Home Gaming Mario Kart: A Comprehensive History

Mario Kart: A Comprehensive History

by Colin Krash

Mario is a character that needs no major introduction. He is seen nearly everywhere, has starred and appeared over a hundred different games, and is the first thing most people think of when talking about video games. Much like Superman is with comic books and Bugs Bunny is with cartoons, Mario is synonymous with video games.

A Legacy To Remember

Nintendo’s biggest name has been in so many games that those games have their own separate series. A “series within a series” if you will. The Mario Party games have been addicting groups of gamers for more than ten years now with their simplistic, yet highly competitive, button mashing mini games. The Mario Tennis and Mario Golf series showed that arcade fun can be brought to country club sports. One of the original Mario sub-series to take off is the Mario Kart series.

What can be said about Mario Kart games that has not already been said? The easy to learn controls? The always modifying and inventive tracks? The massive amount of kooky fun characters and karts to race in? The ridiculous and hilariously fun multi-player? Or is it the overall great quality of the games, despite the fact that the core concept in each game has not changed entirely? Part of the reason why Mario Kart is such a popular series is its consistency with all of the factors above.

At their core, the Mario Kart games are very simple arcade style racing games. Each game contains a circuit, usually called Mario Kart GP/Mario GP/Grand Prix mode, in which the player selects one of the many characters in the Mushroom Kingdom and then race on four to five different tracks. The player must try to place as high as possible in the race to earn a certain amount of points. In order to win, the player must obtain the most amount of points possible over the course of the tracks. It’s easier said than done though, as you and the other racers have all kinds of weapons and items to help them out. You could be in first place and next thing you know it, and then BOOM, a blue Koopa Troopa shell hits you and ruins your chances of winning. The inclusion of items can either result in pure strategy or pure chaos.

As fun as the circuit mode can be for a single player, it is the amount of multi-player modes are what, arguably, makes Mario Kart as popular as it is. There is a typical versus mode, where up to four players race each other on a circuit or on one track, or there is the always popular battle mode.

The battle mode has players fighting on either a single plane track or a multi-level one. The levels have all kinds of items and weapons strewn about, so there is never a shortage of them. Everyone has three hits on them, represented by balloons, and has to try and eliminate the other player, or players, before they do. It may seem simple and easy, but it does lead to absolute craziness if played well.


The characters that are included either range from the typical, like Mario himself (shocking, that he would be playable in all of the games), his brother Luigi, Princess Peach and Bowser, to the obscure like the Koopa Kids from Super Mario Bros. 3 and even Funky Kong from Donkey Kong Country!

The series started on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and has had one installment on each major Nintendo console and handheld system since then. That is not including the three arcade installments that are exceptionally rare to find in the United States.

Super Mario Kart

Systems: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Wii Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console (Japan, Europe, and Australia only)
Released: August 27, 1992 (Japan), September 1, 1992 (United States), May 20, 1996 (Player’s Choice), June 9, 2009 (Wii Virtual Console Japan), November 23, 2009 (Wii Virtual Console United States), June 19, 2013 (Wii U Virtual Console)

 

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The racing game that started it all. Super Mario Kart actually started out as a tech demo for what could have been a two player F-Zero, which was a single player only racing game that was also a launch title for the SNES. When creating the demo, Nintendo used a generic guy dressed in overalls as a basic character. The demo was soon built upon that, and that random dude became Mario. Thus, Super Mario Kart was created.

The first Mario Kart may seem primitive and even a little too basic when compared to the other games. It only has a few modes, like Mario Kart GP, Time Trial and Battle Mode. Any player looking past that though, will find an extremely fast and fun game that lays the ground work for future titles in the series.

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For starters, Super Mario Kart is one of the better looking games on the system. The colorful sprites resemble the classic Super Mario World, in the sense that they look more cartoony than pixelated and the colors on each character and track really stand out. This is definitely one of the games to showcase the Super Nintendo’s vastly superior color palette and graphics when compared to the Sega Genesis.

Super Mario Kart is actually the only game in the series that has two unique features; five tracks per circuit cup and the player must complete five laps around the track instead of the typical three seen in other racing games. The added laps and track allow the player to  have a much longer experience racing, but it never takes too long to finish a circuit.

