Mario and friends are back in the newest entry in the Mario Party series. Super Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch aims to refresh the series for the next generation. By stepping away from some of the more recent gameplay choices and bringing in some new ones is it a party foul or the talk of the town?
Like most of the entries in the past, Super Mario Party doesn’t have a whole lot of story going on for it. It starts with the gang arguing about who is the true Super Star of them all when toad suggests they settle it the old fashion way; through a Mario Party! It’s heavily implied that this is an old tradition that the kingdom holds dearly, and this time around even Bowser and his minions get to participate! It’s nice to see it being treated like an Olympic event of sorts with citizens from both sides running the games and events.
This is the true star (pun intended) of the game! A whopping 20 characters join the roster of playable characters this time around. The biggest amount of playable characters to date!
Exactly half of the characters are from Mario’s side and the other half are from Bowser’s side. However, four of the characters (2 from each side) are hidden at the beginning of the game. There is Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Dry Bones, and Pom Pom. There are different conditions to complete in order to unlock them.
It’s a nice bit of variety that other entries have lacked with many favorites returning like Boo and Dry Bones. However, I feel like they really missed the mark by not including Birdo for Bowser’s side instead of a Goomba, maybe even Petey Pirahna. Still, those are just nitpicks from someone with a lot of favorite Mario characters. There’s still the chance that we’ll receive more as DLC in the future!
As stated before, Super Mario Party is just like any other entry in the series before it. There are few different modes to play in, along with an online Mini-game “tournament” that you need Nintendo Switch Online to compete in.
Mario Party Mode
This is the bread and butter of any Mario Party game, and for those who have never played one before it’s basically a giant board game. The object is to collect the most amount of coins and stars by the end. Stars cost ten coins and are the primary thing that determines who is in the lead. If the number of stars are the same, then coins are what determines who is winning. There are only four boards to choose from, and each one has a specific theme to them. This also determines what events take place which helps to keep you playing more than once.
Each of the four players takes turn rolling dice to see how many spaces they get to move. This can be altered in a number of ways. The first is that each character has a die that is specific to them. Some may have more on one number than another or have sides that give or take away coins. These and other dice are accessible during your move. Another way is to use items or spaces on the board to call an ally to you. This brings one of the non-playing characters to your side and gives you access to their die. They also roll an extra die after you roll yours and add that number to your available moving spaces.
Items are another aspect of helping you or impeding your foes. One may give you extra movement spaces or warp you next to the star. You can obtain them by randomly landing on an item space or by purchasing them from item stores on the map. Each of the spaces has something specific attributed to it. Event spaces cause random things to happen, usually moving the character or impeding them. Red spaces cause you to lose coins while blue ones give you coins. There are even spaces that are there to cause bad luck to you or other players. It might make you give up a star or coins and give it to someone else, or it may gain you stars and coins from others. The main aspect of this game is luck, and sometimes no amount of strategy can beat pure luck.
The final aspect of this and all modes of the game are mini-games. These take place at the end of each turn and are mostly to give players the opportunity to gain more coins. There are a wide variety of mini-games, and which ones you play are determined at random and by the spaces you land on.
- If all four players land on the same colored space then you will participate in a four vs four mini-game.
- If two land on red and two land on blue then it will be a 2 vs 2 mini-game.
- If one lands on red and the others on blue then it will be a 1 vs 3 min-game.
- If anyone lands on green spaces then it will randomly change to either a blue or red space.
Once the mini-game is determined, you are taken to a prep screen that shows you the rules, objective, and controls of the mini-game. You’re even allowed to practice a bit to get a hang of the controls.
Once everyone indicates they are ready the mini-game begins! Win it, and you (or your team) gets rewarded with coins. Do really well during team rounds and you get rewarded with extra coins that are delivered by making you and your teammates high-five each other.
Finally, at the end of the round your progress is evaluated and if you played well you’ll earn yourself a win! However, don’t celebrate too early if you’ve been keeping track. As with other entries, two bonus stars are rewarded at the end of the game. These are random rewards for different things such as collecting the most coins or losing too much.
However, knowing this early on, you can prepare by really playing aggressively and ensuring that you are at least two stars ahead of your opponents. However, that’s easier said than done when a lot of the game boils down to luck. Push through, and you’ll win the game and bragging rights over your friends.
Partner Party Mode
Similar to the main mode, Partner Party splits players up into two teams. Your goals are the same; collect stars and coins. Just a few of the aspects are changed.
