If the Switch is your first main Nintendo console, don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s mine too. The joy of this has been entering long running franchises that have delighted fans for years, and experiencing top quality entries that impress newbies and fanboys alike. Super Mario Party is my first Mario Party outside of the so-so Mario Star Party on 3DS.
I couldn’t be more excited to have joined the real party.
Board Game Night
So you’re planning to have a Super Mario Party, with some beers, and some Switch related mischief. The first thing you’ll notice is that the game’s titular mode resembles a board game. It lets you choose how long you want to play, starting from an hour and working up, and you get stuck in. No, it’s not the chill jam for a huge party like Guitar Hero was (I know, I’m old). It’s perfect for a smaller, more relaxed party though, which we need in our old age.
For newbies to the series, the board game involves rolling dice and moving around a board. The goal is to get as many stars as you can in a fixed number of turns. There’s always a star on the board to aim for, which moves to a new location when collected, and other sneaky ways to get stars pops up here and there. There are details that mix it up, like powerups to earn, unique die for each character, and the ability to unlock allies and add extra rolls. At its core, however, this a board game, with the same highs and lows.
What makes this mode worth playing is the minigames, which occur after each player has their turn. These vary drastically ,from something as simple as having to spot which character isn’t appearing as images flash on the screen, to having to be the last character to survive running away from enemies, to having to tilt the joy con back and forwards to pump a hose.
… No, that last one wasn’t innuendo. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Smaller can be Better
The minigames are the stars of Super Mario Party, and the modes are glorified ways to deliver them. The especially annoying thing with the board game is that, even if you win all the minigames, you can still lose. Who doesn’t love dice and terrible RNG?
Enter the River Survival mode.
A raft is heading down a stream. You’e on it. The party works together, all of you have oars, and it’s your goal to get as far downriver as you can before time runs out. Hitting balloons triggers mini games and can add valuable seconds, as well as time bonuses in the river. You choose paths along the way, each with unique obstacles, so your team needs to get that rowing movement down. Minigames in this mode are co-operative, so the whole team wins or loses as one. A good bonding experience, or a way to forge lifelong enmity.
No matter how they’re framed, it always comes back to the minigames. These bring the most entertainment and variety, whether your team is trying to remember specific cards, or throwing balls into clowns’ mouths (with the joycons, you pervert). The nature of the games, as well as how you control them, is enough to keep any player on edge.
Gimmicks can be choosers
The joycon minigames which involve the gyro can be a little gimmicky, but that’s part of Super Mario Party’s charm. Not all the games require it, but the family room silliness as you are rowing, fanning, or pumping gives the game the light-hearted tone it needs.
Except the one where you move the joycon around with both hands to replicate bicycle pedals. That game can go straight to hell.
You can always play minigames on their own too. These simple modes are about winning games to get spaces on a board, or best of five. This isn’t as fun, and starts to feel shallow quickly. It’s easy when playing the board game to feel like playing mini games would be better. After a few best-of-fives, though, it’s clear the board games help tie the whole experience together.
The one thing that may annoy many people is that you can’t use a Pro controller, or play while docked. The minigames require a lot of joycon movement. With the Switch’s biggest edge being its versatility and the ability to play anyway you want, it is a bummer. You can play it out on the go if you detach the joycons and use the consoles kick stand, at least.
Super Mario Party is a whole bunch of fun and would fit any home perfectly. I can’t imagine it would entertain for long solo, but if you have friends, or can rent some, there are some great Sunday afternoons to be had here.