By the time Mario had his first Party, the guy had been around the block a few times. In fact, if you take 1985’s Super Mario Bros. as the debut of the one true “Mario,” the company mascot and signpost of quality that Nintendo continues to employ as its own animated Seal of Approval, the first Mario Party from 1998 becomes more than just a gathering among friends: It was a Bar Mitzvah. Super Mario was thirteen now, the age of burgeoning manhood. The Nintendo 64 provided the cartridge-based temple, its four controller ports an automatic dance floor; there were just enough spots for two couples, or two sets of rivals, or four awkward teens, bobbing aimlessly to the rhythmic sounds of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
In truth, the boardgame take on Mario & Friends’ video adventures inspired fierce competition, manic joystick wobbling, and more than a few rulesets for when to swig the Manischewitz. This week, the tenth home iteration of the long-running series launches on Wii U. Each traffics in the same cadences: The roll of the die, the race to the finish, the non-sequitur escape from a school of Boos. If you’ve missed a Party or two (or ten), fret not: Here is the definitive ranking for all thirteen Mario Party games, based on very scientific formulae not unlike the end-game dice rolls that scoot the loser to the front of the pack at the last moment, like some virtuous deity looking out for the most fragile among us. Shalom, Mario.
Of course, the best Mario Party game is likely the one you’ve played most with your friends. Or perhaps the worst Mario Party game is the one you’ve played most with your friends, because they no longer want to be your friends since that one time you overcame great odds, snatching victory from defeat with a one-in-a-million dice roll (and a well-timed prod with your elbow).
Time for a rematch.