In this series of articles we'll write about one Mario game every day for 30 days, each representing a different year as part of our Super Mario 30th Anniversary celebrations.
We'll admit it, we're cheating a little with this entry. All entries in this series of articles have - until now - taken their release dates from the North American arrivals, but this time around we're using the Japanese release date. Why? Well, 1998 was pretty quiet on the Mario front, and we think this mini-game collection should be acknowledged.
Since its arcade and then 8-bit days Nintendo had been focused on gaming as a primarily fun pastime, but the concept of a mini-game collection was rather fresh when Mario Party arrived on the Nintendo 64. For better or worse, depending on your perspective, this title set in motion an expansion of 'casual' games on Nintendo hardware, even if this first entry came at a time when that term wasn't even commonly used.
Though playable in single player, this original - like all of its sequels - is best enjoyed in a room full of other gamers. It's therefore a reminder that the N64 wasn't just a revelation in its graphics and controller, but also in its multiplayer capabilities. It made four player gaming a relatively common affair, in the process helping to shape the idea of actually playing games with a group of friends. This was a neat idea at the time.
As the first of this franchise, Mario Party also represented the beginning of a long-term partnership with the now-defunct Hudson Soft, a studio which would go on to produce eight mainline home console entries in the franchise. The company clearly mastered the art of mini-games, earning plenty of work from Nintendo in the process.
So, what about the game itself? It had a modest cast to choose from, admittedly, but introduced what would become familiar board game rules for the series - try to beat other players by picking up stars, jumping into one of dozens of mini-games when necessary. Though always in competition with rivals - and this was before all players travelled together around the board - some mini-games necessitated co-op.
Of course, the original Mario Party is well known for the fact that it landed Nintendo in a little trouble - a fairly humorous issue with the passing of time. The N64 controller's analogue stick was rather hard under the hand, a far cry from modern efforts with a softer feel, and some game design unwittingly caused problems. The first game was heavy on mini-games that necessitated rotating the stick as quickly as possible, with some players attempting to achieve faster speed by using the palm of their hand.
As a result there were a small number of complaints about hand injuries, no doubt from over-zealous players. Official complaints in the US famously required Nintendo to issue gloves to those affected, a peculiar bit of damage control. It could have potentially cost millions of dollars if everyone with the game had claimed this 'compensation', but in reality the number of claimants would have been low.
Subsequent entries scaled back on joystick rotation, though in the Wii era waggling took its place. In addition Hudson Soft stopped producing the games after Mario Party 8, but the fact we've just recently had Mario Party 10 on the Wii U is a testament to the franchises' enduring popularity.