Greatest Game of 2003: Mario Party 5

I was 21 years old in 2003, a junior at Indiana University. My hobbies matched that of most kids on campus: basketball and drinking, and not always in that order. I had the good fortune of living in a house ideally located two blocks from campus and two blocks from our favorite bars. It was during this time that Mario Party 5 was released. I had played previous entries in the series, and while I always considered them to be okay games, they were never all that special. The mini games on the whole were pretty basic, the way the stars were handed out always seemed a little too random for my liking, and playing the game with less than four people was pretty terrible. Now, don’t get me wrong, the fifth entry in the series still had all of these problems, but adding one key ingredient changed the game from a crappy collection of mini games into a game that I spent more time playing during my senior year than all of my other games combined. This magic ingredient is, of course, beer.

For those who have never played Mario Party 5, a simple explanation of the game is necessary. All Mario Party games are basically digital board games. You move your Nintendo character (all the classics are present: Mario, Peach, Luigi, Toad, etc…) around a board after rolling a digital die. After all four players have rolled, the color of the spot you land on determines which style of mini game you’ll play. If all of the players are on a blue tile, you’ll play a game where it is every man for him/herself. If one player is on a red tile, however, it will be 3v1, and if you’re split, you’ll play 2v2. The games are generally very short and range from pure luck and completely un-inventive (pull a random rope and hope you win) to pretty darn fun and seemingly skill based (Pushy Penguins was always one of my favorites).

The key with every game is that they are incredibly simple and anyone can play them and generally have a good shot at winning. As you’re racing around the board you’re attempting to get stars. You pre-set how many turns you’ll play at the beginning of the game (10 to 50, with 20 being the default), and whoever has the most stars at the end of the game wins. There are other things happening on the board that aren’t particularly important to explain: you can get capsules that will affect your place or the place of others on the board, or give you bonus coins, etc…The key, however, is that Mario Party is uniquely designed to be a great drinking game. With all the down time between games, there is plenty of time to drink, and with everything happening on the board, there are plenty of ways to create rules that involve drinking. A quick Google search will present you with a number of different rule variants; however, my extensive play sessions have determined that the following rule set is ideal for Mario Party 5,and I highly suggest you use it when playing.

Land on a Red Space- 1
Make Bowser appear- 5
Donkey Kong appears- social
Get a capsule- 1
Win a star- give 10 to other players (can be split up)
Forget to give a star- 10 to you (determined by the next player hitting the A button to roll their die)
Looking at the map – 1 for for wasting everyone’s time
Land on the same space as another player- each player 1
Forgetting to say the name of the game- 1
Roll a 1- 1
Roll a 10- everyone else drinks 1
Your place in each mini game- 1 for 1st; 2 for 2nd; 3 for 3rd; 4 for 4th

Luck plays a large role in the Mario Party games, and for good reason. The game can be played and enjoyed by a wide range of gamers. In college, we would often play with a group of hardcore gamers as well as much more casual gamers. The game needed to be designed with enough of a luck factor so that they’d have a good chance at winning. The placement of the star is largely random, a number of the mini games are complete luck, a number of the capsules you pick up will change players position in the game, etc… On the other hand, there needs to be enough skill involved to keep the more advanced players interested, and this is the main reason why Mario Party 5 in particular is my favorite of the bunch.

Luck still plays a big role in MP5, but it is the consistency of the bonus stars that really helps to keep even the most hardcore players interested. In every version of Mario Party, at the end of the game three bonus stars are given to the players. The key with MP5 is that those stars were consistent. In every game, the player who won the most coins through mini games received a star. This player was often considered the “real” winner of the game, as overwhelmingly this star would go to the most skilled player. In addition, the other bonus star went to the player who collected the most coins at one time. Besides offering some strategy regarding not spending your coins, this star often went to the best player as well. The final bonus star was the “Happening” star, which was awarded to the player who landed on the most Question Mark blocks. This is a pure luck star, but at least it’s consistent. In many of the follow-up games, the bonus stars would be awarded completely randomly, disrupting the balance between luck and skill that was so critical to Mario Party 5’s success.

I would never argue that Mario Party 5 is a great technical game, but that doesn’t change the fact that I had a ton of fun playing it. “Drinking Mario Party” regularly tops my list of favorite drinking games of all time- just make sure you have an energetic group of people who are ready to drink and have fun. There are few drinking games that are more fun when you have exactly 3 other people to play with you.

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