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Review

Mario Party Superstars Review (Updated)

We’ve now had plenty of opportunity to test the online play in Mario Party Superstars, and as such, this review has been updated with details for this and a score. You can click here to jump to the section about online play. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Birdo is a playable character, 5/5. That’s it, that’s the review.

Wait, you mean I have to write an actual review and not just give it a high score based on the inclusion of one single character? Okay okay, fine. Mario Party Superstars is the latest in a long and sometimes troubled series of Mushroom Kingdom-themed party games published by Nintendo. The series used to be developed by Hudson Soft, before that company got gobbled up by Konami in 2012. Now, it’s developed by NDcube, and despite some teething issues with the series in their initial games, the games have been getting better with each release. The most recent Mario Party game, Super Mario Party, was seemingly designed to be a showcase of the Switch’s (and it’s Joy-Con) various capabilities, which meant it was pretty heavy on motion gestures and frankly, pretty light on content. Mario Party Superstars takes the opposite approach, presenting a greatest hits-style collection of boards and minigames that are absolutely designed to hit millennials in the nostalgia bone. It does that extremely well, and there’s a lot to like about just about every aspect of the game.


First up, let’s talk about the boards. Superstars features five classic boards from Mario Parties past, all of which hail from the Nintendo 64 era of partying. Yoshi’s Tropical Island and Peach’s Birthday Cake are reps from the first Mario Party, with Space Land and Horror Land from Mario Party 2, and Woody Woods rounding out the lineup as the lone Mario Party 3 board. All great picks, and certainly a huge step up from Super Mario Party’s more basic boards — especially with the updates and additions they’ve added to each board. For the most part, though, they play more or less as they did back in the day. And that’s fine! But I do think they’re a little bit on the… samey side, I guess. They’re all very traditional boards, where you race to get to the Star as fast as you can, avoiding hazards and utilising board gimmicks to both push yourself forwards and hold others back. The only board that really bucks the trend in any significant way is Peach’s Birthday Cake, which follows a more Monopoly-style set of rules that encourages you buy big and small Piranha Plants to steal Stars and coins, respectively, from anyone who sets foot on them. That’s pretty cool! But there’s still a Star to collect on the board, and you can completely avoid planting any Piranha Plants if you wanted, so it’s a little less interesting than it could be. An option to turn off the bought Stars and start everyone with X amount of stars, so the only way to win is to steal from others, would have been nice, but hey, they’re working with what they’ve got.

Ideally, there would’ve been some of the more interesting boards from the series’ history. Shy Guy’s Perplex Express from Mario Party 8 might not hit the same nostalgic notes of the boards that were included, but it’s an iconic board nonetheless and would’ve made for some more varied and interesting experiences. Mario Party 7’s Pagoda Peak or heck, even Island Tour’s Kamek’s Carpet Ride could have really mixed up the Mario Party Superstar formula, and left it feeling a little less of the same thing every time. If it sounds like I’m being a bit harsh, I really don’t mean to — I loved the boards included back in the day, and I absolutely love them now too — but it could’ve done with just a touch more variety.

Thankfully, the minigames — the heart and soul of any and every Mario Party game — are both varied and fantastic. There’s over 100 minigames included, from all across the numbered series games (not just the N64!), and if that sounds a little bit familiar to you, it’s because there was previously a selection of 100 classic minigames for the 3DS. But the lineup here is different, and personally I think they’re better, and the added bonus of being on a home console and fully remade with beautiful HD assets means that these shine in a way that The Top 100 never could. These classic minigames have been lovingly recreated, feeling wonderful to play on modern controllers and looking exactly how you remember in your head — rather than how they looked on original hardware. And yes, as I’m sure we’ve all seen by now, some of the stick-spinning games have returned, now with warnings telling you not to use your palms to play them… which immediately just tells you that the best way to win is to use your palms. I’m not so concerned about the palms in this case, however, but I am worried that this kind of aggressive analogue stick movement could exacerbate drifting issues on both the Joy-Cons and the Pro Controller. It should be fine, in the grand scheme of things, but rapid analogue stick abuse is rarely a good thing for a controller in any case, and given some other games have had some minor controls changes in the move over to Switch, this is one that could’ve been changed too. Having said that, when there’s four people on the couch and you’re all rapidly spinning sticks or mashing buttons to beat each other, it’s hard not to forget about all those worries and get really into it. Like, I’m talking uncomfortably competitive here, I’m not sure my family will ever talk to me again (I’m joking… but only just).

