What better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary than with a party?
With the upcoming release of Mario Party Superstars, we here at NWR are very excited to put on our party hats, and return to some of the classic Mario Party boards and games that we’ve grown up with. But not all of us have grown up with the N64 boards that this upcoming title is remastering. Unfortunately, the first three N64 titles are hard to come by, as only Mario Party 2 saw a Virtual Console release. Some of us (myself included) did not start partying until the series hit it’s climax on the Nintendo GameCube. And you wanna talk about exclusive, hard to-come-by games; four titles remain exclusive to that system. With the beloved purple lunch box console turning twenty years old this year, I can’t help myself and hope that Mario Party Superstars will get some continued support in the form of DLC. I’ve heard many say that five boards being remastered seems a little low, and to each their own on that. But I do think it would be very fun to return to the first full fledged 3D boards that the GameCube showcased.. With that said, let’s take a look at the rundown from each game and discuss what that could look like.
Current Lineup for Mario Party Superstars
- Peach’s Birthday Cake - Mario Party 1
- Yoshi’s Tropical Island- Mario Party 1
- Space Land - Mario Party 2
- Horror Land - Mario Party 2
- Woody Woods - Mario Party 3
As cool as it would be for the GameCube boards to make a return, it should be noted that the GameCube era is heavily designed around specific gimmicks. Hudson began to experiment more with the series, with small ideas in each, meaning that a direct translation may be a bit tricky as the boards themselves are designed with mechanics specific to each game. If DLC happens, it’s worth asking if these boards are coming in full swing on how they were presented originally, or if they have been tweaked at all. In several cases, a few changes could actually fulfill an opportunity to improve these boards. But if the gimmicks that some of the boards are designed around are removed, it may leave players feeling a bit hollow when revisiting. Or not, it just depends on how the approach is handled. Suffice to say that these charming games are known for their personality, and while an HD revisit is something many players would like, removing instead of improving is a fine line to walk. And if you’ve played Mario Party with drinks, you know how hard it can be to walk in a straight line.
Mario Party 4 - Designed around Mini/Mega Mushrooms
It doesn’t get said enough, but Mario Party 4 was a lot of the Mario cast’s first appearance on the Nintendo GameCube, which is why it may look like it features the characters we are familiar with, but just slightly “off”. With the upgraded hardware, Nintendo opted to show off these higher poly characters via the Mega Mushroom and Mini Mushroom gimmick. Gone are the Skeleton Keys that locked off shortcuts on the board; instead there are now pipes that can only be accessed via Mini Mushrooms. Another emphasis are Mega Mushrooms, which predate New Super Mario Bros., but act similarly. Players use them to grow large, and stomp on other players, stealing coins in the process. The emphasis on these two items is abundant, with many spaces being devoted to replenishing a player’s inventory with them. If a board from this game were to be added, would they be reworked to remove or accommodate their design for these mushrooms? Let’s take a brief look at each of the boards. Mario Party 4 and 5 all feature boards with the classic gameplay: trade 20 coins for a star that jumps around the board. It will be redundant to mention that for each board, but we can discuss how things change a bit when getting to later games in the series.
Toad’s Midway Madness
This board is based on an amusement park that has roller coasters that players can ride to get around easier, which can also be used to move other players if they are on the roller coaster track. A common headache that players have is how the teacup junction can unfairly lock players in a loop on the board. If revisited, it may be worthwhile to add a feature that lets players pay to change the junction if they don’t want to stay in the loop.
Goomba’s Greedy Gala
You may catch a running theme here, Mario Party 4 has a tendency to lock off players in different parts of the board in endless loops. Goomba’s Greedy Gala is no different and features four distinct islands that players travel to via a roulette wheel deciding who goes where. Interestingly, players can pay off the Goomba who runs the wheel to spin in favor of where the Star is.
Shy Guy’s Jungle
The loop mechanic here is a little less of a headache, in that it divides the entire board. If the Shy Guy statue doesn’t like a player’s wish, it will flood the central part of the board, gating everyone off from half of the other part. There are ways to cross, with Klepto and a small raft being available. This is a much more bearable problem presented to players compared to other boards.
