There are many Mario Party games, but they all follow the same basic format. Up to four players, controlled by human players or the computer, compete in a board game at once. The goal of the board game is to collect as many stars by advancing along one of several boards. After every player has one turn, a mini-game is played in which the players must cooperate and compete in order to win rewards. Each Mario Party entry has somewhere between 50 and 100 such mini-games, with games rarely being recycled from entry to entry.
The Mario Party series started in late 1998, with the release of Mario Party for the Nintendo 64. The game marked the beginning of a collaboration between Nintendo and Hudson Soft to make Nintendo console games based on the Mario franchise. The game was an immediate success, and received two sequels for the platform in 1999 and 2000.
Although there was no Mario Party game in 2001, an entry in the series was released in the last quarter of every year from 2002 to 2005. These games, titled 4 through 7, would become a regular feature on the GameCube. When Nintendo acquired Hudson Soft, the production of these games continued as per usual.
The Revolution had only two Mario Party games, 8 and 9, in 2007 and 2012. This was due to a number of factors, including a focus on other projects at Hudson Soft and the creation of Revolution Party by the same team.
There have also been three handheld iterations in the series, for the Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Nitro, and Game Boy 3DS, all named after their systems. These games were released in 2005, 2007, and 2013.
The Mario Party series has generally received mixed reviews. Although recognized as one of the key multiplayer series on Nintendo systems, the games have been criticized for occasionally low production values, a lack of single player content, and most significantly, a high emphasis on random chance.
Nevertheless, the Mario Party series has been a major commercial success, with each entry having sold at least a million copies, save for the recently released Mario Party 3D. In total, the series has sold almost 40 million units of software.