In the wake of the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, I’ve heard a lot of people contend that Mario Kart 8 was the best of the series, and I think they probably have a reasonable point. I personally feel that it’s kind of hard to name one Mario Kart the “best” out of all of them. They each have their own unique strengths, but also their individual quirks and idiosyncrasies. MK8 was and is a really amazing game, though, and quite possibly my favorite of the entire series. It’s great that it’s come to the Switch., but I vacillated quite a bit on whether I would purchase this new deluxe version. Ultimately, I bit the bullet as it’s always hard to resist this series.
While there have been several tweaks to the racing side of Mario Kart 8, a revamped battle mode is the most prominent addition, which replaces the Wii U original’s relatively hated and water-downed offering. This time they’ve actually created 8 new arenas specifically for battle mode, as opposed to what they did on the Wii U which was to reuse the racing tracks from the grand prix. This alone makes the new battle mode a huge improvement. In addition, they’ve added several new game types that offer a lot of variety to the player. To be honest, I haven’t really put a lot of time into battle mode since Double Dash. They’ve really neglected this part of the series over the years, as it was also less than stellar in Mario Kart Wii. I’m a huge fan of car combat games, and MK8D’s improvements in this feature have been a great addition, but, to be honest, I still find myself leaning more to the racing side of the game. There’s just something about the raw adrenaline and speed of the racing mode that gets me hooked.
While the revamped battle mode may be the big new addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, they’ve also made some tweaks to the racing mode, as well. Unfortunately, it’s nothing major, only two changes really stand out. The first major tweak is that drifting now rewards a third tier of sparks, pink sparks, that give an even greater boost than the blue sparks. The more noticeable change, however, is that racers are allowed to hold two items at a time, similar to Double Dash on the Gamecube. Unlike DD, though, they can’t switch between the items they’re holding. Whichever item comes up first must be used first before the second item can be fired off.
It’s a bit annoying, as sometimes I find myself wasting the “top” item just so I can use the “bottom” item. I imagine this was a feature that was actually meant to improve battle mode by reducing the amount of time the players have to spend seeking out item boxes, but even so, Double Dash’s implementation offers much more strategic depth. I’m actually wondering if the reason they don’t let players switch between items is because it would require an extra button, and the game already uses all the buttons available on a single Joycon controller.
There are a few new characters added to the game, such as King Boo and the Inkling characters from Splatoon, but regrettably there are no new racing tracks added. The 16 DLC tracks for MK8 on the Wii U are included out of the box, however. The lack of new racing content is probably the biggest bummer to me. Historically, there has only been one Mario Kart game per Nintendo console (not including VC), and I guess a big part of my disappointment stems from uncertainty as to whether or not this will be the only MK released for Switch. I really really hope we don’t have to wait for the Switch’s successor to get new MK content.
Ultimately, I went back and forth on whether I should spend money on MK8D. I was a huge fan of the game on the Wii U, but I questioned whether MK8D offered enough new content to be a worthwhile reinvestment. In the end, it came down to my interest in battle mode as a car combat fan, but mainly was due to my desire to retire my Wii U. When I travel to see family and friends, I often lug the Wii U with me so we can play Smash and MK, as I did with the Wii before it. Nintendo systems have always been the “party systems” to me, at least since the N64. Unlike Sony, Microsoft, and all the third parties, Nintendo still puts a lot of emphasis on local multiplayer. It’s hard to even think of great local multiplayer games from recent times that weren’t made by Nintendo.
The Wii U was just super annoying to travel with, however. Between the gamepad and its charger and the console and its power box and the sensor bar and the extra controllers, it’s all just a lot to have to pack up and carry around. Worse yet, I got a big scratch on the corner of my gamepad while traveling with it that just drives me crazy. The Switch, on the other hand, also has a number of pieces to keep track of, but it’s all much more compact and manageable. I was able to buy a nice carrying case on Amazon that I really like that can fit both the Switch tablet and the dock, as well as extra controllers and cables, and it makes taking the system on the go with me much less frustrating.
Honestly, it’s just been great to play MK8 again, and I’m really enjoying both racing and battle modes. If you haven’t played MK8 before and own a Switch, I highly recommend it. For those of us who’ve played MK8 on the Wii U, it’s a harder value proposition, since I don’t think the new additions will necessarily justify a full price purchase for everyone who has already played the game to death. Regardless, I don’t think it’s a game that will leave any Mario Kart fans unsatisfied.
