Mario Kart 8 Review

I’ve been playing Mario Kart since the Nintendo 64. Missed out on the Super Nintendo flavor for some reason I can’t recall, but suffice it to say that I’ve paid my blue shell dues over the years. And I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say one of the reasons I’ve made sure to keep myself up to date on Nintendo platforms is because I love the zany fun that is Mario Kart. So when the latest version came out Friday, I already had it on pre-order. I got to be the cool awesome father who buys his kids the latest game and sits down and plays it with them on release day for 4 hours.

I knew all that gaming would make me awesome sooner or later.

I’ve now played the game for three days, and I think I have a good enough read on it to give it a review. It’s a strong game, my friends. Very strong showing for Mario Kart. The graphics are awesome for the series, but of course, who’s playing it for graphics? Things I like:

  • The tracks have a lot of variety and challenge. Bowser’s Castle? An awesome track. One of my favorites from the whole series. There’s also a really cool one that recreates one of the airship levels on classic Mario games. A downhill skiing track also stands out in my mind.
  • The controls are just as you’d expect them to be. I’ve seen some reviews holding this against the game. Let me be clear: when I put my money down on a Mario Kart game, I want one thing and one thing only: Mario Kart. They don’t need to recreate the wheel. They need to update the game to the latest platform, add in enough spice to make it different, and then sit back and take my money. This does that (for the most part).
  • Customizing the karts–plenty of options to do this. You can create a setup that works just how you want it to.
  • New items–Fun additions. I miss the fake item box, but the sound blaster and the boomerang are fun. Finally having a chance to beat the blue shell is nice. You still need to luck out to have it in your arsenal, but the fact that it’s out there makes a difference.

Some critiques:

  • Battle mode–They’ve taken away the arenas and the mini-map, so battle mode becomes this alternate way of playing the standard tracks, where you’re supposed to hunt each other down. But the tracks are so big that without the mini-map, you waste a lot of time driving and don’t have nearly enough time shooting each other. That was a let down.
  • In multi-player mode, all players have to finish the track before you can go on to the next level. I play with my kids. DC is having fun, but she can’t finish a level without a lot of time or some help. It would be nice if she just could race until the end of the last bot to finish. Then again, she really loves finishing a race by herself, so maybe this is just me needing to learn how to be more patient.

It’s been a ton of fun so far. I do miss the days of Double Dash, where I could have a gunner in the back who would take care of firing for me while I raced. DC would love that, no doubt. But really, the game does just what I wanted it to. Is it worth getting a Wii U just for the game? Not sure. That would be quite the investment–though remember, it’s compatible with all of the standard Wii controllers, so you don’t have to invest in anything else other than the game and the system. Plus, Nintendo’s doing a deal right now where if you buy the game and register it online, they’ll let you download another Wii U game for free. Top of the line games, too–Wind Waker, Pikmin 3, New Super Mario Bros U, or Wii Party U. So that’s an added incentive. The Mario Kart bundle is around $330. Not the cheapest form of entertainment out there, but not the most expensive, either. I said back when I got it that the Wii U is a solid system, and I continue to stand by that statement.

So there you have it. I’d say overall I’d give the game an 8.5/10. The biggest drawback is the lame battle mode. Perhaps that’s fixable through a patch someday. Anyone else out there have the game? What do you think?

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