And at #3 we have the final Gamecube game that’s yet to be listed; Mario Party 4. Mario Party 4 was a game that really got me excited about the Gamecube during its first full year of launch. On the way we had a new Mario game, a new Star Fox game, a new Metroid game and a new Zelda game. Not to mention, Super Smash Bros. Melee was already a huge success as it was. For me, the only other thing I wanted was a Mario Party, and when I first saw Mario Party 4, safe to say, I was blown away. The game looked as if it was on another level than the first Mario Party games. The graphics looked impressive, the minigames looked cool, the new items looked interesting. I was ready to get this game and play the hell out of it. Now, as you can see, it wasn’t the absolute masterpiece that I was hoping for, but it still definitely hit the mark pretty high up, at least in my opinion. So let’s get into why this game is worthy of being in the Top 3.
Now, I’m gonna get the negative stuff out of the way first. While the graphics were really nicely done and the game itself looks really well-polished, I was a little disappointed by the board design, and it’s kinda hard to describe why. The best way I can put it is that all the well-designed elements in the game kind of serve as background animation while the foreground is just an incredibly basic and plain board. It’s like, there is all this cool stuff happening in the background, yet in actual game, you’re just walking above it all, not really interacting with anything. I guess if I could make a comparison to another game, just look at Mario Party 5, where you climb up towers, jump over blocks, and just get involved with the world around you. I feel like in this game, it didn’t really matter what was in the background. It was just there. It looked cool, no question, but I would have liked to see a little more integration. This is still just a minor nitpick though.
With that being said, the boards themselves are fine as they are. Each board is unique with its own kind of gimmicks, different events you can access based on what part of the board you are on, and then there is the item system that works pretty well with the game too. The items are very similar to items that you would find in Mario Party 2 or 3, but they are not the same, exact items, which I appreciate. The developers went out of their way to change things up, but not in a way that made it too foreign or too stale. You have your standard movement items, your warp items, your stealing items; all the ones that have become classic items of the Mario Party formula. Mario Party 4 does put the spotlight on two specific items though; the Mini and Mega Mushrooms. These mushrooms are VITAL for getting around the board and accessing specific events and beating your foes to the star space. The Mega Mushroom turns your big and gives you more than one dice block. And as another bonus, whenever you pass someone, you squish them and take 10 coins. This may seem broken, but its counteracted by the fact that you can’t participate in most board events, use Boo to steal coins or stars, or even purchase a star from the star space, so you have to use it strategically so that you don’t miss out on more beneficial plays. The Mini Mushroom turns you small, gives you a 1-5 dice block only, but still allows you to do any event on the board, including going through mini-pipes to access remote areas on the board you can’t normally access, or participate in mini-events that can give you some pretty awesome items, a lot of coins, or even a star. You could say the game relies too much on this mini/mega system, and I can understand why, but I think the game handles it in a very good way where it has advantages to each and disadvantages as well. It’s also a nice change-up to the Mario Party formula without completely changing up the game like OTHER installments in the series did, so for that, it gets my respect.
The minigames are also pretty well done in this game as well. I gotta say, there are very few minigames in this game that I would call bad. Sure, there are a few I would rather not get when there are other alternatives available, but you take what you can get. I think it also helped that they removed Duel minigames in this game and focused a little more on the battle games; a wise decision considering that battle games are often a weak point when it comes to minigames due to the heavy potential losses at stake and how some of them rely heavily on luck. In this game, I can honestly say I don’t have a lot of issues here.
And to continue not having issues with things in this game, the side content is not bad either. First off, in my opinion, Mario Party 4 has the best Story Mode in any Mario Party game. You go straight through all the boards, play a minigame with the owner of each board, and then take on Bowser at the very end for glory in the name of being a Party Star. The boards feel long enough, I don’t feel like I get as cheated by the CPUs, and the only trouble spots seem to come at the board host minigames which you have infinite tries on anyway, so it’s really not a big deal. I wouldn’t say the other side content has as much flair as Mario Party 5, 6, or 7 did, but it had a few things worth checking out I think and that is what I think is important, as the main focus should be on the main part of the game anyway, with the side content being there as a bonus.
So overall, Mario Party had a pretty successful jump from N64 to Gamecube and I think the Gamecube games overall were a pretty strong era for the Mario Party series. They introduced a lot of cool features, and while I wouldn’t say any of the games are my all-time favorite, I can at least acknowledge that each individual game excelled in something. However, there are still 2 games left on my countdown and if you have been keeping track, the first two games haven’t been named yet. Which game will be runner-up? And which game will be the top spot? Let’s find out!