Mario Party is one of the most successful franchises in the Nintendo stable and currently holds the mantle for longest running mini-game series. Mario Party: Star Rush is the second attempt from Nintendo to find Mario Party success on the 3DS family of systems and counts as the fourteenth installment in the franchises history (I don’t count the Nintendo e-reader installment). While the Mario spin-off has been a commercial hit, over 30 million units sold since the N64 beginning, it’s also suffered from over-saturation that has led many to feel the series lacks new, refreshing ideas. Both the N64 & GameCube received 3 Mario Party games, the Wii had two, Mario Party 10 graced the Wii U last year and Mario Party Star Rush is the 2nd Mario Party to hit the 3DS. Its easy to see how many would feel they’e seen all that Mario Party has to offer.

So does Mario Party Star Rush do enough to warrant your attention?

In short, yes. With Mario Party: Star Rush, Nintendo adapts the experience that is more suitable for portable play. Most noteworthy, Star Rush mixes up fun by allowing all players to roll their dice and move about the game board simultaneously which greatly speeds up the play and significantly benefits the single player experience. This alteration to speed also adds a new layer to player strategy. Older Mario Party games that gave each player their own turn allowed for everyone to see and predict where the opponent would be on the board.

As for content, Star Rush brings quite a bit to the party. First, there’s 6-7 game modes consisting of over 50 mini-games and many different game boards/maps. Now, Nintendo will tell you that there’s 9 game modes, but for this review I am omitting the character museum (a room full of character statues) and the Rhythm Recital (a rhythm based one button tapping music mode featuring songs from the Mario series) from my count. These extra modes do provide something else to do, and some gamers (especially younger) might enjoy the Rhythm Recital, but they’re side modes at best with regards to gameplay.

Amiibo are compatible with Mario Party: Star Rush as well, unlocking playable characters or adding additional resources depending on the game map and mode being used. In my 16.5 hours with the game so far, the amiibo additions were not anything I’d consider noteworthy or valuable.

Lastly, Mario Party: Star Rush does support download play and even has a “Party Guest” edition that will allow multiplayer with just one copy of the game. Download play is a bonus I feel many sites will omit from mention or devalue, but as this game is focused on multiplayer, the inclusion of download play provides fun for the whole family or any collection of 3DS owners. Personally, all of my multiplayer experience was using the party guest edition to play with my two kiddos. So if you represent a group of friends or a family that has more than one 3DS, there’s much added value to be had with Mario Party: Star Rush.

The Main Campaign

Mario Party’s main modes (toad scramble and balloon bash) feature a game board with tons of goodies scattered about. The main item to collect are coins, but in addition to coins you’ll encounter power-ups obtainable by occupying a question block on the board, coin balloons feature +5 or +10 coins, special characters that you can add to your team each having their own special ability, and ultimate the goal of reaching the boss on each board. The chaotic turns with everyone moving at the same time provides extra incentive to race towards these items on the map as soon as possible or fear your opponent teaming up against you. My first game I encountered a toad that obtained 4 of the extra characters (Mario, Wario, Waluigi, and Yoshi) on the map, each can add to your per turn dice roll, which in turn left me in the dust with my one dice roll. Beating a boss or winning a mini game challenge will grant you a star. Whoever has the most stars at the end wins. All of those collected coins and stars are also factored into the game’s unlock system at the end of each game which unlocks more Mario characters and boards/maps.

  • Toad Scramble = an open board with bosses & mini-game challenges appearing in different areas.
  • Balloon Bash = a circular board with star balloons that are needed to convert coins into stars.

The major difference between the two is that Toad Scramble is over when you’ve completed the boss challenges and Balloon Bash ends after a set amount of turns are completed. Of the two, I found Toad Scramble much more enjoyable than Balloon Bash.

Mixing It Up

In addition to the traditional board games, Mario Party: Star Rush throws in a few alternate modes to shuffle up how you play the mini-games. The most successful in my opinion is the Coinathalon mode which I believe to be the best single player experience in Mario Party: Star Rush. Coinathalon puts the player on a track in a three lap race against the opposition full of mini-games which are used to progress around the course. The featured mini-games in this mode are quick paced and a good mix of action-oriented games such as surfing on a leaf for coins to propel you forward or smashing goombas and bats with a hammer & more mind stressing challenges like having toad fill as many food orders as possible. These games are shuffled in a quick pace with each Coinathalon lasting no more than 3-5 minutes each making them the ideal choice for pick up and play 3DS gaming sessions on the go.

Not Without Flaws

Even though Mario Party: Star Rush does attempt to speed up the game with simultaneous movement, I still found the gameplay to be too slow. Especially if I was thinking of playing on the go. Several of my Balloon Bash games were 20+ minutes each and I had to split one game session up over multiple plays. A quick save feature for each game allowing the player to hop in and out may have reduced the amount of time committed to one particular game.

Random dice rolls still means you’ll encounter several turns where your player rolls a 1 or 2 in a row resulting you not accomplishing much of anything. These exchanges are frustrating and interrupt any fun you might have been enjoying from the game previously. It would be nice if Nintendo maybe tried to implement more of a skill based movement mechanic that gave players more control on how they move about the game board. Something like a moving slide that you could tap to freeze might provide video gamers with more skill an added gameplay advantage and speed up turns and games.

Lastly, yes the same old Nintendo rubber-banding effect is still present in many of the games. Each game concludes with coins being randomly assigned to players, usually those in last place, for obtaining things such as moving the least amount of spaces or acquiring the fewest amount of characters/items. In one of my games of Balloon Bash, I went around the entire board several times without getting one star balloon to cash out my coins only to be magically saved in my final two turns with a 3-star balloon appearing right next to me with a double-star bonus. This can be valuable in the sense that it can add tension to the game and/or assist less experienced and younger players by keeping them in the game, but ultimately I find it frustrating and something I wish I could manually turn off.

Value

Star Rush offers a good amount of content to keep you busy and the game looks and performs as well as you’d expect from any Mario on the 3DS, but at $40 the value isn’t as great as games offering similar content like Rhythm Heaven Fever, NES Remix or Wario Ware Touched. I’d only advise those hard core Mario Party goers to pick this up at $40, but it’s going to make a great gift under the tree this holiday, especially if you can snag a nice Black Friday discount.

Good Fun

Mario Party: Star Rush is a good ole Mario Party fun. While the formula remains familiar, Nintendo’s execution with Star Rush is superb. Mario Party Star Rush is one of the best Mario Party games in a long time.

Summary

In short, I think Mario Party: Star Rush might be the best Mario Party game since Mario Party 9 on the Wii and its absolutely a big improvement over the other 3DS Mario Party: Island Tour. I think the initial $40 might be a tad high for a mini-game collection, but there’s definitely enough variety, mini-games, and modes to keep you entertained if you want to jump in.

Mario Party: Star Rush was reviewed on 3DS using a code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s review policy on our disclaimer page here.