Small Game, Big Party: The STTV Crew Sounds Off on Their Favorite Mario Party Mini Games
From its first entry in 1998 on the Nintendo 64, Mario Party has become one of the mainstay game series of the Mario franchise, with more console releases than Mario Tennis, Mario Golf, or even Mario Kart. Its simple concept, chaotic gameplay, and wide array of fun characters have made it a popular choice for gamers of all skill levels (except the top level; they hate fun). With 15 installments across eight different consoles, literally trillions  of mini games have been played. These games place players in tense alliances or bombastic free-for-alls, in the quest for (usually) ten measly coins at the end of each round. These diverse and clever mini games break up the time spent on the virtual board, allowing Mario and his pals a minutes-long foray into a temporary setting with its own ethereal set of rules. To celebrate the announcement of Mario Party Superstars, a compilation of the best games from the entire series scheduled to be released in October 2021 (fucking hell, we’re really getting out in front on this one), we asked members of the Trashed Fam about their favorite mini games from this formative party series.
Wiggler is a dog.
They are nice to touch and enjoy wearing shoes, both of which are excellent qualities for a dog to have. Therefore, it's perfectly understandable that Mario and his pals all want to take their turns using their hands to touch Wiggler's flesh at the base of its large flower.
Petting a dog? Fantastic. Proving to your comrades that you’re the best at petting a dog? Unrivaled. Truly the gods themselves couldn’t give you a nobler mission than mastering Don’t Wake Wiggler from Super Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch.
Here's how you play: Like most dogs, Wiggler loves to be petted by strangers including Luigi, Bowser, and Monty Mole. But it keeps falling asleep and missing out on all the fun! Try the hardest to wake Wiggler up and you will be rewarded with gold. But slack off and you'll be chased around Wiggler's Woods until slumber claims the furious hound once more — especially if your hand rests atop Wigglers head when it wakes.
The asymmetry of the 1v3 games in the Mario Party series is one of the strongest trademarks of the series. It’s easy to balance a 2v2 or free-for-all game, but designing two separate sets of play that allows one person to feel that they have as much chance to win as three people is tricky. As a result, most 1v3 games skew towards the team of 3 (and smartly so; better to have three players happy and engaged than one). Crate and Peril, from Mario Party 6 (Gamecube), is not one of those games.
In one of the best cutscenes in Mario Party (nay, Nintendo) history, the solo player sucks the other three into a box. The game consists of this player tilting the box to attack the trio with indestructible Spiny Shells as the players run for cover. This is not too dissimilar from when a child gets two bugs in a jar and shakes it to see if they’ll fight. Additionally, the game depicts the solo player tilting and twisting the box nonchalantly in their own part of the screen. This is, of course, unnecessary to the gameplay, and that’s what makes it so great. There are other 1v3 games that give the solo player a marked advantage, but Crate and Peril is one of the few that shows them dominating over the opposition, warping them to your twisted will. You are no longer equal players in a cartoonish board game, one of you is the game master, and the others are simply ants to torment.
Also the name is a pun on a furniture store!
Look, we all know what Mario Party is all about – screwing over your friends. You can collect stars, coins, and items all you want, but at the end of the day, you’ll remember who eked out a win with the luckiest “fuck you” possible. In the spirit of that signature aspect of the Mario Party series, it would be remiss to not bring up Mario Party 2’s Honeycomb Havoc, which boils that whole process down into a bite-sized minigame!
Essentially, everyone is begging the Giving Tree for fruit and coins, but NOT bees (anything but the bees). Here’s the catch though – based on what’s available and who’s behind you in line, you can strategically choose to take one fruit/coin or two fruits/coins from the tree at a time (where my Nim-heads at?). It’s perfect for when the offerings line up in your favor; this is a game that forces you to look into the eyes of your peers and say, “Hey. Fuck you. Bees”. There’s a great sense of buildup and tension in these moments, too – the music throughout the game is fun and silly, but at the same time, you get the feeling that something is wrong...
All in all, it’s a great little microcosm of the Mario Party experience. And even if you lose, the coins you collect can soften that stinging feeling a bit.
