Gather your friends. Roll the dice. Play some mini-games. Collect some coins. Buy some Stars. Become the Super-Star.
If you’re reading this little review, on this site of all places, chances are, you know how Mario Party works. Chances are, also, that you think Mario Party 2 to be the highest point of the series. Well, those aren’t the most likely chances, that’s just what I hope you think.
In case you’ve never heard of or experienced a classic Mario Party game, Mario Party 2‘s gameplay and rules are pretty simple. You and some friends, and/or computer AIs, pick and play a board-game-style board, as any one of eight Mario franchise characters (superficial differences, only), taking turns.
Your steps are determined by the numbers on the die that you roll, with the basic objective of each board being a collection of enough coinage to be able to buy “Stars” from pre-annoying-voice Toads. The player with the most Stars wins by becoming a Super-Star. Whatever that is.
Between each round of turns, you get to play minigames, winning which reward you with points. Of course, there are many other special shenanigans to be had, with purchasable items that can benefit you and/or harm the other character (like stealing a Star), battle minigames, duels, special stage environmental events and a lot of this and that.
Looking back it at 17 years later, the visuals of Mario Party 2 aren’t what you would call technically impressive for its time, but the charm oozes from everywhere.
Whether it’s the adorably-themed amusement park-esque boards such as “Space Land” or “Horror Land” (not that Horrorland) or the cute outfits that Mario and friends (all going through their chubby N64 phase) don for each theme, it’s all too much, but it’s great.
It harkens back to a younger Nintendo when the image of Mario games wasn’t as manufactured and paint-by-numbers as it is today. Mario and co were still experimenting and finding their proper place in the fairly new three-dimensional world.
There is a childish, playtime quality to the whole affair that really compliments its happy “party” gameplay. Sure, some of the minigames are the definition of what many have come to call “friendship breakers”, but really, it’s hard to stay mad at anything when playing this game with a group of friends.
As an adult, pairing it with a few alcoholic beverages makes it all the better. It helps that the controls for both the board and mini-game segments are simplistic and easy for “non-gamers” to understand almost immediately unless a game involves button-mashing. Everyone is screwed then.
Some fantastic mini-games here, both returning from the first Mario Party as well as new ones, include “Bombs Away”, “TOAD in the Box”, “Look Away”, “Mecha-Marathon”, “Sneak ‘n’ Snore”, “Hot Bob-omb” and a whole lot more. Most of these games have, by now, become iconic, and unlike some of the newer games, there are very few mini-games you hope don’t get picked or get bored of playing.
There are a few, however, like “Move to the Music” that were possibly made by Satan, and suck. To quote Wario and Luigi, “Oh I…missed!” (I refuse to believe that they’re saying anything else), or something, apparently, potentially sacrilegious if you’re in Japan.
Mario Party 2 is the staple of the series that every following game should learn from. That’s not to say that there haven’t been any good Mario Party games since, but it’s safe to say that the series has recently lost its way. (After a string of confusing cheaply-made and rushed titles like Party 9 and 10, the most recent title is a collection of the 100 best Mario Party mini-games…without any boards…on the 3DS…not on the Switch…)
I hope for the day that we see a true successor to Mario Party 2 on a modern Nintendo home console, though perhaps its better to enjoy what we had, for now: the best Mario Party game.
Just try and avoid the “wearing sunglasses indoor simulator” port on the Wii U.
“Way Back Review” is a somewhat recurring column by Maxwell N where he reviews and talks about games of all shapes and sizes, classics and obscure gems, from….well, way back.