There are few games that can break up siblings like Mario Party. Back in the day we had an N64, and we’d huddle around the TV with my dad and play whatever multiplayer game was available. Wave Race, Mario Kart, GoldenEye, and Perfect Dark all got tons of playtime. They each were digestible pieces of excitement. My dad really loved the racing ones, I’d like to think it was more because they were truly 3D and he could follow.
But Mario Party – that thing I’m sure has caused more divorces than the set up of IKEA furniture.
The game concept is simple. You roll a die, move around a gameboard, collect coins and stars, then at the end of each round play a simple mini game to collect more coins. Social boardgames are exactly that. There are highs and lows, and some crazy trashtalking. Heck, sometimes you just get impressed at some folks ability. The games generally last for an hour, which is just the right amount of time.
Where Mario Party moves the needle is in the competitive and almost backstabbing efforts players can take. The mini-games are either 1v1v1v1, 2v2, or 3v1. You’re never really in a team for more than a minute or so. And they are always competitive – like you can knock another player off the map. In the older games you’d often team up with another player, and then one would betray the other because, you know, there can only be one.
The board also allows players to steal coins and stars from other players. Coins are easy enough to get, and they are a method to acquire items or stars (10 per). The player with the most stars wins, if people are tied, then the amount of coins determines. The original Mario Party has so many catch-up mechanics, and gave out stars like candy that you could easily see 3 or 4 stars move between players per turn. I can’t count how many times I thought I had an insurmountable lead on the last turn, only to end up losing because my stars were poached. Local multiplayer + going from lead to 3rd place = outrage and laughter.
My daughter got Mario Party for the Switch, so we gave it a shot just the two of us. It’d been quite a while since my last go, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We opted for the Bobomb board, and 10 turns on normal.
It’s interesting to see all the new bits they added to the board, so that dice control is more than just rolling the biggest number possible (it still is for a LOT mind you). Being able to add more die to your pool is pretty cool too! The size of the board feels good, and tons of branching paths. I recall this being a challenge in the original, where you could easily end up continually on the wrong end of the board (hence the catch up stuff). The mini-game variety is good, with a lot of close calls. The 3v1 games are still the highlight to me, because the odds are just not in anyone’s favour. I do have a general dislike for the rumble games…
The game still has catch up mechanics, my daughter was given a +5 die roll item in the last 3 turns and she used it to go from last to first. I lost a star to an NPC. The final score had me with 3 stars winning the game. That’s a whole lot less than the 8-12 stars from previous games. It does mean there’s less “stealing” wins here, and puts a whole lot more importance on each turn being successful. There wasn’t a point where there was more than a 1 star difference between any player… and I don’t recall that being the case before.
The winning part wasn’t the cool bit. It was really the reactions we both had for each mini-game. Some were mundane enough, others were both of us at the end of our chairs, or standing up with the tongue out. The classic hot potato game is a highlight of craziness. We both had smiles for an hour and had a blast getting all the way through.
I can see some fun games nights ahead. I keep getting impressed by the social aspect that Nintendo somehow keeps bottled up. Guess that’s why Mario Kart 8 has sold something like 35m copies – there’s just something about playing with other people and it not being about headshots that is missing in gaming. I’m oddly enthusiastic about a new Mario Golf!