A new system, a new year, and a new Mario Party. Nintendo Switch OLED crashed into 2021 this month, bringing with it the release of Mario Party Superstars, a mashup of classic N64 game boards and 100 minigames to keep us busy. With five boards from the past and a mix of new and old minigames, Mario Party Superstars brings something to the table for new players, and people like me who binged Mario Party 7 on the Nintendo GameCube while blaring Good Charlotte during my teenage years. Nintendo is relying heavily on old content, painting it with new graphics and some small decorations to pass it off as new. Luckily for them, it worked.
For long-time fans of the series, much of Mario Party Superstars will seem familiar. The game is loaded with five boards of varying difficulty, Yoshi’s Tropical Island, Space Land, Peach’s Birthday Cake, Woody Woods, and Horror Land. All feature different twists and turns, with the harder levels (like Horror Land) requiring a longer turn count to really dive into what it has to offer. It would have been nice to see a new board or two added for this version of the game, but the nostalgia is a nice touch.
The boards all feel very unique—Peach’s Birthday Cake is my favourite. Though the rules are ultimately the same, each board features something unique, changing the direction of the game slightly. Some boards allow you to teleport, sometimes the items available may be different, and some feature different hidden areas or directions. Each playthrough will be different, and it manages to keep the game fresh, even when you spend a week playing it non-stop.
“What makes Mario Party Superstars different—and perhaps the most important thing about the game to me as a parent—is how customisable the game is.”
One hundred minigames await you when you jump into Mario Party Superstars. Many of these will be familiar if you’ve played other versions of Mario Party, like Tipsy Tourney (and the controversial Tug o’ War) from Mario Party, Shell Shocked from Mario Party 2 or Pushy Penguins from Mario Party 5 (I am terrible at this one!). There is something for everyone, and each time you play, you’ll be sure to play one you love and one you hate (see Pushy Penguins above).
What makes Mario Party Superstars different—and perhaps the most important thing about the game to me as a parent—is how customisable the game is. When you load in, you’re met with a plethora of options to select from before you can begin. As usual, you choose the number of players and turns and then your character. After that, you can choose your CPU character and difficulty level (each can be different). You also choose the CPU speed, so you aren’t stuck waiting ages for your virtual opponents.
Once you decide on those, you choose whether you want Bonus Stars, no Bonus Stars, or the more nostalgic Classic Minigame, Rich and Eventful Bonus Stars, plus minigame help, and if you want a handicap for any players. This is excellent when you have younger kids playing, as strategy isn’t always on their minds. You can start them off with up to five stars and can make it different for each individual player. I didn’t use it for my six-year-old, he still beat me the first time around.
“Mario Party Superstars is still a party.”
In addition to the handicap, you can choose the type of minigames you want to play. All Types, Family, Action, Nintendo 64, GameCube, and Skill are the options, giving plenty of wiggle room depending on your playstyle of choice. I will note that with the Family package, we ended up finding games that seemed more difficult overall for my kids than when we selected All Types—mind you, there are 100 minigames in there.
On the topic of minigames, you also have the option of playing Mt Minigames, rather than an entire board. The game lets you choose specific games, or select a category that it can randomize for you to play to your heart’s content. During this mode, you can earn coins—also available while playing a board—and they can be spent in the main menu, where Nintendo has created some longevity for the game through various collections.
Mario Party Superstars now offers offline, local, online play (available with Nintendo Switch Online), so even when you’re solo, you can play against real players. Nintendo also added a sticker feature, my least favourite thing so far. This is a way to communicate with online players you can’t actually speak to. Little pictures that say things like “Great!”.
I know it sounds harmless, but you can use them during local play too, and they make slight sounds. I thought my cat was meowing for five minutes before I realized my son was spamming a specific sticker. Though you can turn them off for online play, they are always there for local play, leaving your children to torture you. A small gripe, but if you’re a parent, you’ll understand.
“Mario Party Superstars saves at the end of each round, allowing you to leave your game whenever you need to.”
With Mario Party Superstars you will no longer find the motion controls, meaning you can comfortably play handheld or use your pro controllers—and even the Nintendo Switch Lite. How you might feel about this is completely personal. I, for one, never enjoyed motion controls on the Nintendo Switch or the Wii, but if it is a feature you fancy, then you may find yourself disappointed.
Another change to this version of the game is the autosave feature. Mario Party Superstars saves at the end of each round, allowing you to leave your game whenever you need to—like at bedtime—and come back another time. This has saved a few “time for bed” arguments, though I still refuse to put myself to bed at a proper time when I’m playing.
Mario Party Superstars banks on nostalgia for older fans, bringing very little new material to the table. I suppose the ol’ “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, applies here. The game is still as fun as ever, and I’m getting the chance to play some of my childhood favourites with my kids now, with a bit of a visual upgrade and small quality of life changes. Mario Party Superstars is still a party.