Nintendo has been adding classic Nintendo 64 games to its Nintendo Switch Online expansion pack subscriber service. The most recent additions to the Nintendo 64 line-up (as of November 2, 2022) are Mario Party and Mario Party 2.

A photograph of an original copy of the first Mario Party for the Nintendo 64. The cartridge image features Mario jumping up to hit a block under the Mario Party logo.
Who needs the Switch Online expansion pass when you have the original Mario Party? I received my copy in 1999 at a Toys ‘R Us. It is a few years younger than my copies of Kirby’s Dream Land and Kirby’s Dream Land 2, which I featured separately. My Mario Party still works, albeit as I explained in my post on playing it in 2019 (see link below), it is a bit temperamental in its old age.

Long-time New Leaf Journal readers may note that I have written about my history with the first Mario Party. I popped my original copy into my special Hey You Pikachu edition Nintendo 64 in preparation for a game with friends and discovered that I had a hitherto unfinished saved game from somewhere in the neighborhood of 16-17 years prior. For this post, I want to focus on one passage from my 2021 anecdotal article:

Did I mention that the first Mario Party had mini games that required you to rapidly spin the joystick, which eventually destroyed your controller? Good thing Nintendo thought better of those in Mario Party 2.

N.A. Ferrell

Not only did Nintendo think better of the “rotate your joystick as fast as possible games” in Mario Party 2, they also thought better of them in every one of the many subsequent Mario Party games – with the apparent exception (I have not played it) of Mario Party Superstars, which included two of the joystick rotation games. This is a good thing. The only way that a controller should be destroyed in Mario Party is by throwing it after the game cheats you out of something. See my quote from the 2021 Mario Party article on playing the game in single-player mode:

You learn many life lessons from playing Mario Party solo. ‘Nothing matters, in the end.’ ‘Memento mori.’ ‘Everyone and everything is out to get me.’ I recommend having kids play Mario Party by themselves.

N.A. Ferrell

No controllers should be harmed by playing mini-games.

I understood as a child that the joystick-rotating games were a bad idea when my controller joysticks became wobbly (I also was not very good at them – but that is neither here nor there). I remembered this lesson well enough to specify in 2019 when I played with Victor V. Gurbo and a few other friends that we would not contest the controller rotating games (I did not want to destroy my original special edition Hey You Pikachu controller). Nintendo had initially embraced the madness – Nintendo Power magazine even posted submissions of record spin counts in a special mini game on the game’s main menu island. However, Nintendo evidently realized that this was a bad idea (something pre-release testing would have made obvious) and did not bring it back.

Surely, after 24 years of not packing Mario Party entries with controller wrecking mini-games, Nintendo would want to keep the streak alive with the Mario Party re-release. Not so, reports Mr. Jim Norman of Nintendo Life, not so. Apparently, Nintendo posts the following message when launching the original Mario Party on the Switch:

CAUTION: Some individuals may experience skin irritation and/or damage the Control Stick if they rotate it with the palm of their hand. Nintendo recommends the Control Stick be rotated with the thumb only.

The thing is that using one’s thumb is difficult (easy to slip off the controller) and slow. The same can be said for pinching the control stick. The optimal way to achieve the most rotations is by using one’s palm. This is what people do. People playing video games like to try to win the game. I can see the potential for injury – but I will note that I played quite a few of those games back in the day and never suffered from blisters. (Mr. Norman reports that Nintendo offered gloves for people who were actually trying to succeed in Mario Party back in the day, but I did not remember that detail. However, I was inspired to research the story, which led to my comprehensive history of the Mario Party gloves.)

The solution to the joystick rotation games in Mario Party is not to tell people to play them in a frustrating way (which will probably still wreck a few controllers). The solution is to not include them at all. If you need to tell people to play a game in a sub-optimal way to avoid injury or destroying expensive controllers, you have already lost the battle. They should have removed the offending mini games from the Switch Online version of Mario Party.

Moreover – who in their right mind signed off on putting them in Mario Party Superstars? Somehow Nintendo lost the wisdom it had when it opted to not put the rotation mini games in Mario Party 2 or 3 for Nintendo 64 or any of the subsequent entries.

Nintendo sells replica Nintendo 64 controllers for the Switch to use with the classic games. I offer a lesson for those who were too young (or not alive) to enjoy Mario Party when it was first released for the Nintendo 64. If you are playing with your friends, do not partake in the joystick spinning mini-games with your $60 controller. Although the Nintendo 64’s joystick is different (and better) than modern joysticks, I would strongly advise not partaking in these mini-games with your expensive Pro Controller, Joy-Cons (with our without a phone attachment), or Switch Lite joystick if you have a Switch Lite (my colleague learned the danger of drift on a Switch Lite the hard way). People have already complained about drift issues with these joysticks. Do not hasten the issue at Nintendo’s invitation. If you must have the full Mario Party experience, at least use a cheap Hori Pad or some mysteriously branded Chinese controller.

Controller rotation aside, I will note that Mario Party is still a fun game to play 25 years after its release. While I do seriously recommend calling a truce on the controller rotation games, readers who have a Nintendo Switch, an expansion pack online account, and three people to play with should give it a try. For whatever it is worth, Mario Party’s single player mini game challenge is fun too. Those looking for the best classic Mario Party experience should go for Mario Party 2. Mario Party holds up decently well, but its successor is the better game by every meaningful metric – even without comparing controller/hand carnage.

November 6, 2022 Update: Writing this article inspired me to study the history of the controversy stemming from Mario Party’s joystick rotation games. You can read my long research piece here.