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Retrospective | Mario Kart 7

Everyone likes Mario Kart: if Nintendo had simply thrown together a sloppy Nintendo 3DS version of the popular kart racing series, maybe including a few new characters or race tracks, it would still be sitting on some pretty big stacks of cash within a few weeks.

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Fortunately, Nintendo didn’t throw together a sloppy 3DS installment of Mario Kart. In fact, Mario Kart 7 featured arguably the most ambitious online multiplayer component that it had ever attempted.

There were 3DS-exclusive features, such as the 3D effects, the first-person view (seen in the image below), and the gyroscope controls used with the new gliding mechanic.

Of course, there were still plenty of new characters (Metal Mario!) and tracks (Neo Bowser City = personal favorite). The developers even threw in a few new items like the “Lucky 7″, the Fire Flower, and the Super Leaf/Tanooki Tail.

Perhaps my favorite part of MK7 was the kart customization; you could earn new parts (kart frames, wheels) and tinker with your vehicle a great deal, allowing quite a bit of unique customization. This was absolutely perfect for taking the action online (via WiFi) and making a name for yourself, joining the all-new “Communities”, or completely falling flat against the toughest international opponents.

You could always play locally with a friend – MK7 actually supported the rarely-used “Download Play” function, so you only needed a single copy of the game (and a 3DS for each player) in order to access the competitive races, Coin Battles, and more.

MK7 remains one of the 3DS’s best-looking games: the highly-detailed and brightly-colored tracks were a perfect fit for any Mario Kart title. As an added bonus, the 3D effect was used more naturally and ultimately worked “better” than almost any 3DS game to date (the exception being Super Mario 3D Land). As is the case with all MK games, the soundtrack was infectious and kept the mood pretty light, even when some of the obnoxious blue shell shenanigans inevitably happened.

In the end, Mario Kart 7 was one of my favorite Mario Kart games to date – if it had Mario Kart DS’s “Mission Mode”, it would have easily taken the top spot. The game sold over a million copies, becoming one of the first three titles on the 3DS to do, alongside Super Mario Land and Ocarina 3D. After riding the success of those two first-party titles, MK7 provided the final “push” that the 3DS needed to gain momentum and coast into 2012, completely turning around from its sluggish launch performance.

It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your gaming tastes tend to include – Mario Kart 7 is one of the 3DS’s best games, and unless you have a personal issue with the franchise, there is no reason that it should be missing from your library. Whether you’re racing the CPU or someone from across the planet via WiFi, MK7 simply rocks.