Mario Party: The Top 100 (Nintendo 3DS) Review

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Originally announced in September during a Nintendo Direct, the idea of Mario Party: The Top 100 took me back to a time when the series was pure. A time before the dreaded car of Mario Party 9, a time where I could spend hours roaming the same paths, yet draw from them a refreshing and unique experience nonetheless. It took me back to the days where Mario Party truly was a game to end friendships, to break controllers. For all the steps and missteps Mario has taken since this golden age, can The Top 100 reignite the flames of this smouldering series?

Games of Gods

The premise of The Top 100 is made clear in its name; a collection of minigames that for so long served as the backbone of the series. To be considered a top 100, these games had to be the best of the best, and yet be balanced in a way so not to leave fans of any single Mario Party game dissatisfied. Be it through intense focus testing or simply the passion of the development team, I felt a connection to the 100 chosen. Far more frequently than I had anticipated, I found myself transported to a state of child-like excitement, recalling moments of my favourite games appeared before me at a critical point of a party. Of course, akin to its predecessors, The Top 100 doesn’t give you access to every one of the games from the start, instead relying on a key game mode as means of progression.

Welcome to the Island

Minigame Island is quite unremarkably home to the game’s mass storage of classic gems. Starting with as few as 55 minigames, it lies on your shoulders to work your way through the challenges of this unforgiving climate, and rise above the rest to reveal the bulk of the game. The nature of the island is really quite simplistic; each space representing a different minigame. Depending on how you fare in said game, you’ll get between one and three stars, as well as the game being added to your collection. While this mode does nothing revolutionary, it provides you with an opportunity to work through the games you perhaps don’t recognise, and may have otherwise overlooked. As well as this, it allows you to set a high score for each game before challenging your friends, giving them something real and competitive to play against; in oppose to the ridiculously low standards set by default. 

Board Games

The evolution of Mario Party is something really quite interesting. From its humble N64 beginnings, it’s seen fancy dress, stamp collecting, dream hopping, even a simple birthday party. Though the theme may have changed, the core gameplay remained a constant and consistent joy. A great number of factors contributed to this end to create something brilliantly unpredictable, where even those who have been behind from the start have a chance right up to the last turn. This chaos is in my opinion the foundation of a successful Mario Party game; and it is in this The Top 100 is flawed.

Minigame Match is a mode where players have the opportunity to traverse a simple board, collecting coins and exchanging them for stars as they go. The formula sounds right; it feels like the basic level required for a Mario Party game to be well received. Where the game falls short is in its modern approach to board games. No longer can a player losing catch up in a twist of fate befitting a lottery draw, nor can a person be knocked from their pedestal should they forge a solid lead. I would compare it to removing the Blue Shell from Mario Kart; it ultimately aims to create an experience far more reliant on skill than luck, and ultimately takes away the very spirit of Mario Party. This isn’t a trait unique to The Top 100, the board design lifted from the previous release Star Rush. Wait, what rush?

A Jaded History

Perhaps the most charming part of this game comes not from the gameplay, but from the menus, and a small series guide nestled away within the collection. For younger players who saw Mario Party 8, or even 9 and 10 as an entry point, a look back at what they missed—to put a face to the owner of the minigames they aren’t familiar with—it’s a fantastic idea. Or at least, it had the potential to be a fantastic idea. 

For reasons beyond my comprehension this series guide remains incomplete, disregarding portable entries into the series. While I can appreciate the minigames of Mario Party Advance being relatively obscure in nature and ill-suited for a game like this, I find myself unable to reason its omission in this context. Mario Party DS I share similar feelings, however struggle to even justify its lack of minigame representation, especially with the 3DS being so well suited to the nature of these games. It would be easy to write it off by saying it simply has no games befitting of a top 100, but when housing such joys as Rail Riders, Camera Shy, and Peek-a-Boo, the argument swiftly weakens. While I fail to recall minigames from the 3DS entries, I echo my disappointment of their absence in the series guide. I understand this isn’t necessarily a big deal for most, but for a game to be celebrating a series, and yet so blatantly ignore a portion of it is something I feel should be brought to attention. 

In Closing

Ultimately, Mario Party: The Top 100 is a fun game. If you’ve been a fan of the series as long as I have (or perhaps even longer), I guarantee there is some joy to be found in reliving the minigames that once tore you from your friends. Of course, this must be balanced with the disappointment of how the games have turned away from the very nature of events that lead to the aforementioned fallings out; perhaps for the better? I think not. While its shortcomings don’t necessarily hold it back as an individual entity, its place in the larger scope of the series puts an unexpected spotlight on them. 

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