Hall of Fame: Super Mario Kart
Welcome to the second instalment of the GodisaGeek Hall of Fame. Once a month we are taking a look at a game that the team feels is one of the greatest games of all time, and sharing our adoration for the title.
This month, it is the turn of Super Mario Kart to receive the Hall of Fame treatment. The team are going to tell you why they adore it so deeply, and why it has the very special honour of being in the GodisaGeek Hall of Fame.
Sean Smith: I can still remember slamming in the chunky cartridge for the first time, and switching it on. I had saved up for fucking weeks to afford it – SNES games were the best part of £50 back then – but the familiar Nintendo logo that flashed up told me not to worry, I hadn’t wasted that hard-saved pocket money, and from the moment that title music kicks in like a shot of sugar-coated amphetamines to the spine, I knew I was in the company of a classic.
Super Mario Kart is one of the most perfect games you will ever play. it is still the only driving game I think I have ever enjoyed, so abhorrent do I find the genre overall. In fact, I don’t think I know anyone that doesn’t love the original 1992 Mode 7 wonder, even my games-hating parents became clinically addicted, and nearly twenty years on I know I could buss it out amongst friends and family after a few drinks and everyone would be loving some balloon popping action.
Right now, sat in front of a laptop writing this, I can vividly recall every twist and turn of every one of those perfectly designed courses, every secret short cut, each one of the earworm ditties that jingle along as you pop a shell-shaped cap in someone’s ass, and the still amusing sequence that plays out when you win the cup (the fuckin’ fish explodes, lol!). I long to be able to relive my adolescent joy at playing this for the first time, something that none of the far-inferior sequels and imitations (a pox on your Street Racer!) have been able to emulate. Long live Super Mario Kart!
Robin Parker: When a new Mario Kart title is released, the first question a lot of gamers will ask is “how does it compare with the SNES version?”. Still the benchmark for the insanely popular driving series almost twenty years after it was first released, Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo remains as addictive and perfectly balanced as ever. Limited to eight racers on uncomplicated yet challenging tracks, the original game in the franchise got the balance between challenge and enjoyment spot on. Where later Mario Kart games have added too many power-ups that unbalance the experience and a variety of vehicles that muddy the water, the first title was tightly produced and every turn precisely mapped out, with the different abilities of the racers on offer actually really impacting the gameplay experience and influencing your driving style in a way that was sadly never quite replicated in later instalments.
Imitated at the time by such competitors as Street Racer and later by Sonic R and Crash Team Racing (for example) no other company has quite managed to capture the mayhem and character of the Mario Kart series, whilst maintaining the same solid racing mechanics. Driving is easy to pick up, but takes a long time to master, with shortcuts and secret techniques key to racking up the best time trial scores you can and conquering the fiendish Special Cup, home of the infamous Rainbow Road. The game comes into its own in two-player mode, where you will soon find yourself ripping out both your own hair and that of your competitor in frustration. I still look back at the title and wish that Nintendo had updated it to include four-player multitap support – I would have even bought the game again with no other changes just to accommodate this feature.
Of course, it has since spawned many sequels and is one of the essential party games, that everyone seems to have played at some point or another, and everyone has their favourite track or character. The lasting appeal of the original game is shown in the re-use and re-imagining of classic SNES tracks in some of the more recent iterations of the series, and it is always these courses that get the biggest reaction in the room when selected. Mario Kart showed us how fun a racing game could be, and it has shown it possesses a lot more longevity and appeal than all of the ultra-realistic simulation titles that came before and that have appeared since. In general if you asked me, I’d say I don’t like driving games, but give me Super Mario Kart and you will have me hooked.
Mary Goodden: It’s impossible to talk about Super Mario Kart without discussing its vast influence. It arguably created the kart-racing genre, and was the first game that saw Mario and his various friends and relations escape their two-dimensional platforms and try their hands at other activities. Without Super Mario Kart, the casual gaming landscape would look very different indeed.
The first major spin-off from the phenomenally successful Super Mario series, Super Mario Kart could so easily have reclined in the passenger seat and raked in the royalties. Instead, Nintendo worked hard to ensure that the game was innovative, accessible and fun. The racing genre has a tendancy to be a little prohibitive for those not well-versed in its conventions, but Super Mario Kart uses faultless logic and colourful humour to enable complete n00bs (or the 1992 equivalent) to raise trophies with the best of them. The power-ups, which range from slippery banana skins to projectile turtle shells, add an element of luck to the proceedings, meaning that even a skilled player can be derailed at the last mintute by a relative newcomer. That said, the game only improves with practice, and mastering the power slide mechnic will give any player the edge.
Simple yet deep, whimsicle yet solid, Super Mario Kart has more than stood the test of time. Later iterations, especially Mario Kart 64, cemented the franchise’s classic status, but it was this original game that revolutionised both the racing genre and the extra-curricular activities of Mario and his buddies. Few can resist its candy-coloured appeal, and fewer still can put down the controller once they have picked it up. With its imaginative circuits, clever design and infuriatingly catchy soundtrack, Super Mario Kart is without doubt one of the most formative gaming experiences for anyone born in the last three decades.
The GodisaGeek Hall of Fame will return next month!