When I reviewed Mario Kart 8 when it came out on the Wii U, I said it was the best game in the series. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the exact same game, extremely beefed up, and there’s nothing bad about that.
What Is It?
Mario Kart needs no introduction. It’s been a cash cow for Nintendo for over 25 years. Mario Kart 8 sold over 8.3 million copies on the Wii U, which is more than both the Mario Kart games that came out on the Game Boy Advance and GameCube, so there’s definitely some lasting power here.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is essentially Nintendo’s best chance to expand the audience while the Switch continues to sell like hot cakes, so while virtually nothing about the game changed, it’s easily the definitive version of the game and worth coming back to… as long as you have the patience for it.
Why Should I Care?
Along with everything that made the Wii U version what it was, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe comes with all of the game’s premium content. That includes four cups, with four tracks each–that’s 16 additional tracks both brand new and classic tracks to go along with the game’s 32 tracks for a total of 48 different places to race around.
In addition to the fresh batch of tracks, there’s a handful of new characters in the game that aren’t even involved in the Super Mario series. The likes of Link from The Legend of Zelda and Isabelle from Animal Crossing: New Leaf are back as they were DLC before, but Deluxe also includes Inkling kids from Splatoon. One would argue that the game should actually be rebranded into Nintendo All-Star Kart or something.
One of the most interesting premium editions to Mario Kart 8 was the introduction of the 200cc mode. The high-speed action in 150cc and Extra were already pretty intense, 200cc makes things absolutely ridiculous. The game even mentions braking is a good idea, but let’s be honest here–that’s never a good idea with Mario Kart‘s cheap AI. I thought 150cc and Extra were already cheap and difficult, but 200cc is a totally different monster. Players skilled enough (or lucky enough) to earn a trophy in each 200cc cup get the game’s only unlockable character, Gold Mario, a precious reward for the most hardcore Nintendo fans.
If you’re a loyalist that had Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, you’re probably wondering exactly what’s new here. Aside from the fact that all the old DLC is included, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe boasts a key feature from Mario Kart: Double Dash!! that made people wonder why it disappeared in the first place. Like its GameCube predecessor, Deluxe allows you to hold two items at a time, which considerably changes up the strategy whether you’re leading the pack or trailing behind.
The challenging nature of the game is hardly a secret either. To combat this, Deluxe also features “smart steering” which essentially keeps your kart on the road. This is a good and bad thing. Obviously, for Mario Kart rookies, it’s extremely helpful. But as you get more experienced, cutting corners by boosting and going offroad become a necessary skill. On top of that, if you play without smart steering, you can also activate a pink boost when drifting, which is done by continuing to maneuver your kart during a drift even after the orange sparks.
Mario Kart 8‘s main problem was with its Battle Mode. Matches were more drawn out and less interesting because the level design was more or less like every other track in the game. Instead of being small enough to wreck each other, every game was really just cat and mouse. Fortunately, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe fixes all that with a more robust Battle Mode with a better selection of eight maps and five different ways to play including Balloon Battle, Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners, Shine Thief, and the new Renegade Roundup.
Balloon Battle is the classic battle mode that Mario Kart veterans should be familiar with. Now players have eight balloons instead of three, and instead of it being an elimination contest, the player with the most “kills” wins. Bob-omb blast returns from Double Dash!! where players attack each other using bob-ombs, except now it’s essentially also a Balloon Battle. Coin Runners is all about which racer has the most coins before time runs out, and Shine Thief is essentially a capture the flag-style game where the racer has to hold onto the shine for at least 25 seconds. Lastly, the new Renegade Roundup is pretty much a game of cops and robbers. Players are separated into two teams where one team has to try to catch all members of the opposing team. When players get caught, they’re put in a cage, and they can be let out if another “free” player drives a key over to their cell to get them out.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
With Mario Kart 8 being as great as it was, the fact that it’s now portable (and still at 60 frames per second) almost makes the game as close to perfect as it can possibly be.
The game’s online play is significantly holding it back.
During the game’s initial launch, I had no issues with speed at all. It took a while for some courses to load, but once they did, I saw no issues both playing on the TV and playing in handheld mode. However, as of late, connections have been dropping more consistently, and lag really dampens the battle mode’s multiplayer experience. This, along with the fact the voice chat still isn’t a thing, bogs down the experience, and it also makes you wonder whether Nintendo’s premium online plans in the future will really be worth whatever they’ll be asking players to pay.
That aside, if we’re comparing Mario Kart from the 90’s to Mario Kart now, you honestly can’t have it any better. Switch owners finally have a definitive library piece other than Zelda, and the game definitely will hold its place as a leader in couch co-op for years to come.