Picture this: you’re winning a board game by a good margin with only a couple of turns to go. You land on a bad space, and your lead shrinks a little. No big deal. Then one of your opponents steals one of your key items, then one more. Your lead has shrunk to a razor’s edge as the final turn ends. Now imagine the upset which takes place when an end-game bonus, one which you were so sure earn, goes to one of your rivals, ending the match in a loss and a fresh barrage of smack talk. This at its core is the Mario Party experience, and Mario Party Superstars is the best way to experience giddy heights and contemptuous bouts with friends on Nintendo Switch.
Mario Party is a four-player board game, in which your goal is to finish the game with the most stars. Stars are gained by playing mini games and landing on spaces which earn you coins. Once you have enough coins you can purchase (or steal, if you don’t mind angering your friends) a star by landing on specific spots on the board. Superstars acts as a greatest hits of past games in the franchise, cherry picking popular mini games and game boards. While it doesn’t do much to change or innovate things, that’s okay with me. There’s only been one other Mario Party on Switch so far and that one felt half-baked and lacking a few basic features which should have been present.
One of the largest features which Superstars brings to the table is the inclusion of online multiplayer for the core game, which is a feature I still feel odd having to talk about for a large-scale release in 2021. It’s something which should have been in the series for the last decade and this is the first time it’s finally been added. Before this, the only way to have a full game of Mario Party was to crowd three other people on your couch and ideally have some beers at the ready. This is a, well, party game and having people on the couch which you can directly interact with and see their reactions (read: the light leaving their eyes as you take their only star and add it to your collection) can never compare to playing the game over voice chat online. But in the age of COVID that is about as close as people can get in some cases.
There are a few other ways to play Mario Party Superstars, and it’s a mixed bag. For the most part it’s simply playing a collection of mini games with the goal of being the winner of the most. They’re good for a quick distraction but I found myself growing tired of it fairly quickly.
The mini games themselves are a good mix of the games throughout the franchise, and it seems that there was a fair amount of thought put into choosing these for the collection. There’s a balance between simple button mashing games, ones which require a bit more coordination, games that encourage communication between players, and pure luck games. Odds are, if there was a mini game you were particularly fond of in previous titles it’s found its way here.
The only exception to this would be the Tug o’ War game first appearing in the original Mario Party. It requires all four players to rapidly spin the analog stick to pull either side off a cliff. Nintendo actually faced down a class action lawsuit over this mini game, as players were hurting themselves by rubbing the hard plastic of the controller against their palms in order to spin the stick as fast as they could. As settlement, Nintendo gave out free gloves to people who added themselves to the suit and did not make future mini games requiring that type of gameplay. I was a bit surprised at its inclusion, and found it humorous that a warning to not use your palms to spin the control stick appeared alongside the instructions.
Some of the best times I’ve had growing up were play- ing Mario Party games with my family and this one is sure to carry on the tradition. The inclusion of the classics is enough to get them interested in playing again (my mother loved a game called Ticktock Hop and she was excited to whup me at it again). Couple that with the inclusion of online play for remote members and odds are that you’ll have a family hit on your hands this holiday season.