Friday, March 9, 2012

Rank Up! - Mario Party

Mario Party 9 is the latest in the long-running board game franchise, and it has already partied hearty in Europe among other places. It releases in North America on Sunday, so it seems like the perfect place for Rank Up! Rank Up! is where I take a video game series and list the games from least favorite to most favorite. Before we can begin, however, we must view which Mario Party games we'll be ranking up:

Mario Party (N64)
Mario Party 2 (N64)
Mario Party 3 (N64)
Mario Party 4 (GCN)
Mario Party 5 (GCN)
Mario Party 6 (GCN)
Mario Party 7 (GCN)
Mario Party 8 (Wii)
Mario Party Advance (GBA)
Mario Party DS (DS)

Mario Party is the type of game that can played by everyone. It is notorious for sometimes having it be that the best player doesn't always win. Perhaps that is the draw of the series for many. Plus, who can resist playing as your favorite Mushroom Kingdom denizen and participating in themed boards, themed mini-games, and all-night gaming sessions with one's friends? Certainly not me. Let's start ranking!

10) Mario Party Advance (GBA)

Who loves to party alone? Well, again, certainly not me, and that is what you end up with, a party by your lonesome, in Mario Party Advance. The main mode is called Shroom City where you roll a die and move around a nonlinear city in search of citizens to help out with missions. The actual mini-games themselves are enjoyable enough, but after a few short hours of play you will have seen everything there is to be worth seeing in Mario Party Advance. This is why it starts off our Rank Up! list.

9) Mario Party 7 (GCN)

Introducing new 8-player mini-games which are played by two players sharing one controller and continuing with Mario Party 6's mic mini-games, Mario Party 7 is the weakest of the GameCube Mario Party games. After failing a game because the mic didn't understand what I spoke, I promptly turned it off. Then there's Bowser Time which happens after every five turns. Bowser messes with the board, places his spaces all over, sometimes steals a star from first place, makes players lose 10-20 coins, etc. Don't forget how duel mini-games are treated. You no longer get to choose what each player bets. Instead, a roulette spins for the victor. I didn't even mention how bonus stars are randomly chosen from one of six categories, so good luck with making any resemblance of a strategy to get them this time around. These three annoyances make the game all the more luck-based. No thanks, Mario Party 7. No thanks.

8) Mario Party 8 (Wii)

The Wii's first Mario Party was Mario Party 8, and it smells like a GameCube up-port. Many of the mini-games rely heavily on waggle, something that bothered me greatly about early Wii titles, and the single-player mode (Star Battle) must be played at least twice if you wish to unlock all of the characters. Seeing as this mode is painful to play, this is not acceptable. There's also a flurry of luck-based mini-games such as Cut from the Team which has each player taking turns snipping one of many ropes with a pair of scissors. The catch is that some of these ropes are booby trapped and will send an unfortunate player flying out of the game. While there are some good times to be had with Mario Party 8, it isn't anywhere near the best the series has to offer.

7) Mario Party 4 (GCN)

My problem with Mario Party 4, as fun as it is, is with the Mega and Mini Mushrooms. You can only get through certain sections of the six boards with a specific type of mushroom. This makes some boards a perplexing hassle. As for the mini-games, there's some entertaining ones to be found such as Three Throw where you chuck balls into various moving baskets rewarding different amounts of points, Avalanche! where you snowboard down a mountain, avoiding objects that will halt your progress and get your engulfed by the titular danger, and there's GOOOOOOOAL!! which pits three players against one goalie. The goal (pun intended) is to score ten points within the time limit.

6) Mario Party 5 (GCN)

Mario Party 5 showcased a new item system for the series, capsules. These came in many varieties and had many benefits to them. Some gave you an extra dice roll to work with, some transported you directly to the star, while others made perfectly normal spaces hazardous to land on. I don't have the best memories of this Mario Party, but I remember my brother crying tears of boredom in one of the many dream-themed boards. At least the mini-games are mostly a treat to play with few ones that rely more on luck than skill.

5) Mario Party DS (DS)

Utilizing every little feature of the Nintendo DS, no matter how big or how small, the Mario Party franchise finally received a competent handheld entry. Mario Party DS was just that. It used the mic for mini-games requiring you to blow into the device, it used touch screen controls, and it, of course, used regular old buttons, too. Whether you're scrambling on a soccer field to avoid the balls kicked by a Goomba or participating in a boss battle against a blow-hardy Piranha Plant, Mario Party DS perfectly presented the standard Mario Party formula without much in the way of sacrifice. Up to four players could game on locally off one game cart and up to four DS systems. Now that is something special!

