Mario Kart 8 Review
It seems like Nintendo is the master of adding just enough new content to a game to make it stand out from its predecessors. Mario Kart 8 continues this trend. From its gravity defying sections to a well built online infrastructure, Mario Kart 8 is sure to give you hours and hours of addictive gameplay. Replay value that you’ve never seen from the rest.
Mario Kart has kept everything you love and made it better thanks to the Wii U’s hardware. The gameplay is as polished as it’s ever been. You’ll find yourself mesmerized by how well it runs. To no surprise, as it is Nintendo, after all. The standard game modes are all there. But the new twist lies within Time Trials. Getting to race your friend’s ghost without any of the luck involved is a blessing. Just you and your skills. Grand Prix mode remains as frantic as ever. I noticed that to place first in every cup, with all three stars, you’ll really need to work for it. You need to be well ahead of everyone else in almost every race to avoid last second mishaps that seem to happen even more, this time around. There were still matches with Blue Shell destruction, but the worst was getting hit with back-to-back Red Shells multiple times. The worst feeling. Ever.
The biggest disappointment is Battle Mode. Usually, in Battle Mode, you’re thrown into an arena with your opponents to duke it out. This time, you’re thrown into a smaller version of a pre-existing track. It’s nothing too bad, but it takes away the fun of it. You’ll find yourself roaming around Toad’s Turnpike for minutes, looking for someone to hit. The excitement just isn’t there. On the other hand, VS Race is almost where it needs to be. It says you can race using “custom rules,” but it isn’t custom enough. We still don’t have the ability to turn every item on or off, Smash Bros. style. Maybe next time?
Thanks to the power of the Wii U, this game looks astonishing. From the fantastic lighting of Dolphin Shoals, to the neon powerhouse that is Rainbow Road. All of these tracks will make you look away from your kart to admire the surrounding beauty. You could have told me that the Wii U was as powerful as a PS4, and I would’ve believed you. Running at a solid 60 FPS, Mario Kart 8 is easily the best looking game on Wii U.
Customizing the way you play has never had this much depth. From the 30 characters to the dozens of kart and wheels combinations, you’ll have a lot to choose from. Some tracks require more sharp turning than others, so you’ll find yourself mixing and matching even when you’re twenty plus hours in. With never-ending unlockables, you may never find a combination to stick with. It’d still be nice to be able to make your own tracks, but honestly, there’s more than enough here to keep you going for dozens and dozens of hours.
My absolute favorite part about Mario Kart 8 is the online mode. Nintendo took online communities from Mario Kart 7, and built from it. Joining lobbies with strangers and racing with them for hours to get your score as high as you can, has the same addictive qualities as any Call of Duty I’ve played. It’s so much more random than playing with A.I. There was one game where I got eighth place, but the very next game, I got first. I even lapped the guy in last place. While it still involves a lot of skill, expect the unexpectable. If you and a bunch of your buddies want none of the luck typically involved, then you can take your skills to a private lobby. It lets you customize it to your needs. So you, and that one friend, can find out who’s the best Mario Kart player, once and for all. The only disappointing part was the lack of regular lobbies. There was no way a friend and I could join up, and take on people from across the globe, together.
I played a good amount of online matches and I never experienced any kind of lag. Sometimes, it felt as if I was just playing the offline Grand Prix mode. It runs that good. Aside from the lack of non-private lobbies, and not being able to voice chat in-game, Mario Kart 8’s online is masterful. The best online experience from Nintendo, yet.
Another rad feature is Mario Kart TV. You can go back and look at any recent race you were in. Put the spotlight on yourself, opponents and change which parts of the race you want to see, and for how long. If you liked a race enough, there’s an option to upload it to your YouTube account. I’d love to see Nintendo to continue to take this route with the rest of their first-party games.
Replay-ability is Mario Kart 8’s strongest quality. I can easily see myself putting another 20 hours within the next few days from the sheer amount of content. There’s every cup to get three stars in four different difficulties, stamps (returning from Super Mario 3D World,) making ghosts for your friends to beat, and online. This is easily the best Mario Kart in terms of things to do.
The best new tracks of the game are Water Park, Mount Wario and Cloudtop Cruise. Courses like the N64 Rainbow Road, Piranha Plant Slide and Music Park greatly benefit from being remade in glorious HD. Music Park’s bright light’s and piano stokes make it really stand out from the rest. I’m sure that everyone will get a huge kick out of Rainbow Road’s upgrade.
The anti-gravity sections add new strategy to certain parts of tracks. Before, you pretty much had to avoid everyone (unless you’re going at full speed,) but during these sections, you want to hit people. Only where you can, too. Hit someone near an edge and you’ll boost right off. My favorite uses of it were when it was an option. For example, in Thwomp Ruins, you can either take a path down the middle, to the sides or up the side of the walls. Not being forced to use it, but there if you want to. Anti-gravity isn’t annoying or useless, it’s a great addition to the Mario Kart franchise and hope to see it continue to be used.
The new items are welcome. The Super Horn is SUPER helpful when trying to avoid that Blue Shell onslaught. The Piranha Planet is my personal favorite, your buddy will help you wipe everything in your path clean. The Boomerang Flower was my least favorite, 99% of the time, I had to be right behind someone to hit them. But there were those few instances where I miraculously hit two people at once while turning a corner.
This time, casual’s will get weeded out. There is no automatic drift mode, so they’ll have to settle with the pains of figuring out when is the best time to drift without clumsily hitting everything in your path. It’ll be for the better, though.
Mario Kart 8 is arguably the best entry to the series. If it isn’t the anti-gravity, new items, HD graphics or polished gameplay, then it has to be the online races. There’s so much to do. It’s worth every penny of your purchase. Not surprisingly, Nintendo has done it again.