There’s a party going on in the Mushroom Kingdom, and you’re invited!
That’s right! The frantically fun friendship destroying series is back in Nintendo’s newest iteration, Super Mario Party, for the Nintendo Switch.
Featuring 16 characters to start, with more to unlock, you’ll battle your way through eight different game modes featuring 80 new minigames in an attempt to prove you’re the Super Star!
With the triumphant return of individual movement on the party boards and the first ever inclusion of online gameplay, does Super Mario Party throw the biggest bash of them all!?
Or will you be leaving the party early?
In Super Mario Party the story is fairly straight forward.
Mario, Peach, and the gang are all having an argument over who is the Super Star, the worthiest hero in all the land.
Mario suggests having a party, which is the time-honored tradition of the Mushroom Kingdom, to see who truly holds the title, and the whole team agrees.
Toad and Toadette are put up to the challenge of hosting the party for the heroic crew!
However, Bowser and his minions, feeling the Super Star could just as easily be one of them, want in on the fun too!
Bowser assigns Kamek to assist Toad and Toadette with the preparations to make sure things stay fair.
The trio of hosts go to work instantly and create a popup style carnival where the goal is to collect the five Star Gems scattered in the different modes to prove once and for all who the true Super Star is.
With all their work complete the fun can finally begin!
The gameplay in Super Mario Party is found within different modes scattered across the small carnival style hub world.
The namesake mode, Mario Party, has up to four players competing to collect coins and buy Stars in an “every man for themselves” style board game.
At four boards total, the selection can feel underwhelming.
Each board has its quirks, from a giant boulder that can cause a player to flee to a previous space, to an oversized Blooper that will smack a player to a different part of the board.
However, the boards feel small in comparison to previous titles.
The typical rules have been slightly altered.
Minigames now offer only eight coins to 1st place as well as offering some coins to 2nd and 3rd place as well.
The Star only costs 10 coins, although that can be affected by different events, and the places it can spawn on the map feel more calculated rather than random like in previous titles.
These changes keep the competition close, and every player is often within a few coins or stars of each other in rank.
Spaces on the boards have been changed and there are some new spaces introduced as well.
The Event Spaces feel less frequent and less interesting than previous titles.
Bad Luck and Extra Bad Luck Spaces replace the Bowser Spaces and don’t seem to be as worrisome.
Blue and Red Spaces still award or remove three coins, which later gets upgraded to six coins, from the player if they land on them.
VS Spaces will no longer put the players into a battle royale, but instead have them face off in a quick minigame utilizing the HD Rumble tech in the JoyCons to determine who leaves with the most coins.
Newly introduced Ally Spaces will add an additional character to your team to help you roll for movement, as well as allow you to use their individual dice block.
The individual dice block mechanic can offer some new strategy to the game, featuring different die face options like larger or more frequent numbers, as well as some faces rewarding or losing coins.
Items return and offer another layer of strategy, although I do wish the item shops were more themed to the board.
You’ll battle it out with your friends in a variety of minigames between each turn, but I’ll get more into those later in the review.
At the end of the game players can be awarded bonus stars based off of certain conditions being met, which keeps the game feeling fresh and exciting even if you’re in last place.
Partner Party is a 2v2 style board game mode where the players can move freely using a grid on the same four boards from Mario Party mode.
Players will roll dice as a team and each member will get to move based on the combined roll.
You can jump on the enemy team’s head by crossing or landing on their space to lower their coin count and there are coins scattered across the board to pick up.
You’ll compete in team based minigames after each turn and be awarded with coins for winning.
The Star can be purchased by each player on a team if they both land on the space and have the appropriate amount of coins, and the number of stars will increase as the game goes on.
This mode allows for some fun and strategy through using the mechanic of the boards to your advantage with the co-op variant, but may often be ignored over the standard Mario Party mode.
River Survival is a new four-player co-op mode.
You read that correctly.
A four-player co-op mode in a Mario Party game.
Your team will work together to navigate their way down a winding river path.
Using motion controls to steer the raft, you’ll dodge boulders, avoid Cheep-Cheeps, get a boost of speed on boost pads, and grab red balloons to participate in minigames all under the pressure of a time limit.
Completing the co-op mini games successfully will reward you with more time, so you’ll want to grab the balloons as much as possible.
However, this mode features a small amount of minigames and you’ll often find yourself repeating the same game during a single journey.
This is unfortunate because the new co-operative mode offers something special to Super Mario Party by strengthening the bond between players, despite the series’ typical nature to destroy friendships.
Sound Stage has you moving and grooving to the beat in a rapid-fire rhythm based minigame contest to see who the best performer is!
This mode is unsurprisingly a favorite in my household, as my fiancé and I are both huge fans of rhythm games.
Movement controls felt responsive and accurate and were easily picked up by even the most casual players.
Sound Stage is probably the quickest mode, which makes it great for figuring out who decides what to play next!
However, with only ten different rhythm games to play, and three modes of difficulty, I was left wanting more time to shine on stage.
Challenge Road is a single player mode similar to Bowser’s Tower in Mario Party: Island Tour for the 3DS.
You’ll compete in a gauntlet of minigame challenges as you make your way on the “Challenge Road”, hence the name of the mode, in an effort to reach the end and defeat the final “boss”.
Each stage will have you compete in 10 or more challenges within a minigame.
