Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review
The definitive version of Mario Kart 8?
For a lot of us, it’s the definitive version
of Mario Kart.
"Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an extremely fun and well-built game, and you don’t
necessarily need a Nintendo Switch to be able to tell that. What many are
calling “the definitive version” of Nintendo’s Wii U predecessor has been
widely heralded as one of the best Mario Kart games ever, and that includes
some of the classics that a lot of us are much, much more familiar with."
If you’ve managed to get your hands on the newest Nintendo console, the
Nintendo Switch, and you haven’t picked up Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it’s time to do so.
Nintendo has wisely used one of it’s all-time most successful franchises to further
incentivize the sale of their console, albeit unnecessarily; many people are still just
trying to acquire the console in the first place. The massive hype surrounding The
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the flagship game of the Nintendo Switch, has
ensured its quick and effortless entry into the most recent generation of gaming
consoles. With this, it has attracted a group of gamers and developers who may
have been less than enthralled with the Wii U or Nintendo 3DS.
In the same vein, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is seeing play by a wide variety of fans,
including those who have bested Mario Kart 8 for Wii U and those who haven’t
picked up a Mario Kart game since the N64 or SNES. Having personally not gotten
into a Mario Kart game since the novelty of the steering wheel controller on Mario
Kart Wii, I actually can’t say how skeptical I was of purchasing a new Mario Kart
game. I hadn’t been back to the series in years, and I honestly couldn’t see myself
getting back into it now. However, what with it being one of the only big-name
releases for the Switch in these first months, Nintendo got me to bite, and I can’t say
I’m upset that I did.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the series, and particularly this game, is
the ease at which it grants access to players just having fun. The control scheme is
simple, but nuanced, enabling both new players to learn the concept of the game,
and granting experienced players the capability to perfect their builds and skills.
Right out of the box, there are an incredible number of playable characters, giving
players a thrilling 42 choices to then customize with many readily available kart
parts, before tearing on to even more beautiful, high-definition tracks. The focus is
not on unlocking any of your favorite racers, but instead satiates that desire by
providing new kart parts as you play, putting the focus on actually enjoying the
game. And it is, arguably, a very easy game to enjoy.
A player is free to choose from a variety of play modes and rules (it is a
Nintendo game), ranging from the traditional 4-race Grand Prix, to a new and
improved (and insanely fun) Battle Mode, offering many options to experiment with
different characters, karts, courses, and play styles. Experimentation is necessary,
as many different flairs and skill levels show up in online matches, where players
can race and battle both regionally and on a worldwide scale. Every mode of play is
made to be fast-paced and even hectic, as players can now hold up to two items at
any given time, further expanding opportunities to take the lead…or be taken down
a few places.
I was amazed at how easy it was to get into the game after my years away.
Within three minutes of turning the game on for the first time, I was looking at
characters I had never gotten the opportunity to play, without even having to unlock
them. After some time using the new “Smart Steering” feature (a game mechanic
that keeps you on the track with invisible bumpers), to gain my bearings on the
basics of the controls, I quickly turned it off so I could go off of the beaten path and
begin seeking out those classic Mario Kart shortcuts. The learning curve is
somewhat delineated, beginning with 50cc, and ramping up to 100- and 150cc,
increasing in difficulty as the player is encouraged to go faster and faster. There is
an even faster, breakneck 200cc tier in this game as well, which requires use of the
brakes on every course, and which I can see veteran players getting a well-deserved
After a time, I felt confident in taking my skills online, to test myself against
other well-versed players. Nintendo’s online experience for the Switch, especially
with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, leaves some things to be desired; connection issues are
rampant as is lag in many rooms. While this is steadily decreasing as Nintendo
improves systems, it is worth noting, as the online service will be a paid
subscription in 2018. What this effectively means, however, is that while the
experience is being improved, playing online with friends is free for now. Online
play adds a unique level of fun to the game that most of us remember in the Mario
Kart franchise: playing with real people. Even if you can’t see or really talk to them
while you’re playing, there is definitely a different feeling playing against an actual
person instead of a rubber banded CPU.
Online play is especially interesting when playing Battle Mode, which has
been revamped and redefined. There are now five different types of Battle, ranging
from the classic Balloon Battle to eclectic options like Bob-omb Blast (my personal
favorite) and Shine Thief (my least favorite) from Mario Kart Double Dash!!. It
doesn’t really matter which specific battle you like or dislike while online; the type
of battle is random, and it forces you to be on top of your game, even if that game is
not the traditional Balloon Battle. This extension of Battle Mode and the ability to
play online with real people at any time has improved my favorite part of Mario Kart
to a huge degree. There is always some new or crazy way that a battle can be won
or lost, especially when each player can be carrying up to two items.
Despite my early skepticism, I am loving this game, and my play hours are
steadily approaching the hundreds that I have invested into The Legend of Zelda:
Breath of the Wild before it. The game is straight-up fun, and that’s regardless of
whether I am winning or losing. With this one game, I have had the ability to play
solo on the big screen at home, online with friends, even with my brother on a long
flight, where we each grabbed a joycon and stood the Switch on the folding tray in
front of us, playing for hours without even sinking the console below half its battery
If the Nintendo Switch wasn’t worth it to gamers before, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
has ensured its worth many times over, for many different types of players. The
cost of the game itself seems fair after the hours of entertainment I’ve gotten in
many different scenarios, solidified by free online play. Whether you are
considering getting back into Mario Kart after a hiatus from the series like myself, or
have been enjoying every release to date, this game is one that will guarantee
enjoyment. The Switch has redefined how we play video games in many different
ways, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has redefined how we play Mario Kart.