Mario Party Superstars (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Jorge Ba-oh 30.10.2021

Review for Mario Party Superstars on Nintendo Switch

Nintendo have been breathing new life into its legacy titles in the last few years, celebrating key milestone anniversaries for some of its biggest names. From Super Mario 3D All-Stars to embracing nostalgia by introducing the Nintendo 64 to the Nintendo Switch Online service, there's increasing value in these past treasures.

One franchise that started on that very console was Mario Party, a formula that breaks friendships as quick as it cements them! A family favourite from day one that has morphed into various incarnations over the years. Wanting to celebrate and honour the legacy, developer NDcube dips back through time to brew up a greatest-hits collection of past boards and mini-games. Does Mario Party Superstars celebrate the series in a grand way, or is it simply repackaged nostalgia?

The Mario Party series started off at the hands of the now defunct Hudson. The studio had already dabbled in fierce multiplayer competition with an annual "Caravan Festival", seeing players across Japan compete for glory. Mario Party was a simple concept that rewarded skill, with a sprinkling of luck to even the odds. Compete in mini-games, earn coins and buy stars. At the end of the session, whoever had the most stars took crowning glory and eternal bragging rights. Simple, effective and a unique concept that brought four players around the tele for a night of party fun.

Since then, the series evolved and introduced numerous mechanics for a bit more strategy to proceedings. Items and gated shortcuts helped mix up the formula slightly, as well as more environmental changes like day/night cycles. Hudson continued churning out almost-annual instalments up until Mario Party 8. The majority of these permanently glued into consoles as fan-favourites. NDcube, made up of some past Hudson staff, carried the Mario Party torch from then on, shifting the series into unique territory - involving cars, grids, and motion controls. Whilst not as well-received; it was interesting to see the studio try to breathe new life into a series that had inched closer to becoming the party-variant of annual sports games.

Fans have been urging Nintendo to take the series back to its core roots. Super Mario Party introduced more classic mechanics; ushering in what felt like a return to form; but still not quite there when it came to the game board design of old. NDcube set out to go full-circle, looping back to the Nintendo 64 era with Mario Party Superstars - a collection of boards from the first three titles; and 100 mini-games from across the entire catalogue. Unlike Super Mario Party, it's a truly stripped back affair - taking the series back to its roots. Four players, a handful of items and a lust to become the very best. No specific dice, duo modes or assist characters - it's core Mario Party, spruced up for the current generation.

Screenshot for Mario Party Superstars on Nintendo Switch

From the opening sequence to the hub world; everything screams Nintendo 64. That sense of whimsy; the visual nods to the first game, from the outset it's clear that NDcube have done their homework when it comes to drawing from the past games. Mario Party Superstars keeps the tone and visual aesthetic but enhances various aspects to modernise the entire package. A fair few members of the production team have been with the series since the Nintendo 64 heyday; so in a way the new game honours their contributions as well.

For those familiar with the series, there's an immense satisfaction diving into the past games to see just how they've been spruced up - whether its striking water particles or sunsets soaring overhead; the game is gorgeous to look at. The boards have been completely rebuilt from the ground up, maintaining their quirky concepts, but with a lick of delicious new textures and geometry to keep things fresh. The quality extends to the musical selection as well, with board music revamped and remixed; going even harder in the last five turns with a slightly more original arrangement. NDcube have even added the relevant jingles to each of the mini-games; a neat touch to really cement that dive back to the past.

Those coming into the game blind are presented with something new and visually exciting to tuck into, even if without those nostalgia filled goggles - Mario Party Superstars doesn't miss a beat when it comes to presentation.

Screenshot for Mario Party Superstars on Nintendo Switch

In the launch package there are five classic boards to play through, spanning the original Nintendo 64 trilogy. "Yoshi's Tropical Island" and "Peach's Birthday Cake" are nabbed from the first game and are a good introduction to getting players up to speed on the frantic frenzy that is Mario Party. Both have been spruced up aesthetically and with some interesting tweaks to the layout - with the latter mixing up the formula so players actually want to visit Bowser instead of avoiding the beast completely. The remaining boards have been extracted from Mario Party 2 and Mario Party 3 and up the ante significantly.

"Space Land" and "Horror Land" were amongst the fan-favourites from the second Mario Party game, introducing event-driven mechanics, gated routes, and multiple paths to mix things up significantly. "Woody Woods", the only board from Mario Party 3, is the hardest to navigate from the bunch, with pesky moles that can make or break a solid run up to a star! The boards honour the source material exceptionally well, with extra flourishes to leave players with a smile - whether it's the first time you've experienced these worlds or not. What's most interesting is that NDcube seem to have approached the selection of boards as a cohesive package - sitting together nicely, rather than feeling as if they've been simply plucked from different games.

It is a shame, however, that there weren't at least one or two additional boards to add to the mix given the pool available. At least an additional Mario Party 3 board would have rounded off the selection perfectly.

With 100 minigames on offer, spanning the first ten games, surely there must be a few dull notes in there, surely? The short answer is that it's a set of well curated greatest hits. Having tucked into each, there's a good balance of playstyles, from trying to survive a drop to the sea in "Mushroom Mix-Up" to assembling scrumptious cakes in "Cake Factory", there's a wide range to enjoy. In terms of controls, many feel like the originals in pacing, rules, and flow, however a handful make things a little bit less clunky and more intuitive - especially for newcomers.

Screenshot for Mario Party Superstars on Nintendo Switch

Harking back to the '90s, those who played the original Mario Party titles would know that they can last a significant time - hours, not minutes. Fortunately, some of the quality-of-life changes from Super Mario Party have been maintained - faster movement to speed up each turn, and even displaying the current turn prominently on the screen. Settings wise, there are a wealth of options available - from setting bonus stars to the type of mini-game on offer. It keeps players engaged, especially in an age where hands in-avertedly gravitate towards phones!

Stickers - which express all sort of emotions (excitement, rage, and sassy passive-aggressive chuckling) can be trigged by players throughout the match, keeping things exciting. Did a rival lose all their coins and is now in last place? "Accidentally" plop a "Yes!" sticker on the screen and embrace the silence in the room or in the online airwaves.

Speaking of online, Mario Party Superstars feels as if it were built for online play. For the first time, public full matches are available for those who want to face off foes from the ground the globe. These generally have gone off without a hitch, with dropped players replaced by computer players to keep things flowing - fortunately! Super Mario Party introduced friend lobbies through an update but had significant issues with connectivity - ending the game abruptly if a player dropped connection. This time round NDcube have introduced a fairer approach; with dropped friends being temporarily replaced by a CPU until they're able to hop back in. Save files also allow a fairer way of resuming play; making it a significant leap over past attempts at cracking the online space.

Screenshot for Mario Party Superstars on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Mario Party Superstars is a comeback tour for the series, a love letter to frantic marathon runs and celebrates Mario Party in a truly spectacular way. An impressive package that's stitched together with striking visuals, an upgraded soundtrack and robust online play.

There is certainly potential to expand on the concept with DLC - whether it be additional boards or characters. Fans have been clamouring for an entry along these lines for years; and Mario Party Superstars is a celebration fans and newcomers will want an invitation to. Grab a controller and become a superstar!


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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   


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