Mario: A Retrospective Part 4

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Inventing a new genre that'd get copied again and again.

Did you think I forgot about my Mario Retrospective? Absolutely not. Now that I’ve taken some time off, it seems only fitting I should jump back in with something a bit different. In the last three installments I covered 2D platformers, 3D platformers, and the spin-off series. Today? Pedal to the metal, let’s hit Mario Kart.

Super Mario Kart:

Something about the classics just makes me feel good inside.

The SNES was just a monster when it came to game pedigrees. While Mario began in the arcades, the first time he and his fellow cast members would hop behind the wheel of go-karts and race happens in Super Mario Kart on the SNES, the first and only Mario Kart game with the word “Super” in the title. It was fairly simplistic with only eight characters, Mario, Luigi, Toadstool, Toad, Yoshi, Bowser, D.K. Jr, and Koopa Troopa, and tracks that were more about just racing than any real gimmicks. Still, the building blocks were set in place for what would become something far larger in just a single console leap. The original can be downloaded on the Virtual Console or picked up from Amazon for under $15.

Mario Kart 64:

Whoa, that was just one console leap? Sweet.

The first game I had on the N64, Mario Kart 64 was one of the biggest leaps I’ve ever seen a series take from the first to the second game. It was such a large jump that I can’t stand going back to Super Mario Kart since it feels dated. Mario Kart 64 was just too good of a jump. All the tracks became far more elaborate and diverse, from the hazardous Bowser’s Castle stage to the laid-back D.K. Jungle Park stage. Once again there were only eight characters, but Koopa Troopa was ousted by Wario. Technically, D.K. Jr was replaced by D.K. but that’s just splitting hairs. Also, Toadstool continued going under her newly official US name “Peach,” a transition that happened so nicely in Super Mario 64. Basically, Mario Kart 64 would be hard to beat. It’s also on the Virtual Console or on Amazon for under $20.

Mario Kart: Super Circuit:

Certainly impressive for the GBA.

Okay, technically another Mario Kart game with the word “super” in it, Super Circuit for the GBA was the first time the series went handheld. While keeping the character roster from the 64 version, the tracks and gameplay were much closer to the original SNES version, even with some retro tracks thrown in. For me, the controls were extremely difficult to get used to. Not to say they were bad, just that it took a while to really master this game properly. I never did get good enough to achieve a gold trophy in each cup, but I played this portable title to death. A used copy on Amazon will run you under $10.

Mario Kart: Double Dash!!:

Hey, nothing wrong with trying something new.

Here’s where I’ll pick up at least some flack from gamers: I absolutely loved Double Dash for the GameCube. While it isn’t my favorite Mario Kart game (we’ll get to that), it’s pretty darn close. The whole reasoning is how much I played this one in an attempt to unlock everything I could. I definitely managed to unlock my fair share of extras at the end of my GameCube career and got good enough to take on most challengers. Double Dash got its name for the fact that a player now controlled two characters in a single kart where one would drive and the other would carry a spare item. Tons of new characters got added such as Daisy and (here’s more flack) Waluigi, a character I actually like. This is just an awesome game. I’d still say this is the best console version of Mario Kart, so check it out on Amazon for under $15.

Mario Kart DS:

Sometimes, though, simplicity is best.

This is my favorite Mario Kart game, without question. It was the first game I bought for my DS and the first game I played online consistently. No more two-to-a-kart business, replaced with the classic style that everyone loved. Each character, of which there were once again many, had multiple karts exclusive to them. The controls were absolutely perfect, too. Races came down to simple skill and whether or not you had it. Except…sigh…snaking. The whole reason I stopped playing online was due to the rampant use of a technique called “snaking” which was done by taking advantage of the drift boost you could get. Except people found a way to use this perpetually during a match, meaning they were constantly past top speed an entire race and I could never catch up, no matter how perfect a race I played. They’d just boost down the straight-aways, looking like they’re winding down the track like a snake, and I’d have no chance to win. Still, for single play or with friends it’s my highest recommendation. Amazon has some good deals on new copies and a few used for $18.

