There was something seriously lacking in the past couple Mario Party titles. As fun as the mini games remained to be, the overall turn-taking of Mario Parties 9 and 10 just killed what some previous entries seemed to embrace. Thankfully, Super Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch is a return to the good old days of backstabbing and bonus stars.
My personal favorite Mario Party installment is 8 for the Wii. I’m positive that there must be better ones that came before, but this was my first experience with the series. I’ve been a gamer for thirty years, so Mario and I go way back, but Mario Party never specifically called to me, mostly because I was a single-player kind of dude. Enter a wife and child, and, thus, the joys of Mario Party were discovered.
To understand how much a return to form Super Mario Party is, you need to hate the vehicle mechanic introduced in 9, and then carried on to 10. Previous titles allowed each player to go on their own path throughout a branching board game. Spaces were varied in their function, there were winding paths to take, with advantages and disadvantages lying down each. Because of the winding nature, and the free will to go whichever direction the player pleased, the winner was never set in stone. A losing player could pick the right path, get the right items, acquire some stars, and be in the lead. The vehicle mechanic ruined all of that.
Where before, there tension, backstabbing, and exploration, Mario Parties 9 and 10 gave us foresight, cooperation, and a linear path to the end. Players sat together in a vehicle, traveling the board as one entity, and taking turns as the captain. Sure, if you received bonuses or stars during your turn at the helm, you were in the lead, but it just took away so much surprise and tension. You never worried about choosing the wrong direction at a fork in the road, because you were all going down that road, one space at a time, together.
Now, in Super Mario Party, the vehicle mechanic is scrapped, and players are free to choose their own path to the stars, and hope they’ve chosen correctly. They’re free once more to steal, backstab, and swap. It creates a much more fluid game, with the win never quite being certain for anyone until the end. It’s really brought back all that was good about the franchise with one simple change. A lot of people play for the mini games, and while, yes, the mini games have always been fun, much more of the game is spent roaming the board. If it’s not fun to roam the board, then the hour or more it takes to play the game is only fun for about the 15 minutes you spend battling in mini games, and that’s a waste.
There is one gripe I have, and that’s with the level selection. There are only a few levels to choose from, something that’s shared with 9 and 10. I’m not sure why Nintendo hasn’t simply added more. Mario Party 8 had at least six levels, each with their own twist on the game, and that added some much needed variety. It’s something that doesn’t seem to difficult to do, considering the size of many games today, and even the new Mario game for Switch. There’s no word on if Nintendo will add more later as they did with Mario Kart 8 on Wii U, but I almost expect it. Doing so, adding a bit more into the mixture that is Super Mario Party, would make the title not only redeeming, but also bring it fully back up to the level of the series past greatness.