Over the last few years, the Mario Party series has been a bit of a mess. With car focused home console installments and strange spinoffs on the 3DS, the franchise has basically been treated as a dumping ground for every random idea Nintendo and NdCube could come up with, often with the end result being mediocre at best.
And while Super Mario Party did indeed improve a few things by bringing back the traditional board game style, something about it felt very half assed. The boards were tiny and uninteresting. The extra modes were fun, but had nothing to do with the franchise. And the online was a complete joke, at least until the April 2021 update actually made the main boards and modes compatible with it.
But now we have Superstars, and that game seemed full of promise. It had classic boards returning, like Woody Woods and Horror Land. It had 100 of the best mini games from years past, including many not found in Mario Party: The Top 100.
Plus a full blown online multiplayer setup from the get go, supporting every mode in the game.
So is it finally enough? Has NdCube finally made a good Mario Party game?
Well as it turns out, the answer is very much yes. Indeed, to the relief of us here at Gaming Reinvented, Mario Party Superstars is everything a new Mario Party game should be, and more.
With the incredible graphics being one of the first things you’ll notice.
Yeah, we know. Incredible graphics? In a Mario Party game? Are you serious?
Yep, we are. Cause Mario Party Superstars does an incredible job of recapturing the feel of the original titles, while upgrading it to its fullest potential on modern systems.
And the reimagined board designs are the best example of it. Seriously, look at some of these:
They look absolutely incredible, and are packed to bursting with the kind of charm that’s been missing in the Mario spinoffs for a long, long time. You’ve got characters chilling out and having fun in the background. You’ve got dozens of new species and character references from newer games filling the gaps, like Urchins, Galoombas, Peepas and more.
And you’ve just got the feel that for once in their life… Nintendo and NdCube actually cared. They didn’t strip everything out like in Top 100 or the Wii U era Mario spinoffs. They didn’t remove the interesting characters and mechanics people liked from the original boards.
No, they kept them in, polished them up for a modern system, and supplemented them with dozens of easter eggs and cameos too. It’s how a remake should be done, and makes running around Yoshi’s Tropical Island or Horror Land far better than it ever did before.
But we can’t just end there. No, a game’s quality has a lot more to it than its graphics, even in terms of presentation.
And fortunately for us, Mario Party Superstars nails the other aspects of the presentation too. Like say, the music.
Oh god, the music in this game is an ahsolute bop. Seriously, where do we even start here?
The board themes, which are incredible remixes of the originals with modern instruments and details (and in the case of Horror Land, separate day and night versions)?
The many, many mini game songs, which actually remix the proper songs rather than reusing the same few tunes like in Top 100?
Perhaps the final five turns themes, which turn the originally serene tracks into something out of Banjo-Kazooie style boss battle?
Regardless, it’s all good, and catchier than ever before.
Which brings us to the gameplay, aka the most important part of the whole affair. After all, every Mario Party game looked and sounded good, even the ones seen as overly mediocre in other ways (Advance, Island Tour, 10, etc).
So how does Superstars hold up? Is it really the kind of game fans have been waiting for?
Well yes, and no.
On the one hand, the actual gameplay and content here is top notch. The mini games are well selected, with classics like Bumper Balls, Booksquirm, Mushroom Mix Up and Pushy Penguins providing a very solid line up that’ll bring you back time and time again. And the same goes for the boards too. Every single one is a classic, with the likes of Space Land and Horror Land genuinely being some of the best levels we’ve ever seen in a Mario Party game.
So at it’s core, it’s good. It’s everything fans want, and nothing they don’t.
But it’s not just the core gameplay that’s good. No, the sheer number of awesome quality of life improvements and minor additions there is worth crediting too. You’ve got the option to disable bonus stars, or set them to the ones from the N64 era. You can choose exactly what types of mini games appear, including sets where every single game is based on skill (or comes from a certain era).
Hell, you can even add turns mid game! So if your lunch break game of Mario Party gets extended due to an office closure or train delay… no problem. Just slap on a few more turns and keep going. It’s honestly such a neat feature we’re surprised Hudson or NdCube never thought of it before.
Add this to stickers, Mini Game Mountain, fully featured online multiplayer and everything else, and well, Mario Party Superstars is genuinely the most polished, well designed Mario Party game in the history of the franchise. It literally fixes every issue people have ever had before and then some!
Well, except one thing.
One little thing that’s plagued Super Mario Party and countless other Mario Party games in the last few years.
That being… it just doesn’t have enough content. There are 5 boards with no unlockables, there are the usual cast of 10 characters (again, with no unlockables) and a few side modes added on top.
And that’s it. That’s the whole game there and then. Oh sure you’ve got a level up system, and there are a few achievements to tackle here and there…
But they don’t really add a lot to the game. You’ll reach level 99 and unlock everything you need to within a week of casual play, and you’ll get most of the achievements within about the same timeframe. As a result, if you’re playing alone, there’s just not enough here to justify the price. It’s an online and local multiplayer game only, and anyone without those options available to them is just wasting their money.
Still, I know what you’re thinking. CM30, this is Mario Party. Of course it’s designed with multiplayer in mind. That’s the whole purpose of a party game!
Well yeah, in a sense it is. Mario Party has always worked better with friends after all.
But earlier instalments have at least tried to throw single players something of a bone there. The first two had unlockable boards you could get by completing all the others, and the third onwards had a full story mode of sorts complete with a final boss fight. There were extra characters to unlock, a harder difficulty setting to obtain, side modes like Mini Game Island and Super Duel Mode…
Basically, there was stuff to do for a single player here. It wasn’t as much as in something like Super Mario Odyssey or Zelda Breath of the Wild sure, but it existed, and it really added more replay value to the game.
Superstars has none of that. It has nothing beyond the core boards and some mini game options, and makes even the N64 games looked packed with content by comparison.
So we’re split two ways here. We want to say it’s a great game because of how well it does the core mechanics (the boards, mini games, etc), but we also feel like it’d be an insult not to mention how much the lack of content (especially single player side content) detracts from the experience.
Either way, it’s a mixed bag. What’s there is great, but what’s missing makes it feel like a bit of a hollow (and short lived) experience.
And while we’re always hopeful Nintendo will expand on the game with DLC (heck, they did so years later for Super Mario Party), we can’t guarantee it’s also worth a purchase based on vague hopes and dreams. If Superstars doesn’t get DLC, then buying it on the promise it will is going to turn out to be a bad deal all around.
Still, if you like Mario Party and you’ve got friends to play it with, then Superstars is the best game on a modern Nintendo console by a country mile. It’s not gimmicky, it doesn’t use the car, there are no mediocre board designs like in Super and the UI and usability improvements are a delight all round.
So buy it right now if you’re a multiplayer focused gamer, and at least consider renting if you’re not. Because where Mario Party is concerned, this is the best it’s been in years, and a title that’s well worth supporting if you want Nintendo to release Mario Party games that actually matter going forward.