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Review: Super Mario Party

Years ago, when the original Mario Party launched on Nintendo 64, there was a neighborhood gathering of the kids in my area. We’d spend hours at one house trying to best each other, calling each other names and generally being kids. With each iteration of this series, things never really changed but we got older. Over the years, the series faced its ups and downs but thankfully for the first time in quite some time, the series returns to the basics and Super Mario Party is a wonderful party game for all ages.

Until recently the series hit a low, taking a one mighty party game and watching as all the fun being zapped from it. If you played Mario Party 10, you remember how the game ended up being stripped of what made it fun and all that was left was a shell of what made the series fun, to begin with. The pain of watching many of the elements which made the series fun disappear was felt by many.

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Nintendo decided to give the series with a fresh start on the Switch, and after an abysmal last outing, things look like the once did. Out of the box, two people can play right away, with each Joy-Con serving as a controller for each player. Unfortunately, the expensive Pro controller doesn’t work with this game. Same goes for portable mode, so you’re stuck at home and you need to use one Joy-Con for each player.

Speaking of which, this bothered me while reviewing Super Mario Party. By removing controller options like the Pro controller and being relegated to one single Joy-Con, I felt soured on the subject. I love the Joy-Con and how Nintendo’s incorporated them with the console and with games. However, my massive hands sometimes cramped up while playing. Luckily, this game isn’t demanding any crazy inputs from me, and after getting use to the scheme, enjoyed the game.

To keep things easy, Super Mario Party is a four-player game where players pick their favorite Nintendo character. Each player rolls the dice on their turn and moves around the board earning stars by playing several minigames. Coins play a big part of the game and by collecting them on the board, players can buy stars once passing the star’s location. At the end of the game, whoever has the most stars wins.

Games are played on one of four boards including Megafruit Paradise, Whomp’s Domino Ruins, King Bob-omb’s Powerkeg Mine and a fourth unlockable board, Kamek’s Tantalizing Tower. For the most part, these boards are fun to play on but the lack of boards in a new entry doesn’t go unnoticed. Nintendo did a wonderful job on the existing boards but in 2018, this lack of boards doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.

With that said, Nintendo incorporated changes to the formula that works out quite well. Each character on the board now has a custom dice block made for them. Each dice offers benefit as well as drawbacks. Some may offer coins, others cost you coins. Landing on specific spots on the board leads to warping elsewhere or paying out coins to Lakitu to earn a star or steal coins from a player.

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Of note, River Survival sees four players share one raft whilst navigating a massive river featuring several routes. Using motion controls, players decide what path to take to reach the end of the level. Time is your enemy here as seconds countdown. You’ll have to make it quick, too, as making it down the river without causing too much damage is a must.

Also, Toad’s Rec Room is something I want to see incorporated into future titles and not just under the Party banner. Here, Nintendo allows multiple Switch consoles to link and thus creating a bigger playing field to take on new games. For the record, everything except Banana Split is playable with one Switch.

Another highlight included playing Sound Stage. In Sound Stage, rhythm plays an important part of the game. As do motion controls which pair perfectly here and remind of the wonderful series Rhythm Heaven series with a series of minigames I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. It’s here during these minigames that I understood why Nintendo is continually improving motion controls – it’s a ton of fun to move around and play along.

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Super Mario Party brings back the basics by creating a wonderful couch multiplayer. With over 80 minigames available you won’t find yourself losing interest quickly. The way Nintendo incorporates the Joy-Cons and Switch console is a testament Nintendo as a company, a quirky tech company looking to continually innovate the game space. By bringing the competitive spirit out in everyone who plays, this is the game you want to play when you have your best friends over for the night. Aside from a few minigame missteps, this is one of the best games in the series offering creative minigames and fun nights for everyone.