t take it too seriously and let beginners win sometimes, no one wants to lose every round.
Gameplay - How fun I find the game itself.
Co-Op - Does co-op exist in the game and if so how well integrated is it.
Replayability - Once I beat the game how likely am I to go back and play it again.
☆☆☆ - Terrible or functionality doesn’t exist, eg co-op in a single play only game
★☆☆ - Bad
★★☆ - Good
★★★ - Awesome
Columnist | Gaming & Tech Whiz of Moody Melon Magazine
I am a game developer, technical engineer, an animator and entrepreneur with a forward-thinking mindset to bring cool ideas into existence. In my free time I read lots of news articles. I enjoy using my knowledge of the IT world to give my opinions on various tech-related topics.