Boo’s Haunted Bash
Interestingly, there is no way to get stuck in a loop in this board, but there are still bridges that can gate off players. The central mechanic is if the player makes Red Boo appear, the Red Boo Bridges will also be present, allowing players quicker access to different parts of the board. But if the players have Red Boo vanish, the bridges follow, making the path around the board much longer. The upside though, is that there is a Ghost Train that players can ride when the Red Boos are not present, and this allows players to get to specific points instantly, and even strategically kidnap players to take with them.
Koopa’s Seaside Soirée
So far, all of the Mario Party 4 boards have been good picks, and this board is no exception. With the caveat like Toad’s Midway Madness, that it would be very nice if players can have a little more control in where they go when they reach a junction. This time around, it’s worse in that there is a 50/50 chance if a player goes the direction they need to, and there is no way to control it. The loop just to return to this spot is much longer than the one in Toad’s Midway Madness, making it much harsher for players. Again, some may really enjoy this randomness, but others may not. Maybe there could be an RNG option to preserve and also rectify this? Or is that too in the weeds?
Bowser’s Gnarly Party
Like every board before it, the bridges that collapse after being stepped on three times ensure that at least one player will be stuck in a loop. Adding an ability for that player to pay up to still progress would be handy, and make the penalty a little more forgiving. However, like the first board, many sadistic players may also relish in the completely unfair RNG system that Mario Party is known for. This board is one of the few to also feature Mini-Games that use the Mega Mushrooms. Would they bring back the wrestling mini-game with Bowser?
Mario Party 5 - Designed around capsules
It may have one of the most calming, serene themes, but the dream-centered Mario Party 5 is notorious for it’s reworking of the item system. Gone are shops in their entirety, and instead are capsules which are randomly distributed at specific locations on boards. These capsules can be used by the player in two different ways: throwing them across the board to change the effects of a board space, or using the capsule on oneself for a small fee. What is key here, is that the capsules that change the spaces on the board do not pledge allegiance to the player who threw the capsule. Anyone is vulnerable, which can make for a frustrating experience in terms of strategy, and a hilarious experience when approaching a game with a group of friends who want pure Mario Party chaos. Still, despite it’s surreal aesthetic, Mario Party 5’s experimentation of the item method leans more towards a cynical experience than a fun time. One more thing to mention is the new inclusion of Donkey Kong mini-games, as at the time he was removed as a playable character. If the base package and hypothetical DLC don’t include DK games, then it is unlikely that the DK spaces on the boards will return as well. But the real question is, will the colorful Koopa Kids and Paper Mario’s Star Spirits make a return?
Likely the first board players will have played back in the day, this would have been the first instance where many see a Mario Party board in full 3D. It features a few events where players can ride a train, get launched from a cannon, etc. Truthfully, there isn’t much of a gimmick here. It’s more of an excuse to showcase some 3D modeling for it’s time.
Like Goomba’s Greedy Gala in Mario Party 4, this board features islands that are connected by a central mechanic. But this time, there are toll bridges on each island that connect them, making it a bit easier to get around. There really isn’t much else going on, it’s a big loop cut up into four smaller loops.
So far, this board has the most going on in terms of traversal. There isn’t much to it gimmick-wise, but there are Whomps that block paths that you can pay to pass. You can also pay Thwomps to ride as a shortcut. Thematically, it’s interesting, even if it’s a reused idea. It could look very nice given a remaster treatment.
Unfortunately, the trend in Mario Party 5 that you may have noticed is that things are all very by the numbers at this point, which is probably why it’s sequel mixes things up. The Undersea Dream is yet another pretty board, with not a whole lot going on. It serves the classic gameplay fine, but isn’t too memorable. In terms of board layout, it is very reminiscent of Shy Guy’s Jungle Jam from Mario Party 4, with the two connecting bridges in the center. Ironically, this whole board is underwater though.
The islands that are connected return, with the inclusion of teleporters and rocket ships for transportation. The only big difference from Goomba’s Greedy Gala and Rainbow Dream is that this board features only three islands rather than four, making players feel a little less spread out and probably less intimidated at chasing down a star that is far away. And while the next frontier is a great setting, Mario Party Superstars is already bringing back Space Land from Mario Party 2, so if you ask me, that lowers this board's chances of being brought back because I imagine they’d want to be a bit less redundant in their theming.
