Nintendo's Mario Kart series has dominated the arcade-style racing scene for over 20 years. The Wii U failed to make the huge impact Nintendo hoped it would, but that might change with the release of Mario Kart 8. This feature packed sequel comes with gorgeous HD graphics, along with several improvements and enhancements. It may determine the fate/future of the Wii U, so let's take a look to see if its a system seller.
The ultimate collection of racers, karts and tracks
Mario Kart games offer a wide variety of Nintendo mascots, tracks to race on and items to use to give yourself an edge, but Mario Kart 8 is by far the biggest. You immediately receive a total of 16 racers, with 14 additional characters unlocked the more you play. Having a total of 30 racers makes this a Mario Kart title that nearly anyone can enjoy, as players will be able to find the right character to fit their play styles. Each hero and villain has their own strengths and weaknesses, although you wouldn't know it from the character selection screen, since you cannot view individual stats.
The customisation options don't end with the characters. Mario Kart 8 lets you tweak your vehicle within three categories: body, wheels and gliders. You'll race in a kart, bike or ATV, all of which offer different stats. Want to unlock all the bodies, wheels and gliders? Then youll play Mario Kart 8 for a long time, as you'll need to collect tens of thousands of gold coins from your races in order to have every option available.
Mario Kart 8 features 16 new tracks in the series (Sunshine Airport, Dolphin Shoals and Electrodome to name a few), along with 16 additional tracks from previous Mario Karts like Cheep Cheep Beach and GBA Mario Circuit. Each track has its own secrets, and you'll be able to cut serious time off your race through the use of shortcuts and boosts.
I think I'll try defying gravity
One major addition to the Mario Kart franchise is the inclusion of anti-gravity racing. Every track has special sections where your kart will suddenly become a hovercraft and change the basic mechanics we've grown accustomed to. Instead of avoiding other racers and obstacles, the anti-gravity portions of a track allow you to bump into racers and certain obstacles to receive short bursts of speed. Experienced players can take advantage of this ability by bumping into one another throughout the entire race.
Race alone or with friends online
This wouldn't be a Mario Kart game without the option of playing against other players, but if you prefer to brush up on your kart skills, you can always play by yourself in one of four available modes: Grand Prix, Time Trials, VS Race and Battle. Grand Prix is the classic Mario Kart mode that allows you to race against 11 other racers across four tracks within a cup series. Racers who finish first in all four tracks will win the series' cup, although choosing a CC that's a higher speed will not only make you and the other racers faster, but also make the computer AI more aggressive and challenging.
VS Race and Battle are the other two modes players can play both in single and multiplayer modes, while Time Trials is only available for single play. VS Race has players competing against a challenger in a one-on-one race to see who the real kart expert is. The focus of Battle mode is to have racers attack each other to pop all three of their balloons. Unfortunately, Nintendo didn't create arena-style tracks for Battle mode, instead including the same tracks you race across in the other modes. Since Battle mode has always been played within an arena, this new method seems unnatural and confusing, with players spending most of their time driving through tracks looking for opponents.
Multiplayer modes can be played locally with up to four players on a single Wii U console, or you can take your kart skills online and even bring a friend along for the ride, as up to two players can play online through the Nintendo Network. Players can find other racers to take on by challenging them based on location or from their friends list. Tournaments can also be created and accessed through multiplayer, allowing players to access a specific tournament, browse ones currently available or customise their own.
Offensive and defensive items make anyone a threat
What's a Mario Kart game without a wide variety of power ups? Mario Kart 8 includes several popular items, including shells, mushrooms and banana peels. One of the most devastating items, the blue shell, made its triumphant return, although it isn't as powerful. Sure, it can still take out the racer in first place and others in the way, but Nintendo finally included an item to combat the blue shell called the Super Horn. One well-timed blast is all it takes to save someone from a devastating attack.
Sharing is caring
In this day in age, you need to share moments with your friends and followers, and Mario Kart 8 makes it easy to do that. At the end of each race, players get the option to view a highlight of their performance. Players can fine tune their highlight by length, content and racers to include, among other options. If you're happy with your highlight reel, you'll be able to share it on Miiverse for not only your friends to watch, but also the Mario Kart community. Players can even upload their highlight reels to YouTube for those without a Wii U to view. The only downside to YouTube uploading is the fact that it can take over 15 minutes to upload a single clip.
Finally, Mario Kart 8 includes Mario Kart TV, which includes shared racing highlights. You'll be able to browse through your recent highlights, your friends' accomplishments and other fun clips from Mario Kart racers around the world. Mario Kart TV could be a great feature for those who want to take their games to the next level by studying the driving skills of top kart racers, or simply enjoy disastrous results.
Mario Kart 8 is what the Wii U has been waiting for
Mario Kart 8 is a Wii U system seller, thanks to excellent arcade-style racing and of course an excellent representation of Nintendo's masterful skill as a developer. It gets a lot right, and the few issues we have with the game pale in comparison to the overall experience. Of course, if you're a current Wii U owner, then you made the decision to buy Mario Kart 8 a long time ago.
GAME's Verdict: 9/10
- A total of 30 racers ensure players will find their ideal character
- Vehicle customisations reach a mind-blowing scale
- Multiplayer is as fun and addictive as ever, especially with Tournaments
- Great variety of tracks both old and new
- The revamped Battle mode doesn't hold a candle to the original
- Uploading clips through YouTube takes too long
- Inability to view a racer's stats from the character selection screen