Mario been partying for more than 17 years and each new romp feels a little less exciting than the last. New minigames and features attempt to make the gala more extraordinary than the last, but as gamers have been keen to notice, the atmosphere around Mario’s parties have been more lackluster than standout.After the lukewarm reception of Mario Party 9 on the Wii a few years back, many thought the series to be dead, or at best stagnant until some major changes came along. A new system means a new Mario Party, and though the sweeping changes the fanbase has begged for are nowhere to be seen, Mario Party 10 is still a fun game if you’ve got a group of friends to play it.
Never before has that qualifier been more relevant: you need a group of friends to enjoy this game. As with past Mario Party games, Mario Party 10 is best enjoyed when you have a group of four friends surrounding your TV and enjoying the commotion together. There are single player modes that can occupy your time, but without other people it isn’t much of a party. This adage has followed the series since its inception. The original Mario Parties had some incentive for playing solo: you could earn coins and stars which could be used to purchase and unlock new minigames. Mario Party 10 has unlockables in the form of a couple new characters to play, musical tracks to hear, and backgrounds to take pictures with, but nothing worthwhile to necessitate solo play. So really, now more than ever, you need others to play this game.
Here’s where I beg to differ with countless other reviewers out there: Mario Party 10 is a good game… assuming you can always play it with friends.
When it’s at its best, Mario Party 10 offers up a lot of fun for four players (or 5 if you want to play the cool new Bowser’s Party mode). First and foremost are the minigames: there are a lot of fun games in Mario Party 10. Who cares that some of them are luck based, it’s still pretty damn fun to fling yourself on a giant Wheel of Fortune board to score points, or flick a Bob-Omb onto a field of other Bob-Ombs in hopes of creating a chain reaction of exploding Bob-Ombs. I hear this gripe all the time about these games, and to be upfront about it, are you seriously that against having control over the game that you can’t take the game for what it is and just have fun? Sure, some of these games really screw you over even if you’re doing well, but I always laugh and have fun playing these games with my buds. Take the game for what it is and you’ll enjoy it: a party game that’s meant to be fun.
The biggest highlight of Mario Party 10 is Bowser’s Party. In this game mode the players work together to collectively run away from Bowser as he chases you on the board. This mode works extremely well with the one kart concept because here you are actually working together to get to the end and not also competing against one another. If/When there are future Mario Parties this game mode should be the only mode to contain the one kart style. Also kind of cool are the Boswer exclusive minigames in this mode. Each Bowser minigame has the players working against Bowser directly. Each game utilizes the Gamepad in somewhat creative ways, and come off as some of the most fun games of the bunch. If you can get five players together and have someone be Bowser in this mode the good times will roll.
An amiibo mode is also available that, quite surprisingly, is reminiscent of Mario Party of old. You control your character individually as they move across the board, and you’re goal is to end with the most stars. For all intents and purposes it is identical to the earliest games in the series. The boards, however, aren’t all that big though, but if you land on certain spaces or collect a specific item you can randomly change a wedge of the board to be themed after one of the playable characters (like Mario, Yoshi, Wario, etc.). Since this is an amiibo game you need to have some amiibo characters to play. All you really do is play a regular game of Mario Party but instead of just rolling dice by pressing a button you have the option of tapping your amiibo on the Gamepad to perform those actions. Each amiibo figurine can save any items and tokens they collect to use in a later game too. Ultimately this is a cool feature but devoid of any reason why amiibo need to be used. Still, it was fun to have an experience like the good ol’ days of Mario’s parties.
There are a handful of other modes to play outside of the standard board game modes. These include a frantic but fun game of badminton, a fun take on the match-3 puzzle genre, some games playing against Boswer Jr., and a few modes that let you just play minigames and completely avoid the board game aspect altogether. Aside from the badminton and match-3 games (which we have played a hell of a lot of lately) these modes are kind of throw away attractions. They’re nice if you just want to jump in and play a single game, but they aren’t substantial enough to keep you hooked for more than a few rounds. Just like everything else, your enjoyment of these modes will be directly linked to your proximity to friends who are also willing to play.
That being said, there is one issue I take with the game, which has sadly been a problem for some time now with the series: there aren’t enough instances to play games. With the series’ transition to less competitive board games and more cooperative movement, the opportunity to actually play minigames has dwindled. To put it in perspective, the first time I played Mario Party 10 I completed the board without ever facing Bowser and only playing 3 minigames. THREE MINIGAMES! This is entirely unacceptable for a Mario Party game. Since it’s all luck based on whether or not you get a minigame these instances can happen more often than they should. A simple option to turn up minigame play or something would have made that much better.
I have some grand hopes and expectations for Mario Party 11, should it ever come to be. First, keep the Bowser Party mode. It showcases the Gamepad and features some of the most creative and fun minigames in the game. Also, it is the perfect utilization of the single kart type of gameplay. Next, ditch the amiibo support and bring back the original Mario Party mode where you go across the game board by yourself and try to collect stars. I’ll meet you halfway and say we can keep the simple board design with themed swap-out pieces, just so long as we have the option of playing this different version of the game. Let’s keep the amiibo support but ramp up the possibilities: I liked having items on my amiibo figure that only I could use or see. It added to the surprise of each round. Add a few more slots to hold items and maybe have the ability to level up amiibo figures and give them more abilities (like starting with more dice or a special ability or something) and the mode will feel more substantial. Lastly, every game mode should be chock full of minigames. These are the core of the franchise and they shouldn’t be relegated to something that occasionally happens. Mario Party used to be a grand festival of friendship and betrayal, but recently it’s been diminished by poor gameplay and mechanics that miss the point of the series.
This review has been here and there because Mario Party 10 is torn between what it is and what it was. What it wants to be and what it isn’t. There are shining moments in the game, like the Bowser Party mode, but there are some glaring issues as well, like a lack of opportunity to play minigames. I can only recommend the game if you have friends to play with. Once Nintendo decides to take the fandom of this game seriously and bring back some features missing for a long time it’ll be the mighty king of party games it once was. Until then, this is a game for the socialite and casual gamer and no one else.