Super Mario Party has been on my mind over the past few days, and not for great reasons. I’ve been a fan of the franchise since the debut game on Nintendo 64. Through the good times (Mario Party 2 and 4) and the mediocre (Mario Party 8), I’ve purchased and played every mainline game in the series. When Nintendo announced Super Mario Party during E3 2018, I was ecstatic. One of my favorite franchises would be coming to a console I play every day. My family bonded with Mario Party 10, and the thought of sitting together to play Super Mario Party seemed like a no-brainer. All of my hopes for the game were ruined last week when news about the controllers broke.
Then I read fellow enthusiast Aric Sweeny’s article about how the lack of Handheld Mode is a big deal. This portion, in particular, stood out to me:
Remember that whole, “play together anytime, anywhere” marketing slogan? It doesn’t apply to the upcoming Mario Party title, and that’s an issue.
Consumers care about transparency, and more so, living up to expectations. When a company offers a new platform with exclusive benefits then goes back on their word, even in isolated cases, it looks bad for the product as a whole. I can’t help but feel that way about the Switch and Super Mario Party.
Before I continue, there’s a difference between Handheld Mode and Tabletop Mode. With Tabletop Mode, players can experience Super Mario Party on the go, with the use of the kickstand and the detached Joy-Con. It’s portable gaming in a group. Handheld Mode is my definition of pure on-the-go gaming, and a mode I utilize for every game in my library. When Super Mario Party was announced, I assumed that I would be able to play the game in the car, on the bus, during train rides, etc. It turns out that’s not the case.
Looking back at the article that Aric wrote, Super Mario Party is a contradiction to Nintendo’s vision for the Switch, and it personally largely affects me. You see, I’m a disabled gamer. Since birth, I’ve struggled with cerebral palsy. The left side of my body doesn’t function as well as my right side. This caused developmental issues for me, including instances of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and multiple surgeries to crack the bones on my left foot so I could walk correctly.
Physical issues have been a curse throughout my entire life, but video games and writing about them have been a blessing. Because of writing about video games, I’ve met talented writers, and I’ve become friends with readers. I’ve been able to attend conventions like E3 and PAX East, and with every passing year, I’m learning something more about myself and the industry I love. Playing video games helps me to forget about the struggles I deal with on a daily basis. Do I have trouble with some video games? Sure, but it’s never come to the point where I can’t play an individual game. All of this changes with Super Mario Party.
Where Microsoft is making strides to be inclusive with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Nintendo is not so inclusive. When the Wii launched, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to play games on the console because of the nunchuck peripheral. Again, with my left-hand issues, playing certain games like Rayman: Raving Rabbids was difficult because of the fast hand motion needed for some of the mini-games. Titles like that put a strain on me physically, and while they’re fun, I ultimately couldn’t enjoy them to the fullest.
Super Mario Party is everything I feared the Switch would be. When the console was announced, the size of the Joy-Con concerned me. They looked tiny, and watching the reveal video was troubling because of the way the actors/actresses were holding the controllers. I knew I would be picking up the Nintendo Switch regardless, but I also knew that buying the Pro Controller or using the console in Handheld Mode was necessary to circumvent the issue I anticipated with the controllers. I tried playing Snipperclips with my mom on launch date with the detached Joy-Con and had a miserable time. When I gathered with some friends for 8-player Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a few months ago, we separated the Joy-Con, popped the kickstand, and raced each other. It was physically tough to play, and while the game itself was fun, I found myself being miserable.
I wanted to play Super Mario Party, but it doesn’t look like that will happen. It’s weird. Nintendo created a game with a single-player campaign, but even then, you need to use detached Joy-Con to play by yourself. As a disabled gamer, it sucks to see another company develop games that aren’t inclusive. I’ve played every single game I own on Switch via Handheld Mode. It’s something that I can do during my commute, lunch hour, prior to a movie, or on-the-go. It’s replaced my 3DS as the go-to console for portable gaming. Now, I’m forced to miss out because of a decision to force players to use Joy-Con. No other games in the Mario Party franchise excluded players with handicaps. If you were able to use a console, you could play the games.
The Switch installment of Mario Party discourages me. Nintendo let me down, and now I can’t play or support the company by purchasing a game that will most likely be an excellent addition to the Switch library. Video games have always been a safe haven for me to escape the realities of my disability, but being excluded from one of Nintendo’s flagship titles of the year is a shame. This situation sucks, and it’s not even about the game. It’s the fact that Nintendo developed a vision for the Switch, but failed to follow through on the promises they made from the beginning. If Super Mario Party is doing this, what isn’t to say that other exclusives down the road won’t adopt this practice as well? Being disabled sucks. Hopefully, Nintendo doesn’t continue this trend where it’ll be difficult for players like me to enjoy using the console in the long run.