“Mama-Miaaaaa!” “Here we go!” “Yahoo!”
These are just a few of the many legendary sayings that trigger fond memories of me, my family and my friends playing Mario Kart 64. It’s the second installment to the much adored and highly acclaimed Nintendo franchise and is my favorite, by far. A bona fide diamond in the rough, MK64 was initially released for the Nintendo 64 console in Japan in late 1996 and was shortly followed by the US in early 1997. It later became available on the Wii’s Virtual Console. This Player’s Choice title was a big hit, selling over 9 million copies and effectively laying the ground work for future Mario Kart games to come.
What makes Mario Kart 64 such a fundamental classic is it’s mass appeal. It offers dynamic gameplay that is fun for both the casual and the experienced gamer. With it’s go-kart like gameplay, this game can be as simple as driving around and trying to avoid obstacles on the track, to launching a full out assault on the other drivers and taking corners like a pro!
There’s a total of 8 playable characters to choose from, all of them being top Nintendo favorites. Of course, there’s Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, Yoshi, and Bowser but there was also the first time introduction of Wario, and Donkey Kong. The addition of these new characters added a technical element to Mario Kart that we haven’t seen before: weight classes! The weight class of a character effects how fast they can accelerate, their handling difficulty, and how contact from other players effects their movement. The light weight class being the fastest and the easiest to handle, the heavy weight class being the hardest to handle but is next in line for fastest acceleration, then the middle weight class being the slowest but having all around average handling. Contact from heavier weight classes can cause lighter weight classes to spin out upon contact.
What’s a long drive without some scenery? In Mario Kart 64, there’s 16 race courses to choose from and all of them are at varied lengths and difficulties. Depending on which cup the course is in, it’ll determine how long and hazardous its track is. There’s the Mushroom Cup which is the easiest, with it’s fairly clear roads and short race tracks. Then, there’s the Flower Cup and the Star Cup, both being a bit harder to finish without crashing or losing control of your car. Last but not least, there’s the Special Cup, which is the hardest of them all, and contains the notorious Rainbow road!
Now, I personally think the most memorable feature about all of the Mario Kart games is the many items that are available to you after driving through an item box. In Mario Kart 64, there’s 14 potential items that the item box will cycle through: a banana, a banana bunch, a Boo, a fake item box, a green shell, triple green shells, a red shell, triple red shells, a spiny shell, a mushroom, triple mushrooms, a super mushroom, a Super Star and the thunderbolt. What you end up with is usually a mystery, which adds an immense amount of anticipation. If anyone so happened to land a spiny shell, a Super Star or (the worst of them all) the thunderbolt, everyone (with the exception of the lucky guy or gal) would immediately start moaning and groaning!
My favorite part of this game is probably the most unexpected but I feel it needs an honorable mention. It’s the Mario Kart 64 soundtrack and even today, I find myself humming along to some of the catchy, upbeat tunes that are composed by Kenta Negata. He did an amazing job making sure every song embodied each level and if you asked me what my personal favorite is, I would have to say the theme for Koopa Troopa Beach! It always put everyone playing in such a cheerful mood!
I hope this walk down memory lane with one of my favorite racing game classics was as enjoyable for you as it was for me. Follow us @WTFGamersOnly on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr and let us know what you’re favorite retro racing game is!