‘Mario Party‘ became a very special property to a very select group of kids growing up. Anyone who still fondly remembers the holes they burnt into their palms playing Mario Party on the ’64 can count themselves as part of that exclusive club.
I was pretty excited to see a compilation of Mario Party’s best minigames – especially when I got a code just before I headed home for the holidays to see my brother and sister, both of whom had lost skin to the franchise decades prior. Over Christmas my siblings and I – whose real-life rivalries today were forged in the fires of Mario Party – rinsed the minigames all over again and had a blast doing so.
Gameplay & Multiplayer:
The Top 100 is a collection of Mario Party’s best minigames, as curated by Nintendo. As such there are bound to be some missing favourites for most people, but nothing so egregious as to cause mass-panic. Overall it’s a great selection that manages to present quality content that represents two decades of Mario Party.
I was a big fan of the somewhat controversial Mario Party 10, released on Wii U. Sticking everyone together and forgoing the classic boardgame in favour of a more directed, focused fight for stars and minigame supremacy made the title a lot more immediate and fun, and helped make sure less aggressive or competent players never felt left behind. As much of a fan as shaking things up as I was, getting rid of the board game completely with the Top 100 felt like a risky move to me. After spending a fair chunk of time with the title, I feel this fear was valid but not overly important in the long run.
Indeed, without the constant greed for coins and stars to drive everyone into a hyper-competitive frenzy the minigames feel slightly neutered at first – without that capitalist incentive for sending your loved ones to their untimely doom everyone tends to play a bit nicer than they would normally. There is a very over simplified version of the board game here but it works mostly as a platform for the minigames and doesn’t engender that same spirit of screwing someone over for the sake of it. For the first time in Mario Party history I prioritised lasting relationships with loved ones SLIGHTLY higher than underhanded tactics that would score me victory and burn bridges. Still, the core of the games are fun, fast and addictive and before long we were gnashing teeth and calling each other names like the good old days. My group constantly said “okay this is the last game” before seeing what came up next and agreeing on another.
What is frustrating is the need to unlock a number of these 100, which meant I had to play the game in its single player mode before I could play all the games I wanted with friends and family. Locking content for a multiplayer focused game behind lacklustre single player content seems like an obvious faux-pas, especially as the AI just aren’t interesting enough to make the games as fun as battling mates.
Thankfully Nintendo make the right decision in other important areas. In a great move the entire experience is available through Download Play, which meant that through my one copy of the game everyone was able to download the data and join me in the multiplayer madness. It’s a generous choice not to gate content off behind multiple cart purchases, so Nintendo have got to be commended for that.
The Top 100 excels in its presentation. Mario Party games are hard to go back to once you’ve gotten used to newer iterations, so to have a home for all the best games from the past 20 years is great. It also means you won’t have to set up old systems and hunt for spare controllers to aging hardware just to find out who’s the champ at Bombs Away (it was me, by the way).
Best of all, these games have all been given a lick of paint and made to a wonderfully unified style and standard. The colourful menus are easy to navigate, games are relatively quick and hassle free to set up and the music is exciting.
“Mario Party: The Top 100” feels a little defanged at times, thanks to the lack of intense rivalry the classic board game can muster. This lack of venom means that friendships won’t be destroyed as easily as before, but maybe that’s a good thing. A Mario Party game which focuses on fun and guilt-free hijinks is a just fine, after all, and this collection of phenomenal mini-games is perfect for a quick session with mates or a deeper dive into Mario Party history.