MARIO KART 8 DELUXE Review
MARIO KART 8 DELUXE is the best Mario Kart game since 64, full stop.
Yes, I’m serious. Let that sink in for a second.
Nintendo’s premier racing series has long upheld a lofty standard with quality titles dating all the way back to the Super Nintendo. It’s remarkable, then, that DELUXE is able to achieve marked improvement within the venerable franchise. Despite being little more than an enhanced port of 2014’s MARIO KART 8 for the Wii U, which has already been praised highly for its gameplay and aesthetics, DELUXE takes some strides forward with new characters, a completely revamped battle mode, and some help revitalizing the experience from new hardware: the Nintendo Switch itself.
MARIO KART 8 DELUXE shines brightly with all of the polish and attention to detail that Nintendo is known for. In this case, it’s okay to judge a game by its cover—it is every bit as bright and colorful as the box art implies. Courses like Rainbow Road and Cloudtop Cruise are rife with gorgeous scenery and some marvelous track design. Color trails that emanate from the karts in the Electrodome or rupees appearing instead of coins on the Hyrule Circuit are equal parts distracting and beautiful, and I often found it difficult to keep my eyes on the road when being bombarded with such audio-visual bliss, having not spent very much time with the original MARIO KART 8. Even the music was a surprise; I had never really seen Mario Kart as a frontrunner for excellent composition in gaming, but pieces like the energetic, jazzy Dolphin Shoals BGM or the nostalgic Rainbow Road theme from MARIO KART 64 ignited a new sense of appreciation for the composers’ contributions.
Let’s be honest—they had me at “Link”
Image Source: Screenshot
Nintendo took some great care to address some of the issues that players had with MARIO KART 8. Perhaps the biggest change from the original is the completely updated battle mode, which guts the modified racetracks from 8 and replaces them with all-new arenas like the SPLATOON-themed Urchin Underpass stage to go with the DELUXE-exclusive Inkling Boy and Girl racers. All of the DLC available from the Wii U version, including the Mercedes-Benz collaboration karts and extra tracks, are available from the outset, although some of it takes a bit of play to unlock. In fact, by sheer volume of content alone, DELUXE leaves its predecessors in the dust. That the game’s quality doesn’t take a dip in favor of quantity is exceptional—all 48 courses have their own unique identity, and there are a ton of customization options with characters and kart parts that provide obsessive players with the opportunity to tinker and find the perfect combination for their style.
Finally, my lifelong dream of getting a pink Yoshi to drift in a Benzo achieved
Image Source: Screenshot
MARIO KART 8 DELUXE’s main attraction is its bevy of multiplayer modes. The new battles are as hectic as they are in previous versions, packed with projectile shells, bob-omb explosions, and in some circles, shouted obscenities. New variants like Renegade Roundup, which sticks piranha plants on half of the participants’ vehicles and tasks them with capturing other racers, twist the formula just enough to keep the chaos and laughter running hot. Newcomers benefit from the added smart steering and auto-acceleration mechanics, a huge step for inclusivity for a company that’s been pushing the concept since the Wii debuted in 2006. The game’s framerate takes a marginal dip when playing split-screen with 3 or 4 players, but it’s an acceptable hit for such a visually striking game. The lone gripe I have about the game’s multiplayer is with the undocked console, which doesn’t boast a large enough screen to really capture the chaos of a multiplayer race; crowding around a 6-inch screen split into four is tough on the eyes, and a little too enervating for extended play, but two players seems like a much more reasonable setup for the Switch screen. Fortunately, Switch owners can also race or battle via local wireless, which supports up to two players per console and lightens the burden of displaying everything on one screen.
Shy Guy is only shy until he’s had enough
Image Source: Screenshot
That seems to be the sole shortcoming of the Switch so far. Two months since release, Nintendo’s new system has risen modestly past “400 dollar Zelda machine” (nothing wrong with that, BREATH OF THE WILD is one of the greatest games Nintendo’s ever made) into uncharted territory—the strange, ambitious, all-in-one home console-slash-handheld wonder Nintendo expected to be capable of turning any gathering into a game party. Case in point— I took the Switch to a wedding reception. It just so happened that I had a social event to attend the day after MK8D was released, so I decided to take the console in tow in the hopes that I’d recreate my own Switch commercial with some of the wedding guests. What resulted was everything I hoped for: well-dressed friends gleefully glued to the tiny screen, Joycons in hand, laughing, chatting, enjoying Mario Kart in person like a lot of us remembered. If a small screen is the worst thing I can say about the whole experience (even the single Joycon controls are easy to handle with or without the extra wheel peripheral), it’s safe to say the Switch is in a good place for the time being.
That is what really sets MARIO KART 8 DELUXE apart as more than just a port. Being able to stick a little tablet onto a table, flip out the kickstand, snap the controllers off, and get to the chase is well worth the money I shelled out for the Switch to begin with. It wasn’t just Mario Kart, either—PUYO PUYO TETRIS, another recent release, took center stage after a few races, and the bridegroom himself even came by for a few rounds of block-dropping action. It was the kind of scene that made the commercials seem so silly and impractical, but Nintendo’s ambition makes me feel time and time again that they’re on the road to perfecting the local multiplayer experience. The Switch, with stellar titles like MARIO KART 8 DELUXE behind it, has a bright future.