Super Mario Party Review
Back to the Glory Days
Published on October 22, 2018
Release Date: October 5th, 2018
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Plagued by a series of controversial game mechanics and design decisions, the Mario Party franchise has been in a rut. The series known for creating endless fun with your friends has disappointed longtime fans and lost its sparkle. Super Mario Party throws away clutter and instead focuses on returning the series back to its roots. The result is an exciting and enjoyable experience that makes Super Mario Party the best addition to the franchise in over a decade.
The star of the show as always is the ever-eventful Party Mode where 1-4 friends battle against each other for first place. Right off the bat, the car mechanic from the past two games which locked players into moving on the board as a single unit has been removed. Like previous games in the series, players can move about the board freely on their quest to gather Power Stars. One downside is that there are only a total of four boards to play on. While each board provides a unique experience through its environment, event spaces, and board layout, it still left me with a feeling of wanting more board options to choose from.
Trekking around the board this time has also changed with the inclusion of character-specific dice. Depending on the who you choose, players have the option of moving with the traditional 1-6 die or their character’s special die. These new dice add an element of risk, reward, and strategy as some can be extremely volatile. Bowser’s dice, for example, can roll a 10 but also presents a chance to lose three coins and not move at all. It’s a relatively simple addition to the game that makes every turn slightly more chaotic and fun.
Battling for dominance on each board also involves fighting in one of the game’s 80 minigames. Super Mario Party is unique in the fact that the only controller option for the game is a single Joycon. While this may cause issues for players that find this input method difficult or uncomfortable to use, the game alleviates the problem in that most minigames do not require precise button controls or are entirely motion controlled. The minigames themselves challenge players to excel in multiple styles of play. Games vary from traditional joystick and button minigames to motion control and rhythm games. The games that incorporate the Joycon’s HD rumble feature are exceptionally brilliant as they test players on their sense of touch to overcome their opponents.
A welcome characteristic of the minigames is that luck rarely determines the outcome. Of all the control options, surprisingly, the motion controlled games put the greatest emphasis on skill. A prime example of this is the Candy Shakedown mini-game where players must race to remove all candy out of a jar. A novice will typically shake their Joycon as fast as they can, but a veteran can easily dominate their opponents by maneuvering the candy into the right position and using precise movements. Overall, the combination of various input methods and skill based gameplay makes the minigames in Super Mario Party a never-ending barrel of friendly competitive fun.
For those looking to play in a new way, Super Mario Party’s additional game modes cater to parties of all sizes. Those not looking to quarrel with fellow players can play the new River Survival mode; a cooperative experience that tasks players with reaching the finish line before the timer runs out. Rather than a traditional game board, the team is placed on a raft as they traverse a treacherous river. The Joycon simulates a paddle, and players on each side of the raft must use motion controls to row at the correct times to avoid obstacles and trigger exclusive 4-player co-op mini-games that rewards the team with bonus time.
Super Mario Party also comes with a new Partner Party mode. Designed to be a 2 vs. 2 experience, this is a spin-off of the classic Party mode and comes with its own special set of movement rules. On each turn, each pair will add their dice rolls together and are free to move in any direction on the board. It’s a fun twist for a round or two, but ultimately doesn’t bring enough to the table to make it a lasting game mode. For players on the go, Nintendo included a feature for playing a special subset of mini-games for two Nintendo Switches when playing undocked. While this playstyle’s baseball game is quite entertaining, it is lackluster as it locks players into choosing one of four exclusive games. However, the mode serves its purpose and works well when you are unable to play in the comfort of a living room.
Finally, the new Mariothon mode is perfect for those looking to compete against friends without the time investment of a traditional Mario Party game. In Mariothon, five mini-games are played in succession, with the best overall player claiming victory. It’s a good idea in concept but severely fails in execution as only 10 of the 80 minigames are enabled for this mode. The other missing element from the entire game is the online aspect. Following Nintendo’s paid online service launch in September, one might expect to be able to enjoy a full game of Super Mario Party online with their friends. This is not the case, and the game only features an online version of Mariothon which is limited to the same 10 games.
Super Mario Party is a return to what made it great. While it doesn’t do much to radically innovate the series, Nintendo has proven that sometimes simplicity is best left untouched. This is a party game that will bring back nostalgic memories, ruin friendships, and provide a delightful time for whatever sized party you may bring.