There are only eight characters to choose from in the game and they are, Mario and Luigi, obviously. Bowser, which marked the first time Bowser had appeared as a playable character in a Mario game. Yoshi, who became a very popular character after the release of Super Mario World. Princess Peach, referred to in this game as Princess Toadstool and this was also the first time players could play as the perpetually in peril princess. Rounding out the cast is Donkey Kong Junior, in his only Mario Kart appearance, Koopa Troopa, and Toad, who later becomes a fan favorite.

The controls are tight and responsive, but my feel a bit too stuck together. What that means is that all the major buttons for accelerating, breaking and using the items are all within the same four “A, B, X, Y” layout. Compared to later games, where they felt a little more spread out and responsive, this may take a little bit time getting used to. Once the player does though, Super Mario Kart is a pretty fast game.

One aspect of the game that is a odd when compared to any other racing game, even for the era, is the rival system. In this game, the players opponents would always come in a particular order, unless if the player takes a certain place in the race. For example, if the player had picked Mario to play as and finishes first, Donkey Kong Junior will always be behind him, and Koopa Troopa will always finish last. This is one feature that may seem very repetitive when compared to the rest of the game as it never changes unless if the player specifically takes a different place.

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One of the weaker parts of the game are the tracks and the music. The tracks are not terrible, as they are all challenging and require a great amount of skill, such as the first Rainbow Road on this game which stands by as one of the most difficult in the whole series, but most of them are just variations of other tracks. There is a series of tracks in the game called Mario Circuit, which is a basic race track. Each version of Mario Circuit keeps the same background music and setting. It is a minor complaint to an otherwise classic game though.

Super Mario Kart is a game that every fan of the series needs to play at least once, or anyone who wants to play an old school racing game with bright and colorful characters. Highly recommended, and it still holds up to this day, even better than the original F-Zero.

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Mario Kart 64

Systems: Nintendo 64, Wii Virtual Console
Released: December 14, 1996 (Japan), February 10, 1997 (United States),  January 29, 2007 (Wii Virtual Console United States), January 30, 2007 (Wii Virtual Console Japan)

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Mario Kart 64 was one of the later titles released for the Nintendo 64, as it was released three months after the console’s release in Japan and nearly five in the United States. What had resulted was a game that felt bigger, more creative and had  more of a personality than its predecessor.

The game’s graphics, even when stacked up against later games in the system’s lifespan, still look good. The 3D backgrounds blend well with the 2D sprites of the characters. The blending is so well done, that it never distracts the player that everything has a 2.5D feel.

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Joining the racers is Donkey Kong Junior’s older counterpart (or brother, depending on what confusing family tree of the Kong family that you are looking at) the creatively named Donkey Kong. Replacing Koopa Troopa is the evil counterpart of Mario, the greedy, yet hilarious Wario. Although, Kamek the Magikoopa from Yoshi’s Island was to be in the game, but was scrapped for Donkey Kong.

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In Mario Kart 64, the gameplay was tweaked to be a little more refined. The Nintendo 64 controller is greatly suited for racing games and Mario Kart 64 is no different. The joystick is helpful in steering in those rather difficult stages, and the fact that the item button is now the Z button, which is located on the bottom of the N64 controller, makes the controls feel more spread out, rather than congested on one area.

The game moves at a slower pace than in Super Mario Kart, but never crawls. It allows the player to strategize more, rather than rely on pure speed and throwing items at the opponents.The circuit mode and battle mode both make returns. Circuit mode is titled as Mario GP and contains a  new unlockable addition, Mirror Mode. Mirror Mode flips the tracks backwards, and is far more challenging than it looks. The battle mode in 64 is one of the more memorable renditions of the popular feature, as it has four basic battle tracks and, for the first time ever, the ability to play with four people.

All of this works in the game’s favor though, since all of the tracks are more varied and have a particular setting or gimmick. The biggest feature in the game is the overall track size. In fact, this game’s Rainbow Road is actually the longest track in the entire Mario Kart franchise! Tracks like Yoshi Valley, which take place on a Grand Canyon-esque themed track that has more twists and turns than a season of 24. Another different track is Banshee Boardwalk, a much more terrifying track than the rest of the tracks in the game, as it features some creepy atmospheric music and has a whole lot of ghosts, or Boos as they are called in the Mario universe. Any talk about tracks in Mario Kart 64 wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Wario Stadium; a dirt motorbike arena that has been more famous for being used to cheat rather than play fair. Many Mario Kart veterans know about the exploitable glitches strewn about the track.

