Mario Party: Island Tour Review


When you hear "minigame collection," the first game that usually springs to mind is Mario Party. The series has been responsible for hilarious memories and strained relationships since the Nintendo 64 era, though the series hasn't always set a good example: some of the installments, like the miserable Mario Party Advance, have dragged you to the dregs of party hell. Fortunately, Mario Party: Island Tour is a raucous portable entry in the series that adds some refreshing new elements.

Island Tour adheres to the same structure as many of the other Mario Party games: two to four human or AI players move around a traditional board-game-style map in a competition, playing minigames for prizes and attempting to hinder other players throughout. Most Mario Party games have focused on the collecting of coins and stars to determine a winner at the end of a game, but Island Tour's boards feature different objectives and modes of play. Some, like Perilous Palace Path, simply require that you be the first to reach the goal, while others have you collecting items to see who can end the game with the most stuff. Even if the boards have a similar objective, there are other factors at play that alter gameplay significantly: Banzai Bill's Mad Mountain might let you summon a giant bullet that sends everyone in its path back several spaces, while Kamek's Magic Carpet Ride forgoes dice and assigns movement to an inventory of numbered cards, making your selections about how far to advance a strategic consideration. There's a nice bit of variety here, and the game helpfully gives ratings to luck, skill, and minigame categories when you're choosing a board to play on (though their accuracy is debatable). Most of the boards don't take too long to run through, but that's probably for the best given that the 3DS is a battery-based console, and nothing kills a party like running out of juice mid-game.

What would a race game be like if you drifted ALL THE TIME?
What would a race game be like if you drifted ALL THE TIME?

It's pretty easy to get things hopping, thanks to the 3DS Download Play feature. Much like Mario Party DS, Island Tour allows up to three additional players to access and enjoy the full game in multiplayer, even if they don't have their own copy. It takes a few minutes to send the game to other 3DSs--and, of course, they can't keep it once the host disconnects--but after the wait is over, the players have access to the entire game (though the host player controls all the settings and selections). It's a nice way to ensure that there's always an opportunity to get a party started as long as everybody has a system. Unfortunately, there's no way to play online. Yes, Mario Party is more fun in a local, group setting, but the omission of any sort of online option is puzzling, especially given that the 3DS supports friends lists and voice chat.

If you've got a party of one, however, Island Tour has a special single-player mode called Bowser's Tower. In this mode, your chosen character scales a tower, playing a minigame on each floor and winning to proceed. On every fifth floor, you face a boss character, and these fights are minigames in themselves. Compared to the single-player story mode in Mario Party DS, Bowser's Tower is weak: there's no variation on events depending on character choice; it takes a long time to complete a runthrough (and, if you're really unlucky, a bad roulette spin can send you back to the start); and you have to finish it more than once to unlock everything. Yet Bowser's Tower is a nice diversion, and as you play and complete board runs, Bowser's Tower, and individual minigames in either single- or multiplayer, you earn points that you can spend on unlockable content.

You can't always bite the bullet. Sometimes you just gotta run.
You can't always bite the bullet. Sometimes you just gotta run.

But the meat of any Mario Party is its minigame menagerie, and Island Tour has more winners than duds in its mix. While you have the expected minigames of the "collect stuff," "knock other players off a platform," and "dodge things coming at you" varieties, there are some more inventive offerings that make good use of the 3DS hardware. Since the 3DS offers a variety of control methods--controller, buttons, stylus, microphone, and gyroscopic motion--the minigames can use one or more of these elements to make more interesting snack-size experiences. This leads to some neat outings, such as Buzz a Fuzzy (a motion- and circle-pad-controlled archery minigame) and Match Faker (a memory-type game that lets you use the stylus to take notes). The game takes advantage of the fact that each player has their own display, resulting in things like the third-person, arena-based blasting in Tanks a Lot and the hyper-gliding ice racing in No Traction Action. There are even a few auxiliary minigames that use the oft-forgotten 3DS AR cards. Unlike in Wii Party, where only one player could use the GamePad, everybody is on equal footing with the same controls and view, and many of the minigames do a good job of both recognizing and taking advantage of that in their design.

