Back in 1999 (within the UK), Mario and his friends started a feud that would last the next twenty-two years. It wasn’t about who has the best-groomed stache, who got kidnapped by a Koopa King the most, or which dinosaur paid the least amount of taxes… wait, what? Instead, the feud was, and still is, about who the biggest star is, the Super Star!
Mushroom Village beckons once again after all these years to continue the feud once more in Mario Party Superstars, this time allowing us to party like it’s the 90’s all over again. Will this party be the ultimate Super Star, or will it become a forgotten fashion faux pas that should’ve remained in 1999? Find out in our review, after the break!
Mario Party Superstars
Developed by NDCube
Published by Nintendo
Released: 29th October 2021
Digital copy provided by Nintendo UK
It’s been a few years hasn’t it; when was the last time you set foot in Mushroom Village (now named Village Square), or is this your first time? The opening moments of Mario Party Superstars are especially important to me as I relive my favourite childhood memories of playing the original Mario Party with good company on a small CRT TV. I can remember it fondly, getting excited when Mushroom Mix-Up gets selected, combining forces to bring the CPU player down, and who can forget the restrained violence from that result in Chance Time… oh, and something about blueberries.
Mario Party Superstars sets itself as a celebration of the series as a whole. The game includes five boards from the original three N64 games, and 100 minigames spanning most of the franchise, all remade with crisp and vibrant graphics. Though they’ve received a hefty makeover, everything still runs pretty much the same as it did over the last twenty-two years, though now with some quality of life improvements for a better balance of difficulty and a more efficient flow of play. More on that a little later.
After hopping into the Village Square Warp Pipe, you’ll begin your journey for your next adventure. First, you’ll have to pick the characters you want to venture out with along with the difficulty level of CPUs (assuming you don’t have four human players). We tried out a game with a Master CPU and that packed quite the challenge, so do be careful with which difficulty you pick.
Next, it’s time to pick the board you’ll be running around. As said before, there are five boards to choose from: Yoshi’s Tropical Island (MP1), Space Land (MP2), Peach’s Birthday Cake (MP1), Woody Woods (MP3), and Horror Land (MP2). It’s a very nice selection of boards, though I would’ve enjoyed a couple more choices, such as Creepy Cavern from Mario Party 3 or DK’s Jungle Adventure and Luigi’s Steam Room from Mario Party 1, perhaps even some boards from the GameCube and Wii titles… I’m looking at you Neon Heights! Fingers crossed that the game gets updated with more additions to the selection.
After you’re happy with the board you’ve picked, there are a few more settings to fiddle with. You can set the number of turns from 10 to 30 over five-turn increments; the estimated playtime is hugely underestimated, I find it’s probably useful to add another 45 mins for a more accurate estimation, especially when playing with other people. If you feel you hadn’t picked enough turns or want to play a little longer, you can add more during your game. Following this, you can then decide how you want bonus stars at the end of the game, you can either get random stars from various criteria, go with the classic three bonus stars, or turn them off completely. The minigame instruction screen can be turned off altogether for a quicker game with pro players, and you can also give players a handicap to start with any stars.
Finally, you get to choose what minigame pack to use from All Types, Family, Action, Nintendo 64, GameCube, or Skill. I love the fact that you can specifically choose N64 games, perfect for that nostalgia trip… here’s hoping some GameCube boards get added in the future to pair with GameCube minigames. Once you’ve confirmed the many ways to customise your game, you’re all set to start your adventure to become the Super Star!
One thing I love is that, when you start a board and Koopa Troopa begins talking about the board’s history, you get shown a couple of screenshots from the original game in their 240p glory. Seeing how excited he is about revisiting these locations is incredibly relatable to me.
The aim of the game from here on out is to move around the board, collecting coins from spaces, events, and minigames. You then have to spend those coins to purchase stars from the ever-moving Toadette. Whoever ends up with the most amount of stars by the bitter end will be titled the Super Star.
Each board has a unique set of features to help keep things interesting and, sometimes, chaotic. Yoshi’s Tropical Island, for example, consists of two islands connected by Thwomp bridges. Every time a player lands on an event space, Toadette is whisked away from one island to another by Cheep Chomp while Bowser takes her place. Pay the ever-growing Thwomp toll to get to the island with the star, or drive it up to trap everyone else on the other.
Space Land, on the other hand, features an array of Sniffit patrols that chase players back several spaces if someone lands on those pesky event spaces. Players can also pay a Sniffit off to increase the number of spaces they’ll chase you down for; don’t get tailed to the opposite end of the board now. Be careful while exploring the central area of the board, unless you want Bowser’s Coin Beam to zap a hole in your wallet.