Another board that has a predecessor that already is being revitalized… Peach’s Birthday Cake from the first Mario Party has been the most shown board for the new game. It’s not completely out of the question, Nintendo often makes decisions with reasoning we don’t understand (like what if they don’t have GameCube DLC?), so who is to say another desert-themed party board couldn’t be added? This board features cookie bridges that crumble when crossed, closing off a route and opening up another. It’s something we’d expect from Mario Party 4 to be frank.
The largest and most spread out board, it also features a small gimmick! If you have played Mario Party 2, you may recall the Blooper Carousel in Bowser Land. This concept returns with a ring of red spaces, a Bowser space, and two escape spaces. Players continue to travel in a small loop where they are drained of coins, until they manage to land on a space that lets them escape.
Mario Party 6 - Designed around reworked capsules and day/night system
Mario Party 6 brings a lot of experimentation to the classic gameplay. Only two boards present the traditional “20 coins per Star Space that jumps around” concept, which has been used in all of the previous titles. One board has players chasing each other to steal stars, rather than adding any to the economy. Another board has one Star Space in the center that has a shifting price, which allows players to buy multiple stars; a mechanic brought back in other games including Super Mario Party on the Nintendo Switch. Returning from Mario Party 2’s Horror Land board, is the day/night mechanic, but this time every board and many mini-games have it. Every three turns, the time of day will shift and the board will reflect changes. Lastly, capsules do return and work similar to before, except now they can be purchased from shops like the older titles and the ”thrown” capsules do not affect the players who threw them.
The first of two boards in the game that have the classic gameplay. There really isn’t much to say about this board, it’s a solid choice. However, with the inclusion of Woody Woods from Mario Party 3 already present, it is unlikely this could be chosen.
E. Gadd’s Garage
One of the few inclusions of the full-time ghost hunter that isn’t set in a haunted location, E. Gadd’s Garage features classic gameplay with lots of rotating paths. If capsules don’t return, and items are used, the special event spaces that mix-up capsules could still work fine.
The first shake-up in the lineup has a Traverse Town-looking area with only one spot on the board where players can purchase stars, but the twist is that players can purchase up to a whopping five stars at a time, if they can pay for it. In the daytime, the stars cost 20 coins, but at night, the price fluctuates randomly.
Rather than asking players to chase down a Star Space for 20 coins, instead players start off with a handful of stars, and then pay to ride Chain Chomps around the board to steal stars from other players. It’s Mario Party’s version of cat-and-mouse. At night, access to the center part of the board is gated off by Freezies, meaning players are either safe, or left very vulnerable to have their stars stolen. Paper Mario fans may also recognize that Whacka makes an appearance!
A linear approach is taken for the first time on this board, where players race around a tropical island to meet Donkey Kong who acts as the Star Space. If the players give Donkey Kong 20 coins, they get the star. Not too different from the classic gameplay, albeit the linear approach. That said there are a handful of forks in the road for players to pick from, so it’s not a fully straight line to the goal. After reaching the end, players are sent back to the beginning and the cycle repeats. The catch here is that once Donkey Kong gives out a Star, he and Bowser swap places. Bowser steals coins from the player, and there are multiple ways through the day/night cycle to have the duo shift positions before players reach the end. In a way, it’s a game of chicken, and a race with other players.
Donkey Kong and Bowser return once more to give out stars, but aren’t confined to a single space this time. Instead, they actually roam the board just like players do, dice blocks and all. Depending on the time of day, will dictate which character is roaming. The fun here is trying to catch Donkey Kong to get a Star, but risking getting too close and having Bowser show up when night falls.
Mario Party 7 - Designed around more experimentation of boards
In this final entry on the Nintendo GameCube, night time is removed entirely in this entry, but otherwise, it is a straightforward sequel to its predecessor. The theme is a trip around the world, with each destination having a new spin on the classic gameplay. Mario Party 7 also really emphasizes Mic Mini-Games and even boasts having eight-player play, but those are likely not on the discussion for boards coming to the Switch title.
An Italy-themed board that is much more traditional, leaning on the 20 coins per star gameplay where the star space hops around.
A Chinese-themed board that merges Faire Square and Castaway Bay from Mario Party 6. In this stage, players will have to climb up a linear path to reach a character that will allow a player to purchase a star for a price that increases for every star bought. Only one star can be bought at a time, and the price returns to its lowest amount after reaching the highest. It’s a race to get to the top when the stars are cheap, and an effort to stay away as long as possible when they are expensive.
