Platform: Nintendo Switch
Despite sometimes making baffling decisions, such as discontinuing the NES Classic Edition even though people are still struggling to find units, Nintendo understands its core fans perhaps better than any other gaming company on the planet. They know that software sells hardware, and they also know that offering the best versions possible of its acclaimed and beloved first-party titles is all it really takes to get Nintendo Switch consoles into players’ living rooms.
Mario Kart 8 originally released on the Wii U back in 2014. In the case of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the Big N has taken that core game, spruced it up, thrown in all of the DLC tracks, characters, and items from the past three years, added in some new content, and re-released it as an exclusive for the Nintendo Switch. It’s such a simple idea, and it’s nearly perfect in its execution.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow Road
It’s hard to explain why it works so well, but it just does. Mario Kart feels like the franchise that was always meant to be played on a console like the Switch. Mario Kart 7 is one of the best games in the series by far, and it was a DS exclusive. While Double Dash on the GameCube is often regarded as the best of the series, the fact of the matter is that the casual, pick-up-and-play format lends itself so well to portable gaming.
When I play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild it’s because I want to get lost in an adventure in a sprawling Hyrule, but when I play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe it’s because I want some quick thrills. Although, to be honest, playing Mario Kart usually results in pure frustration and rage that somehow keeps you coming back for more.
It’s a simple platform change, but it’s magical. I can play a few Grand Prixes on the train on my way home from meetings, then plop the Switch down into its dock and pick up where I left off on my TV. I’ve got it sitting on my desk right now – I just did an online race in between paragraphs – and can take it with me to a friend’s house easily for impromptu Mario Kart parties. It may be the most purely simple and wonderful pairing of platform and game I’ve seen with the Switch thus far.
But What’s New?
However, all that may not be enough to convince you that it’s worth buying again if you already played Mario Kart 8 to death on the Wii U. If you have the game already and have purchased all of the DLC to date then there isn’t a whole lot new here. Frankly, it may not be worth the switch (pun intended) if you’re in that boat. That being said, there are still a few new tidbits to pay attention to.
For starters, there are six new characters: Bowser Jr., King Boo, Dry Bones, Inkling Girl, Inkling Boy, and Gold Mario (must be unlocked), making the massive roster of over 40 characters bigger than ever. There are a couple of new tracks for racing this time around as well, also including all of the DLC added over the years with a nice mix of old and new throughout the franchise’s past entries. Add in a smattering of new vehicles and parts and there is a decent amount of new content across the board.
But, honestly, the biggest and best addition that really helps round out the game as a whole is the revamping of Battle Mode. In doing so, Nintendo brought back stadium-style courses and introduced new modes to fully build out that area of the game. It’s easy to spend hours playing the variety of competitive options available, especially considering the skill level needed to really master each course and game mode.
Old Dog, Old Tricks
Ultimately though, if you’ve ever played a Mario Kart game, dating all the way back to the original on the SNES or any entry since, then you’ve essentially played them all. The entire game can be played with two or three buttons plus a joystick or d-pad and a bit of propensity for mayhem.
You press individual buttons to accelerate, use items, and hop/drift – that’s all you need to know. Hit the boost pads, collect items, and take out your opponents. Blue shells are still the bane of all happiness and blazing past someone at the finish line at the last second after hitting them with an item is perhaps still the most satisfying feeling on the entire planet.
The fact that this simple formula still works so well and is just so damn fun is a testament to Nintendo’s game design and development talent. But beware, if you never liked Mario Kart because it’s unfair, feels cheap at times, or lacks features, then this entry is not going to change your mind.
While Mario Kart 8 Deluxe may very well be the best game in the entire series, it’s still very much a Mario Kart game, for better and for worse. And if you played Mario Kart 8 on Wii U already, there’s not a whole lot of new stuff this time around. Take that for what you will.