An interesting option on the topic of minigames is that, when starting a board, you’re given the option to choose only N64 minigames, only Gamecube minigames, or a collection from a number of categories like “skill”, “family”, or “action”. As I mentioned earlier, this game feels built from the ground up to hit millennials hard with wave after wave of nostalgia, so being able to limit the included minigames to the two consoles that, arguably, would induce the most of it amongst my age group certainly makes a lot of sense. Still, there’s such a huge, varied collection of minigames here, and all of them are so good, that you wouldn’t really want to cut any out on the vast majority of matches, unless you’re playing with people of a wide variety of ages, in which case the family category, which features minigames that are simple to understand and execute for just about anyone, is a good pick.

Outside of playing boards, there’s not a great deal else to do, but it’s not as if there’s nothing either. Mt. Minigames has a small swathe of activities to complete both in a group or on your own. Naturally, there’s Free Play mode, which lets you pick and play any minigame in the collection — though it’s worth noting that, after playing 20-30 turn games on each of the boards with my family, there was barely a handful of games we’d missed in that time. There’s also 2v2 and 1v3 modes, which offer a little bit of progression in a fun, pseudo-party style mini-board. A score attack mode is included, too, with the option to take on sports or puzzle minigames to get the best scores, which is particularly fun when playing solo. There’s also a couple of online modes, a daily challenge and a survival mode, though unfortunately I was not able to test these out during the review period due to the unavailability of online play. Watch this space, though — as soon as I’ve had a chance to check it out, I’ll be sure to update this review with a new section on online play.

Outside of the actual gameplay bits, you’ll also be able to spend coins earned while doing basically anything that involves minigames, on things like stickers (which can be spammed during other peoples’ turns, though thankfully can also be turned off), music, encyclopaedia entries, and profile cards, which let you customise your little profile to tell the world what your favourite boards and games are. I’m not sure what the point of these profiles are, but I’m assuming they can be displayed online, which I suppose I’ll find out eventually. There’s also a host of neat little achievements that you can earn, across all the different game modes and both offline and online, which don’t appear to do anything at all beyond give you a sense of accomplishment for having completed them. None of this is particularly groundbreaking, and if I’m being honest, I probably would not have cared in the slightest if they’d be missing. But then, I also completed the vast majority of the achievements, even the really dumb ones like “win every single minigame in a party board”, so I guess the last laugh is on me.

One last thing I’m going to complain about, though, is the complete lack of unlockable… well, anything. From the very start of the game, you have access to 10 characters, 5 boards, and all the minigames are unlocked and available from minute one. That’s great if you just want to jump in right away, but if you want a reason to keep coming back, to see all there is and do all there is… there’s nothing here for you. That’s not a slight against the game itself, it’s a fantastic game and I’m certain it’s poised to become the de facto Mario Party experience for years and years to come, but there’s no 6th board, no 11th character, no secret minigames. Not every game has to have intrigue and mystery behind it, some secret method of unlocking something that gets passed around online, but something, anything, to give a sense of progression and make you feel like you’re working towards something other than a couple more stickers and an encyclopaedia page, would’ve been nice. I mean look, Nintendo might surprise us all and offer free updates with more boards and more minigames and new characters, or they might even go the route of paid DLC and offer board collections from consoles later than the N64. If that’s the case, there’d be a lot to be excited about, it could very well be the definitive Mario Party experience, but until or unless that happens, it’s always going to feel a little bit like a missed opportunity. The Mario Party series has a deep and rich history, and there’s so much more to pull from here.


