With four friends, it’s four times the fun in the back-to-basics Super Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch. Swap your salty tears for some sparkling stars and get your wiggle on to rhythmic beats when Mario takes it up a notch with eight highly entertaining game modes and 80 all-new minigames. This is the Mario Party we’ve been waiting for.
The Mario Party series has had a disappointing run over the past few years from developers Nd Cube. Between last year’s Mario Party: The Top 100 on the 3DS, which was in desperate need of a handheld overhaul, and Mario Party 10 (2015) on the Wii U which crammed everyone into a car again (sigh), fans have had a tough time spicing up their party with little more than a side-slung hat and blowpipes. Mario Party: Star Rush (2016) for the 3DS had its fair share of party-popping moments, but ultimately was let down by its erroneous game modes. And the less said about Mario Party: Island Tour (2013), the better. It’s difficult to say when Mario Party turned sour; each have taken unnecessary risks at times, while other modes have stayed stagnant and cumbersome. Super Mario Party changes the sour flow into something much sweeter. Taking the series back to its roots in the eleventh instalment, Nd Cube show us that there “ain’t no party like a Super Mario Party”.
The versatility of the Nintendo Switch is perhaps what makes Super Mario Party the best in the series for years. Easily play as a two-player team in Partner Party with two Joy-Cons for double the fun, or go for gold in a four-player showdown in classic Mario Party mode with up to four Joy-Cons. Tabletop mode also gets its time to shine with two Switch consoles in Toad’s Rec Room, while Challenge Road kicks up a single-player storm as you progress through the title’s 80 minigames. Coupled with the sheer amount of content on offer, the Joy-Cons unique HD rumble features and smooth motion controls, Super Mario Party feels at home on the Switch.
Almost all eight modes are available from the beginning in Super Mario Party. With the exception of Challenge Road, unlocked after all previously locked minigames have been completed once, each mode can be played as soon as you enter the Party Plaza. There are 16 playable characters available from the onset, including newcomers Monty Mole and Goomba, with four unlockable characters (Dry Bones, Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong and Pom Pom) able to be recruited into your team when they appear in the plaza following several hours of gameplay. Talking to Toad at the entrance to the Plaza means you can swap out your character, your team and the CPU’s difficulty without hassle. It’s a shame that Toad and Toadette have been relegated to Party Hosts, since we’d love to see them as playable characters in the game.
Players will also get a Party Pad for instant navigation around the plaza, which relies on Toad’s upgrades to purchase in-game advice, music and collectible stickers with Party Points, rewarded to players on completion of minigames or modes. While stickers are a throwaway extra, otherwise known as a wasted opportunity in our books, Gems are the real collectibles on offer and are awarded once you’ve completed a mode. For instance, the Gem of Spirit is unlocked after you complete the rhythmic echoes and beats of Sound Stage, while the Gem of Passion is only rewarded once you’ve cleared all 80 minigames in Challenge Road.
Taking the main mode out for a spin, the classic Mario Party features three initial boards, all with unique features. Watch out for iron balls of doom in the Indiana-Jones inspired Whomp’s Domino Ruins, or take on the high-risk, high-reward board in King Bob-omb’s Powderkeg Mine. If you fancy basking in the delights of your own mini island, Megafruit Paradise is a splendid way to see the crystal clear ocean across four unique islands, just watch out for the Kraken on that rickety bridge!
Nd Cube has also introduced two new features for Super Mario Party; special character dice and ally board spaces. The former makes for an instant switch on a classic with each character’s dice reflecting the personality of its owner. Wario, for example, is the mark of the devil with four 6s and two -2 coin slots, while half of Luigi’s dice are all 1s. Oh, Luigi, you poor, poor soul! Character dice not only affect the way players move around the board, but they can also enhance a player’s luck by forming an alliance. Landing on an ally board space means you’ll benefit from their unique dice and will be able to add to your overall roll throughout the duration of the game. Two wonderful features that really pay off in Super Mario Party.
Available in both the classic mode and Partner Party – the 2v2 team mode as seen in Star Rush – are a few new items. Challenge a rival with an ally at stake with the Duelling Glove Trap, whip up a Coinado and steal coins from an opponent, or choose to steal an item with the Fly Guy Ticket. Some items are only available in Partner Party, however, such as a pickaxe in Megafruit Paradise and the Peepa Bell. Another sweet addition to the title is the ability to ‘high-five’ your fellow teammates after winning a minigame to get bonus coins. Alongside the adorable character animations, such as Boo’s maniacal laugh and the sound of Shy Guy’s delights and dismay, it’s just another reason to revel in the game’s wholesomeness.
No party is a hit without the best minigames on show, and Super Mario Party has some true showstoppers. Barreling Along, Metal Detectors and Fiddler on the Hoof all make superb use of the Joy-Cons HD Rumble feature and motion controls, while Croozin’ for a Broozin’, Feeding Friendsy and Penguin Pushers are all skill-based, tactical or team minigames that require quick reflexes and fast thinking. Some minigames, like Slaparazzi, really push the boundaries with friends. Want to be the star of the show and gain the most points? Slap your friend out of the way, so you can take centre of attention. Not that we ever condone the act at all… but on Super Mario Party anything goes!
On the other hand, there are a few duds leftover in the minigame basket. I harboured a new hatred for Peach in Challenge Road over Pull It Together, particularly after spending 40 minutes trying to button mash the evil CPU algorithm into oblivion in the tug of war minigame. If it wasn’t for my peers trying to overcome Peach and her minions too, I would have resigned myself as an abysmal button-masher. Thankfully, that’s not the case. We suggest some tweaks to the CPU’s algorithm for this particular minigame.
There are other minigames that suffer the same fate, too. Tow the Line makes mincemeat out of the CPU as it mimics your movements, as you unsuccessfully try to make shapes by weaving in and out of needles. Pro tip: never team up with Bowser during that minigame. The rhythmic minigame Baton and On is particularly difficult to master as the Joy-Con fails to understand when you’re raising your arm up and down to the beat of Toadette’s march. Remember facing Demise in the final battle in Skyward Sword and how dreadful it was to power up your Master Sword with light, only by raising the Wii remote? Yeah, it’s just like that. A simple tap here makes the minigame so much easier to master.
Super Mario Party’s remaining game modes, including River Survival, Challenge Road and Minigame mode, all have their unique strengths and offer up a great diversion to the main board games. But it’s in Toad’s Rec Room that really powers up on-the-go play. With two Switch consoles, players can make their own arrangement in Shell Shocked Deluxe blowing the opponent’s tank to smithereens, and can try their hand at Mini League Baseball in either co-op or as a four-player game in tabletop. While Puzzle Hustle is cute in co-op, it’s best to play it in docked mode on the TV so you can easily see the pieces on the board. The most interesting and, quite possibly, the hardest game in Toad’s Rec Room is Banana Split. Players must manoeuvre two Switch consoles in tabletop mode to match up banana bunches to get the highest score. Nevertheless, it’s appealing.
While it’s unfortunate that Super Mario Party hasn’t completely modernised the franchise with an all-out online mode for the classic board game, it has brought the series’ first online game mode to the table. Online Mariothon features three tournament cups, with five minigames, where players must compete against each other to get the highest score. Though we’ve only managed to play Mariothon in offline mode, it’s something to whet the appetite of Nintendo’s Online Members at the very least.
With impressive aesthetics and delightful character animations, Nd Cube has finally found its rhythm with Super Mario Party. Although the game isn’t without its issues, these are few and far between, making the eleventh instalment one of the best it has been in years. That’s something to celebrate – and thankfully with no party car in sight.
A review copy of Super Mario Party was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.