Review – Super Mario Party

We recently published an article written by our talented Jason Palazini, speaking about why he prefers tabletop games to videogames. I have to say that he does make some very fair points, the most important being the lack of a social aspect in playing videogames. Even when playing games online against other players, there’s still a sense of disconnect as you’re often more focused on targeting another player or busy running around. There’s a disjointed sense of camaraderie as you briefly team up with each other to take out another team or objective, only to have the session end and move on. Even when speaking to your friends online, more often than not the only conversation is barked commands and trash talk. Super Mario Party is a prime example of a game that bridges the gap between tabletop games and most other videogames.

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King Bob-Omb counting down to self destruction.

Super Mario Party, like the numerous iterations before it, is a game where you and your friends can battle it out as your favorite characters from the Mario universe in the hopes of obtaining the most stars. You play across several maps, all designed to look and move like a traditional board game, but let’s be honest, most of us are already familiar with what Mario Party is since it’s been around since 1998. Nintedo has released 15 other Mario Party titles before this one, after all. Instead, let’s focus on what’s new and different in this year’s Super Mario Party.

Super Mario Party returns to the tried and true formula after a big deviation from the series with the last two titles. Once again, you’ll pick your favorite character from the Mario universe (although Bowser is completely playable for the first time) and you’ll set off on an adventure through one of the game’s various maps to try to claim supremacy over your friends, or against just the computer if you’re a sad loner. Most of the same faces you’ve come to know and love make a reappearance with a few new ones being made as fully playable characters like Bowser Jr., Koopa Troopa, Boo, Dry Bones, Goomba, Shy Guy, Diddy Kong, Hammer Bros., Pom Pom, and Monty Mole. I mean, you can only have so many Mario A-listers to feature before you have to start pulling from obscure background characters.

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Maybe I shouldn’t have lined them up in this order.

The game is set up in the same way as other Mario Party games: your players move around a “board” against a variety of backdrops and interactable environments. My biggest issue with the game is that there weren’t many maps to choose from or even unlock for that matter. The whole experience felt like you could see everything the game had to offer within a relatively short amount of time. The maps were also extremely small. Seriously, even on the shortest play length you will make several laps on each map. I remember the good old days (cue elderly voice) when each map had an impressive span that even on the shorter playthroughs, you’d might only just barely reach the other side. It felt like you were constantly learning and exploring the whole time as well as trying to avoid certain traps and wipe the floor with your competitors. This is the area of the game that I feel is lacking the most.

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Look at how tiny the board is.

There are an impressive amount of minigames in Super Mario Party. They’re not even just the same types of games given a new face either. No, there are actually a ton of different styles of games with varying control schemes to keep this aspect of the game refreshingly interesting. The Switch’s Joycons are integrated well and utilized in lots of clever ways like fishing, climbing a pole, or trying to catch things on a platter. In addition to playing these minigames during normal gameplay, there are also several new modes you can try out that offer a unique experience from other Mario Party titles.

There’s Toad’s Rec Room, for istance: it allows players to combine two separate Switches to create a truer tabletop feel. Several of the minigames in this mode work across both Switches, like Shell Shocked, a tank battling game that shoots from one Switch screen to the other. Both Switches must own their own copy of Super Mario Party in order for this mode to work, naturally.

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Service with a smile!

Super Mario Party is also the first in the series to have an online multiplayer called Online Mario-thon. Players can battle each other in five randomly picked minigames and their scores are posted on Nintendo’s online leaderboards. Super Mario Party also allows players to enjoy a single player experience with Challenge Road. Why play by yourself? Maybe no one wanted to show up to your Mario Party. Well, now you can play with yourself! Challenge Road allows a single player to play a series of minigames by him/herself on a quest for glory. Try not to beat yourself too badly.

River Survival Mode is one of my personal favorites. It lets up to four players join forces in a life raft and try to paddle their way to safety down a roaring river using their Joycons as paddles. How do players survive the rapids? By successfully completing minigames of course! There’s also a Sound Stage game that has players hold their Joycons and move in specific ways to a rhythm. If the player doesn’t match the position or misses the beat, he/she loses. This was fun for only a few minutes before it got boring and repetitive.

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Keep paddling!

The graphics and sound are exactly what you would expect from a Mario game. The color pallet is bright and vibrant and the music is upbeat and chipper. The characters have a well developed 3D rendering with solid textures. Many of your favorite tunes from the Mario universe make their way into the various games, often times with a more modern mix to them. The whole experience is happy and charming, which is helpful when your friends are pulverizing you.

Super Mario Party brings back a welcome revisit to the franchise’s original glory days with this newest installment. Once again you can enjoy gathering around with your friends to enjoy beating them in numerous minigames, callously stealing their precious stars, sabotaging their progress with certain items, and finally reigning supreme. Well, hopefully they’ll still be your friends afterwards.

Graphics: 8.0

Just what you would expect from a Mario game. Bright colors and smooth 3D models.

Gameplay: 8.0

This is your standard Mario Party game with players moving around a board and competing in tons of minigames. The Joycons are implemented in smart ways.

Sound: 8.0

Lots of cheerful music with many favorite tunes returning with fresh beats. Plus you have all the classic voice talent of Charles Martinet and company.

Fun Factor: 8.5

This is just as fun now as it was when Mario Party first released in 1998. Maybe even more so since there are so many new and vastly varied minigames to enjoy and much better controls thanks to the Joycons.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Super Mario Party is available now on Switch.

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