But there are still some stinkers in the mix. Strictly luck-based minigames turn up in the rotation frequently, and they're not any fun. A few others feature sluggish controls that hamper your ability to move well. (In minigames that involved moving the system along with another control method, I found that the game had an obnoxious tendency to lose calibration when it shifted back to motion controls, which required an experience-interrupting recalibration.) Though you can switch between preset standard and easy minigames and turn mic-using games on or off, you still can't disable individual minigames or make a custom set, which is a disappointing oversight.

It's not a perfect party by any means, but some good design considerations, better-than-average variety, and always-enjoyable Mario thematics put Mario Party: Island Tour a few notches above your average video game bash-in-a-box. It's nicely portable, uses the hardware well, and has a mostly good minigame mix, making this the easy-to-play multiplayer vacation you've been looking for.

The Good
Fully featured four-player local download play is great
Some great minigame designs that use 3DS features well
Offers a unique single-player mode
The Bad
A few bad games in the bunch
No online play
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Heidi has been reviewing a lot of the minigame collections being released for the holidays and thinks Island Tour is one of the better picks in the genre right now. Everyone has played a Mario Party game at some point in their life, but Heidi has thought way, way too hard about what makes a minigame collection work. Jeez, will you stop thinking and just roll the dice already?
38 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for disneyskate

Why the hell do people want online play for MARIO PARTY? It would suck! There would be so little to enjoy about it! Mario Party would suck with strangers. The best part of Mario Party is ruining friendships, not owning an acquaintance!

Avatar image for The_Gaming_Baby

The sad thing is I would have purchase this game if it had online play

Avatar image for Bowser05

I actually really enjoyed this one. I think the main negative point is the lack of online play. The 3DS isn't the kind of system people use for local play very much, so you can't design the game like you would a console game. That being said, still one of the better Mario Party games out there.

Avatar image for thom_maytees

A better score as many previous Mario Party games have received scores in the 6's.

Avatar image for mononoke25

I love Mario Party!

Avatar image for chyng85

Quite charming for me~

Avatar image for Hurvl

"You can't always bite the bullet" In Soviet Russia/Super Mario World, bullet bites you!

Avatar image for Artwark

Gamespot gave this one a higher score than IGN.......hmmm...............

Avatar image for uchihasilver

Mario party is one of the best multiplayer games around its fun as hell xD

Avatar image for thatguy2001

They really like milking Mario don't they.

Avatar image for Planeforger

@thatguy2001 This is the first and only game in this series on the 3DS. It's only the third Mario Party game on handhelds in eight years. Hell, it's only the second Mario Party game in six years.

It's not as if they are just pumping these out every 12 months (they haven't done that for about ten years now - they *were* milking the series on the Gamecube, however).

Avatar image for kbaily

@Planeforger @thatguy2001 I agree, they backed off on the MP last gen. Early in the Wiis life they had one, but we didn't see another MP until close to the end of it's life cycle. Namely I think it was due to the fact there were so many party games on the Wii as well as the Olympic collaborations with Sonic though I still figure in another year or so, we'll see Mario Party U.

Avatar image for Spam_Pics

For all of you saying you're not getting this because of no online: how exactly do you picture mario party online? It can extremely easily go to sh*t if players start disconnecting everywhere. This isn't mario kart, you're not jumping in for a quick race, you're in for a long board game that might be ruined any time.

Avatar image for kbaily

@Spam_Pics I think they could make it work. They could have a Party mode where four friends choose a board and play or "quick play" where people could pick mini games at random to play once online for a quick game. But I do see a lot of disconnect problems or people dropping out as soon as they start losing.

But honestly there's all these mini game collections out there and almost NONE of them have online play.

Avatar image for chenzo22

@Spam_Pics see you dont make any sense saying that people will start d/c everywhere. people d/c from ALL online games. you only stated one fact that was NOT worth mentioning and that is that this is not mario kart. look dude i want online play for this game and nintendo did not deliver. they should have and it would have made our experience a lot better. this isn't the 80's and 90's anymore dude. we live in an online world and i want online play. fans are correct for being mad that this game will not have that feature that most of us wanted sooo bad.

Avatar image for Spam_Pics

@chenzo22 @Spam_Pics

How does that not make sense? In most online games if one d/cs the game doesn't get affected or is affected to a minimum degree like Mario Kart. Imagine d/cing in a mario party game with only 4 people, turns, stars, scores and whatnot. D/cing would completely eff the game up.

