Mario Party Superstars Review: Mario Party like it’s 1999
Mario Party was serious business in our house back in the 90s. First, no one else could play Yoshi — just me. Second, no one else could use the Jungle Green controller — just me (it was MY N64, after all). Third, take no prisoners — this is as close to war as elementary school kids were gonna get. The casualties? My little sister accidentally broke her toe jumping around in uncontrolled jubilation after beating me once.
Over two decades later, Mario Party Superstars has released — one of the few in the franchise that has piqued my interest since Mario Party 2. Featuring 5 of the best boards from the first three games and a slew of new changes that’ll keep veterans and newcomers alike engaged, Mario Party Superstars is just as addicting as I remember from childhood. And with the necessary quality of life updates that would have helped Super Mario Party (looking at you, pro controller compatibility), Mario Party Superstars is the party the Switch was waiting for.
Right from the beginning, Mario Party Superstars lets players know that this title is supposed to be a trip down memory lane. The Koopa Trooper, Toad, and the rest of the gang spend their time reminiscing about the original titles and boards, leading into how they hope the current players can recreate the glory of the golden days. Of course, those who haven’t played the original titles aren’t out of the loop — there are optional instructions if the game or boards are new to anyone, getting first-time players up to speed alongside the callous-palmed veterans.
To answer some of the most burning questions upfront: the five boards available are Yoshi’s Island (Mario Party), Space Land (Mario Party 2), Peach’s Birthday Cake (Mario Party), Woody Woods (Mario Party 3), and Horror Land (Mario Party 2). The roster includes Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, Peach, Daisy, Rosalina, Yoshi, Birdo, and Donkey Kong. Every board has been altered to introduce items, event spaces, and, in Mario Party’s case, nerf Bowser. Dueling other players is included, but it feels a lot different than its first iteration in Mario Party 2. At release, you cannot unlock new boards during gameplay, although Mario Party Superstars would be a prime DLC contender for more boards (I vote Mystery Land and Western Land, please!). My personal favorite? Mario Party Superstars is pro controller compatible.
When it comes to what’s new, one thing I personally enjoyed was the ability to choose from mini-game eras when starting a game. I enjoy the classics, so I preferred to play N64 mini-games only for my first few rounds, and they are more or less as delightful as I remember them (with updated graphics, of course). One noticeable change is that the non-existent Z button has been replaced by the A button in most (all?) cases, so that ground pound in the N64 mini-games is A+A instead of A+Z. The sound effects have also been updated for all the characters, so — sadly — Wario’s iconic line is missing, and Yoshi’s adorable whistles are nowhere to be found.
Additionally, the bonuses are back (first implemented in Mario Party 2), but the default ones different than the original in that they can be rewarded for practically anything. How many steps a player took, how many bowser spaces a player landed on, etc. With two bonuses that change every round, each game of Mario Party Superstars is literally up in the air until the very end. And with the Koopa Trooper often gifting players predicted to win a golden pipe item that transports them directly to a star, bonuses almost feel like the computer decides who wins instead of actual gameplay. Luckily, bonuses are optional, so if you don’t want to feel the rug pulled out from under you, feel free to turn them off (or switch them to the way they were introduced in Mario Party 2).
As for the mini-game selection, Mario Party Superstars nailed it. They somehow knew which games were beloved — or, in the very least, drove competition — and included some of the best of the best. The ones that made my palms bloody were there (with warnings about how to avoid bloody palms) and the ones that were new to me were easy to learn and relatively less easy to master. Even my husband, who hadn’t played Mario Party before, was able to learn quickly and give me a run for my money within a few turns. It was a carefully curated trip down memory lane, cutting right to the mini-games that made the franchise great.
Mario Party Superstars does so much right, but I do feel like there was a bit missing outside of gameplay. For one, I wish the village had more to do. I can buy stickers to use in-game, music to listen to, wikipages to read, and other items to personalize my player card, but aside from looking at achievements and listening to music, it feels a little bare. Granted, there is a whole section with Mt. Minigames where players can go through and play each and every mini-game, but I feel like there could be just a bit more, like maybe more information on the wikipages, some videos, or even a house to decorate (or houses for the characters to decorate). I also just felt really let down that there were only 5 boards. I held out thinking I could unlock one, like in Mario Party, but it just never transpired. A bit of a letdown for a AAA game in 2021, but if there’s DLC I guess it’s a temporary setback.
Mario Party Superstars brings back the best boards of the first games and the best mini-games of the franchise, updating them with all the mechanics we’ve come to know and love over the course of 23 years. Although it only has 5 boards and a lineup of 10 playable characters, it does a lot right on those boards and with those characters, so it’s hard to complain too much. It’s no cakewalk to rebalance old classics into something fresh and fun, but the team at Nintendo managed to do it. If you’re looking for the best party on the switch, be sure to grab Mario Party Superstars.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch (reviewed); Publisher: Nintendo; Developer: Nintendo; Players: 1 – 4; Released: October 29, 2021; MSRP: $59.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Mario Party: Superstars purchased by the reviewer.