The Nintendo Switch has only been out for a little over two months at the time of this writing, but it already has two killer apps in the form of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8: Deluxe. Of course, Mario Kart 8 technically isn’t a new game, as it originally came out on the Wii U three years ago, but as Waypoint’s Patrick Klepek points out in his excellent article “The Success of ‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’ Underscores How Badly Wii U Flopped,” Mario Kart 8 Deluxe might as well be a new game given how (relatively) few people actually played it on the Wii U.
More than that though, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe deserves to considered one of, if not the best Nintendo Switch title not named Zelda released so far because it’s simply an excellent game and arguably the best iteration of Mario Kart Nintendo has ever put out. People will still have their own personal favorites (I certainly don’t begrudge the Super Mario Kart purists out there), but in my opinion, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s supremacy is undeniable at this point. Here are 10 reasons why.
10. Proper Battle Mode
If Mario Kart 8 in its original form had one major drawback, it was its under-cooked Battle Mode, which made a ton of unnecessary changes to the formula. Nintendo clearly recognized this oversight, as their marking for the Deluxe version focused quite a bit on the return of a more traditional Battle Mode. Now that the game is out, I can safely say that while it doesn’t offer quite as compelling an experience as the traditional racing modes, Battle Mode has made a triumphant return with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
With four returning variations and an all new mode called Renegade Roundup (basically “cops and robbers” with Piranha Plants), Deluxe’s Battle Mode feels like a greatest hits package. The only real downside is the courses, as Nintendo easily could have included a few more from previous games (the lack of Block Fort is particularly irksome) but overall, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is much better off for having a revamped Battle Mode and it makes an already great game even better.
Mario Kart is one of the most accessible gaming franchises there’s ever been, as players of all skill levels, young and old, can have a good time with it. Nintendo has made some interesting tweaks with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe that not only make the game more accessible to non-gamers, but also to those with handicaps that would otherwise prevent them from playing the game. These come in the form of Smart Steering and Auto-Accelerate, two features designed to allow less-skilled players to compete. This works out great for a situation where parents want to play the game alongside young children, as neither party has to compromise their gameplay experience in order to play together.
The only real problem with the way these features have been implemented is that Nintendo has them activated by default, and the game doesn’t really make this clear, meaning that it’s easy to start playing and wonder why the game is essentially playing itself for you. Still, this doesn’t really detract from how valuable these features are on the whole, as they go a long way in making this the most accessible Mario Kart yet and the fact that Nintendo was able to do this without compromising anyone’s personal gameplay experience is truly something to be lauded.
8. Everything’s Unlocked From The Start
As previously mentioned, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is overflowing with content but unlike other games in the series, all the characters and courses are unlocked from the start. While I’m sure some people are disappointed with this decision, as unlocking stuff is a tried-and-tested gaming convention, I appreciate the ability to jump right in and pick whatever character and track I want. It’s also not like the game doesn’t give you things to unlock, as the coins you collect during races go toward unlocking new karts and components, so there’s still a carrot on a stick for people that want it. I simply enjoy the fact that Nintendo decided to let you jump right in and start enjoying everything the game has to offer from moment one and considering how much is there, it’s going to take you a long time to experience it all anyway.
7. Holding Two Items At Once
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe isn’t the first game in the series to give you the option of carrying two items at once, but it’s a much-needed feature that enhances the the moment-to-moment racing in a small, but crucial way. The most obvious benefit to being able to hold two items at a time is that it gives you more options in combat, as you can save a Mushroom for a well-timed speed boost while at the same time trailing a shell behind you to fend off threats from the rear. The downside of this is that, at any given moment, there are more items being introduced into the race, thereby increasing the chance of getting flattened by a flurry of shells at the worst possible moment (check out this unfortunate soul for an extreme example of this problem in action), but overall, I think it helps make races that much more entertaining and gives you more things to do.
