There are a few video game series that have maintained relevance over the course of my lifetime. Whether you met me when I was a child or in my adulthood, The Legend of Zelda was a significant part of my gaming life. Super Mario has been the same way. To be specific, though, there is one spin-off series within the multiverse of Mario that has been with me through all the major phases of my life. Whether I was playing the first Mario Party with my children’s minister as an elementary schooler, the Wii version with my parents and brother during high school, the GameCube games with my friends in college, or Super Mario Party on the Switch with my wife and son, Mario Party as a series has always been a part of my gaming experience. So when The Well-Red Mage posted on Twitter that he was looking for some folks to talk about Mario games and a Mario Party title was still available, I was happy to jump in.
Mario Party 6 was released for the Nintendo GameCube in December 2004. Yes, I had to Google that. I barely remember last week, let alone middle school. Chances are good that I ended up with that particular Mario Party title around Christmastime, but I don’t remember anything specific about receiving the game. My memories of this title are connected to the many times I played it, and the people I was with during those times. Or in some cases, the people I was not with.
One of my biggest memories with Mario Party 6 was that unlike many Mario Party games, I really dove into the single player mode. The reason for this was because there were many unlockables in the game tied to the number of stars that you collected during your journey. Every Mario Party has some goofy plot device that “justifies” why Mario and company are gathered together to pummel each other in minigames for money (like you need a reason for that). In Mario Party 6, it turns out that the sun and moon (named Brighton and Twila, respectively) are in a feud with one another and the gang needs to gather stars to put together a Miracle Book in order to get them to reconcile. Putting together the pages of the Miracle Book was a task I took seriously – of course, I also wanted to collect enough stars to unlock the extra playable character Toadette as well as the extra board Clockwork Castle. You can never have too many boards, after all. Are you listening, Nintendo? We like boards!
Collecting all the stars for the Star Bank so that I could unlock the various rewards meant spending a lot of time in the game’s solo mode. The way solo mode worked was a bit different from the standard board game format; the spaces on the board represented specific types of minigames, and you played those games to slowly rob a trio of Koopa Kids of their coins. When you won in solo mode, any coins you collected were converted to stars at a rate of 20-1, and those stars then went into the Star Bank to spend on unlockables. Now if we consider that just the Clockwork Castle board cost 100 stars, and we multiply that by 20 coins each…that’s 2000 coins worth of solo mode that I had to complete for just one of the many unlockables that I did grinding for in this game. Sure could use that kind of free time in my adult life!
That said, my memories of Mario Party 6 aren’t exclusively solo. In fact, while the memory of spending stars in the Star Bank to unlock Toadette is pretty clear, the time I spent actually getting those stars has faded away like the bottom portion of a Pokey whose head just got punched off. What I really remember about playing this game is the time spent with my mother, stepfather, and brother, as well as my best friends in college. To help me as I wrote this article I pulled up a list of the minigames available in Mario Party 6, and small moments playing the game came flooding back as I began to see the images.
I can remember playing Note to Self with my brother, feeling so proud of myself because I figured out that the best way to farm points was trapping a music note into one of the bottom corners while he struggled to catch up with me (for perspective, I am ten years older than him). I remember my wife making it her mission to get better at Snow Whirled than me, every time we played the game her ability to press the buttons in order getting better and better until finally she did break my record. I remember playing the 1-vs-3 game Stage Fright and losing because my roommate kept accidentally shooting me in the back of the head, disabling my cannon. And I remember playing the VS game Sumo of Doom-O with my mom, neither of us understanding how the controls for the cars worked and trying desperately to see who could figure out how to operate their vehicle first. Each minigame in the list is like a little snippet of my life, a snapshot of a different time in my history.
I have a similar experience with game’s six boards, with different times or different memories jumping out for each one. Towering Treetop, as the game’s beginning board, was the perfect way to introduce my roommate to Mario Party, and for some reason I distinctly remember a moment when we were sitting together in the dorm room and in the game, he slid down a slide on the tree and said “weeeee!” Another time my wife and I were playing and had a very close match on the Faire Square board; I don’t even remember who won, but I remember that the match ended at night and was ultimately decided by one of us winning at one of the random events located on the board where you guess the location of a star. Long before college, I remember my brother and I playing on Snowflake Lake, in hot pursuit of one another with Chain Chomps in a desperate scramble to steal stars from one another.
One of the weirdest features of Mario Party 6 specifically was the microphone. The game came with a microphone that hooked up to the GameCube by plugging into a memory card slot, and when it was connected you could end up playing special microphone minigames. The microphone minigames would pit the one microphone player against three other players, and generally the person with the microphone was fighting the almighty power of technical limitations in an effort to defeat the other three. One mic minigame in particular had the three players skating through an obstacle course where the player with the microphone could order various weapons to fire. Every now and then my mom or my brother would try the microphone games with me, but we eventually realized there was no hope for our instructions being understood and we just disabled the mic games in the options menu.
Mario Party 5 and 6 stand out to me because they had what I considered to be a really engaging interpretation of the Mario Party item mechanic. In previous entries, items were consumables that you could use on yourself or someone else in order to get a bonus like warping somewhere else on the board or rolling additional dice. Mario Party 5 introduced the orb system, where items came in small orbs that came out of quarter machines and you could use them on yourself or throw them on a space. Mario Party 6 expanded on the orb system by adding orbs which activated when the opponent passed through them. These red trap orbs were my favorites to use. I don’t remember specific victims of my cunning strategies, but some of my favorite trap orb tricks were putting a zap orb right in front of someone who landed on a triple shroom (the zap orb takes 5 coins for every space you move, and a triple shroom triples the number of dice you roll) and putting a Tweester directly in front of the star space (Tweester carries the victim to a different space on the board). It was a simple addition but for me it helped the item system to feel a lot more robust and strategic.
I’ve played a lot of Mario Party 6 over the years, and looking back at those memories is a fun way for me to remember all sorts of exciting times in my life. Mario Party 6 was with me as I spent precious time with my family before I left for school. It helped me make connections with people who are still my friends to this day, including my spouse. And heck, as long as my GameCube still works, a day may come soon when I use this game to make memories with my son as well. That’s the beauty of Mario, I think – he’s such a universal character with such a wide variety of games that people from all walks of life can join around him and enjoy playing video games together. It’s that community aspect of the Mario universe that makes a project like the Super Mario Multiverse so appealing.
Wahoo! You are a Super Reader! But the adventure doesn’t stop here… There’s more of this project in another castle! This article is just one level in an entire Super Mario Multiverse, a galactic collaboration between writers around the world sharing a bit of our hearts and memories about our favorite Mario games. Visit the Center of the Multiverse to see more: