Review: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)

Settle it in Mario Kart

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Racing
Platforms: Switch
Rating: E for Everyone
Price: $59.99
Welcome to the most fun you’ll have in local multiplayer since Mario Party 2! Get ready to be punched in the arm by your friends and yelled at for using that lightning item. Because when you get an item that will screw up everyone’s game, you use it—no questions asked. This is Mario Kart; there are no punches pulled, no shells unbroken. Whether it’s someone else’s shell hitting you or your own (most likely the latter) this game is going to get frustrating. But if you win, it feels that much better. This game will make you want to put your arms up and shout victoriously over your weak friends who “don’t own the game” or “are still getting used to the controls.” Whatever their pitiful excuses are, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe really knows how to make you feel the best (even though Mario’s always claiming he’s the best).
Previously released on the Wii U, this re-vamped version comes with all the DLC released, plus a few new characters. Also, there’s an entirely new Battle mode. Visuals are updated and tweaks to controls have been added for easier gameplay. Multiplayer is nice with the Switch in that 2 players can each play using one joy-con on the Switch’s screen. Players can also play together using their own Switch which would only show their driver on-screen. Playing wirelessly connected like this can handle up to 8 separate players. If playing online, the switch can handle up to 12 different players, but all must be connected to the same Local Area Network. With all of these changes, is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe still worth purchasing again? If you’re a fan of Mario Kartabsolutely.

King Boo here to take some names.

Content Guide

Spiritual ContentMario Kart 8 Deluxe does not have any spiritual content really, unless King Boo and racing around a haunted mansion count as questionable content. Nintendo has always played it pretty safe in terms of spirituality in Mario games. They are usually meant to be family-friendly and not shove any sort of agenda in one’s face other than clean entertainment.
Violence: The game is full of cartoon aggressiveness, but nothing ever over-the-top. It encourages the use of items and racing skill to put one’s opponents back in their place—behind you. Beware though…responses to this game may result in real-life violence.
Language/Crude Humor: As with spiritual content, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has no language or crude humor. There are barely any words spoken by the characters other than guttural sounds when hit, grunting when throwing an item, or shouting a victorious phrase such as “yeah!” or “I did it!”
Sexual Themes: There are no sexual themes in the game.
Drug/Alcohol Use: There is no drug or alcohol use.
Positive Themes: The only positive theme here really is having fun. Nintendo does not take the game too seriously, giving it a lighthearted feel. The characters are always happy and sound like they are having a great time. Mario Kart pits players against each other in the name of competition, but they have taken away the big celebration at the end, which usually shows the first, second, and third placers on a pedestal of sorts. I assume they have taken this away to avoid degrading and humiliating any players, this was part of the whole Mario Kart experience. Why they took it out is beyond me.

A SNES battle track re-structured with updated graphics on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Review

Ever since the first release of the classic game on the Super Nintendo, Mario Kart became more and more…intuitive. Mario Kart: Double Dash was the first game in the franchise to really change up the formula with its setup of two racers on a single kart. This added more possible outcomes as gameplay depended on the mixup of characters, which would then change what kind of items one would receive or how the cart controls. Next came Mario Kart Wii, with its addition of motion-controlled racing and motorcycles. Afterwards, Mario Kart 7 (for the 3DS) introduced gliding and anti-gravity racing. Finally, Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U combined these elements but in high definition;  it was also the first Mario Kart to have DLC. With the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, new characters were made available, new items, new tracks, new karts, and the most welcomed addition of all, new battle modes. Because of these features, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is more than just a “fresh coat of paint” on an old, expended franchise. Nintendo is good at taking something new and adding just enough nostalgia to make it relevant and fun again.

Ink tricks…also called “Trinks”

A great game does not live on one good part alone, but various great parts working together brilliantly. A game must be sure to have a solid foundation and what more solid foundation do you need other than the racing? This is one of the most clear, smooth, and flowing Mario Kart games to date. Each turn and drift can be controlled according to what kart and wheels you pick. Keep in mind your character’s weight as well and you’ll be fine. In this game, it is the wheels that can make or break you. They determine whether you will have a hard time the entire race or not. This does not mean that this game can be compared to more lifelike racing games like Forza or Gran Turismo. No, this is cartoon racing. Expect chaos and catastrophe.
One of the most frustrating things in this game is the fact that once you are hit, you go back five or six places. The chaos and randomization of items and the twisted tracks more often than not will knock you back to twelfth place if you’re not careful. But these things tend to be randomized so much to the point where one begins to think that the winner is random as well. It is not, but it definitely feels like it. There are simply too many factors here that can go wrong that make the game seem like it is judging unfairly. In the end, the deciding element is the finish line, but how you get there is an entirely different story. “The ends justify the means” rings true in this game. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe simply has too many random constituents that can at times take away the fun.

