While I’m sure most Nintendo fans have their attention focused on Super Mario Odyssey and the upcoming Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, I’ve (admittedly) been intrigued at the prospect of a new Mario Party game. Sure, I think we would all prefer a proper entry on the Nintendo Switch, but Mario Party: The Top 100 offers the allure of nostalgia, with (you guessed it) 100 of the series best minigames thrown into one convenient package. As someone who grew up with fond memories of the Nintendo 64-era titles, I was looking forward to revisiting Bumper Balls and Hexagon Heat with a few friends in tow.
It’s disheartening then, that The Top 100 doesn’t attempt to capitalize on said nostalgia, instead opting for a handful of uninspired modes that fail to recapture the experiences that I (and I’m sure others) remember from their childhood.
If you were looking forward to playing through a variety of game boards, you’d best look elsewhere. Most of The Top 100’s modes revolve around playing minigame after minigame, with some slight differences here and there. Championship Battles has you playing a few minigame battles to determine a winner, while Decathlon focuses on playing a small set of minigames to set personal records. There’s also the option to simply play any minigame you want, though you’ll have to work your way through the game’s single-player mode in order to unlock each minigame.
The campaign, dubbed “Minigame Island”, is more tedious than exciting, as you’re tasked with working your way through a good chunk of the game’s minigames, one after another. This doesn’t play out on a game board mind you, but rather on a linear path, similar to the overworlds from classic Super Mario Bros. titles. There are four worlds to work through, with each one culminating in a 1 on 1 battle against a boss character.
It’s truly a shame that Minigame Island never tries to go above and beyond the call of duty. Sure, it’s entirely skippable, but you’ll be forced to play through it once in order to unlock all of the game’s minigames, so in reality, most players will be have to slog their way through. Thankfully, you don’t need to actually win each minigame to proceed, you only have to place in the top three (that is to say, don’t place last). This in and of itself is a godsend, since some minigames are entirely based around luck. While I originally set out to place first on each minigame in order to get three-star ratings across the board, I quickly abandoned this goal once I realized that random chance would stand in my way.
Lastly, there’s Minigame Match, a very watered-down version of the Mario Party you remember from generations past. Four players take turns rolling dice and moving their selected characters around a very small game board, collecting items, coins, and most importantly, stars. Sadly, this board is shockingly simple, and lacks any of the charm and themes seen in game boards from past entries. What’s weirder is that this mode doesn’t have a set schedule of minigames, and while playing, I often went a few turns without playing any sort of minigame or battle.
As you might imagine, playing these modes solo offers little in the way of enjoyment, but there’s fun to be had if you can find a few friends to join in. The Top 100 only requires one cartridge between four players, and load times are fairly short, which is a boon when you are rapidly switching between minigames. You can choose to have the game pick minigames for you, or you can manually select minigame after minigame. The ability to play with friends off of one copy is easily the game’s biggest draw, and I didn’t run into any technical issues when using “download play”.
If you’re a solo player who’s keen on picking up Mario Party: The Top 100, you’d do best to rethink your purchase. While the core gameplay is solid (and the unified visual design and controls go a long way), it’s hard to recommend if you’re only planning to play on your own; let’s be honest, Mario Party simply isn’t fun without friends. That being said, if you have a regular group of friends to play with, and you’re looking for a simple game to play together, you could do far worse.
This review is based on the Nintendo 3DS version of the game. A review copy was provided to us by Nintendo.
Mario Party: The Top 100 is a pretty bare-bones experience, one that has little to offer for those who aren't interested in local multiplayer.