Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Booster Course Pack – Wave 1 Review (Switch)

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Booster Course Pack – Wave 1 Review: On The Road Again

Booster Course Pack

The very existence of the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pack is just plain weird. Mario Kart 8 was released on the Switch a month after the system’s launch, back in April of 2017. It was a relatively faithful update to Mario Kart 8, which was released in 2014. Seeing a five-year-old rerelease of an eight-year-old game getting significant new content is not normal.

Then again, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe isn’t normal either. It remains the best-selling game on the Nintendo Switch. Despite being five years old, the NPD Group found it was the seventh best-selling game of 2021 in the US. That doesn’t include digital sales either, which Nintendo doesn’t report, even though five of the six games above it on the chart do include digital copies. As of the time of this writing, though, it is currently sitting at #1 on Nintendo’s Digital Sales chart. That may be in part driven by this new DLC, but it regularly sits high on that list.

What’s a developer to do when one of their most popular titles is eight years old and due for a sequel, but the old one is still outselling almost anything new they make? Releasing a sequel despite this would risk curtailing sales of that older title. Doing nothing, though, means you’re not earning more money from the many people who bought the game years ago and aren’t likely to do it again.

 

A Good Compromise

 

Booster Course Pack

The Booster Course Pack seems like a good compromise and a great value. For $24.99, you get 48 new tracks, a rather astonishing amount of additional content. They’re only releasing eight at a time, but over the next two years, that’s a whole lot of content. Is this reason enough to pop your copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe back into your system though?

Well, yes. If you keep your expectations in check, at least. There are some excellent new tracks among the first wave of eight currently available. There are some pretty mediocre ones as well, though, and even the good ones feel a bit budget at times. When the pricing is this good, though, it feels a bit silly to complain too much.

Over the last few days, I spent a ton of time playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, more than I’ve played since the game first released on Switch, in a time when a lot less games were fighting for my attention on the system. In truth, though, a lot of that was just jumping online where these new maps weren’t available to play until today. It’s been a strong reminder of just how great a racing game Mario Kart 8 remains, even in 2022.

 

Going On Tour

 

Booster Course Pack

That isn’t to suggest that these new maps aren’t good. On the contrary, a few of them are very good, and most are at least nice additions to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Only a few are anywhere near the best the game has to offer though. Most of them are imports from Mario Kart Tour, the mobile version of Mario Kart, which has made Nintendo a ton of money while remaining mostly uninteresting and designed to suck as much money out of you as possible.

Strangely enough, some of the highlights of these maps are actually the new tracks designed originally for that game. Making their debut in a console Mario Kart game, Paris Promenade, Tokyo Blur, and Ninja Hideaway are all welcome additions. The first two, in particular, are cool because they’re a mashup of the various versions of these maps that have been featured over time in Tour, with each lap morphing and changing. Paris Promenade, in particular, throws you in a whole other direction on lap three, which keeps you on your toes. Ninja Hideaway has a lot of fun with different elevations and levels you can race on, which is a welcome change of pace. Tokyo Blur, meanwhile, feels too short, but it does throw additional obstacles and challenges at you in later laps, and I still consider it a fun and welcome addition to the game.

 

Old Favorites Return

 

Booster Course Pack

Some of the returning maps are pretty great, too, even if these versions of them cut out a bit of length compared to past games, leaving them feeling a bit incomplete. Coconut Mall was one of my very favorite maps on Mario Kart Wii, and while I prefer the original version, this is still a fun map to race on with some of the best music in the entire game. Choco Mountain, originally from Mario Kart 64, again feels trimmed, but I like the new caves and ramps, and it overall is another fun map to race on. Sky Garden is a pretty simple map, but it’s visually interesting and feels true to the spirit of the original GBA version.

They aren’t all winners, though. Shroom Ridge isn’t awful, or anything but the traffic has a simpler pattern than in its DS appearance, which makes it less interesting to navigate. Toad Circuit was a boring track in Mario Kart 7, and nothing has changed in that regard. Why this of all maps needed to come back, I can’t say. There had to be a better option.

 

Still Weird

 

Booster Course Pack

While many of these maps are good, few are truly great, and even the good ones have their issues. Notably, the level of visual polish on all of them feels severely lacking compared to the rest of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. This is most noticeable on shadows and the textures of grass. They don’t look bad, mostly, it just leads to a cleaner and less realistic look, but they do clash a bit with the rest of the same game.

There’s also the issue of the pricing structure for the Booster Course Pack. Charging $24.99 for 48 maps feels like a steal, but you aren’t getting 48 maps right now. You’re getting 8. While another 40 have been promised throughout 2022 and 2023, we don’t have a list of what those will be, when they’ll release, or know what quality they’ll offer. If they’re on the same level as these 8, that’s still an awesome deal, but asking players to pay upfront for the whole pack without knowing what they’re getting isn’t ideal. Still, the sheer scale of what Nintendo is offering helps soften the blow. If these eight tracks don’t overly interest you though, you could always wait until a couple more waves release before putting your money down.

 

Conclusion

 

For me, though, the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pack has been a wonderful reminder of how much I love this game. That on its own makes it well worth the price of admission, especially when it promises to keep giving me reasons to come back for most of the next two years. Hopefully, I’ll see you on the track.


Final Verdict: 3.5/5

Available on: Switch (Reviewed); Publisher:  Nintendo; Developer: Nintendo; Players: 8 (12 online); Released: March 18th, 2022; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $24.99

Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Booster Course Pass.

Andrew Thornton
Andrew has been writing about video games for nearly twenty years, contributing to publications such as DarkStation, Games Are Fun, and the E-mpire Ltd. network. He enjoys most genres but is always pulled back to classic RPG's, with his favorite games ever including Suikoden II, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and Phantasy Star IV. Don't worry though, he thinks new games are cool too, with more recent favorites like Hades, Rocket League, and Splatoon 2 stealing hundreds of hours of his life. When he isn't playing games he's often watching classic movies, catching a basketball game, or reading the first twenty pages of a book before getting busy and forgetting about it.

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