Racing has never been this great.
Back in 2014, Nintendo released the original Mario Kart 8 in the wilds of store shelves for the Wii U. An amazing kart racer in its own right, Mario Kart 8 featured the most responsive controls yet, a working WIFI connection for online play, and plenty of rocking music tracks. Mario Kart 8 was also the first in the series to offer downloadable content, with two giant packs of tracks and new characters in each. While the game was a success for the Wii U, the sales of the console were less than stellar, especially after the successof the Wii. Fortunately for the company, Nintendo’s next console is selling like hotcakes. The folks at Nintendo decided to port over one of the best games on its previous console to the Switch.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is mostly the same game as its original counterpart, but with a few added twists to further improve the gameplay. The game comes with all of the previous DLC that was released for the first game. That equals a massive 48 tracks to race your friends on in a frenzy over items and coins. Every track is a worthwhile addition, and the tracks that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings from previous games are some of my personal favorites. Between dodging slow-moving cows in Moo Moo Meadows, learning to drift properly in the light-up floors of the Electrodome, and grabbing the choicest of coins as you race through the dank corridors of Bowser’s Castle, every track is unique, and features all the shortcuts, gimmicks, and hazards that Mario Kart fans have come to expect.
Kart customization is back, with enough options that every player can find exactly what they need to fit their play style. Characters have their own weight class as well. If you prefer getting a faster acceleration than average, you may want to stick with the heavier guys. With all of this, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is incredibly balanced for every character, and one doesn’t have a massive advantage over another with the proper kart setup. Unlocking most of the parts requires collecting coins on the map as you race along. This offers a good amount of replayability as you unlock various karts, wheels, and gliders.
Controlling your wide roster of Mario characters (including a few from other Nintendo franchises) has never been easier… if you don’t have to use a single JoyCon. Using either two JoyCons or a Pro Controller gives you precise movement as you drift, blast away opponents with Red Shells, and glide your way to the victory line. In addition, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers a few new options for beginner players to help them learn the ropes. Auto Acceleration can be turned on so that you don’t have to hold down a button the entire race. If you have a hard time (or if you want to help a child out) there is Smart Steering. This feature keeps your character on the track, instead of flying off the entire time. Its an optional feature that can easily be turned on or off, and great for beginners to the genre. For those that think that this is too casual, fear not, as you can actually get a new, more powerful drifting boost if it’s turned off.
Previously I mentioned that the game controls well with two JoyCons, but it is technically playable with a single one per player. However, with how much one has to do to steer properly in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, its almost impossible to hit everything properly if you have normal-sized hands, much less if you have larger than average ones. It hurts to drift and use items with the minuscule L and R buttons that a single JoyCon has. If you plan on making a friend upset very quickly, try this control scheme out while you use a Pro Controller. Just don’t blame me if you stop being pals!
One of the massive disappointments in the original Mario Kart 8 game was its lack of a true Battle mode. Hearing the fans cry out, Nintendo decided to bring it back better than ever in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. There are 5 different modes where players can battle it out with friends, from the classic balloon-popping brawl to a new cops-and-robbers frenzy. It’s made clear that Nintendo listened to the outburst. If you’re like me and don’t really have anyone to test these out with, the online feature works exceptionally well. Nary a speck of lag hit my Switch as I raced players around the world. It’s evident that Nintendo has finally decided to have dedicated servers for their games to reduce lag, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe more than proves it.
Playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has never been better than with Handheld Mode. There isn’t a single bit of interference that I faced when taking it out and about the neighborhood, racing along the way. Connecting it to the television is just as fine, as unlike a couple of games (Breath of the Wild I’m calling you out) I didn’t notice any issues when zooming around the racetracks. The game, being as gorgeous as it is, does drain the battery. If you don’t have a portable battery bank, the game will run on the Switch for around 3 hours at normal settings. Those who have long trips, beware.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a must-buy for anyone who has a Nintendo Switch. Like the previous game before it, all the tracks work wonders, the music is Nintendo-quality fantastic, and the controls are spot-on. Not only are you getting everything that Mario Kart 8 had to offer, you also get a few new characters, a greatly enhanced Battle mode, and the ability to play wherever you go. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to claim the top spot with Rosalina in the Blue Falcon kart!
Final Verdict: 5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch; Publisher: Nintendo; Developer: Nintendo; Players: 1-8 ; Released: April 28, 2017; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $59.99