Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U was a commercial success, selling around 8 million copies worldwide. However, it was released on a failing system that limited the amount of consumers playing the game. While I myself love and have always loved the Wii U, there is no denying that it failed to meet sales expectations. Therefore, not many people had the chance to play all of the amazing games that were released on the system, Mario Kart 8 included.
Now, three years later, Nintendo has decided to amend that by releasing a port of their popular racing game on the new (and so far relatively successful) Nintendo Switch console. While some are glad to have the chance to play Mario Kart 8 on the new system, others believe that there is no sense in buying the same game. This all leads to the question: Is the price tag justified for a port of a recent game? In short, yes, it is.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe includes everything that made the original game great: beautiful graphics, unique and fun courses, and a great, jazzy soundtrack. On top of this, all previous DLC is present (that’s where the Deluxe bit comes from), with the addition of a few new characters, and most important of all, a revamped and perfect battle mode. I’ll talk about the new battle mode a little bit later, but for now, let’s focus on exactly what you’re getting in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. With the previous DLC included, and with all cups and characters unlocked from the start, you will be able to immediately race on a total of 48 courses (more than any other Mario Kart game) and have the option of using DLC characters, including Link from The Legend of Zelda series and the Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing. New to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are the Inklings from Splatoon, King Boo, Dry Bones, and Bowser Jr. While the list of new characters is relatively short, they bolster an already hefty roster.
The new version also includes a few differences that seem minor but actually make a real change to gameplay. Specifically, you can now hold two items at a time, the Boo and Feather items are back, and the double item boxes from Mario Kart: Double Dash also make a welcome return. Additionally, there is now an extra level of drifting that can give you a needed boost. These changes are simple, but they refresh the experience for those who have already played the original.
The central focus of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the new and improved battle mode, which was the biggest problem in the original game. The original had you battling on normal tracks, which made battles long and, frankly, rather dull. This time round, there are a total of eight battle maps (5 new and 3 classic courses) for you to battle on. In addition, the new battle mode has a total of 5 different mode types: Balloon Battle, Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners, Renegade Roundup, and Shine Thief. With the exception of Renegade Roundup, all these modes have appeared in previous installments.
Renegade Roundup is actually my favorite addition to Mario Kart 8. It’s essentially a game of cops and robbers where one team of piranha plant-wielding authorities is trying to capture the opposing team of fugitives. The robbers, called renegades in the game, are supposed to race away and outrun the clock, all while freeing their teammates when they get captured. If all renegades are captured, then the authorities win, while the renegades are victorious if the time runs out. The mode is very intense but is extremely fun, especially when you play local multiplayer with friends. The other modes offer the classic Mario Kart experience, updated and improved for maximum enjoyment.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also offers a polished online experience that replicates the great gameplay of the Wii U version. From my time with the game, I experienced minimal connection errors while playing online. However, my biggest complaint about the online service has to do more with the Nintendo Switch console itself. If I wanted to play online, I ended up having to play in handheld mode a few feet away from my internet router, as my Switch dock on the floor below had no signal, despite the Wii U located next to it having a perfect connection. This effectively stopped me from playing online on my TV, a frustrating and baffling state of affairs that really needs to be remedied by Nintendo ASAP (there’s no reason that the Switch should have worse internet connectivity than a console released years earlier). It also augurs badly for the future, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is Nintendo’s first game to have online connectivity before their paid service launches this fall, and if these initial issues are any indication, then that launch is going to be far from straightforward.
Again, these problems have to do more with the Nintendo Switch console itself than the game, but it’s still saddening that I can’t just play Mario Kart online when I want to.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive Mario Kart game to date. If you absolutely love battle mode, didn’t buy the original DLC, or simply want to play Mario Kart on an updated console, then Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is worth your time. While the $60 price tag could scare away those who already played the original on the Wii U, the new content, updated graphics and frame rate make it worth the purchase. Ultimately, it’s the polished, responsive Mario Kart experience that you love, only this time you can play on the go and instantly improve boring train journeys, tedious flight delays and never-ending car journeys with the sort of explosive, overblown fun that Mario and co. provide in spades.
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 28th April 2017