Quite the character roster. The player can also use their personal Mii to race with.

The variety of characters is the strongest it has been in all the Mario Kart franchises. With 42 different racers to choose from, it will take you awhile to find your favorite. Returning veterans include Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, and so on. Even some old faces have returned including King Boo and Dry Bones. Newcomers include the boy and girl Inklings Splatoon, Link, Animal Crossing Villager and Isabelle and more. These three are the first non-Super Mario Bros. franchise characters to be in a Mario Kart game. It seems that Nintendo has been branching out a bit. Perhaps they’re taking a bit of the inclusiveness in Super Smash Bros. and bringing it to Mario Kart. Link looks goofy in a kart, but maybe that’s what they were going for.
The different game modes are great as well. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe features the basics: Grand Prix, Time Trial, Vs, and Battle modes. Grand Prix is classic four-course racing mode, Time Trial tests your fastest lap, Vs mode offers custom racing on a single track at a time, and Battle mode lets you go head-to-head with local players. Migrating from Mario Kart 8 is the online play which is equally as fun as it is frustrating. Online, one is pitted against other real players, so the challenge is greater (and more chaotic). But all of these modes were on Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. So what exactly is the big deal?

When you have the most coins in Coin Runner, you wear a crown to let other players know that they should start focusing all of their attacks on you.

The biggest and greatest addition to Deluxe is the revamped Battle mode. Before MK8 was “racing with balloons”; players had full access to a track normally used for racing, but with five balloons. Battling and hitting the balloons was impossible given the amount of space there was. In Deluxe, there are five different ways to battle: Classic Balloon Battle, Renegade Roundup, Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners, and Shine Thief. Balloon Battle has to do with popping your opponents balloons by hitting them. This is the classic mode that has been around since Mario Kart 64. Bob-omb blast is the same battle, but with only Bob-ombs for items. Coin Runners is a race to collect as many coins as possible. But the best modes are Renegade Roundup and Shine Thief.

The ever-elusive Shine Sprite

It is Nintendo that people always hail as the king of local multiplayer because it’s true and here is why. Shine Thief is basically Capture the Flag with karts, items, and every man for himself. The player must hold the Shine Sprite for a total of 20 seconds which counts down only when the player has possession. A racer can pick it up, but then drop it and the time will stop. Catastrophe ensues as everyone tries to reverse and go back to pick up the Sprite. It’s insane and some of the best local multiplayer I’ve seen in forever. To top it off, Renegade Roundup is equally if not more zany fun.

Wario and Waluigi finally where they belong.

Armed with Piranha plants, the player must hunt down the runaway racers and lock them all away before time runs out. The problem here is that players can free their imprisoned comrades and put the “cops” right back to square one. There’s nothing like being the last one free, dodging the piranha racers, and freeing all of your teammates. Granted, this mode can be a bit unbalanced since it seems like it would be easier being the fugitives, but the police can turn the tables quickly if they coordinate well.
The best way to play Mario Kart is on a big screen with big speakers even if the Switch alone is an option. Visuals are fantastic as ever as well as the soundtrack and effects. The graphics are crystal clear and there is never any skipping or lagging. The soundtrack is well done and as with any Nintendo game, you will find yourself humming along to the music. The voice acting is entertaining as the characters actually sound like they are having a blast. Sound effects are great, but can seem a little too loud at times. Feel free to lower the effects volume in the settings, but don’t lower them too much because Mario Kart plays well loud! As a matter of fact, one can avoid a few attacks by simply listening for the alarm made as the attack closes inwhether it be a red shell, blue shell, or even a fire flower.

The “Boo” item finally returns to steal your opponents’ items as if you didn’t have enough to deal with.

Over time, Mario Kart has aged well. With a large character roster, thirty-two courses to race through, plenty of items to use against your foes, and plenty of unlockable vehicles and wheels; it takes a while to get bored of this one. Even when playing alone, the Battle modes still prove to be entertaining. You will find yourself shouting at the television with no one else around. If you are not a fan of Mario Kart but are a fan of Nintendo, then you are missing out on a great franchise. Mario Kart racing is not really racing…it is just pure, chaotic, unconventional fun that will leave you wanting to play more and more. Now that the Battle Mode has been revamped and a few things added, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is worth every bit of money and definitely worth buying it again if you previously owned it on the Wii U.

The Bottom Line

Nintendo has hit a home run with their re-release, knowing exactly which elements to fix and which to keep. This game is a must-have for your library.

 

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John Campbell

Based in San Diego, California, John enjoys working, writing, eating with friends and family, and gaming - both board games and video games. After earning a Bachelor's Degree in Humanities, he currently works in IT, but hopes to one day become a full time college professor and writer. His recent favorite games include Persona 5 and NieR: Automata.

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