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The amount of items have increased too. Mario Kart 64 is the first time that the infamous blue shell, here called the Spiny Shell, made an appearance. The Spiny Shell allowed anyone in a lower place attack the first place racer and immediately take them out. This is one item that every single player in the history of Mario Kart fears, regardless if they are a longtime player or not. Another new item is the Super Mushroom, which is a variation on the Mushroom item that allows players to go faster, but this one allows players to use it repeatedly for a short amount of time. Mario Kart 64 also added the concept of having multiple items, such as multiple speed up mushrooms or three Koopa Troopa shells.

Is there anything wrong with the game though? Fundamentally speaking, no, but there are some minor complaints. Certain tracks are a little bit too easy, such as the earlier ones and especially Rainbow Road this time around. The music, can also be a bit repetitive again. All of that pales in comparison to the overall quality of the game though.

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Mario Kart 64 is one of the most memorable games on the Nintendo 64. It did what most sequels do not do; it actually took the ground work and built up on it into a larger game that surpasses Super Mario Kart in many ways. For it being estentially a launch title for the system, it holds up really well. Another highly recommended game.

Mario Kart Super Circuit

System: Nintendo Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 3DS
Released:  July 21, 2001 (Japan), August 27, 2001 (United States), December 16, 2011 (3DS Virtual Console in United States and Japan)

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Mario Kart Super Circuit
is definitely one of the more underwhelming games in the series, if not the most underwhelming. That does not mean that the game is bad by any stretch of imagination, but when compared to the overall creativity of the rest of the series, this one definitely falls short.

For starters, Super Circuit just feels too much like you have seen it all before. The same eight characters from Mario Kart 64 return, and the sprites for them do not look any different. They also do not control any different. The game boasts that each character has stats, like Yoshi having great speed or Wario being slow. None of it really matters, as the game can be beaten with any of the characters.

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The tracks, one of the best features in ANY Mario Kart game, are rather bland and cookie cutter. Shy Guy Beach is just a slightly different Koopa Troopa Beach from Mario Kart 64. Boo Lake in Super Circuit is just Banshee Boardwalk with a different name. All and all, it is just very lazy. One thing that is interesting, is the fact that Nintendo included older tracks in Super Mario Kart as unlockables.

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Is it worth checking out though? Despite any criticisms, yes the game is still worth playing because the gameplay just works so well. Plus, the fact that anyone can take Mario Kart on the road with them and link it with four people is always a fun time. Multi-player is still a blast, and the battle stages are as fun as ever.

 

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Overall, Super Circuit is not a bad game at all. It is just a run of the mill Mario Kart game. The multi-player makes up for the overall blandness of the rest of the game. Recommended if you have not played it, but don’t expect anything brand new to blow you away.

Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

System: Nintendo Gamecube
Released: November 7, 2003 (Japan), November 17, 2003 (United States)

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Arguably the game that changed the series the most, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!  added so many different features that it really lives up to all of the praise that both critics and gamers had put upon it. The game relied more on strategy, not just with item usage, but in selection of the right characters. It also helps that the game was chock full of  unlockables and is as addicting as ever. The game is so good, that many of the features in Double Dash!! have now become Mario Kart staples.

The title Double Dash!! comes from the ability to have two racers in one kart. Racers are ranked from lightweight to heavyweight. For example, Mario and Luigi are middleweights, but newcomers like Diddy Kong from Donkey Kong Country and King Boo from the underrated Luigi’s Mansion are lightweight and heavyweight respectively. Combining two different weight classes could either result in a fast moving, but difficult to handle kart or a slow moving but great turning kart. The player had to not only keep track of the characters’ weight, but also the karts’ stats also meant a lot more than in the past. This resulted in even more strategy being used, as players now had to carefully select who would fit their particular play style, but who would also be the best fit for the track.

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Along with introducing stats that affected gameplay, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is also the first Mario Kart game to be fully three dimensional. In prior games, the backgrounds were 3D, but the characters were not. The models, even nearly ten plus years later still look phenomenal. The colorful cast of the Mario universe look better than ever on the Gamecube hardware. Double Dash!! is considered to be one of the best looking games of the Gamecube era, and it is not hard to see why.

