There are three universal truths in life: light travels at one astronomical unit, gravity exerts a force onto the Earth equal to 9.8 m/s, and Yoshi is the best character to play in Mario Party (fight me).
Speaking of Mario Party, we’ve got the second installment of Friendship Enders after a long hiatus, and we’re focusing on part two of the relationship-ending trifecta – Mario Party. Now because there are quite a few games in the franchise, I’ll be grouping them into my own personalized categories. The following stories are based on real events… the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
For all of you that have never experienced the true rollercoaster of emotions that is Mario Party, you roll dice and move around a set of boards each with interesting themes and play minigames to earn coins which you use to buy stars. This goes on until the set number of turns ends and bonus stars are awarded to players or someone gets frustrated and hits the power button. It’s like a family game night except you can’t flip the table unless you want to replace your gaming console.
With any great work of art, you’ve always got the first few rough drafts, and even the juggernaut franchise that is Mario Party is no exception.
So, we’ve got the first three Mario Party games on the Nintendo 64, which is in and of itself a bit of a rough draft console, especially with the early polygonal 3D graphics employed that could take someone’s eye out if they looked too closely.
Apart from feeling like I’ve had my retinas sanded down after playing these games, these do feel like the first floundering steps of the developers. The maps are pretty simple and lifeless compared to later games, the minigames are a little rudimentary and underdeveloped, and there seems to be a bizarre prevalence of 3 v 1 minigames as opposed to the 4 v 4.
All this being said, Bowser really feels more like an agent of chaos and embodies the random chance of these Mario Party games that I have come to miss with later games in the series.
Still, these games gave me some great times and some lifelong memories, specifically ruining the palm of my hand playing Tug of War ten times in a single 50 turn game.
Jumping from the early cave paintings to the renaissance Tintoretto styling of 3D graphics, we’re ditching the N64 and jumping aboard the good ship SS GameCube for our next three games. These games, much like the graphics of the GameCube compared to the N64, were a more refined experience.
Mario Party 4 got the ball rolling in a big way. It really felt like the developers broke down the first three games to their fundamental elements and reworked them to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of it. First of all, they gave us chances to team up with our mates and gave us a couple of new characters to play. The minigames were similar to the first three but with the rough edges sanded down.
The fourth game in the franchise may have gotten the ball rolling, but Mario Party 5 was the real game-changer with the introduction of their capsule/orb system. These little capsules had all sorts of items crammed into them, from extra dice blocks to chance time events. It lends each and every game that extra helping of randomness that has become the basis of the famous Mario Party idiom “the only turn that matters is the final turn.”
The best part is that Mario Party 6 pretty much perfected the formula, smoothed out the last of the rough edges, and kept the party going.
All the memories I have of these three games are always either crazy chance times that ruined my perfect strategy or stupid bonus stars handing me a second-place loss out of nowhere.
With every peak comes the trough, and for every winter comes the spring, bringing with it the stench of decay that the winter snow mercifully covered. In the case of Mario Party, that stench of decay emanates from these next three games.
So, imagine this; it’s 2006, and you’ve been waiting for ages to play the latest Mario Party after the US has had it for months. You finally get the game, start playing, and something just doesn’t feel right, kinda like the heart and soul of the franchise has started to leak out of it, and there’s a bit of a weird smell coming from it.
You keep playing but you can’t shake the sense of Deja Vu with its copy-paste gameplay and art style. Some of the boards have a couple of unique gimmicks like Neon Heights, but it doesn’t have the same spark from previous games. Still, the series has been going from strength to strength, so you write it off as a small stumble.
Then Mario Party 8 and Mario Party 9 come out to put your fears to rest *switch to an ominous tone of voice* or so it seems. Admittedly, some of the minigames have a uniqueness lent to them by the power of the Wii mote waggle.
All of this doesn’t hide the very simple fact that you’ve played all of this seven times before. Looking at these games in a vacuum they’re good enough, but comparing them to the wider franchise, they’re always going to come up short.
Here we are, the bottom of the barrel and the remake that was needed with Mario Party 10 and Super Mario Party respectively. It seems that with Mario Party 8 & 9 not exactly setting the world on fire, the developers decided to scrap the competitive focus and make Mario Party 10 a more cooperative game. Unfortunately, no sane person was there to tell them that you don’t make Mario Party cooperative. Just like you don’t combine ranch dressing and fish sauce with the sterling logic that both flavors work well together because you like them (spoiler: it won’t).
For me, the scales had fallen from my eyes back in Mario Party 8 & 9, but it seems like everyone else has reached that point with the tenth entry because absolutely no one ever mentions this game when people discuss great games in the series. The fact it was on the Wii U also didn’t help with that console being the red-headed stepchild of the Nintendo family.
I’ve only played this game a couple of times and there’s nothing memorable in this game that hasn’t happened to me in previous games. Let’s move onto a better game – namely Super Mario Party.
Oh man, so I got my switch and was so excited to play all the new Mario Party maps… all four of them. Well, then maybe they put a bunch of effort into the boards, right? Well… kinda. The board gimmicks are pretty much the same as previous entries in the franchise but each of the four boards are different enough so they don’t feel samey, but with only four, they lose their novelty pretty quick.
While the boards and number of maps are a bit on the lean side, the minigames are where it feels the majority of the development time went and they have got to be some of the best Mario Party games I’ve ever played (Sizzling Steaks!). It’s the first time since Mario Party 4 I’ve had to check the instructions and it was a great feeling.
Yes, Super Mario Party is a little lackluster in the quantity department, but the quality of the minigames is a real breath of fresh air and personally, I’ve had more fun with this game than any other in the series.
Here’s looking forward to the next Mario Party.
Have you played Mario Party? Which game’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.