Mario Party's Rise And Fall: Can Nintendo Revive This Once Proud Franchise?
Can Online Party Mode Save The Day?
Mario Party has been a staple on Nintendo consoles since its debut on the Nintendo 64 in 1998. Mario Party gained massive popularity by using popular Nintendo characters as the game pieces on a round-based, board game style multiplayer delight. Over the past 23 years, Mario Party has sold over 39 million copies worldwide.
With big success, however, comes big expectations. Over the years, Mario Party's popularity has declined through some questionable changes made to the gameplay in later years.
Today we will look at Mario Party's history, how it gained popularity, what changes caused its decline, and how the addition of online multiplayer to Super Mario Party could possibly revive this floundering franchise.
How did Mario Party gain popularity?
To begin this analysis, allow me to explain how Mario Party is played.
Party Mode begins with the players agreeing to the number of rounds in the game and any specific rules they want to be set. Players roll dice to see who goes first, and the game begins. After each round, players are matched up in four-player mini-game battles. Depending on the round results, the mini-game to be played could be a 1v1v1v1, 2v2, or a 1v3 setup.
The goal for the players is to collect the most stars during the game. To buy the stars, coins must be obtained by landing on certain spots on the board, winning mini-games, or using power-up items (added in Mario Party 2.) After the game is finished, the player with the most stars is deemed the winner.
Allowing up to 4 players, Mario Party's Party Mode brought a fresh, exciting style to couch co-op games. Family and friends getting together to compete on strategy-based board game rounds and exhilarating mini-game battles were a perfect combination of fun.
Every Mario Party has unique gameboards. Each board has a unique theme, ways to travel, obstacles, and sometimes a different star buying system. The variety of boards make each game feel a little different and keeps players interested over multiple games.
Mario Party took couch co-op games to a new level, becoming a smash-hit for Nintendo. Gamers across the world loved the unique party game style and embraced the multiplayer excitement.
Why is Mario Party's popularity declining?
Almost every sequel of Mario Party has received an attack from reviewers for lacking originality. In Nintendo's defense, outside of reviewers, the board game/mini-game battle gameplay is still popular with most players. That element is the bread and butter of the franchise.
Where Nintendo went wrong, in my opinion, is twofold.
The first problem is with Mario Party 9 & 10. Nintendo decided to show the reviewers that their originality was not lacking for once. For this reason, I believe the addition of the car to the board game element of the game was born.
In the car, each player rides together but still gets to roll the die once per round. After each roll, the car moves the number of spaces rolled, bringing every player along for the ride.
While not exactly game-breaking or joy-less, the car took away a vital part of the game's excitement, the strategic gameplay fans of the series crave. While the options of screwing over your friends were still there somewhat, the car neutered the element of freedom and setting up friends for disaster in a diabolical way.
The second part of Mario Party's decline is something that Nintendo has been way behind on for many years. Yeah, you know what I am about to say:
Online Party Mode.
When Mario Party 8 debuted on the Wii in 2007, online multiplayer was extremely popular on other consoles. However, Nintendo was not ready for it. Not even in 2018, when Super Mario Party released on the Switch.
Seriously, Nintendo did not offer the whole experience of online Party Mode when they released Super Mario Party in 2018. Cue the huge sigh.
While it was nice to see they did go back to the classic gameplay style of players roaming the board individually, not being able to play Party Mode against friends online was a big L for Nintendo (and I don't mean Luigi.)
In this day and age, just about everyone plays games online. The culture is established that people stay at home and connect with friends online. Since all of my multiplayer sessions are with friends from around the world, online mode is a big deal for me. So I sold my copy of Super Mario Party after only a few days.
I'm sure this is a familiar circumstance for many owners of Super Mario Party.
Also, in the age of live streaming, Mario Party is a game primed to be enjoyed by viewers watching their favorite streamers play against friends online in Party Mode battles.
How can Nintendo revive Mario Party's popularity?
Simple: Online Party Mode.
As of this writing, Nintendo has stepped up. On April 27, 2021, it was announced that Super Mario Party will now include online Party Mode! A free update to the game gives players access to challenge their friends in online matches. Players need a paid subscription to Nintendo Switch Online to play.
About frickin' time, Nintendo.
While this update does not make Super Mario Party perfect (*cough* more boards *cough*,) it is a massive leap in the right direction for the franchise to regain some popularity.
Lastly, I have an idea that I will put in the "a Nintendo Fan is never satisfied category." Nintendo should make a Fall Guys-type game using their characters and a ton of mini-games from previous iterations of Mario Party. Title it Super Mario Party Ultimate. It would print money.
Nintendo, you're welcome.
What do you think? Are there any other reasons you feel Mario Party's popularity has declined over the years? What are your ideas to help revitalize the franchise?