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."

CJ O’Connell

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

challenge in.

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

life.

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.

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