The Mario Party franchise is a multiplayer-centric game franchise that takes place in the Mario universe. The series has had 11 games in the franchise (14 including 3 Japanese arcade ports of the series.), with every game in the franchise besides the aforementioned arcade game being developed by Hudson Soft (Except for the 3 Japanese arcade ports, which is developed by Capcom). Naturally, every game has been published by Nintendo as well. The first game in the franchise, Mario Party, came out for the Nintendo 64 in December of 1998, and since has had nearly yearly installments in the series.
Despite being a very popular and multi-million selling franchise (with nearly every game in the series selling well over a million copies), critics tend to agree that the games have been declining in quality. While the first few games were well received for their easy to pick up gameplay, later installments have been criticized for not differing enough from their predecessors.
Each game in the franchise has small differences, but the general standards tend to stay the same from game to game. Every game takes place on a variety of "boards," where several human or computer controlled players can collect items, coins, and stars. The ultimate goal is to collect the most stars by the end of the game. There are a variety of ways to do this, usually by purchasing them or winning them.
Minigames are some of what Mario Party is most well known for. Every game has had nearly 50-100 minigames (excluding Mario Party-e), with several variations of the minigames. Coins are dealt out to the top players for each minigame, and the top teams for team based minigames. Some Mario Party games introduce new types of minigames, from Donkey Kong minigames, to duel minigames.
The original Mario Party introduced many of the series' standards outlined above. The game had 53 minigames, and was released for the Nintendo 64 on February 8, 1999 (in North America). Mario Party had six playable characters, and those characters have returned in every Mario Party game since (excluding Mario Party Advance, in which Wario was absent).
Mario Party 2
Mario Party 2 was released for the Nintendo 64 on January 24, 2000 (in North America). The second game introduced items, which have been included in every game to date. It also introduced duel and battle minigames. Battle minigames are similar to four player minigames, but each player contributed to the winnings, instead of the winners winning a set amount of coins. Duel minigames are one-on-one minigames where two players face off against each other.
Mario Party 3
Mario Party 3 was the last Mario Party game released for the Nintendo 64 (released on May 7, 2001). The game introduced the story mode to the franchise, allowing one player to play against computer controlled opponents while collecting "stamps." Similar story modes have appeared in every Mario Party game since. Game Guy minigames are also introduced in Mario Party 3. Upon landing on the Game Guy space, players forfeit all of their coins and play a game of chance. If they win, their total coins are multiplied (usually doubled). These did not appear in any other Mario Party game.
Mario Party 4
The first Mario Party game to be released for the Nintendo GameCube, Mario Party 4 came out on October 21, 2002 (in North America). The game removed duel minigames in multiplayer, but during the single player story all minigames are "duel minigames." It also introduced Bowser minigames, which are usually more difficult and have outrageous requirements for the loser (e.g. forfeiting all of their coins).
Mario Party 5
Mario Party 5 came out originally for the GameCube on November 10, 2003 (in North America), and was later ported to Japanese arcades under the name Super Mario Fushigi no Korokoro Party Super Mario: The Mysterious Rolling Party (and was the only game not to be developed by Hudson Soft, instead developed by Capcom). The GameCube version re-introduced the duel minigames, and introduced a mode known as Super-Duel Mode, where players could create their own combat vehicle and then battle with other players. The minigame count in this game is now 75.
Mario Party 6
Released on December 6, 2004 in North America, Mario Party 6 was the third game in the Mario Party series to come out on the GameCube. It introduced a microphone, and with it many microphone based minigames (although none of these appear in multiplayer or story modes, but rather in the Extras Mode). The game also featured a day and night cycle while playing on boards, altering what appears in the board environment, and what minigames will appear.
Mario Party 7
The fourth and last Mario Party game to come out on the GameCube (on November 7, 2005 in North America), Mario Party 7 also featured the microphone based minigames of Mario Party 6. In addition, Mario Party 7 changed the single player mode drastically from other games. Instead of having the same objective for every board (collect the most stars), Mario Party 7 had unique objectives (such as gathering the most coins on a single space).
Mario Party 8
The latest game to come out in the main Mario Party franchise (and the first Mario Party game on the Nintendo Wii), Mario Party 8 was released on May 9, 2007 in North America. Naturally, the game featured Wii Remote based minigames, catered to the Wii's unique capabilities. In addition, Mario Party 8 introduced candy power ups, which transforms the character to do certain things (ranging from an extra dice to power ups that harm other players).
The Mario Party series has seen other games. Mario Party-e was technically the first handheld game in the series. Using Nintendo's e-Reader peripheral (for the Game Boy Advance), players could play various minigames. Later, a "true" Mario Party game came out for the Game Boy Advance, titled Mario Party Advance. The game had no Party Mode multiplayer (a Mario Party first), but minigames could be played in multiplayer. Mario Party DS was released for the Nintendo DS, and is the latest handheld Mario Party game released. It featured minigames uniquely crafted for the DS' capabilities, including touch and microphone based minigames.
The Mario Party series initially began with only the core Mario characters. However since then there have been many new faces introduced to the roster. Donkey Kong has also appeared as a playable character, but the last game he appeared in was Mario Party 4. Koopa Kid also appeared as a playable character in Mario Party 5 and Mario Party 6. The full list from the last full game in the series (Mario Party 8 for Wii) is as follows: