Game Recs

25 years later, Nintendo's revolutionary party game is still going strong

How to lose a friend in 20 minutes.

Timing is everything. Whether it’s vaccines, exercise, or Godzilla, choosing the perfect moment to do something can be tricky. Video games are all about timing, but they’re often a solo venture. Two players can go co-op, or head-to-head, but if you want four or more player, you’re almost always limited to looters or shooters. Is there any casual fun to be had? Does it involve mustachioed heroes?

Yes and yes. The Mario Party franchise burst on the scene in 1997, pitting friend against friend in cutthroat minigames designed to establish lifelong grievances. An instant success for the N64, its subsequent sequels (Mario Party 2 and Mario Party 3) just came to Nintendo Switch Online. There’s never been a better time to work on your rage quits and find out who your friends really are.

Both Mario Party 2 and Mario Party 3 offer up loads of what has made the franchise an all-time best seller. For the uninitiated, the premise is simple. It’s a board game. With Mario and friends. Bowser lurks around each stage doing nasty things while four players race around the board collecting coins and, ultimately, stars to earn first place. Doesn’t sound treacherous yet, right?

The mini-games are why you play. There are dozens in each game ranging from classic arcade fare like relay races and king-of-the-hill antics to more creative challenges like tracing shapes to straight-up puzzles. Games can be a free-for-all, 2 vs. 2, or 1 vs. 3 depending on how each turn resolves. Alliances are formed and rivalries established in the blink of an eye, especially due to the wide assortment of betrayal items that let you steal coins, stars, or placement on the board.

Instruction booklets, what a concept!Nintendo of America

You can play online with friends but YMMV because Nintendo is Nintendo so connectivity problems may arise. A global online mode lets you play against three random players, but only by yourself. However, if you play with friends you can have multiple players on one Switch. One co-op upside to the board game format is it makes it very easy to pass the controller around, too. It’s also a much better vibe in-person, so if you’ve never had an in-person Mario Party experience put that on your bucket list.

These games are better with a friend but still fun solo. The CPU players can offer a ludicrous challenge on hard mode that rivals anything Souls-like. Think the Godskin Duo in Elden Ring is cheap? Try winning Frigid Bridges on Super Hard difficulty.

“The wheel of fortune turns round incessantly, and who can say to himself, I shall today be uppermost.” - Waluigi (probably)Nintendo of America

There are potentially dozens if not hundreds (maybe thousands!) of hours of playtime here too. Across both titles, there are nearly 130 minigames, and different game modes give you the flexibility to hop in no matter your schedule. There's almost a mobile game feel to Mario Party for how easy it is to have a quick session and play silly games for a few minutes.

The game boards themselves offer tons of variety, each with different secrets and surprises. Some beloved maps, like Space Land, debuted in these releases. Admire the aesthetics before betraying a lifelong friend to score a point in a video game. Give them a scar that’ll never heal, just for funsies! Play it ASAP.

Mario Party 2 and Mario Party 3 are now available on Nintendo Switch Online as part of the N64 Expansion Pack.

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