The release of Smash Bros. may have caused it to feel like a distant memory, but just a few weeks ago Mario Kart 8 received a pretty amazing DLC upgrade. Although it included some additions to the character and kart roster that I felt were kind of lackluster, it did introduce 8 awesome new courses (and the tracks, of course, are the true stars of the Mario Kart series). There is one final DLC pack announced for May (which seems like an oddly long time table to me) with little known about the next round of tracks that will be introduced, though the three new racers have been announced. It’s a somewhat reasonable guess that at least one track will be Animal Crossing-themed, as Villager and Isabelle are announced crossover characters. Since thinking about the future of Mario Kart always gets me excited, I’ve compiled a short list of things I’d think would be cool for the next round of tracks.
1) Wave Race
The first round of DLC had F-Zero (Mute City) and Excitebike themed tracks, so it doesn’t seem far-fetched to me that Nintendo might prepare appearances of their other racing franchises. I’ve always had a heavy fondness for Wave Race ever since the N64, but I also feel like it might not be the most appreciated of Nintendo’s series. Even when compared to F-Zero, a series which hasn’t seen a proper release in a long while, it just doesn’t receive nearly the same level of attention. I would like to see Nintendo give the series at least a respectful nod, as they did with the Mute City track. Unfortunately, I think this is somewhat unlikely for a few reasons. First, it’s a little challenging to create a Wave Race-based track in MK8, because you don’t really race on the water in MK8, rather you race under it. Maybe they can set up the track so the hover wheels are triggered over water (sort of Jet Moto-style), but that leaves me to wonder then if the Mario Kart 8 engine is set up to handle the wave-physics that Wave Race is based around. Also, the style of Wave Race is more grounded in reality than the fantastical and whimsical settings of MK8 and F-Zero. Therefore, despite my enthusiasm for Wave Race, I’m conflicted as to whether the two series would really mesh well together.
Pilotwings, although not a racing series, I think could actually work a little bit better with MK8 than Wave Race. I’ve no experience with the SNES game, but I thought the N64 game has always been a bit underappreciated. I also really like the breezy, high-flying, flat-shaded aesthetic of Pilotwings Resort and the Pilotwings-stage in Smash Bros, which I think could make for a visually stunning MK course, similar to what they did with Excitebike. I’ve always felt the Mario Kart 7-inherited parachute mechanic is lacking in substance and really just serves to extend the scale of the courses. Perhaps a track with multiple parachute segments that utilize PIlotwings elements could prove fun? I’m thinking things like boost rings and bullseye targets in the landing areas that provide some sort of benefit if hit.
3) Mushroom City
One of the most interesting tracks from Double Dash, I’m a bit surprised Mushroom City hasn’t already made a reappearance in Mario Kart. In addition to the heavy traffic, Mushroom City’s main draw is its convoluted layout, allowing players access to diverging paths and junctions as they race through the city. Actually, a new city-themed track made from the ground up for Mario Kart 8 might be more interesting. The improved hardware could allow for an even more sophisticated and maze-like city, and randomized traffic patterns could provide impetus for players to switch up the paths they take through the thoroughfares.
4) World 4 – Giant Land
I’ve always thought World 4 from Super Mario Bros. 3 could make for an interesting track. I’m imagining a track where players have to focus on avoiding the giant-sized versions of common Mario enemies such as koopas, goombas, piranha plants, Sledge Bros., etc. Also, perhaps there could be some sort of mechanic where racers could go through some sort of doorway/gateway (kind of like in the original World 4) and become big themselves. The giant-sized racers would have an advantage in that they could trample smaller racers, but the smaller racers would have an advantage in that they could access certain shortcuts that the giant racers wouldn’t be able to fit through. A cool idea I think, although maybe a little gimmicky.
5) Kirby’s Air Ride
Oh goodness no….just kidding…….just kidding….
5) Wario Colosseum
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one. I include it purely out of how much I enjoy it. The XXL-sized Double Dash track was a favorite of mine, and I’d like to see it make a comeback.
All in all, regardless of what we see appear in the final content package, this first round of DLC gives me faith that Nintendo will deliver quality. The only track I think I distinctly dislike is Excitebike. The simplistic oval Excitebike track seems like a low hanging fruit for the development team that Nintendo dressed up in nostalgia to avoid complaints. I seem to be against the grain of popular opinion, though, since it always seems to get a lot of votes online.