Images bend together as you propel yourself past the rest of pack. The roaring hum from the motor drowns out, fading to a white noise. Dilated pupils and a racing pulse are a damn good sign you’ve tapped into adrenaline as you pull around the corner. Crossing the finish line ignites the will to win more because, for now, your mind is only concerned with success. Others can have this experience through games like Forza or Need for Speed that focus on the visual specs, but Mario Kart 8 never lets off the gas when delivering a wickedly wild game that doesn’t take itself as seriously as other racing games. In an age where every game seems like a carbon copy of the last, it’s reassuring to see Nintendo stay true to themselves and deliver a charming kart game. Mario Kart 8 integrates some of the best features from recent titles while still remembering what brought this franchise the success it earned for itself.
It’s been nearly eight years since a Nintendo console has had a Mario Kart game grace its presence, and the character roster has grown ever since. Seeing the rest of the Bowser crew become a part of the Mario Kart 8 cast is exciting because these characters are gaining some popularity, aside from being stepping stones to reach Bowser. Baby Rosalina and Pink Gold Peach are the other two new, playable characters, and it is refreshing to see these two female characters receive some much deserved attention. Through winning Grand Prixes, you can unlock these characters one race at a time.
Aside from unlocking characters through winning races, you can also collect a total of 10 coins per race. As you begin to collect a healthy amount, new kart features become available to you. Customization becomes a key component for success in Mario Kart 8. You can build the ideal machine to race you to first place. Mixing and matching different parts is a new feature for Mario Kart, but some of the whacky features inforce the urge to have fun.
The tracks range from new, innovative twists on bland courses from earlier Mario Kart titles to the classic courses, such as the N64 Rainbow Road. The Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special Cup consist of the new tracks exclusive to Mario Kart 8. As for the Shell, Banana, Leaf, and Lightning Cup, their tracks consist of a jumble of classic tracks ranging as far back as the Nintendo 64 years to courses from the recently released Mario Kart for the Nintendo 3DS. Seeing the contrast in features from these past tracks gave me an appreciation for the amount of attention Nintendo gave Mario Kart this time around.
What Mario game would be complete without the outrageous items to use against your enemy? Well, Mario Kart 8 introduces some new items of mayhem to unleash, just in case you’re not in the best of positions. The Boomerang Flower acts just as a shell would, but as you would probably guess, it returns to you, leading to more chaotic occurrences. Piranha Plant is your character holding a potted Piranha Plant that chomps you to victory with lunges and takes other racers out. The Super Horn is an item you can get at any point in the race, whether you’re first or last, and it can either disrupt those around you or can null and void any other item, even a blue turtle shell. Finally, we have the Crazy 8, which is just madness. You have access to eight different items (including a red turtle shell, a star, a mushroom head, etc.) to boost your ranking a bit closer to the top.
The Wii U controller pad has some unique features that make Mario Kart 8 a different game mechanically than its predecessors. Mario Kart 8 allows you to switch between manual controls and using the pad as a wheel, which makes the game more accessible by having the easy option to switch in between the two with a touch of a button. Although I personally don’t prefer to have the pad as a wheel, because I feel it lacks the sensitivity of the controller, it’s comforting to have the option to switch back and forth with no hassle. Along with these features, the control pad has a small map of the course you’re racing on, the leaderboard, and a nice giant horn, just in case you catch a bit of road rage.
Two brand new features venture into territory Nintendo isn’t all too familiar with but still end up enhancing the game. The first feature that stands out to me is the online play. Even though gamers are spoiled with online play through Xbox, Playstation, and PC, Nintendo never made a real effort to connect communities through their characters. The second feature is being able to share racing content with everyone through MKTV, or MarioKart TV. They may seem like second nature settings to people by now, but to have Mario Kart 8 introduce these capabilities is a testament to the resilience we are seeing from Nintendo.
Mario Kart 8 brings back the right material to make the game nostalgic while still giving new tracks that give promise to the future. Nintendo left E3 with exciting information in regards to the titles they plan to release that will properly showcase what the Wii U is capable of. With promise on the horizon and talks of Mario Kart 8 being the best game of May, do yourself a favor and go pick this game up, and if you don’t have a Wii U, see yourself to the bundle package.