While the Mario Party series has been defining the party game genre for over two decades, even the most famous games can lose themselves to sequelitis. It’s probably for this reason that Nintendo decided to shed the previous numbered installments and rebrand the series as Super Mario Party on Nintendo Switch. And boy does it deliver.
A traditional Mario Party pits one to four players against each other in a digital board game, rolling a single die to move around the board collecting stars, coins, and new in Super Mario Party, ally characters. If you land on an Ally Space, a character is chosen at random from the playable roster, lends you their unique character die to use at any time, and supplements your die roll with rolls of their own. These specialized dice are one of Super Mario Party’s greatest new features; players can weigh the risks and rewards of rolling a standard six-sided die, in addition to their own and their allies’ dice, each of which come with distinct advantages and disadvantages, like the risk of losing coins for the reward of higher rolls.
Every turn of the board game is ended with one of eighty minigames chosen at random, where players compete for coins and bragging rights. It’s what makes Mario Party so much fun, and it’s where the friendly (and not-so-friendly) competition come alive. Players might punch each other in front for the camera, shake gems out of a jar, and pilot planes through an obstacle course.
It’s here that Super Mario Party not only insures itself as intuitive fun for everyone, but locks in Nintendo Switch is a must-own for gamers and casual players alike. Every minigame uses the Switch’s detachable Joy-Con controllers, either in a horizontal position for traditional buttons, or veritcal for Wii-like motion control minigames. No matter the use case, it just works—usually easy enough for Grandma to join in.
Super Mario Party does include a single-player mode called Challenge Road, though it only unlocks after you’ve unlocked every minigame in the multiplayer modes. Besides a fun run through the minigames with a sparse few extra challenges thrown in the mix, it’s little else.
Super Mario Party features perhaps the series’ widest variety of alternate modes. The aforementioned Classic Mode is supplemented by a co-op called Partner Party, where players team up for a two-on-two competition. Both players on each team roll a die, which are then combined into a shared total dice roll. Players are then free to move around the board as an open grid, rather than sticking to Classic Mode’s preset paths. It’s a really great way to play without ruining all your friendships,
If two-player cooperation isn’t enough, everyone can team up in River Survival, a new mode that sends four players careening down a river in an inflatable raft. Players move the controllers to control your oars, working together to steer the boat into balloons that activate unique team-based minigames. While it’s true that most modes are better with human players (and optional drinking game rules), it’s especially apparent in River Survival. WIth friends you can communicate and work together, but when you play with CPUs, it’s easy to feel like you’re carrying the team.
Mariothon pits players against each other in a tournament-style marathon of back-to-back minigames at home or online. Unfortunately its fun is short-lived, as the tournament only lasts five games. This is unfortunately the only mode available to play online.
Other modes include Square-Off, another minigame-based game; Sound Stage, a delightful mode of rhythm-based minigames; and Toad’s Rec Room, a collection of toys and games showing off technical elements of the Switch. The most impressive game you’ll find here use two Nintendo Switches in conjuction with each other to play games that spread across one Switch’s touchscreen to the other’s. They’re fun diversions and great tech demonstrations for concepts to use in future party games, but not much else.
While Super Mario Party’s sheer variety makes it undoubtedly the series’ best in a decade, longtime fans may find each of these modes just a little undercooked. Sound Stage, Toad’s Rec Room, and River Survival only have three, five, and fifteen minigames respectively. Mariothon and the two board game modes share a much larger pool of eighty minigames, but Super Mario Party only has four boards to choose from. They’re all good, reliable fun, but none of them quite satisfied the creative itch of the series’ most memorable locales.
Super Mario Party sheds the series’ last few rounds of sequelitis to deliver a game well worth of the Mario Party name. Whether you’re buying for your kids, throwing a college kickback, or gathering the parents and grandparents around the living room for the Holidays, Super Mario Party is a game you won’t want to forget.