Though there is an overabundance of Mario material, one Mario side series shines above the rest: “Mario Party.” No other game series has the power to produce some of the most deplorable insults I’ve ever hurled at my loved ones, nor send me into an incomparable state of bliss when I’ve left my competitors in the dust. The newest addition to the series, “Mario Party Superstars” for the Nintendo Switch, takes the best of each previous game and rolls them into one impressive and entertaining package.
For those unfamiliar with the series, “Mario Party” is essentially a board game in which players roll dice in order to purchase stars, with the ultimate goal of having the most stars by the end. You buy these stars with coins, either gained by landing on specific spaces or won in a wide variety of minigames held between turns. It’s a simple concept, but each board has a charming, wacky theme with its own devious gimmick, such as planting “strawberries” on Peach’s Birthday Cake to steal coins.
This installment features remakes of boards from the first three “Mario Party” games on the Nintendo 64 and a selection of the best minigames from the first 10 mainline console games. Minigames are randomly selected and can be four-player: one vs. three or two vs. two. These can range anywhere from jump-roping over flames in “Hot Rope Jump” to stretching Bowser’s face to its ridiculous limits in “Face Lift.” Minigames are the true meat and potatoes of the “Mario Party” series, and “Mario Party Superstars” does not disappoint with its selection of all-killer, no-filler minigames that are easy to learn, but hard to master. The winner of each minigame earns 10 coins, which can then be used to purchase items, stars or board-specific gimmicks. Items can turn the tides of a game in mere seconds — whether that be boosting you to the top or dragging your foes through the frosting of Peach’s Birthday Cake.
Everything oozes nostalgia, especially the menu, which is a near-exact replica of the first game. At the start of each game, Toad reminds you of the story behind your chosen board in the original game and ties the story into the remake. Music can also be changed from modern to classic versions after each board is played, allowing you to relive the glorious electronic sounds of the N64 while appreciating the game’s newly polished look. “Mario Party Superstars” is so polished, in fact, that it is by far one of the best-looking Switch games.
If you’re new to the series, the game is extremely beginner-friendly. Rules can be set for each game, such as how many turns you’d like to play, if you’d like to include bonus stars and if you’d like to set a handicap for younger or newer players. Each board has a difficulty rating, with “Yoshi’s Tropical Island” as the easiest and “Horror Land” as the hardest. Despite only having five boards and a small roster of playable characters, the amount of options keeps the game fresh while maintaining accessibility. The game can also be played handheld or with an assortment of controllers, from Joycons to the Pro Controller to the new N64 controller (with only a handful of exceptions).
Not only can these boards be played with your loved ones (or soon-to-be enemies) in person, but they can also be played online against players from around the world. This is a significant new feature, and it’s impressive that online games run almost flawlessly. The inclusion of online means there’s always someone to compete against, so the replay value is drastically increased.
“Mt. Minigames” is another exciting new section of the game. After taking a quick ride on Toad’s boat, you arrive on a mountain where you can choose from daily challenges, survival mode, individual minigames and more. Daily challenges and survival can be played online, making the game even more competitive with the addition of leaderboards. Unlike online games of the board game portion, Mt. Minigames can be a bit laggy and lose connection easily, but this is also dependent on the player’s home Wi-Fi connection.
By far the best new addition is stickers, which are colorful emotes that can be deployed during the board game portion using the right stick and right bumper. There is no better way to call bullshit on your friends than by spamming a cartoon of Toad crying or Birdo exclaiming “WHAT?!” as though she just walked in on Yoshi’s cold body. Stickers are an upgraded version of previous games’ taunts, but rather than one taunt, you have access to a huge variety of sticker options. You can easily form alliances or rivalries just based on your sticker usage, which can be especially entertaining in online games.
The replay value of “Mario Party Superstars” is off the charts. The best boards of the N64 games combined with little pieces of each game in the series is already a motivator for putting in those hours on a 30-turn game of Horror Land. What boosts this even more is Toad’s store, where you can trade coins for stickers, encyclopedia pages, music and more. There are also achievements that can be viewed at Kamek’s Data House.
Although I hope that Nintendo adds more boards and minigames in future updates, “Mario Party Superstars” is already the perfect party game and the ideal way to end any friendship temporarily. Old fans and new players alike will find joy in the colorful boards, wacky minigames and plenty of extra features. The randomness brings out a ruthless competitiveness that I didn’t even know I possessed and keeps me coming back to Toad for just one more round.
Daily Arts Writer Harper Klotz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.