I have been purchasing and playing Mario Party games since the series began back in 1998 on the Nintendo 64. But as a relative loner in real life, it’s hardly ever been a party for me. Aside from the odd family gathering, most of my Mario Party career has been me against AI opponents. Mario Party Superstars finally lets me play online with strangers, giving me the challenging human rivals I’ve craved, without having to let them into my house to eat my food and steal my pets.
It’s not that I don’t like hanging out with other people. I just don’t want them in my home. Feeding them, entertaining them, making them feel welcome, it’s all such a chore. I already have a spouse and two children, none of whom want to play Mario Party with me. Mario Party Superstars allows me to connect in an appropriately limited sense with three complete strangers who just want to play some party games and then get on with their lives.
Online play first came to Mario Party in 2018’s Super Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch, but it wasn’t the online play I wanted, at least not at first. That game launched with the ability to play a series of minigames online, but not the actual board game. Online board game play wasn’t added until April of 2021, long after I’d completely given up on the game.
Mario Party Superstars has online play right out of the box. Real online play, with dice rolling and item shopping, event squares and minigames. Within minutes of going online and picking which of the game’s five boards you want to play on, you’re connected with four other players and ready to go.
Do yourself a favour before going online: make sure you have enough time to play. Fifteen turns of Mario Party with four people can take between 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how quick everyone is to respond. Unlike real life, or real life as I imagine it, there are no breaks for drinks, smokes, tickle fights, or whatever else people do in small groups. Fortunately, since it’s all online, you can go to the bathroom while playing and they’ll never know.
Communication in Mario Party Superstars online is done through a simple set of sticker messages, none of which calls Princess Peach dirty names for dominating all the minigames. You’ve got your “Congrats!” and “Yes!” and “Wahhh!” but nothing offensive or hurtful.
This communication system creates the illusion of a bunch of loving friends having good-natured fun, no matter how loudly I curse at my Switch. It also lets people know they are not alone, which is the whole point here. Without these stickers and people being slow to ready up for minigames, you might-as-well be playing an especially clever AI.
The human connection, though tenuous, is important to making a Mario Party game fun. Knowing that the Mario your Birdo teamed up with to destroy Peach and Waluigi in that game where you have to pass cherries back and forth is a real person makes me appreciate them more as a player. When it is their time to roll, I am watching a person roll the dice, and not a robot.
For a loner like me, this is just enough human interaction to make Mario Party Superstars feel like a real party. It’s special and unpredictable. Best of all, I get double experience for playing online, so it helps me raise my Mario Party Superstars profile faster.
Even when I lose horribly.