A Nintendo console generation doesn’t officially start until a Mario Kart title comes fling out of the gates. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe fills that need for the month-and-change-old Switch. The revamped 2014 Wii U title is so instantly addictive, painstakingly polished and flat-out fun that it will doubtlessly pull off the incredible feat of replacing early adopters’ Breath of the Wild obsession in favor of blue shell-dodging mayhem. Revamped multiplayer, new courses, characters and parts not only add a spit-shine to what was already an incredible game, but manage to reinvent the package into a thrilling and versatile thrillride that gives gamers yet another reason to stalk the store shelves for a hard-to-find Switch.
Games: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Consoles: Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: April 28
Mario Kart games have been among the best first-party games on each Nintendo system, dating to the ancient Super NES days of the early 90s. Each generation has improved on what came before by a staggering amount, with the handheld and home console iterations branching off on different paths. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe melds those two directions into a cohesive core, providing a dynamite cartoonish racing experience for players both on the couch or the go. The gravity-twisting flair some courses add remains, and an amped-up battle mode restores the heedless glee of that facet’s high point on the GameCube’s Double Dash. Even the long-derided blue shell, which those annoyed with the franchise’s rubber-banding AI love to whine about, has an antidote in the form of an air horn that neutralizes the weapon when deployed at just the right time. As the online proving ground shows race in and race out, this is a game that consistently rewards skill. It’s the best players who end up making most of their own difference-making luck.
In a new twist for the series — and an acknowledgment from the developers that many players have already seen and done most of the content the new game offers — nearly all of the courses, racers and items are unlocked from the start. You can dive right in to the maniacal 200cc division, or start things off the traditional slow way by wading in the 50cc kiddie pool. There are still many surprises in store in the form of a consistent bread crumb trail of unlockables that emerge with the more coins you rack up. Borrowing from irritating concept from gem-hording mobile games, you rack up goodies as your virtual wallet fattens. There is thankfully no option to cut your playtime short by springing for currency with actual money. Nintendo plays to the old-school sentiment of making you earn everything you get with gameplay dedication and success.
Much of what makes Mario Kart 8 Deluxe seem fresh and vital on the Switch has to do more with the console itself than the software updates. Each of the myriad control options brings something different to the table. Couch multiplayer fans will want to dock the device and play split-screen multiplayer, and the game will be an instant party hit in tabletop mode, with the kickstand supporting the small screen as hunched-over players battle it out. More serious players will want to invest in a Pro Controller and stick with TV mode, while near-sighted obsessives will eschew the TV entirely to play the game as a portable, avoiding any chance of lag or wonky detached Joy-Con interference. You can also play on the TV with a Joy-Con in each hand, simulating the Wiimote-Nunchuk feel of Mario Kart Wii.
Once you get past the irritation of forking over $60 for what is essentially a primped-up version of a three-year-old game, it’s easy to fall under the spell of the maddening surge of adrenaline Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers. Controller-smashing defeats and improbable comebacks have a way of pulling you into the flow, encouraging you to play just one more course before you manage to separate yourself from the screen. This is a game that has a way of sucking hours out of your life, which makes it all the more liberating to be able to take it with you on commutes and waiting room drudgery. As the Switch finishes its second month, it’s produced two monumentally amazing games to justify the hysteria over the fast-selling system. Now that Kart is available, the red light has turned green and it’s time to slam on the gas without looking back.
‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’ Around The Web:
“One of the biggest difference has to do with items. You can now hold two instead of just one.” –Mic
“An essential multiplayer game early in the life of the Switch.” –Nintendo World Report
“The multiplayer game Nintendo needs at launch.” –Digital Trends
‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’ Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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