The game offers 20 playable characters, including new characters Pom Pom, Goomba and Monty Mole. (Photo courtesy of Nintendo)
“Mario Party” is a long-standing staple on Nintendo consoles. The franchise now boasts 11 installments since its introduction in 1998, as well as a plethora of spin-off titles. “Super Mario Party” is the first title in the franchise to appear on the Nintendo Switch, and the first title in the past three years.
The core gameplay loop in the franchise remains mostly unchanged. It is a Mario-themed board game, where players move around the board based on dice roll, attempting to collect as many coins as possible to be able to purchase stars. Due to its simplicity, it works perfectly for the intended purpose of parties. There are strategical elements to the game that can add a decent amount of depth for those who prefer deeper games, such as picking one of various dice to use, which branching path to take and which items to use when. However, it is nothing inaccessible for those who like to play casually, nor nothing challenging enough to truly scratch the itch of someone wanting a truly deep game. But that is not what “Super Mario Party” is made for.
In between each round, there are short minigames that players compete in to win coins. These minigames are not especially challenging, but are great fun in competitive play with friends. There are 80 total minigames, all diverse in gameplay element. Not every single minigame is a home run, but the vast majority of them are very well-executed and enjoyable. A really fun one is “Slaparazzi,” where players slap each other out of the way of a camera to try to be the center.
While the minigames are plentiful, the rest of the central game mode feels a bit sparse. There are only four game boards, less than past entries and also smaller in size. This would be less of an issue if all of the boards were high quality. However, the third board, which is fruit themed, is extremely annoying. It is painstakingly difficult, borderline impossible, to get around the board at whim, which ruins the otherwise strong theming of the board. The other three boards, thankfully, are strong in theming, mobility, and strategical elements. However, the overall lack of map choices, and the small size of all four given ones means that they can run stale rather quickly. Hopefully Nintendo adds more down the line.
Beyond the traditional game mode, “Super Mario Party” also adds some side content to spend time on. In total, there are five separate game modes: “Partner Party,” “Minigames,” “Challenge Road,” “River Survival” and “Sound Stage.” The “Partner Party” mode is a twist on the traditional “Mario Party” mode, where players play on two teams of two and the boards are a little more open and allow freer movement. The general strategies and gameplay loop are basically identical to the main mode, so they will not remedy any feeling of getting tired with the maps or the general mode, but they do allow for some extremely fun partner play. The minigames mode is merely a vessel to play the minigames offered in the main game, which is a serviceable distraction, but suffers due to a lack of individual content. “Challenge Road” arranges these minigames and sets certain goals that add a bit more challenge and is easily the best pastime for solo play in the game, but also suffers due to a lack on individual content.
The two better game modes are the ones that attempt to truly add something different to the game. The first of these is “River Survival,” which is a fully cooperative, rather than
competitive, game mode, where players navigate a river and race to get to the end in time. There are minigames in the form of balloons that can be popped, and these games also have a cooperative nature of them. There are only so many of these, which can make the mode feel a little repetitive, but the mode as a whole is still very entertaining. The other more unique game mode “Sound Stage,” features players competing in rhythm based minigames that are also extremely distinct from the main game minigames. The content is extremely sparse, but the few rounds it lasts are extremely fun.
Overall, “Super Mario Party” is an extremely fun framework of a game that lacks in content to truly take advantage of its strong framework. It is a wonderful party game for a couple of rounds, but until more content is added, these boards will likely end up at the bottom of the closet collecting dust.
Final Grade: B-