Mario Party is a series that I have long been at odds with. I personally think Mario Party 2 was the last good one, since it was the last game that required actual skill to succeed; each game to follow would become more reliant on dumb luck. And yet, whenever a new one is announced I’m optimistic that the franchise will be good again.
When Nintendo announced Mario Party: The Top 100 during a September Direct, I initially thought it was strange considering that the minigames really aren’t the reason anyone plays Mario Party. However, a nostalgic throwback to some of the great minigames might’ve be a novel idea—but that’s really all Mario Party: The Top 100 offers.
The first issue with The Top 100 is how incredibly dull it is. There’s just really not that much to it from a gameplay perspective. Out of the five gameplay modes available, none of them offer any real variety or entertainment. First there’s the titular “Top 100” where you just choose a minigame and play it, however this is marred from the start considering not all 100 minigames are available and need to be unlocked via the “Minigame Island” mode.
“Minigame Island” might sound like a classic Mario Party board game mode, however it is just a fairly linear sequence of playing through all 100 mini-games until you reach the end. While this does give you a chance to familiarize yourself with all the minigames, it’s so incredibly boring since it’s a single-player mode and the AI is horribly inconsistent; starting at a laughably easy mode and fluctuating anywhere between grossly incompetent or completely unbeatable on the “harder difficulties.”
Also, for whatever reason, someone felt it appropriate to attach a lives system to this mode. Every time you lose a minigame, you lose a life and when you’re out of lives, you start back at the “halfway point” of the last island you’re on. But this is completely pointless since even when you lose a minigame, you still progress to the next one, and the game autosaves after every loss/completion. So even if you “game over,” you’re just kicked back to an arbitrary location and have to just walk to where you were.
Furthermore, each minigame has a completion rank of three stars that you can achieve depending on your position, so why would a lives system be necessary when anyone whose going for a high score will inevitably go back and try to complete it? It boggles the mind.
“Minigame Match” is an equally dull mode where an attempt is made to simulate board play. Players roll dice and move freely around a collection of squares and try to pick up balloons that award coins, stars, and even activate minigame play. It moves at a snail’s pace and it doesn’t even select minigames randomly—players choose a bundle of five minigames (N64 pack, Gamecube pack, Puzzle Pack, ETC) and if a minigame balloon is picked up, you choose one of the minigames in your pack. Whichever player picked up the balloon gets a larger space on a wheel, and if the arrow lands on your space, you play your minigame. It is pointlessly roundabout and in keeping with the series’ progress, more reliant on dumb luck than anything you actually did.
The “Championship Battles” and “Decathlon” Modes are geared more for PvP multiplayer modes. In Championship Battles players compete in three or five minigames, with the player who wins the most minigames winning the battle. In Decathlon, players compete in five or ten minigames, aiming for the highest score. Depending on where you finish (first, second, or third), you’ll be allotted more points. While Championship Battles could be fun if you have four friends to play it with, it feels unnecessary beside the Top 100 game mode where you’re already competing to see who can win the most minigames; and unlike the Top 100, you have to choose from a bundle, so there isn’t even the element of added freedom.
Decathlon might have been interesting, except for the fact that there is ZERO variety to it. Every time you play, you’ll be given the same five or ten minigames, so I hope you really like Slot Car Derby cause you’ll be seeing it every time.
The most glaring problem with The Top 100—ironically—lies in its multiplayer. While the game does feature 3DS to 3DS play in both download and cartridge play, that’s ALL it features. While this might be okay for some players, I challenge any adult/young adult fan to find four friends, each with a 3DS, and four matching schedules to sit down and only play the minigames in Mario Party. My entire experience with this game consisted of me crushing the pathetic AI who, even when set to “very hard”, offered no challenge. Had this game included an online mode where you could just jump into some minigames with a few other people, then it would’ve been the perfect serving of some quick, pick-up-and-play Mario Party fun.
Honestly, all the game really has going for it is that it looks nice and sounds nice. The graphics have been cleaned up and tailored well to the 3DS and the sound quality of the effects and music have also followed suit. But the gameplay is lackluster and honestly, the minigame selection really isn’t that great either, further showcasing the series’ decline. There are maybe 15-20 good minigames from Mario Party, Mario Party 2, and maybe Mario Party 4. Every other game onward just feels so hand-holdy and devoid of any consequence or challenge. The kinds of minigames that come from an entry that thought it was a good idea to get rid of the board game element of Mario Party and stick everyone in a stupid car for some reason.
Unfortunately, like many of Nintendo’s attempts to capitalize on nostalgia, Mario Party: The Top 100 feels like a party Nintendo threw for themselves and blew the entire budget on banners, cake, and confetti. They forgot to spend on the one thing that makes a party worthwhile: the entertainment.