One day several months ago, my then 2-year old son Jack told me “I’m having a Mario birthday when I turn three!” As a big Mario fan, I was super excited! What a great opportunity to celebrate this important milestone with a gaming themed party. We spent several weeks thinking about how to make the party as fun and cool as possible, talked with friends, and looked up ideas online. Here are a few tips we found really helped us make the party special, some pictures of what we decided to do, and an awesome Do-It-Yourself Project tutorial for all the Mario enthusiasts out there! Enjoy!
Theme is everything!
The first step in throwing a memorable game character party is to find ways to push your theme. Make a list of all of the important characters, items, locations, foes, and iconic elements of the game or games your character appears in. Try to include a few actions too, things that the character is known for doing. In our example, we listed things like Mario, Luigi, Toad, Princess Peach, Bowser, Koopas, Lakito, Goombas, Collecting Coins, Jumping, Power-up Mushrooms, Mario Kart racing, Question Blocks, Sliding Down the Flagpole at the End of Each Level, 1-ups, and Climbing Vines. We'll use this list throught the other steps as an idea bank and also to check and see if we're getting everything we want into the party.
Dress up the Party
The next step is to figure out a way to make your list come alive for the party-goers. Decorations and costumes go a long way towards immersing guests in the world of the game. Hang game posters and maps on the wall, search online for images to print out and display, and consider making homemade props to enhance the scene. Costumes are also a great way to get into the theme, dress up and encourage guests to join in! If possible, try to use whatever you have available and spice it up to fill in the world details. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on expensive decorations or props, and your list will come in handy for thinking of different ways you can reinforce you’re theme. For our Mario party, we found some Mario posters from game cases and hung them around the house and Randy painted some foamboard with a Mario scene and “Happy Birthday Jack!”. The kids dressed up as Mario (complete with makeup mustache!) and Princess Peach. The Mario outfit was Jack’s reused Halloween costume (bought in the toy section at Target) and Princess Peach was thrown together from our dress-up clothes and a quick crown cutout from foamboard spray- painted gold. We also went around the house and added decorating touches such as vine leaves cut out of green construction paper taped to a rope, and turning our climbing structure into a small castle with a World 3 flag.
Re-theme Classic Games
Here’s a quick and easy way to come up with some activities for your party. Think of a family favorite classic party game, such as “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” or “Bingo”, and retheme it with something from your list. Draw or use images found online to make the game pieces, and rename the game. In our case, we decided to go with “Pin the Tail on the Koopa” and mocked up a Koopa Trooper (minus tail!) on a big piece of poster board. We premade tails with each kid’s name printed on it, and had a fun time taking turns trying to get the tail in the right spot. The prize was gold chocolate coins, and everybody got some for playing.
Icing on the Cake
Snacks, party favors, and of course the cake are another way to liven up your party. Name the snack foods after items from your list, and serve things that fit with your theme. What’s a Donkey Kong Party without bananas?? When it comes to the cake, you don’t have to be a super cake decorator to pull of a fun thematic cake idea. Using toys as cake toppers and softened candy (like tootsie rolls or starbursts) to decorate the cake can really create a cake that will excite and please! Party favors can include stickers, toys, candy, or other thematic tie-ins to serve as a great reminder of a wonderful experience. For our Mario party, a good friend of ours made Jack’s cake and did a lovely job decorating it with all kinds of imagery from the Mario games and topping it off with some Mario toys that Jack still plays with. She also made cupcakes that resembled 1-ups and Power-Up Mushrooms, which made serving to the kids a quick and easy process. For favors, we gave out adorable little metal 1-up and Power-Up mushroom containers (found at Best Buy) with little mushroom shaped candies inside.
Find a Way to Play
This last tip is one that really takes advantage of the game inspired theme, and will help your party to stand out. Look back on your list and pick out a few of the action phrases you jotted down, then try to find a way for the party goers to get into the game and play! This could be as simple as setting up a gaming station or two that guests can rotate through and experience the game, especially if it’s a multiplayer experience that lends well to group play. Another way to get in on the action is to come up with a game or activity that captures the essence of the game. We put this into practice in a few ways for our Mario party. First off, we set up a go-kart race track with remote controlled Mario Kart racers, and the kids took turns racing around the Mario and Yoshi karts and making their own courses with the materials provided. We also had a Wii gaming station set up with New Super Mario Bros Wii and Mario Kart, and the kids took turns playing those games. The final thing we did to get the kids into the action was to create our very own Question Block that the kids could jump up and punch like Mario does. We created the box, then rigged it to make a satisfying DING noise when punched from below and spout gold chocolate coins from the top. We had the kids take turns punching the block and gathering up their coins, and it was one of the biggest hits of the party! As a special bonus for our readers, Randy wrote up a Do-It-Yourself Tutorial on how we created the box and made it work!
I hope these tips and ideas are helpful in getting started planning your next party. Thanks for reading, and please share any other ideas or stories of your own in the comments, we love to hear from you!