Super Mario Party
Arguably, Mario Party’s biggest problem has always been Nintendo itself: it’s a multiplayer-focused series from a creator that has consistently provided better options. Recently, new entries have felt like obligations, born of commercial concerns rather than any urgent creative need to make another. But in a lean year for Nintendo as a developer, this is something approaching a series best, and a fine bet for Switch owners seeking a new firstparty game for holiday gatherings. Especially if Smash doesn’t float your boat.
Talking of boats brings us to one of the best modes: a cooperative game where four players paddle a dinghy downstream, with Joy-Cons as oars. After plunging down waterfalls, steering around rocks and swerving Cheep Cheeps, you’ll want to aim for the minigame balloons that invite you to work together, with high ranks extending your time. With Out Run- style forks every so often, there are multiple routes to the end, though even on your first run you’re likely to play at least one minigame twice. In the absence of Rhythm Paradise on Switch, Sound Stage might be the next-best thing: a motion-based mode where you shake the JoyCon to the beat, to tug tablecloths from beneath wine glass towers or skewer fruit lobbed by distant Lakitus.
The addition of recruitable allies and individual dice blocks adds a mild element of strategy to the standard Party mode. A Bowser die might lose you coins, but it’s worth risking when there’s a chance of moving ten spaces; Daisy guarantees you a three or four, which is useful when you’re within reach of those all-important stars. Shrewd play, however, only gets you so far. This is Mario Party, after all, a series that delights in screwing you over even after the final turn. Bonus stars can be awarded for the most trivial accomplishments: ironically, we earned one narrow victory only after the prize was handed out for ‘unluckiest player’. During Partner Party mode, in which you can roam freely around repurposed boards, we ended up with five allies for a tug-of-war game against an opponent with just one. But that’s part of the fun: the playing field may be uneven, but at some point everyone gets tripped up.
You’ll be howling at your TV, then, but most often with a smile on your face, thanks largely to a strong selection of minigames. The riotous Slaparazzi sees you violently jostling for prime spot on a photograph, while a motion-controlled steak-cooking challenge is a surprising hit – though the messy Pie Hard isn’t quite as good as its name. But with a generous array of modes and some unexpected creative flourishes, this is certainly the best Mario Party since the GameCube era; perhaps even beyond.
There are five gems to collect across different game types, including a singleplayer mode which invites you to complete 80 consecutive challenges – though the reward isn’t quite as special as all the pageantry suggests