Board games are fun, and video games are too, and 20 years ago Nintendo combined the two into a single experience that somehow managed to be both fun and friendship-ruining with the inaugural Mario Party. After first debuting in Japan in December of 1998, it arrived in North America on February 8, 1999 for the Nintendo 64.
The standard mode in the game was Adventure Mode, in which up to four players essentially play a digital board game that is peppered with various minigames. The goal is to collect as many Stars as possible over the course of a set amount of turns, with the winner being determined by who has the most Stars. A second mode, Mini-Game Island, is a single-player journey in which the player must win minigames in order to win.
Mario Party’s minigames were its defining trait and main appeal. Minigames are designed to be only about a minute in length, and are either free-for-alls, one-versus-three, or two-on-two in design. Winning minigames nets players coins, which can then be spent on Stars.
Interestingly enough, Mario Party was the center of a bit of controversy for Nintendo – some of the minigames required the player to rotate the N64 controller’s central analog stick as quickly as possible. The intent was for players to use their thumbs to do this, but many players opted to use their palms instead, and this led to nearly 90 complaints being filed with the New York attorney general’s office; Nintendo of America eventually settled. Mario Party has never seen rerelease on Nintendo’s Virtual Console service, perhaps because of this, and further titles in the franchise have not used the spinning analog stick mechanic.
Besides that issue, the game was positively received upon release, and eventually became the first title in what has become a major Mario subseries for Nintendo. The most recent game in the franchise, Super Mario Party, released for the Nintendo Switch in October 2018.