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Review

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

The best just got better.

Whenever a Mario Kart game graces a Nintendo console, you know it’s going to be something special, bringing the latest rendition of the best and most enduring kart racing series. The difference with the Nintendo Switch, however, is that we’ve been here before. Or have we? Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the first time that we see Nintendo remastering a game in the series, but they’ve also seen fit to revisit, tweak and add to what was already an incredible game.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers up a staggering amount of content, rolling in the two DLC bundles to include a whopping 48 tracks – 24 remakes and 24 originals – all of which have been designed to make use of the underwater and hang gliding of previous entries and the effortlessly integrated anti-gravity racing that was new for this game. There’s practically every character from the Mushroom Kingdom (except Birdo), and even a number of additions from outside the pantheon of Mario characters, such as Link and Animal Crossing villagers – sadly, the Mercedes GLA cars have been made a permanent part of the roster. Deluxe adds a few extras to that, with the return of King Boo and Bowser Jr., as well as the addition of Splatoon’s Inkling Boy and Girl.

It would have been easy for Nintendo to simply do a straight port to the Switch, get it to run at a flawless 1080p and 60 frames per second when docked and equally sublime 720p60 in handheld, and release it as is. There’s a good argument to be made that Mario Kart 8 is already the best karting game out there, but Nintendo saw room for improvement and a little bit of tinkering with the formula.

Some are more obvious than others, like being able to hold two items at once and the return of double item boxes from Mario Kart: Double Dash. It adds a little more thought and strategy to how you use items and encourages their use, though you have to use items in the order you pick them up and cannot switch back and forth.

More subtle is the new pink boost that you get for drifting an achingly long distance around corners. It’s worth it though, boosting you for around 2.5 seconds, compared to the 1.5 seconds of getting yellow sparks to light under your tyres. Similarly, only a small subset of players will delve into the Time Trials and discover that there’s a new 200cc mode and new developer ghosts and times to try and beat.

At the other end of the scale, Deluxe aims to be all the more accessible. Turning the game on for the first time, the game defaults to having auto steer and auto accelerate turned on, removing some of the difficulties that newcomers might have faced in learning some of the more treacherous tracks. You still need to steer and play to be competitive, but get too close to the edge and little antenna light at the back of the kart lights up as the game nudges you back on course.

That’s an important point, because the Switch can be taken anywhere and played by anybody, with people grabbing the Joy-Con on either side for some impromptu split screen. Additionally, there’s now support for local multiplayer over Wi-Fi for up to eight players or ethernet for up to twelve. In both modes, people can play with a Switch of their own or with two player split screen – four player split screen is the preserve of multiplayer on a single system.

Online play worked flawlessly prior to release, which shouldn’t be a surprise as it’s functionally identical to the Wii U version. Whatever lag is present is dealt in a forgiving way and the only thing that ever stood out is that item boxes sometimes don’t disappear when they’re picked up, meaning that players behind can pick up that same box. It does nothing to really affect the way a race pans out, which can be just as frantic and madcap as ever.

Battle Mode also makes a welcome return – let’s pretend that the Wii U’s poor excuse for Battle Mode never happened, shall we? Eight new and remade tracks, one of which is themed around Splatoon, but it now goes beyond a simple Balloon Battle. Bob-omb Blast is a quick variant where it’s all bombs, all the time, Coin Runners is a complete change of pace as you try to grab and keep hold of as many coins as possible, Shine Thief has players scrapping to hold the Shine until their personal countdown times out, while Renegade Roundup has one side chasing after the other with Piranha Plants trying to chomp the renegades and lock them up in jail.

It’s great to have Battle Mode make a return, and it makes for a fantastic change of pace to the kart racing, but what’s even more pleasing is the variety in these five game modes. They each ask different things of you, so you might suck at Bob-omb Blast’s combative play, but be exactly the kind of slippery racer that excels at breaking teammates out of prison in Renegade roundup.

The only criticism I have of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is actually that none of these tweaks, changes and improvements are being rolled back to the Wii U original. It makes perfect sense, of course, giving Wii U owners that little bit more impetus to buy the game a second time for Switch, as well as ensuring there’s no loop hole to get out of paying for online multiplayer, but it’s a shame that people are being left behind. Of course, that does nothing to detract from Deluxe as its own entity.

What’s Good:

  • A huge amount of Mario Kart goodness
  • Tweaks and changes for veterans and newcomers alike
  • Playing with local WiFi, online, and split screen
  • Returning Battle Mode is fantastic and varied

What’s Bad:

  • No way to share Mario Kart TV highlights at the moment
  • The sad sight of unlocking Mercedes GLA cars
  • Changes leave Wii U players behind

Mario Kart 8 was already a simply sublime kart racer on Wii U, but Nintendo have managed to make it just that little bit better. From the new and improved Battle Mode to tweaks that add more depth for veterans and more accessibility for novices, a great deal of thought and effort went into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, beyond simply porting it to Switch. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe continues to be the best in the business, and now you can play it on the train.

Score: 10/10

8 Comments
  1. JR.
    Member
    Since: Apr 2013

    Mario 11/10.

    Comment posted on 20/04/2017 at 16:00.
  2. Jake Durasamy
    Member
    Since: Jun 2016

    I actually can’t wait for this.

    Comment posted on 20/04/2017 at 16:27.
  3. MadBoJangles
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    I am genuinely really looking forward to this.
    I used to love Mario Kart when I was younger, but haven’t really played it (at length) since Double Dash.

    Zelda (so, soooooo good) will tide me over til I can get this though.

    Comment posted on 20/04/2017 at 16:42.
  4. Tony Cawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    It actually has me tempted to get a Switch just to play this with my boy.

    Comment posted on 20/04/2017 at 17:07.
  5. Andrew
    Member
    Since: Jul 2014

    Just can’t justify paying £280 for zelda and a couple of mario games. Had a look at the list of games coming out and zero interest for me there, as per all of nintendos consoles. Which is a shame as the concept of the switch is really appealing.

    Comment posted on 21/04/2017 at 10:22.
    • MadBoJangles
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      I said the same.
      But I eventually took the plunge and bought one to play Zelda.
      Arguably one of the best games I have ever played, seriously it’s that good.

      I really hope they get some more good games on Switch, the appeal is limited for me too. Mario Kart does look pretty awesome though!

      Maybe pick one up further down the line when the price drops?

      Comment posted on 21/04/2017 at 10:39.
      • stonyk
        Member
        Since: Dec 2009

        Exactly the same. Absolutely love zelda and the switch itself is perfect concept. Wasn’t convinced when it was announced but also love the style of the controllers being two tiny separate pieces. Just wish the ps5 would follow but wonder if it’s just zelda being so much fun that makes it this enjoyable?

        Comment posted on 21/04/2017 at 11:32.
      • Andrew
        Member
        Since: Jul 2014

        I have been tempted, the only other game that peeked my interest was skyrim, to have that on the go is pretty cool. But other than that once i’ve played zelda and the couple of mario games that are on the way I wouldn’t have much interest in anything else. I think i’ll keep an eye on it and see, if they release other games even older games like skyrim, fallout 4 on a portable device would be fantastic. Those types of games interest me more than the standard nintendo games, once you’ve played mario/mario kart on one console its pretty much all the same to me. Its the portableness of it and the potential to play console quality or near console quality games on the go which I want. That’s why I love and still play my vita so much. Uncharted/killzone/assassins creed/MGS2 and 3. That’s what I want on the go.

        Comment posted on 21/04/2017 at 12:46.

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