Mario Kart 8

Reviewed by Kyle Bell, Posted on 2014-06-18


Let's say that one day you eat a psychedelic mushroom and for a few hours only, you get to relive your childhood. You relish the memories of times with friends and experience harmless fun without a care in the world. If you are a Millennial, Mario Kart probably feels a lot like that.

Indeed, Mario Kart has been a fan-favorite since its debut on the SNES. Its gameplay is endearingly simple yet its nuances display an underlying complexity that makes it entertaining for adults. And with each new generation of video game consoles come a new cadre of gamers who get their hands on Mario Kart for the very first time.

Mario Kart has never been a more integral part of a hardware lineup than it is today on the Wii U. With fledgling sales and a gaming press that seems more concentrated on PS4 and Xbox One, Nintendo needed to deliver in a big way. Boy, did they ever.

Mario Kart 8 is a 90s gamer's fantasy come true. The core mechanics remain intact while enhancements are abound through every facet of the game. Every new iteration seems to bring upgrades that stick around for the long haul. Mario Kart 8 retains many of these elements, including online multiplayer, underwater racing, customizable vehicles, motorbikes, drafting, drifting, and hang-gliders, in addition to new and improved mechanics.

New to Mario Kart 8 is an anti-gravity mechanic that lets you drive alongside walls and upside-down along corkscrew turns. Running into opponents while in anti-gravity mode gives you a slight boost. There are also boosters throughout the track that spin you around and increase your speed. Finally, there is enhanced 12-player competitive online multiplayer that allows you to play with friends or strangers from around the world.

Aside from the new features, Mario Kart 8 also includes several new characters. The Koopalings (Bowser's children), Baby Rosalina, and Pink Gold Peach are introduced for the first time. New items include a boomerang; a piranha plant that can snap at nearby racers and obstacles; the Crazy Eight, which gives the user eight items; and a horn that stuns nearby players.

Mario Kart 8 consists of 32 courses. As is usual in a Mario Kart game, half of these courses are brand new and half are classics. The new courses offer a good deal of satisfying variety: a Wario-themed snow-swept mountaintop that replaces the traditional three laps with a long single track and a music-themed disco with bright techno colors.

Classic courses have been completely redone with a fresh coat of paint and reimagined with modern gameplay elements. This means that classics like the Nintendo 64's Rainbow Road will not be exactly as you remember them. In my book, this is a good thing since it means that Nintendo decided not to rest with their laurels, making improvements and bringing the courses into the Wii U era with HD visuals.

The fundamentals of Mario Kart have remained remarkably unchanged over the past 20+ years. Improvements such as drifting boosts, customized vehicles, online multiplayer, and a huge lineup of racers has made the experience all that much more enjoyable. Mario Kart 8 builds off of this solid foundation to make the best Mario Kart game -- and Wii U title in general -- to date.

Reviewed by Kyle Bell