You’ll finish the stage with a “boss battle” at the end of the road featuring a 1v1 minigame, which is really just one of the 80 minigames with only two players.
Strangely this mode is locked at the start of the game.
You can access it by unlocking all the minigames, although exactly what games need to be “unlocked” isn’t really explained.
I was able to play Challenge Road after spending some time in the Minigames mode using Free-Play.
Completing Challenge Road isn’t too difficult, but if you find yourself stuck on a particular game, usually one involving luck from your COM allies, a Toady will fly down and offer the ability to skip the challenge.
If, however, you beat Challenge Road completely, you’ll unlock the Master version of the mode, which will offer more difficulty and feature the new Master level COMs.
The Minigames mode is where you’ll find three different ways to play your favorite minigames.
There is Free Play, which lets you choose to play your favorite minigames or try out games you’ve never played before.
Mariothon is the second mode and has you competing for the highest score over five random minigames from three Cups made by Toad, Toadette, and Kamek, or a player made Custom Cup.
This is also the mode that has online capabilities, which unfortunately means Nintendo missed the mark on what players wanted from “Online Mario Party” in the form of an Online Board Game mode.
Rounding out the Minigames mode is Square Off.
It is a fun “claim the most squares” mode that has you choosing squares on a grid for winning minigames and features a back-stabbing theft mechanic by surrounding your opponent’s squares.
The 80 minigames in Super Mario Party are all brand new and feature a variety of play styles.
However, I’d like to have seen more motion based minigames.
Motion controls are used in a variety of ways in Super Mario Party, from high-fiving after winning a team-based game, to holding up your oar while rafting to prove you can cooperate, rolling your dice on a game board, or even an entire rhythm-based mode.
Minigames, however, seem to be lacking in the motion department, which felt a little jarring.
The games that did feature motion control felt really responsive and accurate.
While all 80 minigames feel fresh due to being new, some of the games are incredibly similar to one another.
Including any of the 720 mini games from previous titles would have been a welcomed addition.
Hopefully, with Nintendo’s new philosophy on keeping games feeling fresh with content updates, we’ll see some minigame DLC packs.
The last two modes in Super Mario Party are Toad’s Rec Room and Stickers.
Stickers is a fun little mode where you can apply stickers you collect to different scenes found in the game to create interesting and funny pictures.
Toad’s Rec Room offers a unique style of play using the Nintendo Switch’s portable functionality.
Featuring four games, three of which offer a variety of screen options, you’ll be able to find a reason to play Super Mario Party even while on the go.
“Mini League Baseball” is the first game up to bat, and has you playing a modified game of baseball in a toy field.
This mode can be played with a single Switch system lying flat on the table for a bird’s eye view, using the kick stand for a laid-back view, two systems back to back to offer Pitcher and Batter viewpoints, and using the dock allows for a game on the big screen.
“Shell Shocked Deluxe” puts you in control of a tank and has you facing your opponent in fierce combat.
This mode can be played with the same styles as “Mini League Baseball”, but the two-system style allows for different configurations of the map by swiping your finger across the screen to connect the two systems.
“Puzzle Hustle” has you working together to piece 8-bit versions of classic Mario characters together as quick as possible.
This mode also features all four screen options as the previous two, but the two-system mode adds a warp pipe for players to work on different puzzles on different screens.
The final mode is “Banana, Split” which can only be played using two systems.
This mode has you swiping the screen of each system in a line to connect bananas together.
Oddly, this is far more challenging than it seems and can have a group of friends arguing over what a banana looks like.
Audio & Visuals
The soundtrack to Super Mario Party is pretty forgettable.
No song really stuck with me during my time with the game, and even though the menu offers the ability to listen to the music at any time, I didn’t feel any drive to do so.
The music offers nice background noise to each minigame and mode, but all in all you probably won’t be adding any of the songs to your video game playlist anytime soon.
The visuals also leave something to be desired.
Seeing Mario Party in HD is great, but it’s been done before on the Wii U.
The color palette is gorgeous, featuring bright and vibrant colors that really pop on your display, even while in handheld mode, but often the background to most screens feels empty or plain.
Many of the minigames have boring backgrounds and uninteresting props.
There are plenty of chances to use other characters and items from Mario lore, but often the developers opt to place simple blocks or uninspired items in their place.
This isn’t enough to distract from the fun, and the Nintendo polish is often felt in tiny design choices like leaving behind battle damage in a wall that has been hit by a Chain Chomp, which is great, but there could be more and unfortunately that was felt throughout the game.
Super Mario Party is an excellent and welcomed addition to the Mario Party series.
Its return to form by ditching the car motif in the last few games is reason enough for me to warrant purchasing this game.
It offers exactly what you’d want from a Mario Party, but doesn’t quite offer enough of it.
You’ll definitely enjoy your time playing, but it will leave you wanting more, and it just can’t provide that.
It might not be a problem in the future, as Nintendo has proven time and time again that they will drop content updates for games that need help, such as the new IP “ARMS” and the recently released “Mario Tennis ACES”.
They have even provided content updates for games that are wildly popular to begin with like “Splatoon 2” and “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe”.
Hopefully they follow suit and we’ll be getting new modes, boards, characters, minigames, and a better version of online play.
That being said, if you’ve got the friends and the finances, this game will provide plenty of fun party opportunities.
If you’re looking for a game that will offer a variety of content, engaging single player and great online multiplayer, then perhaps you should skip out on this party.
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