Super Mario Party Review
Super Mario and his friends are back for their 11th Mario Party on consoles and this time the party is making its franchise debut on the Nintendo Switch! Super Mario Party brings a lot of the fundamental Mario Party elements that have made the franchise so popular while adding some fresh new features to the franchise. After holding so many parties, you’d think Nintendo would be perfect party planners. Time to party on!
Super Mario Party begins with all the Mushroom Kingdom friends arguing over who the biggest Super Star is. Mario suggests holding a party to decide who is the top dog. Just as they were agreeing to the terms, Bowser appears with his minions and suggests that maybe one of his crew is the biggest Super Star. Toad and Toadette take on the role of party organizers, but to keep things fair, Bowser enlists his wizard-like minion Kamek to assist with the party. Now it’s time for a Mario Party throwdown to decide who’s the ultimate Super Star.
Super Mario Party continues the tradition of allowing a maximum of four players. You’ll have to leave your comfy Pro controller on the shelf, this is a JoyCon only affair. The character selection is the most diverse in a Mario Party game featuring 20 characters; 16 to begin with, and four to unlock. Sorry to disappoint you, but Bowsette is not one of the playable characters. Super Mario Party kicks off in the Party Plaza, a small open world area that allows you to interact with some of the other competitors and pick from the various modes such as Mario Party and the brand new co-op mode, River Survival.
More Ways to Party
The classic Mario Party mode is back and fortunately sticks to a relatively familiar formula with only a few minor additions. Each player takes turns rolling their dice and moving along the board, collecting coins, with the goal of accumulating the most stars before the end of the game. Along the way, you’ll come across a number of different spaces that will change things up. The new Ally space will give you a new ally to join your team – an ally will assist you in some minigames and will give you an extra boost by rolling their own dice on your turn (up to a max of two extra spaces). Items make a return and can be purchased at Flutters shop. Landing on an “Unlucky” space will bring the wrath of Kamek – usually causing some lost coins or worse, a lost star! Unfortunately, there are only four boards to choose from in this mode – three of which are available right away and a fourth one must be unlocked. For some perspective, the first Mario Party game back in 1998 had eight boards. After selecting a board, you can choose between 10 turns, 15 turns, or 20 turns, but be warned, there is no save feature – so you’ll need to finish your match in one sitting or rely on the Switch’s sleep mode. At the end of each turn, you’ll square off in a minigame. While the game touts 80 minigames, the reality is that 20 of those minigames are limited to two other game modes, so you’ll only have 60 minigames in the classic Mario Party mode. 60 sounds like a lot, but you’ll be playing repeats pretty damn quick. Most of the minigames are enjoyable, but more should have been included.
The biggest addition to the Mario Party franchise is the new co-op mode, River Survival. Four players will work together to paddle down a 5-kilometre river – but you’ll be racing against the clock to accomplish this. To earn more time, you’ll need to compete in co-op minigames. The better you do, the more time you earn. After each kilometre, you’ll be able to choose which direction you want to continue down – which gives a little bit of variety on your journey. This mode is pretty good, except for the fact that there are only 10 minigames in total! The sad reality is that you’re almost guaranteed to repeat at least one minigame during each trip down the river – and that’s just boring.
Aside from the two big modes, there are a few other modes available. Partner Party pits two teams of two against each other to collect coins and stars. The boards are the same as in the Mario Party mode, however, they’ve been redesigned to add an element of strategy here. Instead of just rolling the dice and going in one direction, you can actually plot a course. I would have enjoyed this mode more if there were more mini-games here (notice the trend), as there are only 20 minigames available here.
Minigames arena allows you to play all the minigames in a variety of different competitive ways. Challenge Road is a single-player jaunt through all the Super Mario Party minigames, but with some added criteria such as completing a minigame in a specific time. Sound Stage – which is the games best mode – is a series of rhythm games that require you to move your JoyCon to the beat of the music in a variety of different settings. There are only 10 minigames here, but at least they come in three different difficulty settings.
Throughout Super Mario Party, completing certain criteria will award the player with gems. Collecting all five gems is how the Super Star is determined. The criteria really isn’t that difficult – for example, in Mario Party, finishing a game on each board will net you a gem. In addition, completing various tasks and games will also award the player with Party Points. These Party Points can be used in the Party Pad, a handheld device Toad gives you, to unlock things like stickers, game tips, and music. Finally, there is Toad’s Rec Room where you can try your hand at four unique minigames – these games are designed to show off the Switch’s ability to link with another Switch, although it’s not required. It’s worth noting that the four minigames in Toad’s Rec Room are unique to this area, and not included in Super Mario Party’s “80 minigames” count.
There’s No I In Party
The most important aspect of any Mario Party game is the multiplayer element. Playing with other people is highly recommended, as the AI in this game – in every mode – is just awful. There are some minigames that the AI can’t quite process, making them just useless. Having four players will likely provide the most enjoyment out of Super Mario Party. But there are some glaring issues with multiplayer that need to be addressed. First, there is absolutely no drop-in/drop-out feature! If you want to change the number of players, you’ll need to return to the player select screen and make adjustments. Second, in Super Mario Party, you collect Party Points for completing various games. However, only the active profile collects these Party Points. This means that my two sons, who both have Switch profiles and active Nintendo accounts, can’t sign in with their profiles when we play Super Mario Party – so they don’t earn anything while playing under my profile. Super Mario Party also features an online mode that allows players to compete in minigames, but Nintendo prohibited us from trying it during the review period – so I can’t comment on it.
Super Mario Party features a fun, timeless Super Mario look to it – all the characters look great. The boards all feature unique themes with some great throwbacks to past Super Mario games. River Survival does a great job of showing off beautiful water effects – and at times you can see down into the water at all the rocks and such, it’s a very cool effect. Everything is bright, vibrant, and colourful – it oozes that friendly, fun atmosphere Nintendo has damn near perfected. The sound features all those classic Mario Party sounds you’ve come to love and the music is as catchy as ever. Some minigames, particularly in the Sound Stage mode even tie in some classic Super Mario Bros. music giving a nice bit of nostalgia.
Super Mario Party features a large character selection, beautiful visuals, fun minigames, fresh new modes, and that fun, party-style gameplay – all of which is great. But I constantly found myself wanting… more. Maybe it’s because I see what Nintendo is doing with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – with its massive roster, absurd number of levels, and so much more and I wish Nintendo would put that kind of effort into a Mario Party game. Why not dig into the Mario Party vault and update four classic boards along with 80 classic minigames? That would double the amount of content here which would alleviate some of Super Mario Party’s repetition issues. Of course, a more robust online experience, the ability to drop in/drop out, and a mid-game save feature would be on my Mario Party wishlist too. If you have three friends that are Mario Party fanatics – than there might be just enough here to satisfy the Mario Party craving for a while. Otherwise, it’s really hard to recommend Super Mario Party – especially if you don’t have anyone to play with, the stupid AI will just drive you insane. Nintendo, your Mario Party fans deserve better than Super Mario Party. Take a page out of the Smash Bros book and give fans a real treat next time.
***Super Mario Party key provided by publisher***
- Beautiful visuals
- New modes to enjoy
- Fun minigames
- Nice selection of characters
- No drop-in/drop-out option
- AI is terrible
- Not enough minigames
- Not enough Mario Party boards
- Minimal online modes