clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Mario and friend play Mushroom Mix-Up in Mario Party Superstars

Filed under:

Mario Party Superstars is the series’ best entry

It’s easy to be the best when you’re pulling from a franchise’s greatest hits

Image: Nintendo via YouTube
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

Mario Party Superstars revels in its own history. It’s as much a museum as it is a party, and like all good museums, Mario Party Superstars is for everyone to enjoy. Superstars makes what was old new again, and that benefits multiple generations of partiers.

Every mini-game and map in Superstars is pulled from a previous series entry, so the whole thing functions more like a Mario Party collection than an actual new game. The updated versions of these parties look modern, filled with vibrant colors and crisp edges, but the boards’ rulesets are almost entirely the same as they have been for two decades. In this way, Mario Party Superstars is the antithesis of Super Mario Party — the only other Mario Party game on Nintendo Switch. Where Super Mario Party evolves the series with new mechanics like character-specific blocks and duos modes, Superstars keeps it old school with simple two-button mini-games, zero motion controls, and no character-specific advantages.

While the five arenas are remasters of maps from the first three Mario Party games, the mini-games themselves are cleaved from a wider swath of the series’ history. That’s how you can play Booksquirm (from Mario Party 4 on GameCube, and the series’ best game) while on Peach’s Birthday Cake (a board from Mario Party, the 1998 Nintendo 64 game).

From a purely qualitative standpoint, Mario Party Superstars is the first Mario Party game in history to have more good mini-games than bad. But how could it not? Nintendo stacks the deck in its own favor, picking the best of the best out of dozens of Mario Party boards, and 1,000 mini-games, from throughout the series. Bumper Balls? Mushroom Mix-Up? Face Lift? Shy Guy Says? Bowser’s Big Blast? They’re all here. Nearly every mini-game that popped up had me shouting “oh this one,” in a delighted tone. It’s the Mario Party equivalent of a greatest hits album.

Mario Party experiences have always varied widely based on the real-world crew you’re playing with. For this review, I played Mario Party Superstars with two full groups that couldn’t be more different, and the observations surprised me.

What stood out to me when playing with my parents and my wife were Superstars’ simplicity and accessibility. My mother, who never plays games, is normally a major holdup with Mario Party, refusing to pay attention and frustrating everyone. But with Superstars, the lack of complexity and overloaded mechanics (unique characters and motion-based physical actions, to name a couple) kept her engaged the entire time. When our 20-turn game was over, my mother had actually enjoyed her first Mario Party — not because it’s magically more fun than it used to be, but because it’s as easy to pick up and understand as Sorry!, Uno, or Dominos.

When playing with my nephews, on the other hand, Superstars became more of an exciting historical artifact. When the screenshot of the Nintendo 64 version of our board flashed across the screen, one of the twins was immediately drawn in, prompting a conversation about what it was like to play on the Nintendo 64 all the way back in 1998.

For me, Mario Party Superstars is a remake from when I was their age. But to my nephews, this was an educational experience — a look back at boards and mini-games that were old and clunky by the time they could hold a controller. It’s odd to say a Mario Party is educational, but I was able to share some of my favorite childhood memories with my nephews because of this game — like when your parents drive you by the apartments they lived in before you were born, except less boring.

Luigi gets unlucky with Bowser on Peach’s Birthday Cake in Mario Party Superstars Image: Nintendo via YouTube

Mario Party Superstars is great because it’s both exciting and malleable, filling a variety of different roles depending on who is playing. For a parent, it’s an easy-to-understand game that’s fun to break out every few weeks. For younger generations, it’s an enjoyable glimpse into video game history, and a not-incredibly-boring way to connect with your grumpy, old uncle. And for those of us who’ve been partying since 1998, it’s a lovingly crafted blast of nostalgia.

But in the end, despite its value for video game preservation and appreciation, Mario Party Superstars is more than that. It’s a collection of Mario Party’s best work, perfect for veteran partiers, newcomers, and everyone in-between.

Mario Party Superstars will be released on Oct. 29 on Nintendo Switch. The game was reviewed using a pre-release download code provided by Nintendo. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.