Super Mario Party was a surprise announcement at Nintendo’s E3 livestream this year. At the time, there was not a ton shown off for it. It has now released and we have the best Mario Party game since the Gamecube generation.
When starting the game up, you are instantly asked how many people are playing. There are options to play with one or two Switches, and 1-4 single joy cons. At first, I thought it was weird the game is only playable with single joy cons. It actually makes sense and works out for the better here though.
The story of Super Mario Party is a remake of the original Mario Party’s story. A bunch of Nintendo characters are debating who is the true superstar the group. A party is decided as the best way to decide with Toad, Toadette, and Kamek being impartial judges running the show.
It is a fun opening that brought me back to my Nintendo 64 days while watching the cinematic. Next, the players choose the four characters playing. It is nice getting this out of the way before the game selection. Not having to choose your character every single time is a tiny nice quality of life change for the game.
An interesting change this time around is that every character can choose to use a normal dice block or they have their own unique one. Depending on the character, you can have a chance for higher rolls at the cost of coins, or you can have a very good chance to roll a smaller number. The choice is yours and it adds an unsuspected strategic element to the game. There are also ways to gain allies in the middle of the game. These are characters not playing that provide the player with their specific special dice and will add on to each roll they have going forward. These NPC allies can even partake in certain mini-games which was very unexpected, but a cool feature.
The main attraction of Super Mario Party of course is Party Mode. This is the board game mode that has made this series popular in the past. Gone are the carts that everyone had to ride together in in Mario Party 9 and 10. THANK YOU NINTENDO. The disappointing thing with party mode this time around though is there are only three maps available at the beginning. Four after you unlock the last one. My guess is they put too much effort into adding new things into the game. The new modes could have taken too much time away from map designing. Whatever the reason it is disappointing, but what is here are fun maps. Maybe there will be potential for additional maps in the future.
Everything in the Party Mode seems to have been shrunken down this time. The boards are not as large as I remember playing as a kid, stars are half the price they used to be, dice rolls go to six instead of 10, and the normal turn count is 10 instead of 20. I can see that they were going for a game that would not seem take as long as past games. Whether this is for the better or not I am not sure. 10 round games take about an hour to complete if you play slow and the infamous Mario Party madness still happens in almost every game that ruins friendships. I love that craziness. It is what makes a Mario Party game a Mario Party game.
There are 80 mini-games to play in Super Mario Party and so far I have not found one that I do not like. After each turn, the game picks a mini-game that has not been played yet. I have yet to play any mini-game multiple times. That is great designing by Nintendo because it leaves the game feeling fresh. I am not going to be worn out on playing the same mini-game every time I play.
The reason the game is only playable with a single joy con for each player is the motion controls in the mini-games. The pro controller (while a great controller) would not be able to be useful in this game, and using a single joy con instead of duos does make the price of including four people cheaper. Personally, I tend to not be a fan of motion controls, but here I think Nintendo did a great job. The motion control mini-games are fun and the joy con reads your motions perfectly. The HD rumble feature makes certain mini-games interesting. I also love the motion controls for punching the dice block on my turn and high-fiving a team member. The little touches that the joy con nails makes this the best game to ever have motion controls.
Other Game Modes
There are multiple game modes besides the normal board game mode this time around. A new co-op mode called River Survival has all four players rowing a raft down a winding river while playing mini-games. Partner Party is a team based version of the normal party mode. Sound Stage is a motion control mode with rhythm mini-games. Finally, Online Mariothon is 5 mini-games against online opponents.
River Survival was an okay mode to play. It involves a lot of working together to coordinate the direction of your raft and had some decent cooperative mini-games.
Partner Party was an interesting take on the normal game mode. There is no certain direction both teams need to go. After each roll, the person chooses their own path of how they will get to the next star or whatever way they choose to go. The thing I thought was odd about this mode is not every mini-game is a 2v2. There are some free-for-all mini-games which makes me think they did not think they had enough team games to make this mode feel fleshed out.
Sound Stage is a mode I did not think of too much before I got into it, but it is decently fun for a short time. The four characters are putting on a show by using motion controls to rhythm games. This sounds like a terrible idea at first if you are as against motion controls as me, but I enjoyed myself here. There were about 5 games to play in a row. After, you can choose to have an encore of another normal set or remix. Not a mode with a lot of depth, but fun for about 10 minutes at a time.
Online Mariothon is the biggest disappointment in Super Mario Party. This is the only game mode and is not going to persuade anyone to join the new Nintendo Switch Online service. There is no board game to it that fans are going to want. Online connections are an issue. I had to try multiple times to get through a full set because I kept getting matched up with players who had bad connections and would end up leaving the game early leading to the whole thing being cancelled.
There appears to be no reason behind not allowing any of the other modes to be playable online, but that is all I want more from this game. I would like to be able to play normal Mario Party online with people I choose. This is just another case in the ever-growing list that shows Nintendo does not understand how to make online work.
Overall, Super Mario Party is easily the best Mario Party game since before the Wii and Wii U. The madness that happens in the game is some of the biggest motivation to play this with friends. Getting three other people to play Party Mode will lead to tons of laughs. It is easily the best party game I have played all year.