Mario Kart Wii:

While not the best, those new tracks were pretty awesome.

The most recent Mario Kart game is where I think the series jumped the shark. The game isn’t awful, and in fact it goes out of its way to eliminate snaking altogether, something I was very happy with, plus it added motorbikes, a features I thought was incredibly cool. But there’s no worse instance of a game being broken on a fundamental level when it comes to a race. Sitting in first place is the least enjoyable place to be in Mario Kart Wii. You won’t get any good items, everyone else will be firing super weapons at you, and half of the time the game will just slingshot opponents past you for the heck of it. Few other games punish you for doing good. And even worse, there are characters and karts that can only be unlocked by beating cups with fast times, something that all comes down to luck in the end. Regardless, there’s a lot of fun here, assuming you’re playing with friends for fun, or even online using a pretty good implementation of the Wii’s online capabilities. If all you’ve got is a Wii, you can’t go wrong here. And ironically, Amazon’s selling the game cheaper new than used at $39.99 for a new copy, silly Wii Wheel included.

Alright, that checks off the Mario Karts from the retrospective. So what’s next? There’re still parties, sports, and RPG’s, so come back soon and see what gets covered next. But of course, what would this article be without me asking for some of your personal Mario Kart memories? Did you have sleepless nights with friends playing Mario Kart 64 like I did? Or did you engage in your own tournaments? Leave a comment and let me know. And just to be nice, I won’t even throw a blue shell at the first commenter.

Can’t get enough Mario? You can read more about him in these articles:

Mario: A Retrospective Part 5

The Top 10 Video Game Quotes That Need To Die

Games You Should Have Played: Super Mario Galaxy

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About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.

3 Comments

  1. PuppetDoctor on

    Thank you sir! I do not understand all the hate towards Double Dash. It is my favorite in the series. I loved the courses in the game. The Donkey Kong course was always so much fun when you got shot out of that log and you saw the volcano, and Rainbow Road had an awesome soundtrack. I had so many hours of fun with that game.

    I owned Super Mario Kart for the SNES as a kid and I always loved the Bowser track levels. The N64 version of Mario Kart I found to be just bland and I hated Rainbow Road (it was to easy with the fences on the side).

    Mario Kart DS I put many hours into trying to finish the 150cc to get R.O.B. and the online was good. The only issue was when people would drop out which caused the whole race to end.

    Then there is Mario Kart Wii which was alright. However, I can’t agree enough with you about being #1. It just ruined the game for me in a way. You were #1 then you got hit by a blue shell, bullet bill, and red shell all in one.

    I was one of the first people online to use Roslina since she was an excellent character. Nobody used her online then a weeks later on the boards people were complaining about how she was overused. Sadly though I never spent much time playing Mario Kart Wii anyways because I got Grand Theft Auto IV shortly after and it took up all my time.

    Mario Kart: Super Circuit as you say was a hard game to get good at as you mentioned. I found the game to be difficult but I do love the Koopa Beach (I think that’s the name) track in the game. I love the sound the kart makes when it goes on the sand and the soundtrack for that track is really good.

  2. Gus Townson on

    Cue Sony Advocate, (even though nobody asked for it).
    Still to this day, my favorite game in this genre is Crash Team Racing for the PS1. Yes, Mario Kart invented the genre, but Naughtydog took it and perfected it. CTR came out a few years after Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong racing, and I think it took the best of each of them. The tracks were brilliantly well crafted, and they had just as much, if not more than Mario (Seriously, “Hot Air Skyway”, imagine Rainbow Road, except not colored in a way that makes it superfluously distracting to the point where you are constantly falling off simply because you can’t even see the next turn) the art was amazing, the sound was incredible, the character’s sound bites were entertaining. It was the first kart racer I played that had a complex power slide system, and it did not feel akward at all.
    Like Diddy Kong Racing, it had a neat story mode as well, and they made it fit really well in the Crash Bandicoot cannon.
    Dont get me wrong. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Mario, and I deffinately liked Double Dash when that came out.

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