Mario Party Superstars – Partying Like It’s 2000
With a 23 year legacy, the Mario Party IP has enjoyed a rollercoaster ride reception-wise but never had the breakout moment. That’s a long time to be solid, but not sensational, so it’s a good thing that despite a lack of critical acclaim, the games sell like hotcakes. Nintendo has been chasing that acclaim for a long time but has never seen much success, so when in doubt, why not compile all of the best bits together into a kind of mega package. Mario Party Superstars claims to be that exact product, but can tapping into player nostalgia make this newest Mario Party entry the rave that we all hope it can be?
The Mario Party is fairly well established at this stage. Four players, be they player, or CPU controlled, battle it out across a playing board littered with blue, red, green, and other special spaces with each round separated by mini-games that pit you in 4-player vs, 2v2, or 1v3 matches, with coins on the line. Those coins are used to buy the even more valuable currency of stars, or other assorted items to help you get them. It’s a familiar formula but one, that decades after it was first implemented, is yet to show signs of age. Good mini-games have come and gone, but in Superstars, we’re getting the absolute cream of the crop. Controversial classics like Tug Of War make glorious returns, while 100 of the best of Mario Party 1-10 all feature prominently. Meanwhile 5 of the finest boards from Mario Party 1, 2, and 3, in the form of Yoshi’s Tropical Island, Peach’s Birthday Cake, Space Land, Woody Woods, and Horror Land.
As always, the rubber-banding can be quite extreme, so players can and will feel robbed by the game from time to time, while other, incalculable, and seemingly unpredictable variables seem to push back on players at all times. This is the standard Mario Party fare, but decades on it’s still infuriating to possess a seemingly unassailable lead that evaporates completely due to a single roll of the dice. It’s a good thing that every other moment is super enjoyable. Balancing old boards with new systems seems fraught with danger, but Superstars pulls it off well, with these elements of the old and new melding together effortlessly.
Beyond the main Mario Party mode, players can try to set records in Mt. Minigames where they can take on all the games’ levels and better their performance. Coins accumulated from Mario Party, and Mt. Minigames can be spent and Toad’s Shop where you can purchase Stickers, Music, Encyclopedia entries, and more to further enhance the nostalgic feeling players will undoubtedly get from the core modes. In the Data House players can see what in-game achievements they’ve unlocked either offline, or online, listen to your purchased music, check out all of your in-game records, and more. Online multiplayer has been baked into this entry as opposed to it being a significantly post-launch addition like it was in Super Mario Party. It holds up fairly well in this pre-launch period with a lower player count, but you can expect it to hold together well due to the sheer nature of the experience; a turn-based title like Mario Party doesn’t demand enormous amounts from the network infrastructure.
Nostalgia can play funny things with your brain, and it has done so with many of the old Mario Party boards, and even the mini-games themselves. Superstars recognises the past regularly and shows some flashbacks to yesteryear and it’s quite astonishing to see the visual growth in the franchise, especially as you return to games from the 1990s. Superstars looks quite striking, with that bubbly Mario Bros vibrancy coating every inch of the final product. Equally, the musical score, both the remastered older tracks and the newest additions fill your heart with a youthful energy that few games can reliably create. Even the look and feel of the “overworld” comes straight from the original Mario Party.
Mario Party Superstars, more than any title to come before it, is for the fans, those that have been there from the earliest days. For the franchise veteran, there’s a warmth in the familiar, but for the fresher faces, you’re going to find plenty to enjoy as well, and in fact you get the benefit of discovery as well. It’s simple, it’s safe, but some quality of life improvements, as well as some other nice balancing of old and new are all here to make this take on the Mario Party’s of yore, the best they’ve ever been. It’s Mario Party, for all the good reasons and the bad, but the more frustrating moments are an easier pill to swallow now.