This next anecdote involves blu tack and a ballpoint pen.

I grew up in the countryside - Norfolk to be exact - but every weekend without fail we’d drive a few hours to my Grandparent’s house in North London. We weren’t the only ones, either. Every weekend, that house was full of what felt like a hundred people but was probably more like 25. Every inch of their impossibly tall and skinny house on the backstreets of Kilburn was filled with the sounds of my many cousins (of varying age) getting up to no good.

It’s worth mentioning again that from the age of 2 until I was about 12, that’s what happened every weekend. And era wise, we’re talking ‘80s/90s. Which is important because of the technology involved.

If we weren't outside playing basketball at one of Kilburn’s many broken playgrounds, we were inside immersed in video games because what else were you gonna do back in those days? Those weekends were great for a kid like me that loved video games but only had a Gameboy. My older cousins had every damn system, and I got to play with them as much as I wanted.

The nostalgia is starting to kick in.

Single-player games were fun in terms of communal problem-solving, but the very best games for family-based competition always seemed to be focused on the Olympics. It was all about speed and skill. Doing the 100m sprint? Cool, smash the A/B buttons as fast as you can. Doing the long jump? Better make sure your timing is on-point.

Many fights were had over those games. And we all had our own strategies or favourite controllers too.

I very rarely beat my older cousins. And they’d rather die than let anyone beat them. So I had to get creative.

It’s only a hazy memory in terms of the outcome, so it’s likely that I still didn’t win, but one afternoon, I was convinced that I’d finally cracked it. I stuck some blu tack over the A / B buttons, with a ballpoint pen stuck in the middle. My theory was that I could flick the pen between the two buttons super fast.

I definitely came last, didn’t I?

But that’s what those sorts of games made us do. And look, I’m not about to go full ‘Old Man Raving About The Lack of Real Games These Days’ - partly because I’m not that person yet, and partly because I’ve spent the past 10 days playing Super Mario Party, screaming obscenities at my TV like I’d travelled back a few decades.

I suppose the only difference is the approach. Those games from my childhood focused on who could press a bunch of buttons faster than anyone else, or who had better timing. But with Super Mario Party, or to a larger degree Super Mario Kart, pure skill will get you into the conversation, but you're constantly fighting against a system looking to level the playing field.

We’ve all experienced the anxiety of the Blue Shell, right? You’re in the lead, but just as you’re about to cross the finish line, the blue demon from hell sends you spinning 60ft into the air and any hopes of winning into the trash. It’s frustrating, but that’s what makes it so compelling. Whether you’ve played Mario Kart a million times before, or only a handful, you’ve still got a chance to win.

By the time the first edition of Super Mario Party came out for the Nintendo 64 (one of my favourite consoles of all time) I’d already moved over to the PlayStation - a console geared towards a more mature market - so I can’t really speak on the game’s evolution. In fact, my only experience of the franchise came much later with the Wii, but even then it never really moved the needle for me.

It’s fair to say that couldn’t be further from the truth with the Switch version.

So the setup is simple: you and three other people (friends, or AI) compete for stars on a non-linear board game, the winner being the person with the most amount of stars at the end of the game (the length is based on the number of turns chosen at the start).

Depending on what square you land on, you might end up with some coins (you’ll need these to buy stars when presented with the opportunity), an item, a smack in the face from a boulder, etc. Once everyone has had a turn, you’ll have the chance to play a mini-game against your opponents in the hopes of grabbing more coins. For example, you might find yourself rotating your Joy-Con from left to right (no blu tack required) to move a tricycle, or up and down to climb a pole. Some of these games are better than others, but there's certainly more hits than misses.

Oh, and just like Mario Kart, your position can flip in an instant. I’m still yet to win, despite how coin-dominant I tend to be.

It’s so damn annoying. And so damn wonderful.

There’s more to the ecosystem than what I’ve briefly outlined (you have to try the river survival mode) but you get the point. This is about back-to-basics sabotage, skill, and fun, featuring all the Nintendo characters you know and love.

I could get on them about the fact that if you wanna play with three other human people you’ll need two sets of Joy-Cons, but I’ve mostly played the game against the computer anyway, so it’s not a massive concern. Plus, I’ve been looking to pick up the Neon Joy-Cons, so what better time than now?

Nintendo have done it again. But did you ever doubt them?