Toss the beers in the fridge, grab the snacks and fire off the party poppers because Mario Party is back and this time, he’s celebrating his… well previous parties. Mario Party Superstars rather than being a whole new entry instead acts as a best-of compilation mixing familiar boards, minigames, characters and more all in one gorgeous-looking package. This is the traditional Mario Party experience that fans have crying out for years now. That means, no car sharing mechanic, no Bowser versus everyone mode and no character-specific die (to be fair I did enjoy that last one). This is very much the series going back to its roots.
That means numerous rounds of rolling dice and darting about a board filled with rewards and punishments aplenty as players do everything possible to collect more stars than their opponents. Every round (when everyone has rolled the dice once) ends with a short minigame with coins awarded to the winner, these used to purchase helpful items on the board like movement inflating mushrooms or player switching warp blocks. More importantly, though, twenty of these golden beauties can be handed over to a randomly relocating Toadette for that all-important star. Any doubt this updated take on the series formula was in fact the real deal would fade after our very first game, our journey seeing stars stolen and lost repeatedly, one player winning with a sneaky bonus star at the very end (you can switch these post-game awards between random and the traditional trio of most coins, most minigame wins and most happening spaces) and myself cleaning house in minigame wins and finishing with well over 150 coins but sadly none of the more important currency. This is the Mario Party experience I knew and loved from back in the early 2000s.
Character selection is rather light and predictable overall, a disappointment especially after the large and varied cast seen in Super Mario Party. I understand this is likely an effort to remain truer to the original titles, however, it also comes across as rather meagre. The same also goes for unlockables, a rather uninspired bunch including music, stickers and profile card backgrounds that unlock as you level up. You heard correctly; Mario Party now has a levelling system. Unfortunately, since your rewards for levelling lack excitement this feature feels rather inconsequential, something some more enticing carrots at the end of that stick could have solved. How about new characters? Or boards?
As for the boards themselves, Mario Party Superstars cherry picks five from the first three games, each one presenting its own obstacles and hooks. Peach’s Birthday Cake for example keeps Toadette in one spot as players race around a giant cake paying a visit to Bowser on a cake of his own if unlucky enough. Space Land meanwhile features Thwomps in space cruisers that chase players as well as a giant laser that when fired will cause anyone in its path to lose ALL coins. Ouch! I’ve seen plenty of chatter online when it comes to the choices Nintendo went with, everyone championing their own personal favourites and while I might certainly have a different shortlist to the one included here, we found ourselves having a good time with all five boards nonetheless.
Unlike the five different boards, Mario Party Superstars’ 100 minigames are pulled from all ten numbered entries in the series from Nintendo 64 right through to Wii U – albeit with a heavy bias toward the Nintendo 64 and GameCube titles. This results in what is essentially a best-hits smorgasbord of fun, the quality easily the most consistent of any Mario Party title before it. As someone who jumped into the series during the GameCube days, it was an absolute delight seeing some old favourites pop up again (and looking stunning I might add too). Booksquirm of Mario Party 4 fame, sees players running about an open book as pages turn over threatening to flatten anyone unable to manoeuvre underneath gaps in the paper. Pushy Penguins from Mario Party 5 meanwhile, has you trying to weave through an army of frantically dashing penguins as you try to avoid being shoved into the icy waters. I could go on and on listing highlights, there are simply too many.
I’ve often felt that when it comes to the pacing of Mario Party of the past, you might describe your time spent as rather sluggish (particularly when it comes to the board game portion). Mario Party Superstars, however, seems to do as much as it can to keep things moving along. Not at breakneck speed mind you, but certainly fast enough. Small options like being able to up the speed of text and character movement on the board go a surprisingly long way in reducing down-time. Item minigames (better at slowing the pace than actually helping the player in the Nintendo 64 titles) feel brisker to complete too. You can even fast forward some repeated NPC interactions by holding a button, a first (at least as far as I’m aware) for the series. It only took 22 years but we finally got there! Couple that with past quality of life tweaks like being able to practice minigames in the instructions menu (which can even be turned off entirely if desired) and maps that are helpful rather than an unreadable mess and you have what is easily the most streamlined Mario Party to date and thus one that rarely suffers from a plodding pace.
If you want a break from the board game antics, then Mt. Minigame offers a number of modes focused purely on playing minigames. Whether that’s simply choosing games one-by-one in free play or competing in competitions focused on team-based minigames or collecting the most coins. You’ll even find a handful of slightly longer and more involved events like beach volleyball and ice hockey.
With Super Mario Party introducing the series to online for the very first time, it’s great to see said option return once again and with even more flexibility. In fact, pretty much every mode within Mario Party Superstars is playable online be that with friends or randomers. Up to three can play from one console (so long as it’s with a friend online) although sadly, stranger play is limited to just the one. The game also includes rankings in Mt. Minigame, a nice incentive to keep playing. All in all, I’m impressed. Nearly everything I could want from an online Mario Party is here and accounted for.
Not only is this the best looking Mario Party game yet but one of the best-looking games on Nintendo Switch. Boards are packed with bright, dazzling colours, minor details everywhere and so so much charm. The minigames too are equally impressive. It’s worth going back and checking the original versions just to see the huge leap forward visually.
Mario Party Superstars dips back into the series twenty-plus year history to deliver an entry that’s huge amounts of fun and sure to please long-time fans hungry for a more traditional Mario Party experience. Not only a warm nostalgic trip but the best party Mario has thrown in some time.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo