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:
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:
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:
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!!:
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:
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:
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.
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