Game review – Mario Kart 8
Platform – Wii U (exclusive)
Developer – Nintendo
Rating – 9.5/10
Vengeance, thy name is Luigi.
Mario Kart is one of those legacy franchises that has become ubiquitous with the Nintendo brand, and I am no stranger to its siren call. I’ve played every single one since the original nearly 25 years ago on the SNES, and own nearly all of them as well. I’m also very good. And by good, I mean comes-in-first-online-consistantly good. In Mario Kart 7, I beat all circuits on all difficulties with a 3 star rating on the first play through. I have to warn people I play with, because I’m just going to win nearly ever time. It’s not a brag, it’s simply that Mario Kart is my game. I know the tracks, I know the tricks, and if I had the opportunity to play the game professionally, I would.
So when I tell you that Mario Kart 8 is the culmination of everything I could possibly expect from such a title, you will fully understand my sentiment.
Kart took a cue from Galaxy and it paid off.
How can such an old series simply continue to shine in the way only Nintendo seems to be able to pull off? Well, it starts by paying attention to what the fans like. It has the most customizability of any Kart game in the franchise, and that really gives you the most sense of individuality of any of them so far. You can even upload your own Mii. It allows you to cater to your own style of racing in a way that lets you feel the road as you like, but without overwhelming you with options which have you tweaking for hours. It’s a well balanced system that leaves nothing feeling particularly over or underpowered.
Next come the maps. I’m always hesitant to suggest that any developer is capable of reinventing their own formula, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that Nintendo has indeed done so, I cannot deny that the tracks are truly spectacular. All of the new circuits are gorgeous eye-candy, and extremely fun to boot. Even the classic tracks and circuits have received varying face-lifts (some are almost exactly the same, while others have taken some significant liberties that don’t seem much like their original predecessors at all), but in ways that only improve them. I was trying not to be overly impressed due to my long-term bias towards the franchise, but I simply couldn’t help myself. Every track has that vibrant charm only Nintendo can execute with such precise consistency.
Think you're good at Kart 64's Rainbow Road? Think again.
There’s nothing much revolutionary coming from items and powerups, but there are a few new ones that really stick out. There’s a boomerang and it is a lot of fun to fling around. There’s a “Super Horn” which creates a large area of effect shockwave around you capable of knocking out just about everything including that pesky Blue shell. But the new stand out item for me is the Piranha Plant, which both boosts you ahead faster, while also chomping on anything that gets in your way, including projectiles and other players. There’s also an 8 now, to replace the former Lucky 7, which has a similar effect.
The one thing particularly apparent about this game, however, is the challenge it presents in 150cc mode and online play. I was taken aback by the difficulty level, even with my experience, and that’s not a bad thing. You have to fight to get into first, and there’s no guarantee you will hold on, because the other racers are most certainly relentless in their pursuit.
I'm not saying 150cc is hard... I'm saying it's like trying to open a can of beans with a rusty spoon held between your butt-cheeks.
It’s fast, it’s difficult, and you will love every minute of it. But don’t take my word for it… Recent figures are showing over 1000% increase of Wii U sales since the release of Mario Kart 8, pushing it past the Xbox One and catching up to the PS4. This merely proves Nintendo’s commitment to first-party content, and this game is no anomaly in that department.
If you like Mario Kart games, get it. If you like racing games, get it. If you like Nintendo games, get it. If you like games with a real sense of challenge and replayability, get it. Hell, there’s almost no reason not to get it if you consider yourself a gamer, whether casual or hardcore, young or old. You will not be disappointed.
P.S. Luigi will haunt your dreams.