Mario Party 10 succeeds in spite of itself.
As a series, Mario Party has seen better days. Back in the N64 days, the franchise was a veritable powerhouse, a classic of Nintendo’s stable on par with Mario Kart and Smash Bros. in terms of the multiplayer gaming fun that it followed. Equal parts of conservatism and radicalism in the following years caused it to lose the sheen it used to have, and while Mario Party still sells a lot, hardly anyone would put it on the kind of pedestal that they once would have.
Mario Party 10 itself is a culmination of this kind of schizophrenic progress the series has made over the years. At almost every turn and corner, there’s something that seems to exist solely to disrupt your enjoyment of the game, a series of frustrations that would, by all accounts, completely dismantle any other game. Yet, because of some fundamentally good gameplay, and intrinsic charm at its heart, Mario Party 10 manages to persevere and emerge on the other side as a game that still merits a recommendation- in certain situations.
As with all other Mario Party games, Mario Party 10 is Nintendo’s take on a board game. As with all of Nintendo’s other multiplayer properties, Mario Party 10 mixes player skill with unpredictable randomness that ensues in chaos, in an attempt to keep things fresh, fun, and on an even ground for even less skilled players. But unlike Smash Bros., which values skill, with a dash of randomness, or Mario Kart, which is equal parts skill and randomness, Mario Party is all randomness- any semblance of skill it once might have required gone thanks to the changes wrought on by Mario Party 9, which persist. Players still travel around the board in one communal car, and in the central Mario Party mode, even minigames have been de-emphasized. This means that the central Mario Party mode is, in fact, a total waste of time. There is nothing there. It represents the purest distillation of the destructive casualization the franchise has suffered over the years.
"The central Mario Party mode is, in fact, a total waste of time. There is nothing there. It represents the purest distillation of the destructive casualization the franchise has suffered over the years."
If the Mario Party mode were all that Mario Party 10 had, it would have been a disaster. Thankfully, the other two modes exist, and collectively, they can lead to the kind of mayhem that makes Mario Party so memorable. One of these is Amiibo Party. Amiibo Party requires, as the name implies, an Amiibo to actually play the mode, leading to some of the best and most active integration of Nintendo’s NFC figurines in a game yet. The actual Amiibo usage is limited to just tapping your Amiibo on the Gamepad each time you take a turn (like you would move your piece on the board on a game board), but still, it adds to the charm, and more importantly, little kids love it.
Amiibos aside, Amiibo Party also plays like classic Mario Party- each player moves his or her piece around the board individually, based on dice rolls, and progress is determined by a combination of strategy, foresight, skill at minigames, and random and unpredictable elements of chance. The minigames themselves are incredibly fun, and are the kind of thing that made Mario Party a mainstay of party gaming in the first place.
Amiibo Party definitely represents a step back in the right direction for the franchise, though there are still some points of contention here- for starters, Amiibos themselves represent an unnecessary cost (they don’t actually add to the gameplay) to access arguably the most desirable mode in the game, and a lot of college students, for instance, (lets not kid ourselves, college students and adults form a bulk of the audience for the game) may not want to be seen holding toy plastic figurines (although one can argue that when you’re playing Mario Party 10, you’re already too far down that road anyway).
There is also the fact that the complexity brought on by different boards in the older Mario Party games is still not a thing in Amiibo Party. Oh, different boards exist (and which one you get actually depends on which Amiibos you scan in at the beginning of the game), but there’s no tangible impact on the gameplay itself. The difference is all aesthetic.
Still, on the whole, Amiibo Party represents a step back in the right direction, and can offer players some great fun and party fuel. However, for as good as Amiibo Party is, the central attraction in this game is likely to be the Bowser Party mode.
"Amiibo Party represents a step back in the right direction, and can offer players some great fun and party fuel. However, for as good as Amiibo Party is, the central attraction in this game is likely to be the Bowser Party mode. "
One has to think about what Nintendo was thinking when they came up with Bowser Party- in every sense of the word, it is unbalanced, asymmetric, unfair, and generally just maniacally contemptuous of its players. Well, all of them but one. See, Bowser Party mode lets one player be Bowser, and be the antagonist to the other players. And chaos ensues.
Bowser is absolutely overpowered. He breaks the game. He gets four or five dice rolls, free perks to pull ahead of everyone else, and he gets to play against all the other players in minigames (on the Gamepad), and almost always win. If that sounds like a complete nightmare to you, it is. It is also the single most fun mode in Mario Party 10. Wars can break out over who will play as Bowser next, as playing as any of the other players is entirely trivialized. Bowser Party may completely nullify the older dynamic of Mario Party, but in turn, it adds a new one, one that exploits and leverages the player dynamic to its advantage.
Elsewhere, Mario Party 10 does well for itself. The game looks stunning and gorgeous, utilizing the Super Mario 3D World engine to great effect. It sounds well, has little to no glitches, and on the whole has that trademark Nintendo polish. An omission exists which brings the package down, and that is the lack of online play. Whereas personally, I am of the mind that Mario Party should be played with other players in the same room, or not at all, I also understand that that is not always practical, and for a lot of players and families, online play can be a boon. Unfortunately, it is not even an option that is offered, leading to another instance of the kind of three steps forward, two steps back design mentality that characterizes the entire game.
Is Mario Party 10 a good game? If the definition of a good game is one that is well made, and achieves what it set out to do, the answer is unequivocally a yes. It’s stunningly well made, and offers hours upon hours of fun between its three game modes. However, issues exist, such as the central Mario Party mode being almost completely trivialized, Amiibo Party’s unnecessary overhead, thanks to its requirement of Amiibos, and the lack of an online mode. For many families, Mario Party 10 will be an essential addition, and is wholly recommended- for everyone else, hold on tight. Mario Party 10 is indicative of Nintendo getting the series back on track, but it’s not there yet. The next one should be a return to the glory days.
This game was reviewed on Wii U.
Gorgeous graphics, great sound design, Bowser Party is absolutely broken and amazingly fun, Amiibo party represents a return to classic Mario Party
The lack of online play continues to devalue the package, the central Mario Party mode is pointless, Amiibo integration locks one of the best modes behind an unnecessary paywall, a lot of the nuances of classic Mario Party are still missing
For many families, Mario Party 10 will be an essential addition, and is wholly recommended- for everyone else, hold on tight. Mario Party 10 is indicative of Nintendo getting the series back on track, but it's not there yet. The next one should be a return to the glory days.