Mario Party Superstars

Mario Party Superstars

The Mario Party series returns to its roots with tougher mini-games and meaner game boards. But is it really better before?

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If I were to list my favourite mini-games from Mario Party's 23-year history, it would include Shy Guy Says, Bowser's Big Blast, Face Lift and Honeycomb Havoc. If you'd then asked me which boards I liked best, I'd have said Horror Land and Woody Woods off the top of my head.

To make a short story even shorter, I get all of that in Mario Party Superstars, and a whole lot more. In fact, it's packed with five of the best maps the series has ever had, along with over 100 mini-games that are almost all top-notch. And since much of the content is around two decades old, there's certainly no complaining about milking it now that it's been reused in an unparalleled Mario Party cavalcade.

Because that's exactly what we get here. Mario Party became increasingly convoluted over time, with developers trying to reinvent themselves in a series that didn't really need this at all. This resulted in far more items, microphones, vehicles and new approaches to how you actually win in these digital board games. Now, let it be said that I love Mario Party and have since the beginning, but it's when I go back to the basics in this greatest hits-remaster that I realise how good it actually was once upon a time. Because it was actually better back in the day in this case.

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Mario Party Superstars, in fact, is terribly unfair to the point of bordering on humiliation at times. It's also utterly unforgiving, letting better players completely disintegrate worse ones. Over the years, my Mario Party sessions have become somewhat quieter events, something I thought was due to personal maturity and age. But in Mario Party Superstars, the people I play with swear like never before, some want to rage-quit, and insults are constantly thrown. And that's the way it should be.

So what's the secret? I'll admit it's been a long time since I played any Mario Party for the Nintendo 64, but generally speaking, they were more geared towards a gamer audience. The mini-games are razor-sharp with no fluff, and several of them lead to unprecedented levels of nerve-jangling. These include the aforementioned Shy Guy Says, in which a Shy Guy waves a red and a white flag and your job is to follow suit by pressing L or R. But Shy Guy often feints, raises both, and lowers one or starts hoisting one and regrets it. This invariably leads to exciting matches where only one can win.

The games are also consistently more understandable and well thought out. That's why mini-games like Mecha-Marathon, Hot Rope Jump, and Trap Ease Artist have been requested by fans for so long. The boards are also phenomenal, although sadly there are only five of them. For the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, there was almost one game in the series per year and fewer boards was never a problem, but since the Wii was released, Nintendo has slowed the pace down considerably for Mario Party. The very lack of levels led to the eventual retirement of 2018's Super Mario Party in my group of friends.

Mario Party Superstars
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Well, hopefully, some extra board will come as DLC, although no such thing has been communicated. Anyway, the boards included are Peach's Birthday Cake (Mario Party), Yoshi's Tropical Island (Mario Party), Space Land (Mario Party 2), Horror Land (Mario Party 2), and Woody Woods (Mario Party 3). All of these I would describe as very good and varied, with Peach's Birthday Cake, in particular, standing out. Being able to plant star-eating piranha plants along the track really elevates the proceedings and adds plenty of excitement to each roll of the dice. I also appreciate the clearer set-up for mini-games, where each round ends with a mini-game, instead of these coming at any time, as they have in recent years. In addition, there is of course the option to play the mini-games separately without any board-gaming at all for those who wish to do so.

Another thing that makes Mario Party Superstars so much more fun than the last few installments is how much randomness is allowed here. Because after you've played brilliantly and won almost all the mini-games, and through clever use of super mushrooms and board features managed to collect six stars and move towards a certain victory - someone will step on a space that will force you to swap stars with whoever is last. Suddenly, someone else has gained everything you fought for and you're irretrievably left behind. You will hate this when it happens, but there's no such thing as a sure victory in Mario Party Superstars until the last die is rolled and the mini-game is over. It becomes a kind of Russian roulette where the conditions can be thrown around at any time and a small child can beat the world's best gamer with a bit of luck.

One of the biggest news is that it is now possible to play Mario Party Superstars online. However, I think this is a game that does by far best locally. If you play against others and steal all their stars and smash them in the mini-games - I think the chances are microscopic that opponents will hang around for the hour or so a normal round actually takes (people can barely finish fighting matches they are losing, where a round often takes a minute).

Of the 100-odd mini-games included, however, there are a couple that let their age shine through, where too often they end up tied due to simply not being well thought out, such as in Bumper Balls. Also, as I mentioned above, I think that having only five game boards is too stingy, especially when they are remakes and not brand new ones.

The rating thus stays at a very solid eight. This is the best Mario Party game since the GameCube-era and proof that this series was actually better before. Each and every round is automatically exciting right to the end, shaky and memorable - and thus serves as an explanation as to why the series has actually survived all these years.

Mario Party SuperstarsMario Party Superstars
Mario Party Superstars
08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
Nearly 100 great mini-games, great selection of maps, great multiplayer, great presentation.
A few low points among the mini-games, too few game boards.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Jonas Mäki

The Mario Party series returns to its roots with tougher mini-games and meaner game boards. But is it really better before?

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