- Released: 2017
- Played on: Nintendo Switch
- Also available on: –
- Time to get into: 10 minutes
- Time to complete: 40 hours
- Multiplayer: Yes, local and online
Fans of racing games really are spoilt at the moment. If you enjoy braking zones, suspension settings and tyre wear then Forza Motorsport 6 is the best racing simulation game ever. If you enjoy tyre smoke, dodging traffic and open world racing then Forza Horizon 3 is the best arcade racing game ever. On the other hand if you like being on four wheels (or two!) but prefer boosts, shortcuts and weapons then we now have the best go-kart style racing game ever: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe! It’s takes everything that is good about the series to the max and puts it both in your hands and on your TV on the Nintendo Switch. It’s not far off perfection.
I’ve enjoyed every Mario Kart game that I’ve ever played but for me, until now, Mario Kart 64 was the best. It brought three dimensions to everything that was good about the original and thereafter every tweak to the formula – two characters per kart in Double Dash, motion steering on the Wii, anti-gravity in the original Mario Kart 8 – was fun in itself but didn’t improve the overall racing experience. What Mario Kart 8 Deluxe does so well is bring together the best parts of every installment into one package. The basic racing hasn’t changed since Mario Kart 64, (although it has benefited from enhancements to handing, graphics etc thanks to improved technology) but we now have all the extra ingredients from those other titles in their best format. Take, for example, the two characters per kart from the GameCube version: here we have kept the double weapon boxes, which add additional tactics to the races, but not the double characters, which was complexity for the sake of it. In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe you can choose whether to steer with motion controls like on the Wii, or keep it simple with the analog stick. It’s like Nintendo has been tweaking it’s recipe over time and has finally come up with the perfect cake. If you want to know what the cherry on top of that cake is, keep reading!
The main meat of the game is Grand Prix mode. The game has an entire 48 tracks – many new ones (or at least new in Mario Kart 8) and also a ton remastered ones from across all the previous 7 versions of the game. These are split into 12 Cups for you to go and win by getting high enough places to get the most points over the 4 races. For difficulty you can choose from progressively faster speeds of 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, Mirror (which is the same speed as 150cc but with everything mirrored, left turns are now right turns etc) and 200cc. Together these form a good learning curve – 50cc is very straight forward and 100cc reasonably so as well. After that the game decides that you’ve had it easy enough and there’s quite a jump up in difficulty to 150cc and another up to 200cc. It achieves this in two ways: increased speed but also by giving you a generally harder time of it compared to your competition. You’ll never really notice it in action but the catch up mechanic in the game (whereby you are slightly slowed down and given worse weapons at the front and vice versa) get more active on the faster settings. If that sounds unfair: it is. Deal with it!
My speed is my weapon
It’s important if you’re going to play on the harder settings to accept something: this game hates you! Or at least it does if you’re in first place. But this actually makes the game, as it forces you to get better and faster and to play more tactically, adding more depth to an initially simple game. Making sure you are collecting enough coins, power sliding into double weapon boxes and having a solid defense against those attacking you become the gameplay rather simply corners/straights and accelerating/braking. I’ve actually almost completely stopped using the weapons to attack other racers: I use them for defending and tell myself: my speed is my weapon!
Otherwise, you can get stuck into Time Trial mode where there’s a ghost for each track set by the Nintendo staff for you to beat. These are sometimes easy but mostly very challenging and teach you lines and shortcuts you can take back into races. This stuff is important if you want to ‘complete’ the game and get Gold Mario. See another blog post (here) to explain more on him!
You also have Battle Mode. I have never been that bothered by the battling in these games – I just want to race – but again in this game it is tweaked close to perfection. I really enjoy this mode for the first time. The arenas are of a similar ilk whilst each having it’s own unique parts and the different battle types mean that there will be something for everyone. Team games in this mode online are particularly crazy and enjoyable! Shine Thief is my favorite.
So what’s the cherry on top? There are two more things that this game does better than any other: Auto Accelerate and Smart Steering.
Auto Accelerate should be fairly self explanatory. I’m amazed that no game of this type has instigated this before. In a game where you are literally accelerating the entire time in every race, having to hold the button isn’t ideal for either the players hand or the controllers life span. This is such a simple but hugely wonderful tweak.
Smart Steer is a setting for beginners that means that you can never fall off the track. If you don’t do any steering of your own you’ll trail in last so it’s not a game-ruining ‘cheat’. In addition it does actually slow you down in order to ensure you stay on the track, so once you get good and you start pushing the limits of the tracks you’ll want to turn it off as it then becomes frustrating. The reason it’s so great is: The Boy. He’s been able to really dig deep into the game and compete on the higher speeds because of smart steer. It has quite literally made the difference between this being a brief foray in Mario Kart and it being his favourite game ever. That said, I refuse to use it – it feels like reducing the challenge too much from what it’s intended to be but for making the game inclusive for inexperienced or casual players it’s brilliant.
If I really wanted to get picky I might ask why you can’t swap your your two weapon boxes to use them in a different order. Or why you can’t edit the buttons to your own preference – particularly in multiplayer when you are only using one Joy-Con, they aren’t that comfortable. Or ponder whether the menu system is a bit uninspiring. But really I’m stretching the point. These are tiny problems in the over context of endless fun that this game offers.
How else to conclude this review but with this: buy this game. Now. Unless you really don’t like this kind of game, for some crazy reason, this is the essential version. The only question is: how on earth can Mario Kart 9, whenever it comes, possibly be any better?
Click below to purchase Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:
Or click below to purchase a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe download code from CDKeys.com: