6. GBA Ribbon Road
I’ll confess to barely playing Super Circuit, but a quick look at this GameXplain comparison between the two versions of Ribbon Road shows that much like Toad’s Turnpike before it, this Mario Kart 8 upgrade may be considered an entirely new course altogether. I mean, just look at the sheer detail gone into its HD revival: Yoshi’s Woolly World dolls, RC miniatures of the game’s karts, and the track being divided into three referential locations: Peach’s Castle, Bowser’s Castle and Mario Galaxy.
It’s as much of a joy to look at as it is to play, as dodging toys like Mecha-Koopas and Koopa Clown Car Jack-in-the-Boxes are probably some of Mario Kart 8’s funnest obstacles, and that’s not even getting into the shortcuts and anti-gravity involved. On top of it reinventing a GBA course, that it takes place in a child’s bedroom may render it Mario Kart’s most inspired course concept. How exactly does that work in-universe, I wonder?
5. Dolphin Shoals
Everyone who’s played Mario Kart 8 knows why this is here: that climax where upon emerging from the water, that sexy freestyle saxophone bursts out of nowhere and is possibly the greatest music-related thing in the world. It’s a euphoric exhilaration that’s the perfect segue for the course’s climax: a curved anti-gravity section right above a whirlpoool. Even now, whenever I make my trip to the surface I’m tempted to just drop the GamePad and spread my arms in joy like Rosalina up there.
It’s not that it carries the rest of the course–the underwater section, that is–on its own; actually, I’m quite fond of the bubble-spewing pipes and driving on the eel from Super Mario 64. But it’s that one moment which compels us to race on that track again and again just so we can relive those divine twenty seconds again and again. Yes, the final lap may play a faster version complete with whistles for its entirety, but we must experience it in its pure, undiluted form. Truly, composer Atsuko Asahi and saxophonist Kazuki Katsuta are gods among mortals.
4. Mount Wario
Sure, the three-part Big Blue has the thrilling waterslide and the awesome music arrangement from its F-Zero source material, but Mount Wario edges it out in sheer variety. Snowy mountains are nothing new for Mario Kart, but when was the last time you were dropped off on one from a helicopter? Actually, when did that happen in any Mario Kart ever? Never, and that’s how this three-part course immediately grabs us.
Mount Wario is all about going down rather than up or around the mountain, so it has to ensure every landmark from the anti-gravity hydroelectric dams to soaring through caverns is a thrilling exercise. By the climatic third lap, it’s practically turned into a skiing course with checkpoints, ramps and a jubilant crowd awaiting your finish. It’s absolutely Mario Kart 8‘s most impressive track presentation-wise, and that’s probably why it’s the game’s most popular course.