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The Gamecube’s controller was known for having a somewhat awkward layout, but in this game it works well. The buttons used for accelerating and braking are also near the item button, which is now the X button on the Gamecube controller. It does not feel anywhere near as spread out and smooth like 64‘s controls, but it is not claustrophobic and clunky like other Gamecube racing titles.

Double Dash!!’s tracks have also greatly improved and has some of the most creative in the whole series. One of the tracks, Daisy Cruiser takes place on a cruise ship that is owned by Princess Daisy. The track involves racers going through the ship’s engine room, all over the dining room and to the deck of the ship. Another interesting track is Yoshi Circuit, which is a giant island in the shape of the popular green dinosaur. Double Dash!! also has the distinction of having one of the more difficult Rainbow Road tracks since the first Mario Kart.

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The game has a ton of things to unlock too such as new karts, characters and special tracks, including Rainbow Road. There are karts in the shape of baby buggies, trains and pipes. Also, each character has a special item, the most popular being Baby Mario’s giant Chain Chomp that attacks nearly everyone on the track.

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Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is widely considered to be the best in the series, due to its focus on strategy and the  enhanced gameplay.  The game continues Mario Kart’s consistent awesome quality.

Mario Kart Arcade GP

System: Arcade
Released: October 20
05 (United States and Japan)

The first of the arcade games, Arcade GP feels more like a throwback to Super Mario Kart with its simplistic nature. There is only eight characters, which is the exact same roster from Mario Kart 64 and Super Circuit. This time, since the game is co-developed by Namco Bandai, Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and red ghost Blinky join in on the races.

Mario Kart Arcade GP can be set up with two machines of the same game, creating a head to head play style that dominates the majority of arcade racing games. There are five different circuit cups with only two tracks on each. The tracks themselves are nothing new that the player has not seen before. That does not mean that they are not fun. One of the factors that makes this game more fun is the insane amount of items.

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To this date, the Mario Kart Arcade GP games are the only Mario Kart games to contain more than one hundred different items! Along with the typical Koopa Troopa shells, bannana peels and the dreaded blue shell, Arcade GP includes a needle bomb, that flattens other racers’ tires, and the big and small tire option, which causes another player to control more awkwardly, making it hard to steer.

While the gameplay is straightforward and fun in Mario Kart Arcade GP, the fact that anyone has to pay a massive amount of quarters just to play it is ridiculous. There is also an option for a “data card” to save race data, but that costs even more money. At the end of the day, any player is going to be paying close to five bucks, if they want at least two play throughs and want to save their data. Other arcade racers do not do this, and it feels like a way to get money out of the consumer. The game is also extremely rare to find in America, but it is really not worth the search when you get to find it, due to its high cost.

Mario Kart Arcade GP is simply just not worth it in the end. Sure it is simple and fun, and the amount of items is just crazy, but the cost and rarity don’t make tracking it down any better.

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Mario Kart DS

System: Nintendo DS
Released: November 14, 2005 (United States), December 8, 2005 (Japan)

Mario Kart DS marked the second time the series went portable, and it is a major improvement over Super Circuit and the arcade only Mario Kart Arcade GP Mario Kart DS adds new single player and multiplayer modes, characters, items and tracks. It also offered a brand new concept to the whole series and to Nintendo handhelds: online play.

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Now, Mario Kart DS is not the first  Nintendo DS game to have online play, but it is one of the first games on the system to take full advantage of it. It can also be argued that  it was the first major Nintendo game to be played the most online. Granted, twelve tracks are not playable, and certain items are not allowed because of lag issues, it is still a great addition to the series. The inclusion of online play in this game allowed people who shared the game to play online, but also allowed guests to play too. Anyone who did not own a copy of Mario Kart DS could also play, but it was a stripped down basic VS race between one and four players. Also, the guests could not play as any of the characters in the game, but only as a Shy Guy. Not a huge deal, since the game is very fun.

