On November 1st, Mario Party 1 and 2 were made available for Nintendo Switch Online.
Technically, this marks the third and fourth games in the Mario Party series to appear on the Switch. The first one, 2018’s Super Mario Party, was advertised as a return to the franchise’s roots. While it accomplished that, the mini-games were lacking in imagination and challenge. A follow-up, 2021’s Mario Party Superstars, saw Nintendo remake old boards and mini-games rather than working from the ground up. While not a perfect game, I had so much fun playing it that my wife and I went through a couple of games on our honeymoon, including in the airport terminal, before taking the redeye flight home.
A common theme runs through both these Mario Party titles: accessibility. The gams feel fair and welcoming to everyone, adding a level of chance and randomness that truly gives everyone a shot. The original Mario Party, released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64, kicks that to the curb and sends it packing.
The game is straight-up unforgiving and brutal, often mocking your misfortune.
The Original Mario Party Will Hit You With a Wave of Nostalgia
Playing through the original Mario Party brings back an avalanche of memories. MIni-games with unfamiliar names become instantly recognizable once you enter the lobby. You begin to recall that coins are a very precious commodity. Bowser’s presence is impossible to ignore, especially on certain boards (looking at you, Mario’s Rainbow Castle).
End-of-game star rewards are also locked into the same three options every time. Recent Mario Party titles added a sense of randomness to the equation. Just because you land on a bunch of question mark spaces doesn’t mean you’ll always get a bonus star. In the original Mario Party, however, it 100% does, which means that someone will get rewarded for the (at times) punishing events these spaces create.
It only grows from there. Chance Time events can completely swing momentum around to your favor or misfortune. Those stars you’ve earned? Yeah, they’re gone now because someone hit a couple of blocks, and you got unlucky.
Don’t get me started on Bowser’s Chance Time, either. Your opponents will laugh as fate decides your outcome. There’s a reason the game’s announcer says, “Chance…Time??”
If you think your opponents will take it easy on you, think again. I forgot how important single-player mini-games are in Mario Party. If you’re fortunate enough to land on them a couple of times, it’s a great way to get some easy coins.
Mario Party Superstars gave us a taste of how difficult these boards can be. It didn’t prepare us, though, for the mini-games. I’m not talking about how some give you blisters; I’m talking about how these games can make you depressed.
I Hope You Brought Your A-game for These Mini-games
To call Mario Parrty’s mini-games intense is an understatement. Games will live or die by your performance in them. Grab Bag, a four-player mini-game, has players literally stealing coins from their opponents. The same is said for the one-versus-three mini-game, Crane Game. One Player can pick up a coin, a bag of coins, or a chest. Or, they can gamble for big money and pick up a player, stealing a non-trivial amount of their coins if they succeed. Bombsketball, a two-player mini-game, is over when one team scores. It can all end in a blink of an eye, meaning you’re losing coins while your opponents gain them.
This doesn’t consider the skill needed in some of these games. Are Mario Party mini-games the pinnacle of platforming? No, far from it, honestly. Are they more skill intensive and difficult than modern releases? Absolutely. You need to earn those coins!
The number of times my wife and I have struggled and failed at some mini-games is embarrassing. We’re not bad at games, either; I promise! We performed better once we got acclimated to the challenge. Still, the margin for error is razor-thin. The number of times one of us won a mini-game due to a last-second adjustment or clutch play is too numerous to count.
Maybe this is why Mario Party is so beloved. We all remember spinning the Nintendo 64’s analog stick and getting blisters. We remember starting fights over stealing stars. Yet we forget the little details that made this game so frustrating, yet amazing. Losing coins in mini-games, getting unlucky in Chance Time events, and the board screwing us over; are all memories we most likely repressed into the deep recesses of our brains.
I Can’t Help but Keep Coming Back to Mario Party. Maybe I Just Want To Feel Pain?
For me, they slowly came crawling back as we played more Mario Party. By the end of each game, we sat in misery and frustration. The game mocks whoever came in last place, kicking them out of the celebration and showcasing a board-specific “punishment” that feels straight out of a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Mario Party isn’t impossibly hard, but it’s a brutal and ruthless experience that we enjoy playing because it makes victory that much sweeter.