Much like Jacob, I also believe that 1v3 mini games are the crème de la crème of Mario Party. It's easy for a game to make you frustrated at your opponents - but a game that can make you furious at your teammates? That isn't just Mario Party, that's society. And I believe the best of these games is the aptly-titled Blame it on the Crane, from Mario Party 4.
This is a mini-game in which one person operates the infamously recognizable crane-toy-machine to try and pick up a team of players trapped in balls on a spinning disc; a classic scenario as storied and traditional as harvesting wheat on Grandpappy's farm in ye olde country. The game immediately invokes a familiar feeling of forcing oneself to ignore a crane game in a diner or mini-mall, in much the same way you’d avoid your ex. These games always seemed like they would be simple to conquer, but every machine felt like it was rigged in such a way that a prize was impossible, like the game was playing you.
It’s only poetic that this time the shoe’s on the other foot, with the team of three players playing the part of toys fearing a visit from the crane. And worst of all? The crane is now easy to operate! The player who uses the machine has a pretty simple go of things, putting every mistake made by the ball-ified™ players on full blast, prompting jeers and eroding newly-formed alliances. "What is WRONG with you? How did they get you?!" It builds a schadenfreude type of confidence in each remaining player, making them think that they can pull it off for the whole team. And if they can? Great, good for them. They won.
But if they lose? It's just another day where the crane played them.
Somewhere in time you’ve probably been walking down the street and had Mario Party pop into your head. You probably smiled and remembered all the fun times you’ve had playing the different versions over the years, hanging out with your friends, and all those wild mini games. “Great times, so much fun” you think to yourself as you continue on with your life.
The problem is you’re wrong. It’s not your fault, this is a very common mistake. But make no mistake about it, Mario Party is NOT fun. You don’t play Mario Party, you finish Mario Party. Mario Party is life. It is a long drawn out, exhausting experience of unskippable cutscenes, where your early optimism slowly gives way to cynicism. If you ever wondered how someone could grow up liberal and become super conservative later in life, get to turn 30 in Mario Party. So with that in mind my favorite mini game has to be the only one that perfectly captures the most important thing about this wretched franchise. Entropy. Dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. Bowser’s Big Blast.
There’s a big Bowser head in the middle of the room, on a platform in front of it are 5 detonators. You go pick a plunger and if you pick wrong the head blows up and it resets. Now there are 4 detonators and 3 players. Repeat till one is left. This inspiration for the Saw franchise seems simple enough right? Surely there is some way to determine the right one? Nope. It’s all random. There is no skill. There is no reward for clever gameplay. This is Russian roulette for children. You cannot quit. You cannot abstain. You cannot be skipped. Gun to your head, you will be paraded and forced to push detonators until there is nothing left. No pride, no fall, just nothingness. At least Shane had the dignity to get on his horse and fuck off into the sunset before he died. Your execution will be on full display. And it’s a battle game so they’ve not only forced you into this waking nightmare they’ve also stolen your wealth to be “rewarded” to the survivor. Because those 17 gold coins will make you forget watching your friend second guess himself and choose the wrong plunger at the last second. “It should have been you” the voices will say. Your life will be defined by your survival. You’ll see their faces every time you close your eyes. Your sense of agency depleted, you drift through life a bystander to your own gradual demise. “It should have been you.” You pray there’s a Heaven so you can beg for their forgiveness. You think you deserve it. You have to deserve it! You didn’t win, they just lost! “It should have been you” One day a small child pops a balloon and you collapse to the ground. Bystanders hover over you, their words are lost, echoing through space. Their faces blurred all you can hear is the voices. They’re always there.
“It should have been you. It should have been you. It should have been you.”
Then no matter what that Medium level CPU Mario who came in fourth is still gonna get tossed a coin out of pity. Merciful gods, benevolent executioners. After watching all your friends die you get teleported back to the board and you’re wearing funny costumes and Toad pops up like “wasn’t that fun!?” and starts to explain the rules of the next game. The counter clicks over. Turn 2. Entropy. Nothing ends, you just stop feeling. I’m not afraid to die. Push me to the edge. All my friends are dead.
So yeah Bowser’s Big Blast is my favorite mini game. The music’s fun and the animations are funny. It also appears in Mario Party 4!