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Another brand new feature is a single player mode called Mission mode. The player picks a racer and has to complete a specific objectives on a certain track. The objectives can range from collecting a certain amount of coins around a track, to driving through a particular number of gates in numerical order, to just winning a one on one race. The missions end with a boss battle, that are just as varied as the missions themselves. The bosses are various villains in the Mario universe, such as the Blooper, a giant squid or a Big Bully, a black ball with horns and a mean face. It is another welcome addition that makes Mario Kart DS a more complete game for just one person.

Playing through Mission mode, as well as Mario Kart GP, unlocks new tracks and racers like Waluigi, Princess Daisy, and the newcomers,  a Dry Bones and R.O.B.. It also unlocks a brand new grand prix series of races, the Retro Grand Prix, which is nothing but older tracks from Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart Super Circuit, and even Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. It’s a great set of unlockables for longtime fans and even newcomers looking to see what the series used to be.

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While the focus in Double Dash!! was the idea that you can control two racers, that is unfortunately gone in DS. However, the focus on  pure racing makes the game feel different from its console predecessor. The inclusion of the Blooper item, which blocks other players screens in multi-player mode and the Bullet Bill item, which causes the player to turn into a giant bullet, rush right near first place, add more strategy with the already chaotic items.

While great features like the character specific power-ups and karts are gone, Mario Kart DS is a welcome addition to the series and a game that may not have the strategy of Double Dash!! or the wow factor that 64 had, but instead has the overall fun factor of the original. Online play is fantastic, despite some minor lag problems here and there, and the mission mode is perfect for keeping gamers busy without their friends.

Mario Kart Arcade GP 2

System: Arcade
Released: 2007 (Japan), 2008 (United States)

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Mario Kart Arcade GP 2
feels more like an update rather than a full fledged sequel. There is only a few new items and two new characters, like Waluigi, who was first playable in Double Dash!! and Mametchi, who is a character not from any particular game, but from the Tamagatchi franchise. Each character has two different karts. Mario himself has a big kart and a small kart, but neither of them really matter in the grand scheme of things. There are slightly different tracks this time around, but they are not huge differences from the arcade prequel.

 

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However, the best thing about GP 2 is the fact that Namco Bandai and Nintendo fixed the stupid price cost. So now, it is the same fun game as the first GP but it is far more cost effective but players can save their data on cards once again. Although, it does not help that the game is incredibly rare much like the first one. It is worth playing, but good luck trying to find one.

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Mario Kart Wii

System: Nintendo Wii
Released: April 10, 2008 (Japan), April 27, 2008 (United States)


Mario Kart Wii
is the only Mario Kart to feature motion controls, and the first to include bikes for some odd reason. It also carries on the online play feature from Mario Kart DS and features a Tournament mode for multiplayer. It also has one of the biggest rosters of racers seen in the whole series. When it is all said and done, despite all that is good about the game, it still falls short. It all feels like the same game when compared to past titles. Mario Kart Wii feels more like Super Circuit when it should feel more like a brand new game.

The tracks are, just like Super Circuit, rehashes or just very standard and straight forward. In Super Mario Kart, there was an excuse for repetition since the technology was not there to produce more. In this game, the repetition is inexcusable. The tracks, from the standard Mario/Luigi Circuits, to the new Bowser’s Castle to the Toad’s Turnpike rip-off from 64, Moonview Highway, all of the tracks are kind of stagnant and are not as challenging and engaging as they can be.


The items are borrowed over from DS with very little additions. The POW Block item causes a racer to spin out of control and lose items. It is a variation on the bannana peel. The new Lightning Cloud item is rather useless, as it just shocks the opponent rather than really doing anything to cause them to lose the race.

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Bikes are a strange addition as they really don’t control any different from a kart, other than the ability to do wheelies and get a turbo boost when doing a certain action on the control pad. It just seems like an odd way to add some new life into the franchise.

However, the amount of characters is certainly welcome. Players can choose from the typical lineup of, Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Wario, Toad, Waluigi, Koopa Troopa, etc. Or they can choose the baby versions of Mario, Luigi, and the two princesses. Or they can choose a rather morbid depiction of Bowser, who is made up of just bones. Or Rosalina, a rather popular character from the Super Mario Galaxy franchise. Or the incredibly outdated, but funny gorilla, Funky Kong of Donkey Kong Country fame. Or maybe as a created Mii? It also helps that each character’s weight class has specific karts, so at least the karts are a little more original than the tracks and items. Both online play and retro circuits make a comeback, and they are welcome additions. Online play does not have any major issues, and there is more variety in the retro tracks than there is on the actual game.