An Egyptian-themed board that acts as a spiritual successor to Mario Party 6’s Snowflake Lake. Players pay to ride Chain Chomps and steal stars from other players, with the added inclusion of a souped-up Red Chain Chomp that allows players to roll three dice blocks for maximum coverage.
An American-themed (and one may argue RNG-themed) board that has three potential Star Spaces, except only one of them is real at a time. Players will have to reach one of the spaces where a treasure chest is located that they can pay to open. A Star may be inside, or a small coin profit, or a bomb that resets the player’s position. Once the Star is discovered, the chests all reset, and the random goose chase begins anew.
A Dutch-themed board that tackles a monopoly-styled concept of players “owning” certain spots on the board. The more coins a player puts into their space, the more it is worth, which is a substitute for having Stars. If a player puts more money into another player's space then what is already in it, that property will be stolen. These spots are windmills, and each has a different value of stars that players can obtain, so long as they own the space.
Bowser’s Enchanted Inferno!
The final board of this game returns back to the classic gameplay of 20 coins a star, with it jumping around, just like in Grand Canal. It harkens back to other familiar mechanics, like having four islands to traverse, and even being an amusement park, like Mario Party 2’s Bowser Land.
Needless to say, if Nintendo does decide to pursue DLC for Mario Party Superstars, or maybe even do a sequel with the GameCube games, there are more than a handful of good choices to pick from. If I were to pick, I would struggle. I am incredibly nostalgic for all of these games, but Mario Party 6 and 7 offer a variety that the base game doesn’t have and that Mario Party 4 and 5 can’t really provide. That said, I think it would still be interesting to pick my own list. To make it easier, I am going to pick just four, one from each game. My picks would be… (and this is hard, I am having to make some serious sacrifices here people!)
Goomba’s Greedy Gala - Mario Party 4
This would be the only board with various islands to visit, which is represented in many of the GameCube games. It has a stylish setting, and a lot of folk complain that Mario Party 4’s board designs are brought down by the reused board walkway that is in every board. The design of that walkway fits the best in this board because of it’s large, box-like shape with lights on it.
Bowser Nightmare - Mario Party 5
This one was the easiest and hardest to pick from. Like I mentioned earlier, as great as Mario Party 5 is, it’s just hit the wall in terms of it’s board creativity. It actually puts a lot more effort into its side modes of all things. Plus, with the Space and Sweet Dreams easily being taken out of consideration, I thought that it wouldn’t really be a Mario Party without a Bowser-themed board. That deadly circular trap in the center of the board can make for some real fun.
Snowflake Lake - Mario Party 6
One of the most unique ideas brought to the series that hasn’t been explored too much aside from the sequel’s Pyramid Park. I’ve always really loved the idea of stealing stars from other players in any Mario Party, and to have a whole board dedicated to that, is a lot of fun. It keeps the players engaged with one another more than ever before. Nintendo tried fixing that problem with the car mechanic in later games, but I really think they solved it way before, back in this game. Maybe make it a little less easy to sneak in to the safe zone before night falls though.
Pagoda Peak - Mario Party 7
Picking this board felt like I was compromising with how I picked Snowflake Lake. Pagoda Peak combines Castaway Bay and Faire Square. Mario Party 7 has some other boards with other really fun and unique twists, but this one felt like it was easily catching some of the best ideas of Mario Party 6 as well.
There you have it folks. Of course, everyone will have different lists. We went through all of the boards, and you saw just how many great options there were. Which is why, myself and probably many others are interested in what you all think! Let us know down in the comments what four boards you would pick.If they sold DLC that was more content than the original, that would be something. And if I could pick one board from Mario Party 8, it’d have to be Koopa’s Tycoon Town. That monopoly concept meets Mario Party is hours of fun, and a very similar concept was first used in Windmillville in Mario Party 7! Who knows, maybe if they do actually announce DLC, it will be more N64 boards that leverage the board mechanics and gameplay of the base game. But alas, we are all done. Now I can finally rest easy. No more boards to think about. Nope. None whatsoever.
Now let’s talk about DLC mini-games.