As mentioned previously, each of the included boards have been completely remade with bright and vibrant visuals. They look absolutely stunning, especially when compared to the originals, it’s also worth checking them out on the Nintendo Switch OLED Model if you own one. The boards remain mostly intact as far as their structure and features go, though there have been some modifications to better balance the difficulty.
In Peach’s Birthday Cake, for example, there is an event called the Flower Lottery. While passing Goomba, you have to pay ten coins to pick one of four seeds to sprout a flower. Three of these seeds will produce a flower of Toad’s face letting you pass as normal, whereas the other sprouts one with Bowser’s face forcing you to take the path to King Koopa himself.
In the original, Goomba is situated just before the star. If you are forced down the path to Bowser, you will soon loop back to Goomba and will have topay to play the Flower Lottery again, potentially getting stuck on Bowser’s path. In Superstars, however, Goomba has plopped themselves after the star. In addition to this, Bowser’s path also acts as a risky shortcut to the star without having to play the Flower Lottery again to escape. This seems to be the biggest modification to any of the boards but is one that can definitely be appreciated for a less stressful stroll down this delicious birthday cake.
One thing I love about the boards is how each one features a remix of the theme that accompanies it, there’s even a tense variation during the final five turns. Additionally, after you play each board, you’ll unlock the option to use the classic theme instead to better imagine the pixelated glory days of 50Hz…60Hz if you were lucky enough to live outside Europe.
Each of the 100 minigames (105 if you include item minigames) have received a fresh lick of paint to fit the modern aesthetic. Similar to the boards, each minigame looks stunning, especially that water in Pushy Penguins and Shy Guy Says. Those who detest motion controls can be rest assured that each of the included games utilises traditional controls, no fancy gestures here. If you were lucky enough to order a Nintendo Switch Online N64 Controller, you’ll be happy to know that Superstars can be played using it, though do bear in mind that you do not have access to X or Y, meaning some features and minigames cannot be played with the controller.
Some of the minigames have also received some quality of life improvements. In Mushroom Mix-Up, for example, each of the mushrooms now also includes a pattern as to avoid any confusion for colour blind players. I also love how each minigame uses remixed themes for the game and their results. Unfortunately, there isn’t an option to opt for the original music here, I definitely would’ve appreciated the option for more nostalgia.
I had very few issues regarding the sample of mingames. It’s actually a great selection that includes some all-time favourites, such as Shy Guy Says, Mushroom Mix-Up, Bumper Balls, Booksquirm and many more. There are a few changes I would’ve made though, such as using the original Balloon Blast rather than the Mario Party 2 version and including a couple more games from the Wii era.
Similar to previous games, if you have to bow out early, you can pick up at the beginning of the next turn thanks to automatic saving. This time, however, there are ten save slots, meaning you can have up to ten saves going at the same time.
Upon a game’s conclusion, you’ll be in for the chance to change the tide with up to three bonus stars being rewarded to players who meet certain requirements. These requirements could include anything from moving the most amount of spaces or winning the most minigames to being a frequent visitor of Bowser spaces.. Following this, you’ll then be presented with the results as well as a unique group photo and a graph on how everyone performed in the game. It is a shame that none of the boards include their ending cinematic, which was often a lot of fun to watch.
If you’re serious about minigames, then it may be worth checking out Mt. Minigames from the Village Square. There’s a range of different modes where you’ll only be playing minigames.
Free Play lets you pick and choose from all 100 games for fun. You can choose from different categories to make it easier to find the game you want to play, such as Free-for-All, 2 vs. 2, High Score based, and even select from your favourites. It would’ve been nice to organise them by which game they originally appeared in, perhaps this could be implemented in the future. One neat feature though is that some minigames, such as Hot Rope Jump, Booksquirm, and Slot Car Derby present additional options, such as endless mode or stages.
Tag Match pits you and a teammate against another duo in random 2 vs. 2 minigames, whoever reaches the designated number of stars first wins. Trio Challenge has you and two teammates compete against a CPU opponent in packs of 1 vs. 3 minigames, depending on how well you perform will net you a lettered grade too.
Sports and Puzzles lets you play minigames that don’t appear in the regular Mario Party mode, such as Ice Hockey and Stick and Spin. You can also change some of the rules or play certain games solo to beat your high score. Coin Battle lets you compete in a range of Coin Minigames to see who can collect the most coins over a set number of rounds.
