Mario Party has always been the best of the perky plumber’s spin-offs to me. As much as I love the platforming genre and can appreciate what so many of my favourites owe to the Italian plumber, the mainline Mario games have mostly fallen into the good-but-not-great category of my personal preference. Along with Mario Party, it’s games like Kart, Strikers, Tennis, and Olympics that have solidified my affection for Mario and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom. But Super Mario Party has always been the odd one of the bunch, and that’s why today’s update just makes me more confused.
Super Mario Party is the only Mario Party title available on the Nintendo Switch, and it’s fair to say it’s a mixed bag. The big criticism is that it only has four boards; much fewer than usual. There’s less variety too, with linear progression and simple loops rather than more complex movements being encouraged. If you play up to 30 turns, some of the boards will erode and transform, but since most players stick to the default 10, you don’t see these effects come into play often enough. The non-board competitive modes are a bit ‘meh’ too, mostly lifeless reimagings of what has come before, or else just letting you loose in freeplay.
However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. The solo mode is bare-bones, but it’s encouraging to see it here in a strangely stripped back version of the Mario Party experience – surely whatever Mario Party does next (Super Duper? Back to the numbers? A new system?) will take this mode and build upon it. Likewise, the river rapids mode could have more variation in the river itself, but the mode is fantastic, putting the four of you in a raft and relying on teamwork, communication, and coordination outside of the minigames as well as within them. Plus, as usual, the minigames themselves are excellent.
There is more to Mario Party than the boards, but the way the most popular game mode was phoned in on this edition tells you all you need to know about how half-baked Super Mario Party was. That’s why it’s so confusing – and a little frustrating – to see online play be added in an update today. Super Mario Party launched in October 2018, and has received next to no love since then in the way of updates or events or… anything. The best time to add online play would have been at launch, and the next best time would have been in a post-Christmas patch. After that, I suppose, the time to do it would have been as part of a ‘stay at home’ initiative at the start of the pandemic. That means doing it today is only the fourth best time, at least. 30 whole months after launch, the game gets its first and likely only major update.
“Better late than never,” you might say, but… is it? I would have liked to think that any work going on at Nintendo regarding Mario Party these days would be working on the next title, not finally putting together an update that would have already felt too late over a year ago. What I sincerely hope is that somebody at Nintendo working on Super Duper Mario Party had a conversation something like this with their boss:
“Should we put online multiplayer in this one?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t we?” the boss replies, standing there, bossily.
“Just because it’s not in the last one, that’s all.”
“Wait, it’s what?”
The boss then furiously telephones King Bowser and explains the situation, and the big button marked ‘Press here December 2018 for Super Mario Party multiplayer’ finally gets pressed, and everyone goes back to Super Duper Mario Party.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem very likely, so while I’m happy that Super Mario Party is eventually getting its update, it feels like it might be a case of energy being spent in the wrong places. I’m not sure entirely why the update came through today, or what it means for the future of Mario Party as a whole, which is why it’s so confusing. The fact it hasn’t been completely abandoned and forgotten suggests Nintendo still sees value in Mario Party, but the fact it has taken so long underlines the fact that it is clearly not a priority for the company. And, so long as the bossy boss bossily bossing people into pushing the big button story is untrue, it likely means work on the next instalment isn’t happening anytime soon. Hooray… question mark?
Next: Hey Josef Fares, What The Heck Is Up With That Elephant Scene In It Takes Two?
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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