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Super Mario Party Is Multiplayer Madness At Its Finest

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When the first Mario Party rolled the dice on the Nintendo 64 in 1998, it quickly became one of the console’s most beloved multiplayer games and a very good reason to invest in four colourful controllers. Although it held that title for a handful of years and sequels, the franchise hasn’t been able to retain that same magic since the GameCube era. The very good news is Super Mario Party is the most enjoyable entry in the series since those glory days.

Right out of the gate, the Switch has been Nintendo’s most satisfying home console since the GameCube, with the latest additions of many of the franchise’s most treasured franchises turning out the best in the series. The Switch has already set bar pretty high, and Super Mario Party can fortunately be chalked up as another sequel done right.

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From the game’s hub world that serves a souped-up menu, it’s immediately apparent this Mario Party was given more TLC than its more recent predecessors. In the hub you can pick one of many modes, including five major offline modes that’ll earn you a gem upon completion. Those modes are Mario Party, Partner Party, River Survival, Sound Stage, and Challenge Road. Other modes included are Online Mariothon (online play) and Toad’s Rec Room, where you can tackle more games and also decorate you wall with collectible stickers. There’s also Minigames, which offers an additional two modes. Mariothon is a shorter, five-round minigames competition, and Free Play let’s you jump into any minigame you like. There’s clearly a lot of choice here, so let’s break down each mode.

For obvious reasons, Mario Party is the most recognizable mode, and this time they’ve mercifully gotten rid of the car gimmick from part 9 and 10 that had all four players cruising together and missing loads of minigame opportunities in the process. This time, at the end of each turn there’s one of 80 minigames to play, and duds are few and far between, if not totally absent. From the Overcooked-inspired Dash and Dine to the Joy-Con HD rumble-utilizing Nut Cases, Super Mario Party features some of the wackiest, most amusing minigames the series has ever seen. In the past, Nintendo’s motion controlled content often felt a little tacked on, but Switch’s updated controls feel like a better realized demonstration of unique technology.

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There are four boards to choose from (plus one to unlock) and they all satisfy. While a couple more courses would’ve gone a long way, there are enough gameplay updates to keep the party alive. In order to win, your player has to get the most stars, which can be purchased with coins that are awarded for winning minigames, landing on lucky blocks, etc. Of course, there are unpredictable twists along the way that can change your ranking at the very last minute, which is what’s always made this series so compellingly chaotic. There are allies you can recruit for a fee that grant bonuses to your dice rolls and even make cameos in some of the minigames to assist you and piss off your opponent. Characters also come with unique dice blocks that actually makes selecting your player more than simply a cosmetic choice.

Partner Party borrows elements from the 3DS titles and allows players to roam freely to obtain stars, as opposed to being on a board game grid. The main difference between this and Mario Party mode is that it’s 2v2 co-op, meaning you’ll have to work with a teammate.

River Survival has four players each steering a paddle to navigate against a furious river before the timer runs out. Like everything in Mario Party, paddling with IRL friends is far more entertaining than hoping your NPC ally doesn’t just sit there like a helpless imbecile. Along with rowing coordination, hitting minigame balloons helps you extend the time limit so you can reach the goal before the clock hits zero.

Sound Stage could’ve been an expendable rhythm game, but it’s surprisingly well executed. Moving the Joy-Con along the beat of a classic Mario track hasn’t been this fun in ages, and it’s a pity this wasn’t integrated into other minigames.

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Nearly everything’s unlockable from the get-to, but the single-player Challenge Mode can only be accessed once all the minigames have been completed. Playing Mario Party alone has always seemed like a  fruitless endeavor, so its swell Nintendo threw a bone to solo players. The minigames are all the same, but with a few challenges thrown into the mix. Multiplayer will always be the heart and soul of this franchise, however, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Super Mario Party isn’t perfect, but the minigames are a huge step up from previous iterations and the presentation is delightful through and through.  It’s safe to say this is the best entry in years and a perfect way to recruit newcomers who weren’t acquainted with these games back in the day when they were at their peak. Just make sure you’ve got all your Joy-Con sufficiently charged before diving into the fun, as they tend to run out of stream at the worst of times.

Super Mario Party is out now exclusively for Nintendo Switch. Check out the latest trailer below.