It's a pretty bold claim but for many Mario Party is the best multiplayer game series ever. No need for guns or complicated role-playing elements here; Mario Party is fun because it's simple. The original N64 game created an entirely new sub-genre--an unlikely combination of traditional board games and lots of ultra-simple arcade titles. The idea is that you travel around the board trying to collect stars, which must be paid for with coins, and you get coins by competing in mini-games, which occur at the end of every round. These mini-games generally don't last longer than a minute or two and many are based on old Game & Watch titles. There are over 50 mini-games in Mario Party 4, and each involves either a free-for-all, two players against two, or one against three (depending on the spaces on the board you land on at the end of your turn). These can involve anything from sky diving to basketball dunking, or car racing to hide and seek, and much more besides. Admittedly, this basic description of the gameplay might not sound too exciting, and indeed if you're playing with less than three human opponents it is pretty tedious. But play it with the full complement of non-virtual rivals and the game's infinite capacity for cheating, backstabbing and ganging up allows it to completely transcend the humdrum sum of its parts. There's nothing terribly new in this third sequel except that the graphics are much improved and the mini-games are all new, but that really misses the point: get this game out at Christmas instead of Trivial Pursuit and you'll wonder how you ever got through family gatherings without it. --David Jenkins
- Choose favorite Nintendo video game characters and compete in a series of contests to win the birthday present.
- Take advantage of the Mini-Giant system - players can use items on the boards to grow larger or smaller in order to access different areas of the game boards and trigger special events.
- Bump, whack and bang away in the newly introduced Tag Battle, which lets players pair up in two-man teams and compete at collecting stars.
- Set a handicap that allows players of all ages and abilities to compete against each other.