Online Play

Now that the game’s been out for a little while, I have had plenty of opportunity to play some games and minigames online, both with friends and with random players. The good news is that it’s sometimes very good! The bad news is that it’s also sometimes very bad. Let’s dig into that a little bit.

I’ve played through all five boards online now, primarily with one other person (thanks Michael) but sometimes with two (and thanks Angelo), plus a couple of random matches, and with a mix of friends and online players. When playing with friends, even friends that live far away from me (but still in Australia), the performance was pretty much perfect. It was more or less identical to local or single-Switch multiplayer, with next to no latency in minigames and only the slightest sign of delay when rolling dice. It’s difficult to overstate just how fantastic the online play is when it’s working correctly like this — entire boards can be played online, or you can participate in any number of minigame modes, such as Free Play, a 2v2 gauntlet, a 3v3 gauntlet, or a daily minigame mode which cycles through a selection of games each to compete against other players. Again, when it works, it works very very well. The good news is that you can also have multiple people on each Switch — if you and a friend are in one room together, you can play on the same console and play online with two other people on another single console anywhere in the world, or with two people on separate consoles, or you and two friends with one other person on their own console. It’s very versatile, and a nice touch.

The problem is that the online doesn’t always work super well. When playing online in a random board, I usually got matched with Japanese players (presumably the game tries to match based on geographical proximity, and the playerbase in Australia and New Zealand is likely to be small), and there were a litany of issues. Latency is a huge issue, with Mario Maker-style lockstep communication slowing some parts of the experience down to an absolute crawl. Some minigames were utterly unplayable in this form, with the input latency introduced by connection quality and distance making the fine movements required for games like Trace Race and quick reactions for games like Sneak ‘n’ Snore entirely impossible. Other problems arose with things like text speed — it seems like player 1’s settings are the default for online play, so if the first player has their text speed set to slow, everybody has to suffer through an absolute slog. There weren’t any disconnections, at least, so unlike certain other games it seems like the connection, even if not particularly solid, was fairly stable. But I probably won’t be touching random matches again anytime soon — I just wouldn’t ever want to play the game in that state again.


Mario Party Superstars is the greatest hits reunion tour of some of the best parts of Mario Party history, and it does a fantastic job of bringing the magic and wonder of classic boards and minigames into your living room. Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Superstars could have been — and could still be — something more. It’s right on the verge of becoming the definitive Mario Party experience, and everything it does, it does right. If you’re content with the content on offer already, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better party game than this, either on the Switch or on any other platform.

Rating: 4/5

The Good

+ Great mix of classic boards/games and modern features
+ Wide selection of some of the best minigames in the series
+ Birdo

The Bad

- Could've included some more unorthodox boards
- Nothing to unlock
- Online play can be iffy with randoms

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Final Thoughts

Mario Party Superstars is the greatest hits reunion tour of some of the best parts of Mario Party history, and it does a fantastic job of bringing the magic and wonder of classic boards and minigames into your living room. Still, it's hard to shake the feeling that Superstars could have been — and could still be — something more. It's right on the verge of becoming the definitive Mario Party experience, and everything it does, it does right. If you're content with the content on offer already, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better party game than this, either on the Switch or on any other platform.

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About The Author
Oliver Brandt
Deputy Editor, sometimes-reviewer, and Oxford comma advocate. If something's published on Vooks, there's a good chance I looked over it first. I spend way too much on games and use way too many em dashes.
1 Comments
  • Jynkies
    November 11, 2021 at 4:24 pm
    The Good

    Birdo is my highlight for this game

    The Bad

    I wish there were more boards even having cute costumes would Have been nice like Mario party 2

    Rating
    Overall

    This has been the most accurate review I have read in a long time I didn’t need to read past the inclusion of birdo to trust and believe in the validity of the author 💜

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