Clearly inspired by traditional board games, the Mario Party series has always melded what people love about those classic physical games with the advantages that could only be done in video games. The basic rules are always simple to grasp: Roll a die to move around the board, get enough currency (coins in nearly all the games) to purchase a star, and whoever has the most stars at the end wins. There’s plenty of twists and tweaks to keep things interesting there, but the very heart of the game is absolutely the mini-games. After every player moves, there is a mini-game break where the winner, or sometimes multiple winners, can earn extra coins.
With more than 10 Mario Party games out now, there have been well over 100 mini-games included in the series. Between free-for-alls, 2v2s, 3v1s, and rarer special event games, there is a huge range in what each game asks of the player. Some have stood the test of time better than others (we’re looking at you, Mario Party’s Tog o’ War), so we’ve looked back across the entire franchise to make our list of the best Mario Party mini-games of all time.
Some mini-games appear in multiple games, sometimes with different themes or names, so in those cases, we’ll be listing them in the game they first appeared in.
Face Lift (Mario Party)
This is a personal favorite of ours, and is basically a play on the little tech demo thing at the beginning of Mario 64 where you can tug on different parts of a giant Mario face. This showed up first in the original Mario Party as a regular mini-game, then returned in the sequel as a much less common Battle mini-game. The game will open with Bowser’s face becoming stretched and warped in various ways, and each player will then have a default Bowser face they need to pinch and pull on to best match the one the game presents. In Mario Party 2, the roster of faces is expanded to include every playable character, such as Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi. When the time runs out, every player’s face is graded on a scale of 0 to 100, and whoever made their face closest is the winner.
What makes this so much fun is the combination of playing with these iconic characters’ faces in funny ways with the weird level of focus and precision you will want to commit. You’ll want to make Donkey Kong’s upper lip and brow look just right, but the timer forces you to balance matching one aspect perfectly at the risk of not getting to the ears or nose. There’s no luck, random elements, or anything like that, and yet it’s also unlikely any one person’s skill will make it less fun or unfair to the others. It’s everything great about a Mario Party mini-game wrapped up in a funny face.
Bumper Balls (Mario Party 2)
One trend we’ll keep coming back to on this list is that a lot of the best mini-games this series has seen are also the most simple in concept. Case in point, Bumper Balls from Mario Party 2. The setup is simple: You are each placed on a small island standing on inflatable balls with the goal of bumping into one another to try and knock them off the stage. You can move and build up more momentum, but otherwise, this is all about strategy. There are no gimmicks or finicky controls, either. Just you, three opponents, and one minute to try and be the last one standing.
Despite being a free-for-all mini-game, Bumper Balls often sees alliances formed and broken in record time. If one person teeters too close to the edge, the others will often gang up to try to confirm the kill, but whoever attacks first will be the most in danger next, leading to plenty of mind games. Do you want to avoid the pack, ram anyone who comes near you, or maybe try and bait someone into hitting you near the edge and try to dodge them so they end up rolling themselves off? Any and all of these tactics can work, making this simple game of rolling around big bouncy balls one of the all-time greats.
Mushroom Mix-Up (Mario Party 1)
Mushroom Mix-Up, which became Hexagon Heat in Mario Party 2, perfectly captures that sense of tension and chaos that we all love in Mario Party mini-games. The idea is that all four players are placed in the middle of a hexagon of different-colored platforms, mushrooms in the first game and generic metal hexagons in the sequel. A toad stands on his own platform and will show everyone a flag identical to one of the colored spaces. Every other platform will lower down into the water, or lava, eliminating them from the game. As the game goes on, the amount of time you have to get onto the correct platform gets shorter and shorter until only one player remains.
Recognizing the safe space you need to reach is only part of what raises the tension on this particular mini-game. Once you know where you have to go and recognize where that space is, actually getting on is half the trouble. Four characters can barely all squeeze on at once, and blocking others from getting on is absolutely a strategy, but can also just happen accidentally. You can’t attack during this game, but you can jump. That may help when things speed up and you need to try and save yourself from falling into the water or lava, but jumping also means you might land on top of another player’s head, bouncing you off in who knows what direction. You might manage to steer your bounce and survive, or end up sailing off in a fit of laughter. Either way, this is one we all look forward to showing up in the rotation.
Booksquirm (Mario Party 4)
When you look at them back to back, Booksquirm is actually very similar to Mushroom Mix-Up. They both center around the idea of figuring out where the safe place to stand is and getting there fast enough, and without getting blocked by other players. In Booksquirm, you’re not racing to a platform to avoid getting dropped, but almost the opposite. You are shrunk down and placed on the pages of a book. As pages fall, threatening to squish you, you will see certain shapes cut out of the falling page that you need to align yourself with to slip through. Again, the longer the round lasts, the faster the pages will flip.
This time you won’t have a Toad telling you where you need to go, but need to use your spatial awareness and shadows to figure out where to stand. There are technically only six places a safe space could be, and early on there can be more than one, but thanks to the different shapes, like the devious crescent moon, you can still get eliminated if you don’t line yourself up correctly. You can see in advance where the next safe areas will be by looking at the upcoming page and relating the cut-out spot to where it will be once it falls, which is a fun bit of brainwork that isn’t overly taxing. You can also use the shadows, but once things get speedy, you probably won’t have time to move where you need to.
Snow Brawl (Mario Party 6)
1 vs. 3 mini-games are the hardest to get right. Too often they’re unbalanced in one team’s favor, with either the single person being overly powerful or the three too easily overwhelming the one. When it works, though, they’re some of the most different and fun games in the series. Snow Brawl takes the already fun concept of a snowball fight and puts the Mario Party twist on it. This would be such an easy game to slot into a 2 vs. 2 type game, but they decided to push themselves and make it a 1 on 3 event. The rules are as simple as a snowball fight. If all members of either team are hit, either the 3 or 1, then they lose. To even the odds, the single-player will have four A.I. teammates to help them, but the other team still only has to hit the player to win.
The way this simple setup forces each team to develop different strategies is brilliant. If you’re on the team with three humans, do you all try and rush the lone player or take out their A.I. helpers first? They’re not the most intelligent opponents, but they do outnumber you and can and will eliminate you if given the chance. But, if just one of you manages to land a hit, you win. The single player has to think of the best way to utilize the A.I. Should you capitalize on outnumbering the other team and attack with your buddies, or hang back for safety and let them do as much work as possible? If you end up solo against three, though, that’s going to be hard to come back from. All in all, this is a perfect example of a 1 vs. 3 mini-game.
Sneak ‘n’ Snore (Mario Party 2)
Take the classic game of red light green light and add in a cranky chain chomp and you’ll get Sneak ‘n’ Snore. This free-for-all game is a slow race to reach a button next to the sleeping ball and chain, press it, and make it back to the exit without getting caught. Like a certain Solid Snake, you have a barrel you’re wearing for cover to disguise yourself when the Chain Chomp unexpectedly wakes up. You’re visible when moving, but stopping has your character slip down into the barrel so the beast won’t see you. If you’re not fast enough to stop, he’ll grab you and pull you off-screen.
This game is an absolute nail-biter every time. It’s not just about reaching the end and escaping, but doing it first. That leads to this perfect balance of risk and reward. Do you try and squeeze out a few extra steps to get some ground on your opponents, or make sure you’re safe because the Chain Chomp is about to wake up? It’s a long trip to and from the button, so there’s plenty of opportunities to slip up and get caught. Plus the music that plays just ramps up the tension in a majestic crescendo before cutting off abruptly when the Chain Chomp’s nose bu