Mario Kart Wii is kind of like Super Circuit in the sense that it all feels the same and that the creativity is not there. Sure, the addition of bikes may be new, but they really don’t do anything new. Online and multiplayer are as fun as ever, and putting in a Mii as a playable character is a funny addition, but overall the game just does not feel new.

Mario Kart 7

System: Nintendo 3DS
Released: December 1, 2011 (Japan), December 4, 2011 (United States), October 18, 2012 (United States Nintendo eShop), November 1, 2012 (Japan Nintendo eShop)

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Retro Studios, who were known for the excellent Metroid Prime trilogy and the return of Donkey Kong Country, developed Mario Kart 7. 7 definitely feels like a worthy successor to the excellent Mario Kart DS, as  Retro Studios added another feature that had yet to be touched  in the series; customizable karts. Retro Studios also brought back some old features, along with some new ones, making Mario Kart 7 another worthy addition to the series.

The customizable kart feature was something that fans had often wondered. Instead of getting a pre-made kart that has stats that really don’t matter, why not have a kart that can be built on upon? Mario Kart 7‘s customizable feature has players selecting a body for the kart, the wheels and accessories including hang gliders. The ability to change how the kart feels on the track creates a new level of challenge, much like Double Dash!!’s weight system. Do you create a kart with a small body and small tires and risk losing on a track with rough terrain? Or do you have a heavy kart with massive wheels for just such a track, but possibly come in last because of the loss of speed? It is an interesting element of strategy for the player that does not completely copy other games’ strategic elements. The player can unlock other parts through completing certain tasks in the Mario Kart GP mode, such as collecting coins.

The addition of hang gliders may seem confusing, like the addition of bikes in Mario Kart Wii, but it is not a massive focus like the bikes were. The hang gliders allow racers to fly through the air for a short notice when they hit a huge jump on  a particular track. The player is not forced to throw all of their strategy into the hang glider though, but it does add something fun.

Mario Kart 7 was the first game since Super Circuit to add the concept of collecting coins. In older games, collecting coins allowed the player to go faster. While that is still apparent in Mario Kart 7, but the player collects them to also get money for the in game store to unlock new parts for karts.

Along with new gameplay features, 7 adds a few new items and characters. Metal Mario from Super Mario 64 is now a playable racer, along with Queen Bee from Super Mario Galaxy, a Lakitu, a creature who hides in a cloud and has been the cameraman for all of the Mario Kart games up to this point, and a Wiggler from Super Mario World and Super Mario RPG. The ability to play as a Mii as returns from Mario Kart Wii. The new items are the Fire Flower, which allows the player to shoot out a spreading shot of fire across the track; the Super Leaf, based on the popular item from Super Mario Bros. 3, allows drivers to grow a tail to deflect items away; and lastly, the Lucky Seven, which creates seven random items for the racer to use. Both the Super Leaf and Lucky Seven add even more strategy to the game.

Online play has also improved, with up to eight players being able to join. The same feature from Mario Kart DS where anyone who does not own the physical game can join,. but will have to play as a Shy Guy. Coin Chasers is a new multi-player mode where players race around a battle track to collect a certain amount of coins. There is also the ability to transfer Ghost Data on tracks to other players. It is mostly used to show off your finishing time on a particular track.

While the tracks are not completely repetitive like Mario Kart Wii, they all still feel a little bit “been there, done that” with a few exceptions. Music Park, a track of nothing but famous classical music instruments, is much more creative track than anything out of Mario Kart Wii, and Neo Bowser City is a great take on the typical Bowser Castle. If the new tracks aren’t interesting, the Retro Grand Prix makes another consecutive appearance.


The track selection might be a little weak, but Mario Kart 7‘s overall quality as a fun racing game certainly makes up for it. With an improved online multiplayer and some great tweaks to the overall gameplay, Mario Kart 7 definitely stands as the best hand held Mario Kart game.

