Super Mario Party, the newest addition to the Mario Party series, is a great reboot of a game that’s been around since 1998. Designed as a party game where players compete against each other to be the Superstar, Mario Party has always been about playing with others. One main difference between this version and past versions of Mario Party is its online functionality. Now, with online functionality, people can play Super Mario Party with friends, family, or strangers online.
Who needs others, though? I’ve played every Mario Party game, and I’ve usually played them alone. Despite (or maybe because of) the fact that I had older siblings, I usually played games alone. When looking for a fun game to play, it never fazed me that Mario Party was meant to be played with multiple people.
Super Mario Party does have a single-player mode for people who want to play alone. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about pitting myself against three AI characters, and playing a classic board of Mario Party, as if they were all next to me in my living room.
And Super Mario Party—the entire Mario Party series—doesn’t care whether my opponents are human or computer. When it asks me how many human players will be participating, there is no judgment when the answer is one.
Mario Party has always been infuriating. It’s a series all about random dice rolls, bad luck and hijinks. Like the Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart games, Mario Party wants everyone to suffer and succeed at different intervals. They’re not meant to be taken seriously, even though they are taken very seriously. But at the end of each session, you still have your friends, who endured as much pain as you had, who sat through as much bullshit as you did.
By contrast, Mario Party is much more mellow when playing alone. When something bad happens to a human player, their anger lingers. They remember when one player stole a star from another, and they go into the game with plans of how to steal from their friends. But computer players groan at their own misfortune for only a moment before moving on. It’s honestly refreshing to see the characters so carefree. They jump for joy when they get a star, they’ll kick the ground when they lose one, but nothing within them changes. There’s no chair flinging or cursing, and even though that’s become what Mario Party is about, I also find pleasure in the times when the game is a little more quiet, when the stakes are extremely low.
Playing Mario Party alone can give off a negative connotation. Playing other party games alone, like Guitar Hero or Just Dance, can be viewed as a way to improve a score or certain skills. Mario Party only requires skill in its mini-games, and even those aren’t always decided by a player’s ability. So playing alone can be viewed as sad or lonely.
I’m sure for some there is some truth to that. But for others, like myself, playing through a board with my Nintendo friends is just a chill way to play an otherwise chaotic game. Super Mario Party almost feels like the cheeriest of games. Whereas previous versions tried to create a sense of togetherness by trapping all the characters in a car, Super Mario Party rewards players with extra coins if they high-five each other. When a cheery, blue toad asks me to high-five my AI buddies, it asks me if I feel closer to them, and the answer is always yes. That’s what Super Mario Party means to me: it might seem like a competition needs others, but making friends can be just as good if they’re the digital kind.
Shonté Daniels is a poet who occasionally writes about games. Her games writing has appeared in Kill Screen, Motherboard, Waypoint and elsewhere. Her poetry can be seen at Puerto del Sol, Baltimore Review, Phoebe, and others literary journals. Check out Shonte-Daniels.com for a full archive, or follow her for sporadic tweeting.