There must be an unwritten rule somewhere that every piece of Nintendo hardware must have a Mario Kart game on it. Since the franchise’s first release on the Super Nintendo, each new piece of hardware since has had its own Mario Kart game.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a re-release of Mario Kart 8 from Wii U and all its DLC. Granted, this version offers up more characters, tracks, battle modes, items, and modes of play, but is that enough to make this souped-up version of Mario Kart any better than when it was on the Wii U?
The short answer is yes, absolutely.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Nintendo Switch [Reviewed]
Release Date: 28 April 2017
Price: £49.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Purchased by Reviewer]
Part of what makes Mario Kart 8 Deluxe so great is the variety included. It includes all of the DLC from the original release, and as such there’s 12 Grands Prix with 4 tracks a piece making for a whopping 48 tracks in one title.
The number of racers is nearly the same at a total of 43, including the unlockable Gold Mario, making it by far the largest Mario Kart title to date. Battle Modes, Time Trials, assorted speeds and mirrored courses are all unlocked from the beginning making this the most diverse Mario Kart as well, featuring characters from The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Splatoon.
The classic Mario Kart formula is largely unchanged in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Players either race or battle on tracks or arenas while flinging a bevvy of items at each other to come out on top. For better or worse, the infamous rubber-band style AI is in effect and I lost some races by way of getting hit by multiple items in a row because of it. However, players will stand a great chance against the AI as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe stays at a constant 60 frames a second while managing to keep the action moving at the brisk pace a racer should. Most importantly though, that addictive factor is still intact, once a race is over, chances are you’ll want to head right into the next one.
The Battle mode though has been revamped to great effect. Under the battle umbrella, there are five ways to do battle, including one mode with only Bob-ombs and another where you hold a Shine Sprite for as long as you can.
Naturally, the classic Balloon Battle mode is back, but these alterations have made the Battle Mode infinitely better than it was on the Wii U release. For those that purchased the original Mario Kart 8, this and the portability of the title are the best reasons to double dip.
With few exceptions, the tracks are all fantastic. The only track I don’t relish playing aside from Rainbow Road (because really, who does?) is Cheese Land from the Game Boy Advance’s Mario Kart: Super Circuit, but even the tracks that aren’t great to play on look remarkable on Nintendo Switch.
With the original Mario Kart 8 being the first HD release in the series, it should be no surprise to say that the environments look better than they ever have. Lighting effects play a big part in the newer courses as a few of them are dipped in neon.
The music is like most Nintendo titles, infectious, featuring a blend of jazz and rock that always sounds joyous regardless of the course.
Each track features its own music and ends up remaining fresh because of it. Items have their own distinct sound effects as well and some of those items are appropriately panic-inducing. The items do get a new feature, where you can hold two at a time, enabling you to stockpile bananas and shells for your protection or as a surprise for player’s opponents.
The portability of the Nintendo Switch console lends itself very well to Mario Kart and it may be the best multiplayer case for the console yet. Whether you are using tabletop mode or playing on a TV, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe supports 4-player split screen with the use of one Joy-Con per player. At first using one Joy-Con feels strange and cramped for my own hands, but it gets the job done. I feel playing with a single Joy-Con may not be the best choice for long-term play, but would be wonderful in a multiplayer situation.
The multiplayer portion of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe only falters in the online portions. Trying to play with friends is haphazard at best. A friend list appears in-game and if the friend is in a race, you can try to play with them but will be unable to join or spectate the race they are in, but just because you can doesn’t mean you will.
While trying to test the online portion of Mario Kart I came upon frequent disconnects and an inability to join any online race. Restarting the entire console fixed the problem, but it speaks to an online platform that has some growing pains to overcome before online multiplayer becomes a paid luxury on the Nintendo Switch.
Without a doubt in my mind, this is the best Mario Kart title to date. Jam-packed with content with spectacular graphics, music, and the wonderful gameplay the series has been known for is only hampered by a lacklustre online mode. Previous Wii U owners will find themselves in familiar territory, but the improved Battle mode is worth the upgrade alone. Even if it is early in the Switch lifecycle, expect this to be the biggest multiplayer title for some time.