Super Mario Party review for Nintendo Switch

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Medium: Digital/Cartridge
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

So while everyone is working to port all their classic titles to the Switch, Nintendo is doing everything they can to refresh all their classic franchises. Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild were amazing reboots that took both series back to their roots and started from the ground up which set a precedent for what we could expect for other series that have maybe gotten a bit stale. Well it looks like this year it?s Mario Party that?s getting an overhaul and while it may not be the most ambitious revision, Nintendo decided that in some cases it?s best to go back to basics and just keep it simple.

Super Mario Party brings the focus back to a few core boards and a few new experiences looking at the classic party game from some new angles. The big question is whether it?s actually fun though. Well in my experience the gamble paid off and Super Mario Party is as close to a return to form as the series has been since the N64.

You can tell the game has a straightforward attitude starting with the fact that the control scheme is strictly limited to one joy-con per person, which allows for Wii-like variations in how you play mini games and hold the controller. Kind of like how games like You Don?t Know Jack ensure all players have the same experience with simple custom controllers that just keep it light and fun. And if you don?t believe me then you can ask any of my drunk friends and family from the last ten years. But good luck getting their attention, they?re total lightweights.

Anyway, this time the boards and gameplay are made to be pick-up-and play without getting too complicated. Players will chase power stars as the collection point moves around the board, trying to win the most while collecting coins which will be needed to buy said power stars and items along the way. In classic Mario Party style, things become more competitive with each round of play as the randomness of dice rolls, minigames, and player decisions create a heated final two rounds. Sometimes you?re not even safe at the end of the game since a bonus star may be awarded to the poor sap that got stepped on the most, and then you find yourself in second place. Thanks Kamek!

Super Mario Party offers four main boards to start, with other modes allowing different types of play. A cooperative mode in Partner Party allows for two teams to compete in a more freeform board that feels like a strategy RPG, or similar to a mode in Mario Party: Star Rush. then there?s River Survival which is an entirely cooperative mode that has four players guiding a raft through a maze of water. I really enjoyed this mode since it felt like a nice change of pace from rolling dice and taking turns, but gives everyone something to do while keeping a party atmosphere with the minigames woven in. Whether you play the minigames is up to the team, but you will want to stop in for a few since they earn you more time on the clock, and that?s the real enemy in River Survival.

Also new is the Sound Stage mode, which is one of the smaller aspects but also one of the most enjoyable. Here you will play music-based minigames which everyone knows are some of the most fun minigames on offer. The problem is that there is only a small selection which makes the mode feel thin. I can?t decide if I would rather see these games mixed into the party mode or have Sound Stage expanded, but my gut says this should be a bigger experience than it is. If they keep Sound Stage around then hopefully we see it fleshed our in a future game.

Also new is Challenge Road, which is similar to Free Play in that it?s only minigames, but this time it?s a marathon of all 80 minigames strung together. Do you accept this challenge? If so, be prepared for the increased difficulty unlocked after completing the mode. This might be a main attraction for when you?re looking for something to do that?s single-player focused. I personally like this inclusion but others may not see the point or feel like it?s just extra padding. Well if you want to collect all the gems to complete the game, you?ll need to see it through!

Overall I had a good time with Super Mario Party. I like the little touches like when Kamek has to inflict pain on a baddie like Bowser Jr., apologizing that he?s just doing his job. Characters still have all their rivalries and relationships from series past. The presentation is clean and I only had a few complaints such as having a turn speed option would be nice, since it can drag on waiting for characters to move a certain amount of spaces. Other times I noticed that the motion-controlled minigames were hit-or-miss. The game does let you practice minigames before playing, but I know I won a few without knowing how I did it. I lost a few for the same reasons. But that?s a tradeoff with motion control. Play enough of them and you?ll find yourself working around some of the awkward ones.

This is also the first time the series supports online play, which lets you hop on the internet and play minigames with strangers around the world. I guess this is as good as it gets since playing the full boards with strangers online would feel a lot like playing against a CPU.

The Switch also gets some exercise with Toad?s Rec Room, where you?ll be using the portability of the Switch to play games looking down at it or even syncing up with multiple Switches to expand some of the minigames across the screens. And if you have friends with their own Switch consoles and another copy of the game then consider yourself lucky. I wasn’t able to look at all of this mode as even though I know other people with a Switch it requires everyone to own Super Mario Party for the really cool stuff, and I was alone in that regard. It’s a real shame too since games like Banana Split seem like one of the most unique attractions to the game.

So if you asked whether Mario Party is back in the game, I?d say yeah they?re on the right track. It?s just shy of being the full package but it?s also exactly the shot in the arm this series needed and couldn?t have come at a better time than being on the Switch. I mean what?s more fitting for a console with built-in local multiplayer than ?the? party game? Okay maybe Smash Bros, but that?s more apples and oranges. So if you?ve been waiting for Super Mario Party then it looks good to jump in, the water?s fine!

Nintendo provided us with a Super Mario Party Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: B+