- Instead of moving in a linear direction you and your partner can now move in any direction.
- Allies will periodically appear on the board, and you can acquire them just by moving past them.
- Passing an enemy player will cause you to jump on them, stealing a few coins.
This mode is filled with 2 vs 2 mini-games, however there are regular ones thrown in as well. Whichever team the winner is one is considered the winner of the mini-game.
River Survival Mode
Unlike the other two modes, River Survival is all about the mini-games. There’s no board, no spaces, and no randomly screwing over the other players. No, this mode is all about teamwork as the four players work together to navigate a river on a raft.
There is a time limit along with obstacles to slow down your progress. However, you can gather more time by completing mini-games by hitting red balloons along the way. Each of the mini-games are four-player cooperative, so as long as you don’t completely tank the game you’ll get time added on.
There are several routes to take, and you get party points to spend on stuff later on.
Sound Stage Mode
Personally, this was one of the most fun aspects of this game. It’s basically three rhythm mini-games back to back. In other words, it’s time to dance!
It features remixed music tracks from previous Mario games for you to dance along to. Whoever scores the most points wins the round.
While most of the content is within the five modes listed, there are a few extras to unlock. Since there aren’t many, I’ll keep some of them secret so you can find them on your own. However, there are a few I will touch on. The first is stickers.
Basically a photo mode, it allows you to use stickers and backgrounds to set up different scenes in any way you’d like. It doesn’t seem to add anything else to the main game modes, but I can see it being fun for young children to play around with or even fans looking to kill some time.
Playing through the different game modes awards you with Party Points that allow you to purchase different things. The first one unlocked early on are various game tips and tricks. It’s basically like an in-game guidebook that aims to help you improve your Mario Party skills. Again, not very useful to adult players, but I can see it being handy for children or people who have never played Mario Party before.
Gems are earned by mastering each of the five game modes. It is said whoever collects all five can truly call themselves a Super Star.
As you may notice, there are five gems but only four modes mentioned here. Well, all I’ll say is that is one of the mysteries of the game. Instead of spoiling it for you, I encourage you to go out and find it for yourself!
This is where Super Mario Party takes a huge nosedive. On the bright side, we finally get a Mario Party game that features online play. The downside is that it only features a select few mini-games in a glorified mini-tournament between you and four random strangers or up to three friends.
If you were hoping to be able to play the main mode online this will be a huge disappointment for you. Don’t worry, you weren’t the only one who expected to be able to do so. Whether or not it’s something that will be released later remains to be seen, but I think Nintendo lost a lot of fans by choosing to exclude it.
At the very least, allow full access to the entire mini-game library for you to binge with friends online. Another downside is that the rules, goals, and control explanation has been removed from online play. Apparently, Nintendo expects you to memorize all of that prior to playing.
The soundtrack is great! As stated before, Super Mario Party features lots of remixed classic Mario songs along with a few original tracks. It’s a great way to feel nostalgic while ruining your friendships! I really enjoyed the remix of the Underground Theme in Sound Stage mode. Unfortunately, the entire soundtrack isn’t available online, but here’s the title theme.
The graphics are very sleek and pretty. They are nowhere near the same quality as Mario Odyssey that was released nearly a year ago, but they are a step above games found on the Wii U. It’s a bit of a let down seeing as it’s Nintendo’s newest title, but it’s still a beautiful looking game.
The maps are filled with all the colorful and quirky Mario charm fans have come to love and expect.
There’s No Party Like A Mario Party
Overall, I think Super Mario Party was the revitalization that the series needed after the last two main entries were a flop. While it doesn’t offer a lot of challenge it’s easy to see why. Nintendo, after all, aims to engage with children and encourage them to play their games. There’s nothing too new or exciting here that we haven’t already seen, but it’s a great trip down memory lane. It allows you to relive nights of staying up late and having fun with your friends.
I would love to have seen more boards included in the main game as well as other gimmicks, like costumes, return. However, maybe this was just a way for Nintendo to see if there was still interest in the series. Although they are a developer tied deeply to tradition we’ve seen them slowly start to evolve. Super Mario Party, with all its strengths and faults, showcases this. Hardcore Mario fans and young children will really enjoy all of the imagery, music, and nostalgia packaged in the five game modes.
Admittedly, I will say it’s definitely light on content and it can be completed in one day. However, the point of Mario Party is not to complete or unlock everything. In the end, it’s all about taking some time to enjoy yourself while totally wrecking your closest pals and rubbing it in their faces.