More Games Should Do A Party Series

My favourite Mario game is Mario Party 8. People sometimes give me funny looks when I say that, but I promise you it’s true, and it’s not from lack of experience either. I’ve played Super Mario Odyssey, Bros., World, and both Galaxys, as well as Mario 64. No Sunshine, but I reckon that’s not enough to disqualify me. I’ve also played Mario Maker, several Mario Karts, plus Tennis, Strikers, Baseball, and Hoops. A lot of Mario, and Mario Party is the best. Trust me. So I’m a little bit baffled as to why other games aren’t taking advantage of this genre.

I prefer Party 8 over the classic games because I think the implementation of motion control elevates the party gameplay, and I prefer it over 9, 10, and Super because it’s miles better. 9 and 10 both force you to play the board games in one car – what the hell’s all that about? – and Super is very un-super, with just four boards and zero updates. The extra stuff is good though, like the water rafting levels, and most of the minigames are worth playing for, but the base game just doesn’t have a good enough foundation. Super Mario Party 2 or Mario Party 11 or whatever they go with next will hopefully get the balance right between this and 8.

I’m not really here to talk about Mario Party specifically, but what else can I do when so few other franchises have even tried to make a party game? There’s the basic Nintendo ones you get with the Wii and the Switch, but while Wii Party is actually decent, most of the time these games are glorified controller tutorials.

I wrote a little while ago that I think every game should have a karaoke section, using God of War specifically as an example of a game you’d think shouldn’t have one, but the more you think about it, it definitely should. Christopher Judge’s gorgeous voice taking on John Legend’s All Of Me? Yes please. With party games though, I do think there’s a need to be selective. Karaoke is about letting your hair down once in a while, but party games are, well, a party. You need to be all fun all the time. Mario can sustain that, but so can a load of other games, and it’s a shame that they don’t seem to be trying.

The most obvious series that should be branching into party games is Pokemon. Like Mario, it’s in the Nintendo ecosystem, it has a huge cast of characters – literally over 1,000 if you include humans and ‘mons – it’s family friendly, and there’s so much potential for in-world minigames. Much like Mario, Pokemon also loves spin-offs, but the closest to a party game spin-off is PokePark, where most of the game is spent wandering around vague, Safari Zone-style areas and talking to Pokemon, occasionally getting into terrible chase or fight minigames. Every once in a while, there’s something akin to an actual party game minigame, but it’s usually terrible. This game clearly had a low budget, and most of it was spent on the stuff around the games, meaning they’re either stupidly simple like a 100-yard dash, or the motion controls never work.

Pokemon’s not the only one though. When the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy was remade, speculation was rampant that Crash Team Racing would be next. I love Crash, and I could see that making sense given how iconic CTR was on the PS1, so when Nitro-Fueled was revealed, it was no great shock. But then the hardcore fans turned their hopes to a Crash Bash remake. As much as I loved that party game, that seemed more unlikely, and so it proved. Still, while the hype seemed to be emanating solely from the hearts of the most committed Crash Bandicoot fans, it does suggest there is still a fanbase for party games that don’t feature short Italian plumbers. Crash is certainly the sort of energetic hero suited to party games, so while a Crash Bash remake doesn’t seem probable, why not a new Crash party game in the future?

Crash has significantly fewer characters than Pokemon, but the series still has enough to conjure up 50 for the full Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled lineup once all of the DLC was unveiled. But the idea that you need lots of characters to sell a party game is nonsense anyway; no one buys Mario Party for Monty Mole, do they? Party games give you a chance to see old characters in new light, to deepen your connection to them, and to have fun in a fresh, new way. It’s the same reason I love Persona 5 Strikers – and will probably end up getting Dancing in Starlight – despite not liking Persona 5 all that much.

Games take a long time to develop these days, and party games form a niche market – since nobody wants to step into it, it’s also easy to feel it belongs to Mario. I understand games not wanting to take the risk, but a party game isn’t just a success for itself, it can introduce characters to a different audience and offer a greater bond to the player; even if the events of said party game are completely non-canonical. Party games rock, and not just when Mario does them – I hope the trend shifts and we start getting more of them soon, not less.

Next: How Mass Effect Was Demade Into A Monkey Island-Style Point-And-Click Game

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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey

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