The Mario Party franchise has been delighting fans and tearing friendships apart via the slings and arrows of minigame competition since its first entry released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998. As with many of Nintendo’s ongoing series, it has attempted to celebrate this legacy with titles like 2017’s Mario Party: The Top 100 on 3DS. That celebration was not particularly well-received, but the upcoming Mario Party Superstars looks to have much more going for it.
Whereas The Top 100 was primarily a minigame collection without the chaotic board game connective tissue fans know and love, Mario Party Superstars looks to be a traditional Mario Party throwback in the modern era. It has five boards from the Nintendo 64 trilogy recreated in high-definition, as well as 100 minigames pulled from across the series’ storied history. Plus, unlike the last Switch venture Super Mario Party, it is launching with extensive online features. Nintendo has never been particularly forward-thinking with its online multiplayer, but new details unveiled ahead of Superstars‘ October 29 launch suggests it may set a golden standard going forward.
Mario Party Superstars’ Online Systems
A trailer released via Nintendo of America’s official Twitter account on October 12 reveals further details. To mitigate issues with potentially toxic players (an issue Nintendo often tries to circumvent given its family-friendly nature), most in-game communication takes place using pre-made stickers. However, arguably its most important revelation is that Mario Party Superstars lets users pause a game and continue it at a later point while playing online. This kind of foresight isn’t often seen in Nintendo’s games, but fits perfectly for something like Mario Party where each individual session can last hours at a time.
Nintendo Should Take Superstars’ Foresight Into the Future
Nintendo has struggled to adapt to a largely online era of gaming, with even its latest Nintendo Switch Online subscription program drawing criticism for lackluster performance – even as the company attempts to sweeten that deal with retro game libraries, including upcoming N64 and Sega Genesis titles. Its bread-and-butter has typically been couch co-op thanks to series like Mario Party, Mario Kart, and Super Smash Bros. No console better exemplefied this than the N64, so it would have made sense for Nintendo to let Mario Party Superstars thrive primarily in local play as part of its throwback nature.
However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is for online experiences to keep friends and families playing together. It’s vital moreso now than ever to create games with functioning and convenient online experience in order to stay relevant. Super Mario Party added online features three years into its life to seemingly help fit this standard, but that long wait is just one example of Nintendo’s slow growth. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, an almost entirely communal game, became a smash hit in 2020 as lockdowns kicked off worldwide, but it was criticized for clumsy online implementation and a slow drip-feed of updates.
Based on these early details for Mario Party Superstars, it may not have these same issues. The game certainly could suffer from Nintendo Switch Online’s poor performance in general, but having everything online multiplayer capable at launch is huge for the series. The ability to suspend online games part-way through for friend groups who may only have a limited time to play together is also a basic but much-appreciated improvement that suggest Nintendo’s umbrella of developers are learning from the past. If the game is able to focus updates entirely on additional Mario Party content rather than integral online features, it may have a long life ahead – one that other Nintendo games can learn from.