Games that receive a ⭐ have a score of 95% or above. This is purely from a game design perspective and is not in any way related to our morality/parental warnings section.
Of all the Super Mario spin-offs, none are more infamous than the Mario Party series. A digital board game with a straightforward objective, easy to understand mini-games, and the charming world Super Mario should theoretically be on-par with the main series or even Mario Kart given how approachable it is. Alas, the heavy emphasis on luck based events and sabotaging opponents adds a level of frustration known to ruin friendships among competitive personalities. Top it all off with over a decade’s worth of experimental Mario Party titles that were woefully unpopular it seemed as if Mario Party was doomed to linger on as a directionless zombie. Then along comes Mario Party Superstars with a healthy dose of nostalgia to bring Mario fans back to the board.
Fundamentally speaking, Mario Party Superstars is akin to a greatest hits album which takes the best parts of the older titles and puts them all in one game. Something similar was already tried with 2017’s Mario Party: The Top 100 which focused exclusively on the minigames, but ultimately never took off without the board game. Superstars clearly uses The Top 100 as its foundation having most of the same minigames while adding classic boards from Mario Party 1, 2, and 3 to make it a more complete package. While this approach is undoubtedly derivative, some of these games haven’t been seen in over 20 years now so it’s more justifiable than most cases we’ve seen in this endless era of remakes and remasters. Now that we’ve established the background let’s get this party started and find out just how super these Superstars are.
As I stated earlier, Mario Party at its core plays out like a fairly straightforward board game. Players roll dice to move around the board trying to buy as many stars as they can before the game ends. As the players make their way towards the stars, the spaces they land on will provide bonuses or hindrances to them depending on its color. Stars can only be purchased if the players have enough coins when they reach a star and the fastest way to earn coins is to win the minigames that occur at the end of each turn. On top of all of this the players can find or purchase items that provide boons or banes when used, tipping the odds in their favor.
The board game can be quite fun when players strategize around items and board gimmicks to out maneuver their opponents, but the randomized nature of dice based movement means players might also spend the entire time landing on bad spaces which turns the game into a demoralizing slog. Ultimately you just have to be willing to put up with the potentially unfair nonsense whenever you boot up a game of Mario Party. Personally I have a tendency to embrace the insanity so I can have a good laugh when something stupid happens, but even then I can’t help getting a little salty after a certain point.
The minigames are extremely short and simple affairs that break up the board game segments quite nicely. Not all minigames are made equal however, because while some games test your reaction speed or pattern recognition there are others based on button mashing speed or in the most extreme cases pure luck. They even brought back “Tug o’ War”, a minigame about rotating the control stick so fast Ninento had to provide gloves to players back in the day because of all the resulting hand injuries (Superstars provides a warning message telling players not to use the palm of their hand when rotating the stick). Regardless there are still more good minigames than bad ones so no reason to knock the game too hard for it. That’s just about everything you need to know about Mario Party Superstars in terms of core gameplay and while there are some inevitable frustrations here and there it’s still the most fun Mario Party game released in years.
Outside of the main game modes, the coins and stars players collect can be used in an item shop to unlock music, encyclopedia pages, reaction stickers, and custom backgrounds for their online profile. Players can also unlock titles for meeting certain criteria in the main game such as collecting a certain number of stars in a single game or landing on a certain type of event space. These things are pretty standard as far as bonus content goes, but they still provide a nice incentive to keep playing after you’ve played on every board and seen every minigame.
The presentation of Mario Party Superstars is as polished as it is charming which is to be expected from Mario games. The graphical glow up done to boards and minigames from the N64 is leagues better than those chunky polygons from 20 years ago. The music is lively and jovial which is both appropriate for the party motif and very on brand for Super Mario. My only real complaint is the game’s roster of playable characters is shockingly small which is disappointing considering how many prominent characters from the series’ history are absent.
On the surface, Mario Party Superstars isn’t really the kind of game you extract a moral message from, but a little perspective can go a long way. The main criticism you can level at Mario Party as a series is that players are constantly being screwed over by things out of their control. Despite how unfair this can be at times, it’s an aspect of the game that reflects reality in a way we often don’t want to admit. I was recently involved in a bad accident in which I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but by the grace of God I managed to walk away from it alive and without serious injuries. We cannot always control the world around us just as we cannot control the dice rolls in Mario Party, but if we make good choices when the opportunity presents itself and put our trust in God there is no setback we cannot overcome.
In conclusion, Mario Party Superstars reasserts what made Mario Party so much fun in the past and hopefully will act as a guide to how new Mario Party games should be improved in the future. I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a fun party game they can enjoy with their friends, but only if they have the patience to endure the more volatile elements of the experience. The denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom certainly know how to throw a party so let’s-a go join the celebration!
Morality & Parental Warnings: Mario Party Superstars is a digital board game broken up by smaller minigames to collect coins and purchase stars. Some minigames involve slapstick cartoon violence. Some aspects of the game involve magic, mostly the parts involving the character Kamek, but it is very cartoony and lacks any sort of ritual or incantation. One of the game’s playable characters, Brido, is implied to be a male pretending to be a female.