4) Mario Party 3 (N64)

Mario Party 3 is my least favorite of the Nintendo 64 Mario Party trilogy, but it is still an incredibly capable party game. The solo mode is like a mini RPG where you team up with a character and parade around several Duel Boards. The challenger who takes out the other opponent first by taking down their hit points wins. The multiplayer madness of the past Mario Party games is still present, and the mini-games are as marvelous as ever. Chip Shot Challenge harks to Mario Golf where each player chips a shot and hopes it gets as close to the pin as possible, Eye Sore refers to Super Mario 64's Mr. I with the goal of running laps around the one-time Mario enemy to make the foe smaller and smaller until it is defeated, and Awful Tower is a vertical challenge which pits players against a perilous platforming trial of making it to the top of the tower while dodging the attacks of Hammer Bros. Mario Party 3 takes the party to a new level.

3) Mario Party 6 (GCN)

Each Mario Party tries to shake the formula up by presenting a new and fresh concept to the series. Mario Party 6 successfully attempts this by showing off a day and night cycle system. Every three turns the board switches from day to night and vice versa. Boards change drastically. For instance, during the day of Faire Square the cost of a star is always twenty coins, but when night falls over the pleasant town the price can alter anywhere between 5 and 40 coins. Plus you can buy up to five at any visit. Bowser returns with new mini-games where the losers must pay a big price if they falter, and Donkey Kong assists with his brand of beneficial games. The solo mode also helps allow players to easily collect new mini-games without needing to rely on the luck of the draw in multiplayer. Overall, Mario Party 6 is one of the best parties Mario has ever held, but it is not the best.

2) Mario Party (N64)

Let us take things back to a simpler time where there were not as many variables in the luck department. You had simpler boards, one-player mini-games, less spaces to worry about, and a Yasunori Mitsuda-composed soundtrack. Mario Party came out on the Nintendo 64 and took the world by storm. It started the popular series and created its own genre which many attempted to copy but many failed. Each board was named after one of the six characters in the game, and stars were twenty coins each time. Mario Party was also the only game in the series to have four player cooperative games like Running of the Bulb. However, the one glaring fault with Mario Party are the mini-games that require the player to move the analog stick fast and furiously in circles. Not only did this produce painful blisters, but these games were almost impossible to win when playing against even the easiest AI. This oversight aside, the original Mario Party is second best on our list.

1) Mario Party 2 (N64)

The party to outperform all parties, Mario Party 2 is the ultimate fiesta held by the portly plumber. Offering mini-games new and old (taken from the previous installment), there were many new ways to play. There were six themed boards such as Pirate Land, Western Land, and even Bowser Land where the Mushroom Kingdom cast dressed up in different costumes. New to the series was the addition of items. These could be purchased at a shop or won in all-new Item Mini-games. You could win Mushrooms, Golden Mushrooms, Skeleton Keys, and much more to increase your chances of winning. Marvelous mini-games include the returning Platform Peril and Bumper Balls, new ones like Lava Tile Isle, Sky Pilots, Speed Hockey, and Bumper Balloon Cars. If you are looking for the party to end all parties, Mario Party 2 is the one to play.


I'm all partied out for now, but rest assured I will be ready to play and review Mario Party 9 for when that time comes. I don't like to rush my reviews, but I will have it out within a week or two of release. Until then, what did you think about this edition of Rank Up? Sound off in the comments section.


Matt Sainsbury said...

Really good list there, and I can't believe that I've actually played all of these games in hindsight... this series has always had me coming back for more.

That said, the one disagreement I have is that Mario Party should be dead last for the simple fact that it could (and in my case, did) cause serious hand injuries from the way you had to play some of the minigames to be competitive.

That's why it's the second game, and not the original on the Wii Virtual Console :)

Anonymous said...

Ah Mario Party, probably my favorite Mario spin-off series though I do enjoy the Mario VS DK series and Mario Kart. I haven't played 1, 3, or the DS one and only played a little of 8, but I remembered not liking it much. My favorite one is 6 and I was very happy to see it so high up. I love all the platforming mini-games (Lift Leapers is my all-time favorite minigame) and I liked what they did with Duel games. 2 is awesome as well but I haven't played it in ages and I don't think I'd enjoy it as much due to the state of my controllers :(

(This is the guy who corrected you on the Rhythm Heaven Fever review btw)

TiggyPudding said...

Mostly agree with that list, though I would've put 7 higher.