Review – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart should be a game series that needs no introduction. From the early days of Super Mario Kart to the online chaos of Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7, this series has been one of Nintendo’s strongest multiplayer franchises. By many standards, Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U was the definitive entry into this series, providing a diverse number of courses and online gameplay options.

To this day, I’ve dumped around 200 hours into the Wii U version of Mario Kart 8. It’s just that fun to play. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the enhanced port of the game to the Nintendo Switch, manages to make me fall in love all over again.

This isn’t because Mario Kart 8 Deluxe makes any grand improvements to the game. This release is largely identical to the Wii U version of the game, except for a few changes that I’ll get into later. Instead, it’s because of the Nintendo Switch itself. We’re getting to take a full-fledged, console level Mario Kart game on the go! I’ve had a blast pulling out my Switch on the bus for some solo play, or with some friends to play multiplayer with the Switch’s tabletop format.

Race with the Best

For those who never played Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, this game is a pretty standard Mario Kart title. You race in matches with 11 other racers and collect a variety of items along the way to help you nab the coveted first place spot. What put Mario Kart 8 on a pedestal is just how dang polished it is. Even 3 years after it was originally released, the polish still makes it shine. Mario Kart 8 is a beautiful game. The environments and character models are colorful and filled with personality.  Everything is looking especially good now that the game has been upgraded to 1080p, an improvement over the original’s 720p resolution.

The gameplay is no less polished than the visuals. Racing in this game is fluid, and driving feels snappy and responsive, especially in the game’s 150cc mode. Deluxe also includes the free DLC mode that was added to Mario Kart 8: 200cc, which gives the game a much needed difficulty due to the blazing fast speed.

One of the biggest issues with Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U was its nigh unplayable Battle Mode. It was a huge disappointment, especially when compared to the robust Battle Mode of Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe turns this around completely, rebooting it to the point where it is the best iteration of Battle Mode yet. You can play classic modes such as Balloon Battle and Shine Thief, along with new modes such as the insanely fun Renegade Roundup.

Aside from what I’ve mentioned above, another gameplay change is probably the addition of a third level of drift boosts: the pink sparks. This level requires very long drifts, and is thus hard to attain, but very rewarding if you can pull it off. The addition is most likely due to the removal of the “flame hopping” technique from the original Mario Kart 8, which most people classified as an exploit and not a proper technique. Additionally, you can now hold two items, making item management feel closer to the previous Mario Kart games, which is a good thing. All in all, these are not massive changes, but they do make racing feel slightly different.

Earning the “Deluxe”

Aside from including the 16 DLC tracks and 6 DLC characters, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also includes 5 additional new characters and two new returning items: the Boo, which lets you steal items from other racers, and the feather, which lets you perform a large hop and gives you a nice boost. They’re not huge changes, but they’re appreciated if you’re a returning player like myself.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a fantastic example of a well done re-release/port. It doesn’t pretend that it’s a new game, but at the same time, it makes just enough refinements and additions to make it worth it for a returning racer. If you’re a Nintendo Switch owner who also owns Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, and you’re itching to get your race on, I would suggest upgrading to this version of the game. It doesn’t solve every problem that was in Mario Kart 8, or in the Mario Kart series as a whole, but it doesn’t have to. It is still a fantastic time sink and yet another wonderful showcase of the Nintendo Switch.

Liked:

  • A plethora of race tracks, modes, racers and kart parts to pick from.
  • This game has the most refined and fully realized Mario Kart gameplay yet.
  • The Switch’s portability makes it the best multiplayer game on the system yet.
  • The revamped Battle Mode is a blast.
  • The game is still as visually gorgeous as ever, both docked and in handheld mode.
  • The wealth of online options is as great as ever.

Disliked:

  • The randomness of items is sometimes way too punishing towards players that are actually doing well in a race, and can get really, really frustrating in the main competitive online mode. 
  • No voice chat, which is a downgrade from the original version. Nintendo has promised voice chat with the launch of its online service, but at this time there is none.
  • The removal of the ability to share race highlights to YouTube is stupid, and basically makes the Mario Kart TV feature totally useless. It’s especially painful in the context of Nintendo’s controversial YouTube policies.

9.0/10

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