It’s hard to imagine a world where someone reading a review on a video game website hasn’t played a Mario Kart game. With the success of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch you could probably take that statement even further and specify that particular game in the series. In Mario Kart 8 Nintendo truly combined everything that makes Mario Kart special, added new zero gravity mechanics that never cease to delight and ensured that it felt better to play than any other kart racer on the market. Nine years on from its initial release on the Wii U it’s still easily the best in class when it comes to wacky combat racing, and I can’t imagine that changing any time soon. Thanks to the Booster Course Pass this exceptional racing game now has double the tracks it launched with, and I think that warrants a re-review.
Just in case you have stumbled onto this review with no prior Mario Kart knowledge, here’s the elevator pitch: twelve different Mario characters race around a track, and to aid their chances at victory they use various weapons to try and slow down their opponents. Each course you race on is full of different hazards and gimmicks to deal with too, from angry wigglers crossing the track to mushrooms you have to bounce between without falling. Racing games are rarely my first choice when it comes to choosing where I spend my precious gaming time, but the chaos of Mario Kart will always keep me coming back.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in particular has so many wonderful elements that set it apart from its peers. On lower difficulties you can get away with focusing on steering and firing weapons, but to win against tougher opponents or experienced friends you’ll need to take advantage of drift boosting, timing jumps for an extra boost and even how flying works. It’s easy to dismiss Mario Kart as a simple racing game aimed at a younger audience, but there is a hell of a lot to master if you want to beat drifting veterans.
One of the best aspects of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, outside of how good it feels to actually play the charming kart racer, is how many ways there are to play. Grand Prix races can be played alone or with friends at various difficulty levels (or cc) with the series staple Mirror mode unlocked from the start. Then there’s Versus mode where you can select your own tracks and rules, online play which works perfectly (and is still full of people to play with) and battle mode if you’re feeling feisty.
Until the last few weeks I actually hadn’t played the deluxe version of Mario Kart 8 on the Switch, and had only experienced the Wii U original. I was absolutely blown away by how gorgeous this six year old title still looks on Nintendo’s underpowered hardware, and also pleased as punch to play the improved battle mode that is just as frantic as it was in the older games of the series. The inclusion of those original Wii U DLC tracks is fantastic as well, especially for fans of Zelda and Animal Crossing.
More than anything else though, what I’m here to talk about are the 48 new tracks that have been added via the booster pass over the last couple of years. Doubling the total number of tracks in the Mario Kart game is absolutely wild, and the variety of tracks that have been added is absolutely phenomenal. The combination of retro tracks, tracks from Mario Kart Tour that most people won’t recognise and all new tracks make up some of the best Grand Prix events in game, and are well worth grabbing a Switch Online Expansion Pass subscription for or buying outright.
It’s easy to dismiss retro tracks returning as a bit less exciting than all new tracks, but thanks to the amount of work Nintendo have put into modernising these courses that simply isn’t the case. Tracks that I’ve played hundreds of times on older consoles are barely recognisable with newly added jumps, hazards and zero gravity sections. It’s the best possible way to add a bit of nostalgia to the proceedings, while also ensuring that newcomers still enjoy tracks that are totally new to them.
The tracks from Mario Kart Tour are completely different to all the other tracks in the game, due to them being based on real world locations. Racing around London or Madrid and seeing all the sights and sounds of these locales is a blast, and to make things more interesting each of these tracks makes you take a different route on each of its three laps. It’ll take a long time to memorise the routes you take through these urban courses, which makes mastering them even more of a challenge.
All the returning tracks in the Booster Pass are great additions to the game, but Nintendo went above and beyond when designing the brand new tracks. These seriously creative and charming tracks are now among my favourite in the history of the series, from the Yoshi’s Island inspired track complete with storybook visuals and SNES sound effects, to the track that takes place in a giant bathroom decorated with retro Mario furnishings.
Outside of the new places to race, the Booster Course Pass has also added eight new characters to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Now it’s fair to say that this is a less impactful addition to the game, but it’s cool to have even more exciting options to choose from in the character select screen. I’ve been spending a lot of my time playing as Magikoopa to fit in on the Yoshi’s Island track, but Wiggler is also a new favourite thanks to the fact he gets all red and angry when hit with a weapon.
There really aren’t a whole lot of negative aspects to this extensive Mario Kart package, but it also won’t do anything to convert kart racing killjoys to join the rest of us having fun with shells and banana peels. The weapons aren’t always particularly fair, and when you’re in first place and hit by two blue shells on the finish line you will shout and scream. To me that’s all part of the fun of Mario Kart, but those who take racing more seriously still won’t agree.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was already the best kart racer ever made, and now Nintendo have doubled the number of tracks. If you haven’t been karting around the tracks as they’ve been added, now is the time to jump back into this sensational party game and throw a few red shells.
Is still the best kart racer ever made
The new tracks are absolutely fantastic
Looks and sounds amazing
Has loads of ways to play with or without friends
Weapons aren't always fair