With #6 we reach a Mario Party title that I feel has a lot of extreme opinions on both sides. In other words, I know people who really love this game and I know people who are easily annoyed by this game. I’m more in the neutral crowd, because when it comes to Mario Party 5, while there are things that disappoint me, there are equally a lot of things I really love about it too, so middle of the road seems like a perfect place for this one.
When looking at the boards of Mario Party 5, the thing that immediately connects with me is the fact unlike the first four games of the series, in this one you’re not just walking on a flat board with several pathways. The developers integrated the boards in a way where the characters kind of interact with the background a little bit, so if there was a ladder in your path, you’d climb up the ladder and if there were little pitfalls in between spaces, your characters would jump over them. It’s a very miniscule change that doesn’t really influence gameplay too much, but it’s still a nice little feature that I remember from the first time I played this game. In a way, it kind of pulls me into the game a little more and was a nice inclusion.
And speaking of development, MY GOD, did they make a lot of changes in this game, particularly to the item system. Now, here is where I feel like Mario Party 5 made a big mistake, a mistake they later fixed with Mario Party 6 and 7, but for this game, this is probably the sole reason why this game doesn’t make it into the Top 5 or even Top 3 for me. The capsule system was completely chaotic, in all the worst ways possible. It introduced this mechanic where you could lay a capsule on a space (or yourself) and it would give that space an effect. Most of these were negative, as they are meant for your opponents to land on them and have something bad happen to them. However, if you landed on the space, that effect would happen to you as well, so it’s kind of a risk-reward scenario. You could argue that it makes the game a little more interesting and a bit more open-ended with who will benefit from the causes, but another problem I have is that as the game goes on, in a lot of cases you will have no idea what space is what, making the effects feel pretty random. There are some obvious spaces, like the Chain Chomp and the Koopa Bank, but whenever you see a coin space, something will happen with your coins. If you see a capsule space, something will happen with your capsules, and so on and so forth. You just don’t know what’s going to happen, and in most cases when I’m trying to win, that can be pretty frustrating. I don’t like paying attention to every single item that gets thrown down on each individual space, especially when the game gives you so many to begin with. With all that being said though, I do think the developers had the right idea. The orb/capsule system of the Gamecube games is my favorite item system in the whole series. Mario Party 5 just had a really rough start with it, but I’ll get into that more when I talk about Mario Party 6 and Mario Party 7.
While I’m at it, notice how I haven’t really been talking much about the boards, but moreso talking about the items? That’s because I love the boards in this game, but the item system completely overshadows the boards, which is kind of a shame. There are a lot of really cool board themes and all the boards are honestly really well designed. The items just kind of take over the game a little bit. It’s like…suppose you have a delicious cake, but someone puts a bunch of blueberries on top over the entire cake. If you like blueberries, that’s great, but if you don’t, you’re probably going to spend more time picking off the blueberries than you are going to be enjoying the cake, and that can be kind of disappointing. It’s why I really wish this game had the item system of 6 and 7, because if it did, this could easily be one of my top favorite Mario Party games.
Moving on to the minigames, this game had a very weird obsession with luck-based minigames. I think of all the Mario Party games, this one probably had the highest percentage of luck-based games, most of which happen in Duel minigames, which are the ones that arguably have the highest stakes involved. Not only that, but I also feel like a lot of the minigames lack substance as well, and I think the biggest example of that is the game “Get a Rope,” probably my least favorite minigame in the entire series. Not only is it a luck-based minigame, but it’s also a game with the most ridiculous and laughable concept, where you pull a rope and someone wins. That’s absolutely dreadful and I hate when Mario Party does that. Not only does it throw skill out the window entirely, it’s just freaking lazy and only serves to frustrate people. If I ever got into a Duel Minigame when Get a Rope was a choice, and if stars were on the table for me to lose, I would freaking go off the deep end faster than any one-coin loss (and yes, I had to mention that during the Mario Party 5 section). On the positive side though, this game does have Mario Mechs and Hydrostars though, two very excellent minigames, but that’s really all I feel like mentioning as far as pros are concerned.
Moving on to even more positive notes, Mario Party 5 probably has the best collection of side content of any Mario Party game. The Mini-Game Mode is filled with loads of different modes, each one pretty unique from the others. My favorite one to play is Mini-Game Wars where you have to come prepared for the fight of your life…at least as far as minigames are concerned. The Extras Mode is also nice, featuring Volleyball, Ice Hockey and fan-favorite mode Card Party. I don’t know why, but whenever I hear about side games in this game, Card Party is a name that seems to come up a lot. But hey, to be fair, I like a good game of Card Party as well, despite how simple it is. The only mode that seems out of place is Super Duel Mode, which isn’t an extension of Mario Party 3’s Duel Mode, but rather a mode where you build your own mechanized vehicle and use it to take out…other mechanized vehicles. So freaking out of place…
So overall, as I’ve said, Mario Party 5 is a game that had a lot of potential, a lot of potential that was just kinda misplaced. If they refined the item system like they did in Mario Party 6, and if they worked a little more on the minigames, I think this easily would have been one of the best party games of all time. It’s probably why I’m being a little easy on it and putting it at #6 as opposed to #8, but as I’ve mentioned before, these middle five ranks could easily be swapped around in a number of a ways.