Growing up, my life was simple: Wake up, go to school, get back, play outside if it was nice, or hunker down in my playroom with a good video game if it wasn’t. Of course, having an older brother, I would play the classic 2K, Madden and Slugfest games, but where you would find me in my true element was around those loveable Italians with surprisingly impressive verts. More specifically, the Mario Party series. So now, with the experience and self-proclaimed expertise in this category, I have taken on the task of ranking the games I grew up on — which for continuity sake will be anything before Mario Party 5 and after Mario Party DS — so anyone reading this can hopefully get as much entertainment out of them as I did as a child and continue to now. With all that in mind, let’s-a-go.
No. 5: Mario Party 8
Every few years my family sells a couple video games from our stockpile to lighten the load, and I thought this game was included in one of our clean-outs several years back. Turns out we had it buried in one of our closets, but after playing it again for the first time in seven years, I honestly wish we had gotten rid of it when we had the chance.
The entire game takes place in a carnival with a tent representing each game mode. But where you are normally met with Toadsworth or a friendly star, the first glimpse you get of this game is an extremely unsettling MC named “Big Hat.” This self-proclaimed “master of catastrophe” is just that, with his terrifying wide smile, a hat that has a face of its own and on top of all that, an incredibly disturbing pair of voices, I have no idea what the appeal of this character was even supposed to be in the first place.
As for the gameplay itself, it doesn’t get much better. The graphics are horrible for a game made three years after Mario Party 7 and the Party Mode is pretty standard, minus the fact that they replaced the orbs in the previous games with poorly named candies that transform you into literal balls. The minigames, which are often the main appeal of these games, also lack immensely, with maybe the only memorable game being King of the Hill. They get points for adding Blooper as a playable character but that’s it.
Please save yourself the time and nightmares and stay as far away from this game as possible.
No. 4: Mario Party 7
Mario Party 7 takes place on a cruise ship and takes full advantage of it, offering different Party Mode maps in exotic locations. These maps also come with different ways of getting stars, allowing the player to pick how they want their game to go, whether it be classic, a race to the finish or getting lots of stars on the cheap.
Where this game separates itself is with its minigame modes. Along with classics such as Fun Run and Snow Ride, it also offers a variety of cool duel games while also being the first game to introduce the deluxe minigame mode, where up to eight players could compete at once. So basically, just imagine how excited people got when Smash Bros announced eight people could play at once and double that excitement because it’s Mario Party.
This is absolutely a good game to play, but the reason it is down low on my list is because it follows a pretty standard Mario Party algorithm. Aside from the addition of deluxe mode Birdo and Dry Bones as playable characters, it is almost a carbon copy of the previous games, which while enjoyable, is not enough to crack the top three.
No. 3: Mario Party DS
The main reason for this placement is because it allowed Mario Party to finally become portable, as it was the first game since Mario Party Advance to do so, but this time they did it successfully.
This was also the first game where the Party Mode itself is a part of the story, as the game begins with Bowser trapping and shrinking Mario and Co., with the only way to escape being winning the Party Mode and beating increasingly difficult bosses.
In terms of minigames, they transitioned seamlessly into using the stylist and mic functions while also mixing in some classic-styled games such as Hanger Management, Star Catchers and my personal favorite, Dust Buddies.
The game does not differentiate itself too much from the pack much like Mario Party 7, but I had to give the DS version that nod because it let us take Mario and the gang along wherever we went.
No. 2: Mario Party 6
I really like this game and, in an alternate universe, maybe it could be first. But for now, I have to go with my gut and put Mario Party 6 in the No. 2 spot.
The premise of this game is super cool, with a night-and-day feature that allows for a lot of variance in both Party Mode and minigames. This game also brought along a lot of firsts in the Mario Party world, such as a microphone option to add more flare to the minigames and a star bank that allowed you to earn points after completing a game that you can exchange for cool prizes.
As in every game, this one was stacked with top tier minigames like Granite Getaway, Snow Whirled, Lift Leapers and my favorite 2v2 minigame, Snow Brawl. But along with these minigames, in Mario Party 6’s “party bus” you also have a number of special games including Dunk Bros (basketball), Seer Terror (a Bowser Minigame) and Lab Brats (a maze that puts your wits to the test).
This game was incredibly memorable because of its alternating format as well as the sheer number of enjoyable minigames it had. But there can only be one No. 1.
No. 1: Mario Party 5
Being 100% transparent, we all knew this was going to be at the top of the list. This game set the precedent for all other Mario Party games to come and set an incredibly high bar that even the best of games has yet to reach. There is truly nothing that compares to the icon that is Mario Party 5.
The game is full of classic maps that all follow a dream theme which through gameplay, you find out are being tampered with by Bowser and his Koopa kids (this is before Bowser Jr. was a thing), leaving it up to you to save the dreams in the story mode. But for this next part I’m going to need you to think back to previous games and how good their minigames are, and throw all that out the window because — stop me if you’ve heard this before — nothing compares to Mario Party 5’s minigames.
Pushy Penguins, Hotel Goomba, Ground Pound Down, Triple Jump. Need I say more? And if the minigames weren’t enough for you on their own, there are games within the minigames like Minigame Wars, where you have to fill the board with the most spaces by winning the most games. The biggest thing you see in this game is its versatility, but they don’t stop there.
Like other games, Mario Party 5 also offers rarer games such as beach volleyball, ice hockey and a card game, but even more significantly than that, there is Super Duel Mode. Otherwise known as the Mario Kart before Mario Kart (even though Double Dash was released three days before this game). In Super Duel mode you get to build your own vehicle and duke it out in a multitude of games to earn yourself the top prize. It was a game entirely detached from the actual “Party” itself but added a whole new dimension to the versatility and coverage this game has.
It is the cream of the crop, as good as it gets and the undisputed No. 1 on this list.