Super Mario Party
The Mario Party franchise has always been about the convergence of board games and minigames with Nintendo characters thrown into the mix. Recent entries deviated from the tried and true formula to unpopular results, but Super Mario Party returns the series to its roots. While the return to the standard board-game format is a welcome adjustment, Super Mario Party supplements the flagship approach with fun peripheral modes to create a mostly enjoyable party game anyone can pick up and play.
The mainstay board-game mode delivers the classic Mario Party experience of four players moving independently through different boards to collect the most stars before you reach the turn limit. While I’m glad this mode has returned, I’m disappointed by the board options. You can only play on four boards, and they all feel small, uninspired, and cramped. Progress through them is mostly linear, with only a few branching paths that eventually converge. While the linearity is alleviated in the free-roam Partner Party mode, the boards are largely forgettable.
One of the more frustrating elements of the Mario Party franchise persists with random dice rolls and arbitrary chance elements still ultimately determining the victor. This remains evident in how you collect stars, which are bought from Toadette if you encounter her on the board. After each star, Toadette relocates randomly across the board, further drilling in the luck element; if you get a star, there’s a small chance that Toadette will relocate just a few spaces down, essentially gifting you another star on your next turn.
As with all Mario Party games, the minigames that break up the board-game action are the real centerpieces. Competing in bite-sized competitions to earn coins is often exciting, and the stable of 80 new minigames features more hits than misses. My favorite minigames, like slapping your opponents at the right time for it to be captured on camera, create hilarious situations that stick with me after I turn the game off. Others, like blasting rivals away with high-powered water guns, deliver good action with simple-yet-solid gameplay. The highlights shine bright enough that when the occasional dud pops up, I don’t mind.
With such a strong stable of minigames, Super Mario Party also includes ways to enjoy them without moving across a board. River Survival puts all four players in a raft as they paddle down a treacherous river by moving the Joy-Cons like oars. Rowing down the river as one while steering clear of rocks and enemies makes for plenty of amusing moments, and I like how you can aim for balloons along the way to pause the rafting action and play a cooperative minigame to earn extra time to reach the goal. But with only 10 distinct 4-player co-op minigames, you get repeats often. This small catalogue also limits the replay value of the mode, as you can only play them so many times before they become routine for your group.
Sound Stage amps up the motion controls as it sends the characters on stage to compete in rhythm-based games. The presentation of this mode is exciting; the crowd cheers along as you progress through a handful of competitions, and I love how the music accompanying the minigames is tied into one song with a remix of the original Super Mario Bros. Underworld theme serving as a bridge. However, this mode runs into the same problem with variety, with only has 10 rhythm-based games to pull from. Despite this, I love playing through the energetic mode as an intermission between other activities.
Toad’s Rec Room is the most unique new mode, giving you the ability to combine two Switch screens to make your own battlefields or add additional puzzles. However, it serves as little more than a diversion. The other modes deliver more substantial experiences centered on the solid library of minigames.
If you want to party by yourself, the new Challenge Road puts you through all 80 minigames organized in a hub world. While some challenges simply have you beating the A.I. rivals, many of them add an extra layer of difficulty, like collecting a certain number of coins or not hitting any obstacles. These extra layers add additional excitement to the games, though since Challenge Road is single-player only, it’s frustrating when you get teamed up with an incompetent A.I. character. Thankfully, those moments are few enough that Challenge Road is a worthwhile solo mode that highlights the best part of Super Mario Party and acts as a solid side to the multiplayer meat of the experience.
Despite lackluster board design and side modes that can become repetitive, Super Mario Party is a fun group game that showcases a diverse collection of minigames. With so many different modes, it’s easy for you and your friends to consume the entertaining minigames Super Mario Party delivers.