Mario Kart Arcade GPDX

System: Arcade
Released: July 15, 2013 (Japan), December 2013 (United States)

The most recent of all the Mario Kart arcade games, Mario Kart Arcade GPDX is also the only game in the series to only be available in North America through the Dave & Buster’s restaurant chain. Although, the game has become exceptionally rare to find much like its arcade counterparts. Which is a shame, because Mario Kart Arcade GPDX  is the best of the arcade games.

The same roster of racers return from  GP 2, minus Mametchi, but with three new additional racers; Bowser’s son, Bowser Jr., Rosalina, making her first arcade appearance, and Don-Chan, a living Japanese takio drum that apparently knows how to race from the Takio no Tatsujin music game series that is popular in Japan.

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The same great , stripped down, simple arcade racing is back and more refined than ever. The INSANE amount of items are still there too. The same tracks from GP 2 are back as well. The whole card system is back, but more effective for players. The cards save data, but it is completely required, as the game has a much larger focus on multiplayer anyways.


|GPDX
is exceptionally difficult to track down in the United States. If you can find a machine, grab a couple of friends and definitely play it. It is certainly worth finding. The minor tweaks to the game play, make it far more smoothed out for players and is overall better.

Mario Kart 8

System: Wii U
Released: May 29, 2014 (Japan), May 30, 2014 (United States)

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Mario Kart 8 is the first in the series to be in high-definition, and it certainly shows. The game looks absolutely gorgeous. To match the visuals, Mario Kart 8 contains the most characters to choose from out of the whole series and a new way of racing that may seem very familiar to fans of F-Zero.

There are thirty different racers to choose from in this game. Players can choose from the usual cast of Mario, Luigi,Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Yoshi, Toad, a Koopa Troopa, etc. Now, the fan favorite Koopalings, who are Bowser’s supposed seven children, are playable for the first time in any Mario game. Baby Rosalina and Pink Gold Peach, a supposed “metal” version of Peach are included in the cast and while they may seem tacked on, they are welcome. Players can, once again, choose to play as a Mii.


The game can be controlled with the Wii U gamepad or with one of the Wii U Pro controllers. Either way, the control scheme is similar to Mario Kart DS, which is a plus. They don’t take time to get used to, and there is not a gimmick like Mario Kart Wii.

Customization returns for the second time in Mario Kart 8, this time there are even more parts to use on the karts. New bodies, new wheels, and new accessories. The bodies have also gotten a little more creative. There are some karts that look like low riders, some that ships, and some that look like that  old fashioned go-karts that can be seen at amusement parks. Bikes can also be customized, much like in 7 and now the bikes don’t feel so rushed in the game and are now a welcome alternative to karts. The ATVs, on the other hand, are a strange addition, but are not tacked on and are useful.

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Anti-gravity racing and Mario Kart may seem like a bizarre mix, but for some reason, it works. On tracks, the road will loop around or go into a completely crazy direction, much like in F-Zero. The game’s pace does change in zero gravity, as it gains a massive amount of speed, much like F-Zero again. In a strange way, it adds something different to the Mario Kart franchise, while borrowing from another. Luckily, the anti-gravity isn’t the main focus of every single race that you will play on, as hang gliding makes a return.


Now, at this point in the series, the tracks have still been fun. They all feel a little bit similar by now. Does Mario Kart 8 break this trend at all? The short version? Yes. The long version? The tracks have the right dose of creativity injected into them, part in thanks to the anti-gravity. It may seem gimmicky, but it does change up the series because it is something new, fresh and exciting.  Heck, the game even makes the classic Mario Circuit track seem new! Like clockwork, the Retro tracks do return, and as always they are fun.

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Mario Kart 8 has the “wow” factor that the first two games did. It is fun, fast and exciting like the first one, but it improves on the formula set by the past games by creating more of everything, much like 64. Is it the best Mario Kart game? It is rather new, so only time can tell.

Conclusion

Mario Kart has had its clones, like Crash Team Racing for the original PlayStation which copied a lot of elements from Mario Kart 64. No matter who is in the starring role, Mario is the only character to really perfect the mascot based/arcade style kart racer. He did it the first, and he still does it the best. With eight main entries, and three arcade spin-offs, Mario Kart  is not slowing down any time soon. There will always be groups of gamers looking to fight each other in the classic battle mode, or someone who wants to pick their favorite character from the Mushroom Kingdom and just race.

 

 

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