October 29, 2021
The Mario Party series, to date, has a combined 70 boards and almost 800 minigames. You’d think we’d get remakes and compilation games more often, but Mario Party: the Top 100 for the 3DS is the only one we’ve gotten – and that was just minigames. We never really needed one – each Mario Party has been different in its own way, switching out items and rules quite frequently, but they’ve all been the same type of experience. You might miss Mario Party 2, but you probably won’t drag out the N64 to play it when you can play Super Mario Party on the Switch. But now you don’t have to make do: Mario Party Superstars brings us a compilation of 5 classic boards from the N64 era, and 100 minigames selected from every Mario Party title up to Mario Party 10. The boards have been updated for more recent mechanics and features, not to mention the visual upgrade, so you can throw yourself into nostalgia without all the clunky N64 baggage.
While the previous game in the series, Super Mario Party, is still a genuinely fun time, it was missing the heart and soul of the series: chaos. Seething in rage as one of your rivals tips the entire game in their favour from a single lucky roll is a quintessential Mario Party experience, which was lacking from the previous game. But as Superstars is taking its cues directly from the N64 games, all that chaos has come right back.
The N64 boards Superstars brings back are Yoshi’s Tropical Paradise, Peach’s Birthday Cake, Space land, Horror Land, and Woody Woods. All boards have retained their unique events, with the addition of a few ‘Lucky Spaces’ from Super Mario Party. They have a bit more oomph this time around, offering a more interesting array of possibilities. The same can be said for Bowser Spaces, which once again offer a shot of a Bowser mini-game or the infamous 100-star present. Chance Time Spaces make a return, too, so you can once again end long-standing friendships as you watch them take all your hard-earned stars. To top it off, plenty of quality of life changes have made Party Mode a smoother experience all around. It’s safe to say that lovers of the N64 boards will love to see them in their touched up form, while those who missed out on the N64 era don’t have a single reason to look back.
Party Mode has a lot of general improvements. There are more custom options for what kind of minigames can appear, there are a wide range of bonus stars, and each turn’s pace is lightning-fast to help keep things moving. You can also suspend your game at a time, allowing you to take a break if you need it. You have suspend up to a generous 8 different games.
Party Mode can be played online, which has prompted Nintendo to implement stickers that players can spam at any time to display how they’re feeling. The spamming is an important feature – in some of the previous games, players could spam a ‘taunt’ button that amused and annoyed friends alike. That there’s a wide variety of stickers makes this infinitely better, even if they can end up cluttering the screen.
“Lovers of the N64 boards will love to see them in their touched up form, while those who missed out on the N64 era don’t have a single reason to look back.”
Things get a little less impressive when it comes to Superstars’ other features. Once you get tired of Party Mode, you might want to try out the much-hyped Mt. Minigames; but don’t get too excited. Beyond the usual free-play mode, there isn’t much here. Most of the ‘Modes’ are just compilations of certain types of minigames, with nothing else to break them up. Since Superstars is supposed to be a callback to past games, they could have included something like Mario Party 5’s Minigame Wars, where every win would award allow players to place a tile in a checkers-like grid battle.
The two modes that stand out are both for single-players only: Survival, in which players try to win as many minigames in a row as possible, and Daily Challenges, which will compile a themed pack of different minigames each day. I appreciate the inclusion of single-player content, but I find it difficult to imagine that anybody will power on the game just for it. An entire solo mode, or campaign mode, would have been more of a draw, but Superstars doesn’t feature one of those either.
Mario Party Superstars offers a pretty good selection of minigames, though there are some in the mix that should have been left in the N64 Era. Specifically, the inclusion of one of the infamous minigames that caused a lawsuit in the 90s after several children injured the palms of their hands after using them to swivel the control stick as fast as possible. God knows why they brought it back (with a warning no less!), especially when Nintendo is currently facing a different lawsuit pertaining to one of their controllers. Beyond that, there are some games that are unfairly weighted or are just not as interesting as other games. But apart from these few misguided choices, they’ve generally been able to collate the favourites from each Mario Party title.
Does Mario need a new coat of paint?
It goes without saying that the graphics are astronomically better than on the N64. With that being said, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed by the new graphics, and it’s not entirely Superstar’s fault.
As we’ve recently learned, Nintendo has some strict guidelines on how Mario and his friends can be depicted. This has severely limited the creative freedom afforded to the creative leads for Mario’s games, and has led to a kind of visual stagnation. The character designs must fit exactly with the current canon, with only minuscule changes allowed. This is why Mario’s party members in Paper Mario: The Origami King suffer from such weak designs, and it has affected Mario Party too – the one series that would benefit the most from some unusual flair.
Despite how good Superstar looks on a technical level, the lack of any visual flair to differentiate it from any of the past Mario games to come out on the Switch bores me to tears. Before I had even picked up the controller, I felt knew exactly what the game would look like. I hoped that the game would prove me wrong by wowing me with something unexpected, but that didn’t happen. It’s got the same minimalistic pause menu and plain text font that Odyssey, Mario Tennis, and Super Mario Party had, and the game has even removed a few of the N64 games’ uniqueness: the unique toads have been removed from the main menu, and those cute wizard costumes the character wore in Horror Land are also nowhere to be found. It’s a sad reminder of how Nintendo these days seems very disinterested in taking any risks at all. While it’s only a minor nitpick for now, Nintendo’s overzealous protection of its characters can only harm each new game, as they will start to look more and more homogeneous.
Mario Party Superstars does justice to the N64 boards that we love, and brings with it a collection of many of our favourite minigames of the past. The extra modes leave something to be desired, though, and I fear that the game will need free DLC support to go far.
- Classic stages revamped with better graphics and gameplay
- Heaps of quality of life upgrades
- Generally good selection of minigames
- 'Mt. Minigame' is underwhelming
- Visual style is missing that Mario Party spark
Mario Party Superstars is exactly what you’d expect: it’s a nostalgia-fest that brings back some of the most beloved boards and minigames from past titles and touches them up for the Nintendo Switch. Each game board has been delightfully updated, and the nostalgic minigame selection is generally pretty good. But beyond that nostalgia factor, Superstars hasn’t added anything new to the series. The minigame modes aren’t very exciting, and the visuals, while nice, aren’t different from any other Mario game from the past few years. It’s definitely a great way to experience those classic N64 boards, as long as you don’t expect anything more.