Title: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Available On: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Kart Racer
Official Site: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Release Date: April 28th, 2017
Where To Buy: Nintendo Store, Local Retailer
Having never owned a Wii U, I missed out on the opportunity to spend some quality time with Mario Kart 8. Just like 80 million of Wii owners who did not upgrade to the Wii U, I skipped some brilliant games that came to Nintendo’s sixth home console. Thankfully with the launch of the Nintendo Switch, the chance has arisen once more with the added benefit of being able to play the addictive racer on the go. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is more than just a simple Game of The Year rendition we’ve grown accustomed too. The Switch version does come bundled with the previous DLC but it also brings some tweaks, new features, and a reimagined battle mode. The final product is the complete Mario Kart to date and although Wii U owners may not be enticed to venture onto the track again, it is a must own for any Switch customer.
If you have experience with the series before, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will feel very familiar. Twelve racers compete with a combination of speed, skill, and weapons to ultimately claim a victory. Characters from the Italian plumber himself to lesser known personalities such as Dry Bones will frustrate one another with Turtle Shells and Bullet Bills synonymous with the entire franchise. Racing on stages inspired by Mario lore will take our athletes to Bowser’s Castle and the infamous Rainbow Road. There are rarely huge victories as the perfected ‘catch up’ mechanic allows racers in last place to maintain a chance of victory via speed boosts and powerful weapons.
It all sounds very familiar but why fix what is not broken? Mario Kart 8 did add elements from experiments of the past such as aerial and underwater sections. Kart customisations return too which can be attained from collecting coins on the courses. Zero-G is the biggest addition to the franchise with gravity no longer being an obstacle to both the racers and courses themselves. Mario and the team will be scaling walls and defy the laws of physics as sections of the track transform our traditional karts into flying machines not too dissimilar from Doc Brown’s DeLorean.
Although the gravity-defying mechanics do not affect the driver too much, it can add inspiration to the courses. The franchise has always reimagined older stages from previous titles but never as drastically as in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Reused courses barely resemble their templates with many of them receiving Zero-G modifications making the courses look fresh and new. The technical aspects of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe make this entry in the series the most gorgeous yet. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe runs at a consistent 60 FPS and with the Switch’s boosted capabilities, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe runs at 1080p in TV mode (9oop in handheld mode). The combination of colorful landscapes, animated characters, and inventive scenery make Mario Kart 8 Deluxe one of the prettiest games I’ve ever seen. In handheld mode, the game looks even better in part thanks to the Switch’s bright and sharp screen.
So Should Wii U owners purchase Mario Kart again? Aside from the stellar work done in the original, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings refinement and amends. It is rare for core Mario Kart titles to release close together, often taking many years for the next entry. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has used this anomaly to counteract mistakes made in the original and add some clever new features too.
Small tweaks on the track now allow our racers to hold two items at once for instance. This is hardly revolutionary but can be tactful. Maintaining pole position is no easy feat with eleven other racers and the dreaded blue shell pursuing you. Previously you would defend yourself with a trusty banana peel whilst skipping additional pickups. Now you can have a bit more fun with the knowledge of the next item you’ll be acquiring. Another notable addition for the pro gamer is the inclusion of purple sparks. The charm of Mario Kart has always been the accessibility but the hardcore fans will enchantingly drift around every corner gaining a boost for their trouble. Previously holding a dangerously long drift would reward your tires with fire and a substantial boost. In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, holding the manoeuvre even longer will now grant purple sparks and a huge boost. It is a small detail but competition is tense in Mario Kart and this could give a player the edge.
These two big track alterations are aimed towards the veteran players and you can test these skills in a number of ways thanks to the Nintendo Switch. Mario Kart has always accommodated for multiple control inputs and the Switch’s Joy-Cons are put to good use here. Although they are not the most efficient way to play, having the ability to challenge a friend to a race at any time is a great one. Turning the Joy-Con sideways gives the user the essential buttons needed to race. The controllers are perhaps too small but they are more than bearable with my friend and I playing a full Grand Prix before our hands began to cramp. You can play with three or four players via split-screen (even in the handheld mode which brings back Goldeneye memories) but you will need additional controllers.
If your friends happen to have a Switch too, you can connect wirelessly with up to 8 devices connecting to each other. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looks and performs superbly in handheld mode and the controls feel comfortable and responsive. Sadly, everyone does need a copy of the game unlike the DS version which could be shared but with the Switch’s small library of games, every owner should acquire the game. Jumping online is easily done too and finding open lobbies is simple and fast however room codes are needed to find friends and specific competitions. One frustrating aspect about racing in public lobbies is the race settings. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe does feature the insanely fast 200cc mode yet 150cc is the traditional setup. Weirdly when playing online, the races would occasionally be set at 100cc and the pace was far too slow for the competitive nature I wanted from online play.
The biggest update to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is for when racing each other is not enough. Battle mode returns in its original form with new stages designed as arenas as opposed to the courses which featured in the original version. Five modes are available in the Battle mode which consists of Balloon Battle, Renegade Round-up, Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners and Shine Thief. A few are self-explanatory as you use weapons to attack your enemies whilst attempting to avoid theirs. Renegade Roundup consists of two teams of five; one as the cops and one as the robbers. The aim is to chase the convicts and lock them in a cell in the center of the arena while their teammates can free their accomplices. The mode is fun but with the lack of voice chat, there is little room for tactics. Shine Thief is a returning mode very similar to King of The Hill where the racer holding the Shine Sprite longest wins. Battle mode is fun and a nice break from the tense racing but with no form of communication, the mode could be better.
The final difference within Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a handful of new characters, with King Boo and the Inklings from Splatoon being playable. A Splatoon stage is also available in Battle mode. As I mentioned earlier, the DLC is included which brings Link and a Legend of Zelda stage. As soon as you begin Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you have over 40 stages to race upon and over 20 characters. Having levels inspired by other Nintendo games such as Animal Crossing and Excite Bike makes the future exciting for Mario Kart. I fully expect to see Pikachu racing on a Metroid inspired stage in a future title. As great as it is to have all of this content, having it unlocked from the beginning is oddly disappointing. Claiming gold trophies used to mean more than just bragging rights with new modes, stages, and characters becoming available. There is only one secret character to claim and aside from kart aesthetics, you will just play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the exhilarating racing.
If you own a Nintendo Switch you need to own Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. The competitive nature of the game makes every race compelling and with even more ways to race than ever, there has never been so much content within a Mario Kart title. The lack of unlockables can feel disappointing but the gameplay is a reward enough. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is another example of how great games can be on Nintendo’s newest device and as more Switch’s sale, the number of challengers will rise too… So start training.
- Gameplay: High Octane Kart Racing
- Graphics: Bright, Vibrant, 60FPS
- Sound: Classic Nintendo Overture
- Presentation: Most Complete Mario Kart To Date
- Beautiful Stages
- Huge Roster
- Slick Racing Mechanics
- Battle Mode Returns
- Lack of Unlockables
- No Voice Chat