The act of playing Mario Kart is akin to time travel in my book. I still have fond memories of playing the original SNES Mario Kart with my brothers on our old fashioned tube TV. And occasionally, E_HUFFY breaks out his N64 copy of Mario Kart for us to play.
I still remember the days of hooking up the Super Nintendo to RGB ports; amazing to think that some generations will only know of HDMI and WIFI right?
Mario Kart is to me, the first in a successful line of games that moved Mario and friends out of their traditional roles and into a new style of gameplay that gets everyone playing. I mean, it’s just plain fun, and it makes sense why this series has been a staple to Nintendo consoles over the years. This is definitely the type of game that reaches out to everyone, those who have stayed with the series for years and beginners and says, “Let’s just have some fun”. I’m happy to report back after just a few days, that this is indeed the Mario Kart game you need to pick up.
So, elephant in the room: this game was originally released for the Wii U, and while it fared well on that system, becoming one of the systems highest sellers, in talking to other gamers, it really feels to me like no one played that game. I had only experienced the game while waiting at a local Best Buy or when randomly finding myself in the hell on earth that is Gamestop.
And that’s not to say that I didn’t see the promise in the game at that time. But when coupled with that giant Wii U tablet control scheme, and the fact that many Wii U consoles were tied to such ugly displays, I never really got a feel for what changed with this version of Mario Kart. In short, it’s hard to know how a system will feel in your hands if you can barely move it.
So jump to present day, we’ve all spent hundreds of hours playing Breath of the Wild and us Switch owners are now looking for something to fill that void. Enter, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Gameplay and Presentation
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a beautiful addition to the games reputation. Granted, this is a game that came out a few years ago on the Wii U, but with that time, the game has added an extra layer of luster to its coat. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe includes all the DLC that was released for Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U. This is great for the absent Kart player such as myself, as there is very little to unlock outside of a Golden Mario and just about everything is immediately accessible to the player. You’ll unlock vehicles, different types of tires and gliders and parachutes as well. Basically, the game asks very little of you but to sit down and enjoy a good race.
There are also 48 courses to play in this game, so there will be plenty for seasoned veterans and for newcomers. I really enjoyed the variety of courses and it was a wonderful site to see such classics as Moo Moo Farms, Toadstool Turnpike, and the classic SNES course, Rainbow Road (even though we all secretly hate that last one…)
There are also a ton of characters to choose from that it’s almost dizzying to see. Roy? Who the heck is Roy?
So how does this game play you say? Well, pretty darn well! It should be noted that if you are not 5 years old, to immediately press the + button at the start of the race to turn off Smart Steering. I can imagine that Smart Steering might be nice if you are intoxicated and want to play a video game, or maybe for a child with limited coordination (seriously I think those are the only two cases my brain can come up with…). Once this is turned off, best to get yourself familiar with the next most important skill: drifting. Drifting has become a bigger staple of the Mario Kart games, and honestly, I wonder how we all dealt without it all these years. To drift, all the player needs to do is to hold down one of the R buttons while turning into a curve. As you hold the drift longer, boost builds up to give you an extra advantage over the competition. Drifting adds a really slick and robust strategy to the game now. Just mastering the amount of cornering and boosting you can get from this technique really adds a heightened atmosphere to each race.
Another new addition to the game includes two slots for pick ups. You’ll have various items at your disposal including a horn that when used properly, can stop the dreaded blue shells.
The addition of the extra slot seems to make pick ups less of an issue if you happen to miss one, meaning that you will typically have at least one item left over before you encounter more ? boxes. All and all, the karting around in this game feels solid and really brings me back to my childhood. There really isn’t much more to say, the controls feel good…
EXCEPT! When playing with two players. Oh boy, I wish I could say something positive about the Jon-Cons when playing with another person, but, I can’t do that. This is also to say that this is only an issue with the way the Joy-Cons feel when playing them on their side configuration. If you have big hands or long fingers, you may find yourself developing a hand cramp when trying press that tiny SR button for drifting. And honestly, because you need to do that so much just to get an advantage over the other players, you may just want to buy two pro controllers. Just a shame that this finally came into play with my new favorite game. I really wish there was something Nintendo could do about this, but it would require engineering a whole new console, oh well…
So here’s an important note: with two first party Nintendo games released during the first year of this new console, it’s becoming apparent that the very controllers that are provided with the console are not always ideal for every play session. In short, time to buy a couple Pro Controllers (once a damn price drop happens…).
I also found it odd that when playing with two players the default split-screen is for vertical instead of horizontal. As far as I can tell, I wasn’t able to find a setting that switches this (pun intended?).
While those may seem like bad issues to some, I ultimately have rested on them being rather negligible. I don’t intend to have 100 hour play times with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe because it is to me, the polar opposite of Breath of the Wild. This isn’t an open world adventure game, this is MARIO KART! Which means it’s meant to be played in short bursts, mainly in that time when you have that thought of “shouldn’t I be doing something else?”. Well Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is that something else.
Last but certainly not least is the beautiful presentation of this game. I remember seeing a few years back a video about a game designer updating Mario and putting him in Unreal Engine 4. I remember thinking, “Why hasn’t Nintendo stepped up to provide this level of detail?”. Well, they stepped things up for sure! Take my word for it, this game is well designed, polished and fun to play.
It has really been an interesting time reconnecting with the gaming lore of my childhood. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings that fun, home console feeling of days gone by back to the present. Honestly, don’t deny yourself the fun of playing this game, sure, you may get a few hand cramps here and there, but sometimes, that just happens to be the hallmark of one of those games that is just too good to put down.
-GIVE IT A SHOT!
P.S. Here is my footage from previously today if you’d like to watch it all in action