The ultimate version of Wii U’s beloved Mario Kart 8 has been released for Nintendo Switch! Dubbed Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, this upgrade features new racers, a vastly improved Battle Mode, and exclusive karts, items and mechanics. In case you hadn’t heard, however, there aren’t any new courses; with the original team hard at work on the upcoming ARMS fighter, creating all-new tracks for a three-year-old racer probably wasn’t a priority (and don’t get your hopes up for DLC: while the game’s developers said they’d consider it in response to good sales, they already feel the game has enough content as it is).
Disappointing? Perhaps, but Mario Kart 8‘s tracks are so amazing that I’ve yet to tire of them; in fact, I’d go as far to say they represent the best course design in the entire series. With the revamped Battle Mode propping that up, I think we’re in for a real treat. In honor of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s release, I’ve listed what I consider to be the best tracks in Mario Kart 8. Out of the 48 raceways, only 15 have made the cut!
15. DS Wario Stadium
I love me some Mario Kart DS, but while DS Tick Tock Clock received the finest visual overhaul, I think DS Wario Stadium better represents Mario Kart 8‘s repertoire of racing mechanics. While it still echoes the design of the original handheld version, it’s overhauled with brand new anti-gravity/underwater sections complete with a gliding finish; combined with a fun synth arrangement of the fan-favorite Waluigi Pinball theme, it’s just a really fun course.
What’s great about Mario Kart 8‘s anti-gravity design is how it’s never in-your-face: while it certainly awes, it’s just subtle enough to never distract the player, and as it fades from our concentration we learn to focus more on the actual racing. In that sense, quick anti-gravity bursts like Wario Stadium’s floating mid-point often stand out the most for their fleeting thrills. The way this particular segment bends and curves up to the air and down to the ground is unlike anything else; be sure to land with a graceful pose and not a pitiful thud!
14. Thwomp Ruins
Mario Kart Stadium and Thwomp Ruins both bookend the Mushroom Cup as a wonderful introduction to Mario Kart 8‘s anti-gravity feature, but the way the latter gradually opens up especially memorable. By the second lap, millstones chase players down through tunnels and an aerial shortcut opens up mid-way…at risk of flying straight into a Thwomp, so you have to choose your path wisely: do you take the anti-gravity walls, take the risk and fly past the Thwomp, or make an emergency landing into the surrounding water?
More than that, though, it’s just a lovely course by Mario Kart standards. The Celtic feel of the music grants a unique atmosphere never before seen in the series, and the sights of dandelions and ominous statues present the first outright beautiful course players will probably encounter. Who’d ever guessed Thwomps could be so majestic?
Okay, I’ll admit a big reason why this got on here is for my sheer love of the concept; I mean, a Mario rave party?!? That’s something I’d expect to see parodied in Paper Mario, and yet here I’m immediately charmed by the neon-strobe Piranha Plants, monitors showcasing dancing Koopas and Shy Guys, and yes, even a brief cameo of Larry Koopa serving as disc jockey. It’s just so absurdly goofy that it never fails to make me grin, and that’s why I often turn to it in VS. races.
Of course, it plays great, too. The split anti-gravity sections are a visual feast in how they mirror overheard each other, but they can get especially cramped with all the racers speeding along, so there’s little room for error. The shortcut near the end is great if you have a Mushroom or Star, but I tend to get distracted by the raving Piranha Plants and get munched. Being at the end of the race, there’s nothing more disheartening…and hilarious.