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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

Let’s say that one day you eat a psychedelic mushroom and – for a few hours only – you get to relive your childhood. You relish the memories of times with friends and experience harmless fun without a care in the world. If you grew up in the ’90s, Mario Kart probably feels a lot like that.

Indeed, Mario Kart has been a fan favorite since its debut on the SNES. Its gameplay is endearingly simple yet its nuances display an underlying complexity that makes it entertaining for adults as well. And with each new generation of video game consoles comes a new cadre of gamers who get their hands on Mario Kart for the very first time.

First launched in 2014 on the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 had a lot riding on it. It’s fair to say that a Mario Kart game was never a more integral part of a Nintendo hardware lineup. With fledgling sales and a gaming press concentrated on the PS4 and Xbox One’s superior hardware, Nintendo needed its latest Mario Kart game to deliver in a big way. While Mario Kart 8 did deliver in terms of quality, it still wasn’t enough to save the doomed Wii U, the biggest console flop in Nintendo’s history.

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Thanks to the success of the Nintendo Switch, gamers can still get their hands on Mario Kart 8 for the first time in the form of an enhanced version of the game that includes all of the DLC and minor tweaks. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the equivalent to a Complete Edition or Definitive Edition. In short, this is how Mario Kart 8 was meant to be played.

The core mechanics of Mario Kart remain intact while enhancements are abound through every facet of the game. Each new iteration of Mario Kart brings upgrades that stick around for the long haul. Mario Kart 8 retains many of the best elements of past games – including online multiplayer, underwater racing, customizable vehicles, motorbikes, drafting, drifting, and hang-gliders – while offering new and improved mechanics.

For those who did not play the game on Wii U, new to Mario Kart 8 is an anti-gravity mechanic that lets you drive alongside walls and upside-down along corkscrew turns. Running into opponents while in anti-gravity mode gives you a slight boost. There are also boosters throughout the track that spin you around and increase your speed.

In terms of multiplayer, you can play with up to four people sharing a single screen on one Switch. There is competitive online multiplayer that allows you to play with friends or strangers from around the world, including two people on one Switch playing against 10 others online. The Switch adds the ability to play locally through LAN with up to 12 players, or up to eight players can compete wirelessly. For LAN and wireless, each player needs their own Switch console and copy of the game.

Aside from the new features, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also includes several new characters. Among the characters introduced on Wii U are the Koopalings (Bowser’s children), Baby Rosalina, and Pink Gold Peach. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also includes the Wii U’s DLC characters right out of the box, including Tanooki Mario, Cat Peach, Link from The Legend of Zelda, and the villager from Animal Crossing. Then there are Inkling Boy and Inkling Girl from Splatoon, which are entirely new characters.

Mario Kart 8 also has a number of interesting new items. There is a boomerang; a piranha plant that can snap at nearby racers and obstacles; the Crazy Eight, which gives the user eight items; and a horn that stuns nearby players. These new items help to make Mario Kart 8 feel like it is a fresh and distinct title set apart from previous titles.

Mario Kart 8 consisted of 32 courses plus DLC on the Wii U. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe includes all of the DLC, bringing the total number of tracks up to 48. The new courses offer a good deal of satisfying variety: a Wario-themed snow-swept mountaintop that replaces the traditional three laps with a long single track and a music-themed disco with bright techno colors. In addition, the original DLC tracks like Zelda‘s Hyrule Circuit, Excitebike Arena, and F-Zero‘s Mute City are packed into Deluxe out of the box.

Classic courses have been completely redone with a fresh coat of paint and reimagined with modern gameplay elements. This means that classics like the Nintendo 64’s Rainbow Road will not be exactly as you remember them. In my book, this is a good thing since it means that Nintendo decided not to rest on their laurels, making improvements and bringing the courses into the 21st century with HD graphics.

Still, the fundamentals of Mario Kart have remained remarkably unchanged over the past 20+ years. Improvements such as drifting boosts, customized vehicles, online multiplayer, and a huge lineup of racers has made the experience even more enjoyable, especially with friends. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe builds off of this solid foundation to make the best Mario Kart game to date.