Mario kart has been around since 1992, being a critical and commercial success, It’s no wonder Nintendo hasn’t stopped developing new Kart titles. With Mario Kart 8 releasing in a couple weeks, I wanted to look back at all of the main Mario Kart titles and see all the things that have changed over the years in this Kart-racing franchise.
It all started with Super Mario Kart, the first game in the series released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1993 in Europe). It managed to sell 8 million copies world-wide, and went on to become the third best selling SNES game of all time, behind Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country. The game had a whopping total of 8 different characters to play, which is more than enough variety back then. You had your regular Grand Prix mode and of course the battle mode was in this game as well.
In this title though there are coins you can collect while racing that increases your top speed which is an element in Mario Kart Super Circuit , 7 and 8. I wonder why they took this element out for the other games. Super Mario Kart received positive reviews and has been praised for it’s wonderful game play and graphics at the time.
Ahhh I’ve spent countless hours of my childhood playing this game right here. Mario Kart 64 was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1997.
This was the first entry to have 4-player racing and sport 3D graphics, now capable because of the power of the system. This game also had only 8 players to choose from and you had the basic modes of gameplay. Grand Prix, Time Trial, Versus Mode and of course Battle Mode.
In battle mode each player begins with 3 balloons attached to them and the goal was to damage the other players so they lose all of their balloons. But the biggest aspect of this game I think was the inclusion of the DEADLY, HORRIFYING…. Blue Shell! Dah- duh- dahhh! This Blue spiny shell item targets and attacks the player that is currently in first place, with this item also came Rubberband AI. Which is used to prevent all the racers from easily separating. Basically if a player is in last place, they would get a boost, which is used to keep each race balanced. But competitive MK players would argue against this, saying It’s not fair to people who play well.
Either way Mario Kart 64 made what a Kart-racer is today. It’s jump into 3D graphics was exactly what the game needed to succeed even more. The next entry would see a more portable on-the-go version.
Ever wanted to play Mario Kart on the go? Well now is the time. The third game in the series was the first to be on the Game boy Advance in 2001. Mario Kart: Super Circuit featured 20 unique tracks to race on, as well as 20 more old ones from Super Mario Kart for a whopping forty.
The game didn’t really do anything new, players still use item boxes to grab bananas and shells to hurt racers. But the game did use the Single-Pak mode of the Game Boy Advance. Using a link-cable, up to four GBA’s can be linked together to play off of one copy of the game.
In 2007, IGN named Super Circuit as the 19th best game on the Hand-held. You wouldn’t have guessed what was next for the franchise, the big change that made heads spin.
Mario Kart: Double Dash was the first and unfortunately the last entry to feature double karting; two characters controlling one kart together. MK:DD released in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube.
There are now 20 characters to choose from, a new item for each character and different types of Karts! A big new thing of course was you were able to play as a team on one kart, one player controlling the racing while the other is in charge of using the power-ups/Items.
This is my favorite iteration of the Mario Kart series, It was so much fun to be able to coordinate with your partner or just yell at them for not throwing that red shell at the right time.
It received mostly positive reception, Nintendo Power gave the game a perfect score, and said the graphics were perfect, and the mechanics “rival those of any GCN racing game”. But at the same time IGN was critical towards the game, calling it a “mediocre effort”, giving it a 7.9 out of 10. Which is still a pretty great score In my opinion.
Two years later Nintendo would release the second portable version of Mario Kart for DS. Choosing from a roster of 12 characters, you could now race other players online. You can exchange friend codes to race friends in real life or just random people over Wi-Fi. Unfortunately only racing was playable online, so no battle mode with random strangers.
With the DS having two screens, It created a cool way to keep the top-screen empty of information. The bottom screen showed the current standings, Items each racer had on them and a map of the track showing item boxes and traps laid on the map. It was kind of easy to avoid things when you knew that the princess in last place had a blue shell and you were in first…..
This title also had a little mission mode of sorts but I felt that It was tacked on and had no importance In the game. There was certain missions to do, like collect 10 coins in this map or defeat these ice creatures. When you mix that with being in a Kart, It just doesn’t work, which is probably why Nintendo never put it into a future entry.
Mario Kart Wii was released in 2008 and went on to be the second best-selling game for Wii and Is the best-selling racing video game of all time.
The game features multiple single-player and multiplayer game modes, and of course sports online play via Nintendo Wi-fi Connection. You can also take advantage of the Wii-remote’s motion sensing to steer your vehicle.
Now you can also ride motorcycles and Karts! You can perform tricks while driving that give you little speed boosts such as ramp jumps and slipstreaming.
The roster features 24 playable characters, the largest roster of any Mario Kart game. There are also thirty-six vehicles that have different properties that affect your driving.
Mario Kart Wii had a successful launch and sold 300,000 copies on the launch day in Japan alone, compared to Mario Kart DS which sold 160,000 copies on its first day and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! which sold 180,000 on its first day. In the week ending May 4, 2008, Mario Kart Wii had sold over a million copies in Japan alone, less than a month since its release in the region.
Mario Kart 7 was the first entry to be named numerically instead of with a sub-name. I always wonder why Nintendo is starting to do this with the series. Maybe just to remind players how many Mario Kart’s there have been? Who knows.
Released in the holiday season of 2011, Mario Kart 7 introduced new items, hang-gliding, Kart attachments, first person racing and even the ability to drive underwater (Not recommended in real life).
The three new items were the fire-flower, the Super Leaf, and the Lucky Seven, which gives you seven items at once! The fire-flower let you shoot people ahead and behind you with fire balls for a short amount of time. The Super Leaf gives you a Tanooki tail to whip at enemies and attack incoming shells and bananas.
You got yourself 16 characters to play as and 32 different tracks (16 unique and 16 “retro”), either way having this game on the go was great fun and had hours of contents worth. Mario Kart 7 has received mostly positive reviews. It holds an 85/100 rating on Metacritic based on 60 critic reviews and an 85.17% rating on gamerankings based on 45 reviews.
As you can see Mario Kart has been around for a while and the series has sure changed for the better when you look at the past. There have been some changes surrounding the gameplay, but It has always stayed true to the core elements, race to the finish line in vehicles…while dodging shells and bananas.
With Mario Kart 8 coming out on the 30th, It will most likely be another hit like past titles. With it’s new anti-gravity vehicles and tracks, this game is sure to be a blast. This is of course the first HD Kart game and If you have seen any of the trailers, then you know that this game Is definitely beautiful. With some new playable characters and tracks, as well as Items and the Online features, I hope you guys pick this up and support Nintendo In there time of need. Hopefully this game can help boost the sales of the Wii U and help Nintendo move product. The History of Mario Kart is a long one and I wonder how different the series will be when Mario Kart 20 comes out, guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Greysun Morales, Signing off
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