6. 200cc Offers Most Challenging Races In The Series
Who says Mario Kart is easy? Sure, the lower level tiers don’t offer much challenge, but 200cc will break even the most confident Mario Kart player. The thing is, 200cc is not fun for the average Mario Kart player. It’s too fast for the way the courses were designed and is more frustrating than anything, but I’m still really happy it’s there. Putting a legitimate “hard” mode in Mario Kart was a smart decision on Nintendo’s part, as it appeals to the hardcore crowd in the same way the slower-paced 50cc tier appeals to more casual players. Plus, there’s nothing like watching a video of someone absolutely demolishing a course in 200cc to make you question your own Mario Kart racing skills!
5. Near Limitless Character/Kart Combinations
Deluxe may be the most accessible Mario Kart to date, but it’s also probably the deepest when you factor in just how many customization options it gives you. While the game doesn’t put stats front and center, every character, kart, and set of wheels have unique attributes like speed, acceleration, handling etc. If you’re willing to put the time in, you can experiment to your heart’s content with different builds to try and find the combination that best suits your needs. It can be pretty overwhelming but fortunately, there are already a bunch of guides online breaking down all this stuff. The best part about this is it’s all totally optional and if you just care about the cosmetic side of things, you can get by with just picking what looks the coolest.
4. Course Selection
As the “Deluxe” in the title would suggest, Mario Kart 8 for the Switch is jam-packed with content and has the most racing courses of any Mario Kart game to date by a significant margin. In total, there are 48 tracks spread across 16 different Grand Prix events and while there are definitely some clunkers among the bunch, the good far outweigh the bad and the curation of tracks from past titles makes this feel like the greatest hits version of Mario Kart, but with new material added on that is just as good.
Many of the greatest Mario Kart courses are present and account for — Baby Park, Wario Stadium, and Yoshi Circuit being a few that come to mind — and they’re joined by some absolutely stellar newer tracks like Sunshine Airport and Shy Guy Falls. The best part is that you almost can’t tell the old and new apart, as Nintendo has updated every single retro course to feel more vibrant than ever. Sure, there but short of including every track from every past game in the series, it’s hard to find much fault with the stellar selection Nintendo has assembled here.
3. Best Selection Of Characters
Much like with its track selection, it’s not exactly controversial to say that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has the best selection of characters to choose from in the series. Frankly, the variety of characters included is nothing short of staggering, with 42 racers in total from many different Nintendo franchises. You get all the characters included with the original Mario Kart 8, plus all the DLC racers such as Link and Isabelle from Animal Crossing.
There are also six new characters not available in the Wii U version, including King Boo, the Inklings from Splatoon and perhaps best of all, the triumphant return of Dry Bones. While there are a few characters that didn’t make the cut for whatever reason (I’m a bit miffed by the exclusion of Diddy Kong), it’s hard to really fault a game that lets you play as all of the Koopa Kids.
2. It Takes Full Advantage of the Nintendo Switch’s Unique Design
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe may essentially be the same game as it was on Wii U, but it’s practically a revelation to play it on the Switch. While the game doesn’t make use of the Joy-Con’s motion features (thank goodness), it shows off the Switch hardware’s potential better than perhaps any game released to date. Past handheld entries in the series such as Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart 7 have proven just how well Mario Kart works as a portable game and by any metric, Mario Kart 8 on Switch is the best portable Mario Kart by a wide margin. However, unlike Breath of the Wild, which arguably plays better in handheld mode thanks to the boost in framerate, Mario Kart 8 plays just as well on a TV in docked mode, especially if you have friends around for some split-screen action.
1. Multiplayer Options
It’s staggering just how many options Mario Kart 8 Deluxe gives you if you want to play with friends. You can play in split-screen in handheld mode with single Joy-Cons (not recommended, but it is still a viable option); link up with other Switch owners in local wireless play, play together on a TV in split-screen, or even jump online to race with people around the world. Mario Kart has always been at its best in multiplayer and the Switch version gives players more ways than ever before to play together.
While it’s definitely a lot more desirable to play with a Switch Pro Controller than a single Joy-Con, the fact that Nintendo gives you so many different control options makes it easier than ever to get multiplayer matches going, as you could theoretically play two-player mode without having to make any additional purchases. This is truly the best Mario Kart game ever when it comes to multiplayer.