There’s no game that gets my friends and I more riled up than Mario Party. A decade’s worth of games across many Nintendo consoles has never left us with a shortage of board game-fueled vendettas. There’s something even more infuriating about losing when the person who beats you does it as a dinosaur wearing shoes. The new Super Mario Party on the Nintendo Switch may not fix the friend feuds, but it at least makes the journey a little nicer.
Like previous Mario Party games, Super Mario Party is essentially a digital board game. Players compete with a single Joy-Con controller, and the game allows you to pair a second Switch for more mini-games. In addition to the board game competition popularized by older games, Super Mario Party also features several other modes, including rhythm games, a “team edition” of board game play, a river course in which you work with other players, and unlimited access to unlocked mini-games. It’s the series’ first step onto the Nintendo Switch, but the marriage is a perfect one.
There aren’t many surprises in the traditional game of Mario Party, where you roll dice and advance around a board to collect stars, but boards feel balanced and fun. Players can also choose to roll a regular die or one themed specifically around their character. Bowser, my go-to character, for example, has a set that will earn you higher rolls than the average die — but you run the risk of whiffing it and landing on a side that will lose you coins. The perks vary by character, but they make your selection feel more strategical.
If working together is more your speed, Super Mario Party has a few options. The game’s river course is straightforward: you paddle your way into balloons to activate mini-games and add more time to a countdown clock. The trick is to work together to row your raft safely to avoid obstacles, which means strategically flailing with a Joy-Con in-hand. If you pair two Switches together, you can play games that use its touch and joint-screen capabilities. These vary, from working together to match up bananas, or battling each other in a tank game.
But the best part of Super Mario Party isn’t any actual course or board game. It’s plowing through mini-games at your leisure. There are 80 in total, some new and some merely improved from past games. A few personal standouts for me included a game where you smack opponents out of the way to star in a photo; flipping a meat cube to brown every side; and pushing pieces together to form a character portrait. Landing on these games through chance in Super Mario Party’s various modes is exciting. Ditching the setup altogether and playing them freestyle is better.
Super Mario Party isn’t a groundbreaking entry in the series, but it is fun. It offers the sort of party experience that other mini-game-driven Switch titles, like launch title 1-2 Switch, can’t match — whether it’s watching Peach slap Wario out of the way to get in a photo, or the absurdity of all your pals wiggling their Joy-Con to make beloved characters ride a tricycle. There’s an emphasis on teamwork and sportsmanship in Super Mario Party. The game won’t let you move past specific moments without everyone hoisting their JoyCon in a sort of “hoorah” motion. Winning a team-based mini-game gives you the chance to high-five, while the river course offers ample opportunities to clink your oars together in solidarity (all by shaking your Joy-Con appropriately).
It’s these moments, though sometimes a little cheesy, that break the tension and add something personal. I almost knocked a friend in the nose with an over-eager arm swing, but at least it was all in good fun.
Super Mario Party is available for Nintendo Switch.