There’s also a couple of modes exclusive to online play. Survival pits you against a random assortment of players online in various minigames to see who can achieve the longest win-streak. You can compare your scores with other players online too. Daily Challenge presents three packs of minigames every day in which you can compete with other players. The more games you win, the more stars you earn.
Though it is a little disappointing there isn’t a dedicated solo mode this time round, there are still a lot of options on how you can play a bunch of minigames. Having a couple of modes that are dedicated to online competition is especially appreciated.
As you play through the game, you’ll earn yourself coins and experience points. These can be used to unlock new items in the shop, such as music to listen to from the game, encyclopedia pages that offer a little history and tips about the game, and even some stickers; these can be used to communicate with other people during multiplayer in a very cute way. I love using that one Blooper sticker whenever someone gets a star! I do wish there were more to choose from and unlock. I also wish there were a way to change the stickers assigned to buttons for my favourite ones. As it stands, you can only use the ‘Yes!’, ‘Whaaat?!’, ‘Congrats!’ and ‘Sorry’… stickers using L, R, Y, and X respectively.
One of the best things about Mario Party Superstars is something that Super Mario Party fumbled on previously… Online Play. Super Mario Party did have one online mode when it first launched three years ago in 2018, but it was an incredibly small part of the game. Earlier this year, however, the title did receive a free update that added online play to its board game and minigame modes. Unfortunately, the process of starting a game was a bit tedious, not to mention that, if one player disconnected, it would cause the entire game to quit out and force you to start all over again.
Mario Party Superstars fixes all of this. When you start the game, you’ll instantly be given the option to play Offline, Locally, or Online with friends or strangers. Every mode in the game can be accessed in online play. If you visit the Friend House, you can then invite friends and create a squad to take along with you. You can either opt for Voice Chat while playing with friends using the ever-popular Nintendo Switch Online mobile app, or communicate using stickers… I do love teasing people with a Bob-Omb sticker for when I’m getting impatient.
Playing Mario Party online with friends now lets you set the difficulty of any CPU players, unlike Super Mario Party which just set them to Normal. If you go it alone in online play, you will get automatically matched with other players based on your preferred boards and rules.
It’s amazing that we finally have an official way to play through an entire Mario Party game online with friends, something that fans have been clamouring for years for. Additionally, now every game saves after every turn, meaning that you and your friends can come back to a game if you need a little break. If someone disconnects, they are replaced by a CPU player and gets the option to rejoin the game at the beginning of the next turn. This feature is incredibly useful and reduces the amount of discord when someone disconnects due to the game crashing or the connection dropping. One modification I would love to see though is the option to bring an additional/replacement player in mid-game rather than having to disband the entire lobby.
Online play runs pretty smoothly for the most part… until you start playing with people from a different region. Unfortunately, we found that, once cross-continent play is involved, minigames can begin to lag to the point where it becomes significantly unplayable. Hopefully, this is something that can be sorted out with a patch somewhere down the line, but seeing how we are paying for this online service (moreso if you opted for the expansion subscription), experiencing this sort of performance is pretty unacceptable as it can become a huge barrier for friends that live in different parts of the world.
Those who know me well, or who tune into our Mario Party streams, will know that Mario Party is a series that I have many fond childhood memories of; the original created some of the happiest moments in gaming for me. Mario Party Superstars is a game I have been wishing for many years that updates everything that was amazing about Mario Party into the modern era. It’s something that this game does incredibly well. Admittedly I did tear up a fair amount of times when I first played through the game as memories from a simpler time come rushing back to me, and now I get to relive it with all the other friends I have made online over the years (assuming they aren’t too far away).
Mario Party Superstars should check just about all the boxes of any Mario Party fan. The game does a superb job of remaking a decent selection of boards and minigames while still keeping to the spirit of the originals. There are various quality of life improvements that help balance the difficulty and the inclusion of online play with all its modes allow friends to play together without having to physically be there. Though there are still a couple of improvements that could’ve been made and it would be welcome for a few more boards and minigames to be added down the line, I am happy to say that Mario Party Superstars is the true Super Star and is everything The Top 100 should have been! NDCube has proven that they are a worthy successor of Hudson Soft for the series.
Mario Party Superstars is out now exclusively for Nintendo Switch family systems.
Final Rating – 4.5 out of 5
I am a huge Nintendo fan, hence why NintyBuzz exists. I especially love all things Zelda and Metroid. NintyBuzz was started by me back in the Summer of 2014, it started out mainly as a hobby, though the site has gradually grown, and I hope it grows for many years to come!