Tabletop games were on their way out when computer gaming was introduced in the 90s. Kids wouldn’t touch a board game if they could help it, and it would take another decade or so for the fad to come back into play. Enter Mario Party — Nintendo’s response to a millennia-spanning craze that by all accounts has lost its luster. Mario Party made board games cool again with its original 2008 entry for the Nintendo 64. 23 years later, Super Mario Party remains the undisputed authority on computer-generated board games, with the new Switch version selling over 13.8 million copies since it came out in 2018. It’s currently one of the top ten bestselling games on the Nintendo Switch. It took Nintendo another three years to update the game, adding more features, but the wait sure is worth it.
Super Mario Party just released a free patch allowing players to host matches online — complete with password-protection if need be — and play with family and friends. The Online Mariothon was previously the only way gamers could access multiplayer. The new update requires an active Nintendo Switch Online subscription to play.
Super Mario Party is best known for its manifold offline options. Mario Party mode is exclusively single-player, and involves standard party mechanics. It’s composed of four players — one real person and three CPU characters — taking turns rolling the dice and using it to navigate the board. Once everyone has had their turn, players compete in a battle royale of sorts in a minigame based on their current placement. Winners are duly rewarded with incentives. The goal is to collect the most stars by the time the match finishes. Partner Party mode is pretty much the same, except it allows for free movement across the board regardless of direction and pits two teams of two against each other. Super Mario Party also offers players the chance to skip the board game part entirely and just play the minigames.
The Switch entry also introduces two new special minigame modes: River Survival and Sound Stage. The former requires four players to move from one end of a river rapid to another, while the latter is basically a rhythm game. Super Mario Party is the first Mario Party to offer 80 minigames, four unique boards, and 20 playable characters overall. A fifth board, Kamek’s Tantalizing Tower, can be unlocked, as well as four extra characters (Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Dry Bones, Pom Pom).
Mario Party is the ultimate multiplayer experience still incorporating board game mechanics and is perfect in an unprecedented era of new normal where everything is online and social distancing is an extreme must. Nintendo’s free update is part of an ongoing campaign by most developers to reward players for acclimating to quarantine rules while still supporting the industry. Sony had previously launched the “Play at Home” initiative, which made certain games available for free on the PlayStation store for a limited time. Super Mario Party is the latest title to receive the quarantine treatment, and kudos to Nintendo for making the patch completely free to access. Mario Kart next, please?