I agree that some minigames could utilize online tho

Avatar image for chenzo22

@Spam_Pics @chenzo22 well yeah thats kind of what im saying. this game should have had online play. i am very mad they didnt just simply put it on there. when i am home or at wi-fi places i want to play online. i have no thoughts about ppl d/c from online. if they do that then just drop them. put in a default computer as the replacement or whatever. i dont care how many ppl drop or how many times they do it. nintendo dropped the ball on this one!

Avatar image for zimerust

@Spam_Pics They could have done SOMETHING, like 1 mini game at a time and so forth. Leaving online play completely out was a big mistake.

Avatar image for PosiTVEMinD355

It is pretty cool that you can use download play and only use one cart

Avatar image for rIVAL_sWORD84

want to party with Mario on WiiU !!! not 3DS

Avatar image for Super_C

@rIVAL_sWORD84 I agree. Why spend the time making a new party game on a personal held-held while the Wii U could benefit greatly from this. It doesn't make any sense to me.

Avatar image for IncisionX

No online play for a game that's primarily designed for multiplayer? Ouch...

Avatar image for chenzo22

will not be getting this game. no online play means no purchase. c'mon nintendo!!! all u had to do was put online play on this 3ds game and it would be a great game. and it does not matter if this game came out the same day as other things. this game stooped to new lows by not putting online play play on a 3ds game but they put online play on a ds game. that is a shame!

Avatar image for Tylendal

@chenzo22 Agreed. I was so hyped for this game, right up until I learned that online play wasn't an option. Now there's no hope in hell of me buying it, 7 is too good.

Avatar image for DoogyDonDoogy

7 comments damn this game has buzz

Avatar image for Hurvl

@DoogyDonDoogy Just like a real party, I'd rather have 7 people around that I like than dozens of complete strangers, but that's me :P.

Avatar image for Aquat1cF1sh

@DoogyDonDoogy Heh. Being released the same day as Zelda, Super Mario 3D World, and the XBox One, this poor game didn't stand a chance.

Still a huge Mario Party fan and will definitely be checking this out soon!

Avatar image for kerrman

Just give me a WiiU version, or at the very least a Wii version.

Avatar image for padako

sounds ok but I would rather wait for the console edition. mario party is all about local multiplayer for me and I don't have any friends with a 3DS...

Avatar image for NagaSadow

Gamespot loves Mario Party Island Tour and hates Wii Party U.

IGN loves Wii Party U and hates Mario Party Island Tour.


Avatar image for delete-easycomeeasygo

Nice review but really no Online MP? Mario Party DS was sold out for a good while after it came out, and that one did have online play. It worked pretty well and I'm sad to hear that there is no Online play. Well I play all the Mario Party games so I'll just put this on my list for next year to download on my XL. Again good review GS.

Avatar image for YearoftheSnake5

The last Mario Party game I enjoyed was Mario Party 4 on the Gamecube, but I think I may pick this one up.

Avatar image for boringdork

@YearoftheSnake5 Hahaha, how ironic, that's the same boat im in. The only thing that drove me away was randomly losing all your stars at the end when you thought you would win! Hope that sort of frustration is gone from the series lol

Avatar image for disneyskate

You can turn off bonus stars -.-

Avatar image for Shadowdanc3r

In before the "GameSpot hates Nintendo" comments.

Avatar image for calvinsora

@Shadowdanc3r A Mario Party game getting a 7 is quite generous, actually, it's not Nintendo's best series nowadays. Don't see why anyone would find 7 too rash of Gamespot.

Avatar image for Shadowdanc3r

@calvinsora @Shadowdanc3r Oh dear, you don't know the general GS community very well, do you? They felt that a 9 was too rash for GTA V. :)

Avatar image for calvinsora

@Shadowdanc3r @calvinsora I guess I sometimes have too much hope for the community :P I do remember vividly the 8.0 for TLoU, that was hilarious.

Mario Party: Island Tour More Info

  • First Released Nov 22, 2013
    • 3DS
    Mario Party Island Tour for the 3DS features seven different game boards, each with its own set of rules. It will offer 81 new minigames that test speed, concentration, and luck.
    Average Rating16 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Mario Party: Island Tour
    Developed by:
    Nd Cube
    Published by:
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Mild Cartoon Violence