Super Mario Party's River Survival Mode is More About Mending Friendships Than Breaking Them

Super Mario Party's River Survival Mode is More About Mending Friendships Than Breaking Them

We got hands-on time at PAX West 2018 with Super Mario Party's newest mode.

I've always associated Mario Party games as friendship ruining. The sort of games that cause grudges that can hold for years, even decades. Mario Party is a venomous sort of minigame experience. Its upcoming Switch installment Super Mario Party is slightly leaning on another side of playing together: working cooperatively.

It's why Survival River feels antithetical to the core of Mario Party. Here I was, laughing and having a good time with Mario Party during my PAX West 2018 demo. I wasn't cursing the first borns of those I was playing with. I was having honest to God joy, with zero malice in my heart.

Survival River, as the name forebodes, is a four-player co-op mode of rowing a raft down a very long stream, playing as your favorite Nintendo characters. Sometimes you plunge down waterfalls Splash Mountain style, where you and your friends can shake your Joy-Cons to high five your rows. Out of the characters, I chose Waluigi (but I wish I chose Monty Mole, a criminally underutilized character in the Mario universe). In River Survival, you work together with your teammates to row down a river—literally rowing with the Joy-Cons. Occasionally, you row towards balloons to net a minigame, and thus more time to float down the river.

The minigames I played in the latest addition to the long-running series were all pretty adorable. One has you scrambling across ice to herd penguins into a goal. Another has you wandering around a Luigi's Mansion-like room, lighting all the candles across it while stumbling in the darkness. It's all distinctly Mario Party. We were able to make it to the very end of the river, choosing which way to go at forks in the river along the way. Sometimes Cheep Cheeps tried to crash into our rowboat along the journey too.

When the Nintendo Switch launched, it boasted HD Rumble and other motion and vibration-inclined details that none of its launch games really accentuated aside from the party-focused 1-2 Switch. Super Mario Party is essentially an amendment to that, since it takes advantage of all that the Switch has to offer hardware wise. River Survival's rowing and its motion-enabled minigames, such as throwing a boomerang at Pokeys, enables it further too. While 1-2 Switch played more like an elaborate tech demo to prove the Switch's concept, Super Mario Party seems more like the sort of thing you'll actually want to play around with alongside friends.

Overall, River Survival feels like the comedown from the typical board game mode of Mario Party games. A pleasant diversion from the usual dice rolling, star-stealing chaos. After awhile though, River Survival gets a little bit monotonous itself. After about twenty minutes of playtime, we started getting repeats of minigames. I wondered if it was due to the demo or if the River Survival mode plainly didn't have a large amount of minigames to pluck from randomly. It didn't ruin the fun—heck, I knew most of Mario Party 8's minigames like the back of my hand—but it did make me wonder if River Survival can stand to be in my go-to rotation for when friends are over in the future.

If you try to pass the ball to the wrong character, they shake their head in a really cute way.

Overall, there will be 80 new minigames. I asked a Nintendo representative during our four-player demo if there were any familiar games from Mario Party's past, to which they highlighted one Toad minigame that would be sort of returning, only reimagined for this Switch version. Largely though, everything is new, as evidenced by my time rowing a boat down a stream with Bowser and company.

Of course, Super Mario Party isn't just River Survival. It's just one of many modes to join the latest in the Mario Party series, which includes new gimmicks like sharing two Switch screens for a different way to play for the Toad's Rec Room mode. Super Mario Party will be out for Nintendo Switch on October 5, 2018.

Disclosure: USgamer is owned and operated by ReedPop, which also runs the PAX family of shows.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Caty McCarthy

Senior Editor

Caty McCarthy is a former freelance writer whose work has appeared in Kill Screen, VICE, The AV Club, Kotaku, Polygon, and IGN. When she's not blathering into a podcast mic, reading a book, or playing a billion video games at once, she's probably watching Terrace House or something. She is currently USgamer's official altgame enthusiast.

Read this next

You Can Dress Up Apex Legends' Robot as the Droid From Jedi: Fallen Order

Pathfinder looks good with BD-1's red racing stripes.

Phil Spencer Says Remedy's Control Will Come to Xbox Game Pass

Joining Microsoft's subscription service should help the FBC's recruiting efforts.

Remasters for Bayonetta and Vanquish Leak on the Microsoft Store

Looks like both Platinum Games titles are coming to the Xbox One.

Phil Spencer is Apparently Playing the Next-Gen Xbox Scarlett at Home

If he beats you in Killer Instinct this weekend, feel free to blame that.

Life Is Strange 2 Series Review: Brothers, A Tale of Two Wolves

Life Is Strange's sequel has wrapped up, so our journey with Sean and Daniel has come to an end.

The Making of Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, Part 3: Our Favorite Secrets and More

Yacht Club shares their favorite secret areas; the art of positioning health pickups, and more.

More Analyses

A Fresh Look at New Super Mario Bros. U on Switch: Does it Measure Up to the Classics?

Where does New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe rank alongside Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World?

The State of Destiny 2 After Forsaken: A Game That Can't Shake Its Troubles

Forsaken was a solid start, but it wasn't enough to pull everyone back.

Sorry Pokemon Fans, Your Gold-Plated Cards from Burger King Aren't Worth Squat

Burger King's Pokemon cards from 1999 look kind of nice and they're fun to remember, but they're barely worth the cost of a milkshake.