Hello again gamers and welcome to day four of week twelve in our 100 reviews in 100 days!
Swiping that pixely checkered flag in the #42 position…
When you get invited to the Racing Game Party (What? That’s totally a thing), Mario Kart is the friend you invite along because you know he’ll do something absolutely insane that everyone will be talking about the next day. Most racing games are about the realism of the cars, about physics and speed, but the most fun I’ve ever had in car-based games are ones that skew more towards Rush and it’s sequels. What started this line of non-realistic racers, for me at least, was Super Mario Kart on the glorious Super Nintendo. Racing with friends didn’t just mean ‘go faster than them’ anymore. It meant do everything you can to mess with your friends on the way.
Boop, Boop, BEEP!
Anyone who’s played Mario Kart knows those noises. Like many of Nintendo’s multiplayer games, Mario Kart is easy to pick up and play. The learning curve isn’t tremendously terrible and the controls are simple enough: one button for gas, one for breaks, and the D-pad for turning. You find yourself thinking “Ok, this is simple, I got this.” Then a turtle shell hits you and it’s game on. Mini-rivalries and vendettas are Mario Kart’s bread and butter. All would-be alliances are thrown to the wind as a slew of items are used to slow down opponents, and bring you to the front. Because, seriously, screw those other guys. Most items are familiar fare from various Mario games, such as turtle shells of various colors with different abilities, but you’ve also got your banana peels and oil slicks because why the hell not. Mario Kart included a single player mode, with different ‘Cups’ that were sets of tracks played against the game’s A.I., which was fine, if not too exciting. Where Mario Kart really shines, though, is it’s multiplayer co-op. It wasn’t just plain old good; it was so good you could make a compelling argument that it’s set the tone for Nintendo’s overall multiplayer strategy ever since.
“Who shot me with that shell!?! Oh, you’re freaking dead!” or similar phrases see a lot of use during your average race in Mario Kart. Super Mario Kart was a simple game, but it kicked off a franchise that had a large role in keeping Nintendo afloat during some of their harder times. SMK had simple race tracks with various themes (once again, Mario related), and anyone who’s played it remembers Rainbow Road. But there was also Battle mode, where the object was no longer racing, but a demolition derby style battle, flinging bananas and shells until your opponents were no more. Friendships may be shattered when playing Monopoly, but somehow the rivalries in Mario Kart only reinforced friendships. At least with anyone you’d actually want to stay friends with.
Games of Power
Mario ‘party’ games are the norm now, and Super Mario Kart was the start of the whole phenomenon. The Mario Party games, the Mario Kart franchise (eight of them now!), and, even in a sense, Smash Brothers share this heritage of friendly multiplayer competition that the original Mario Kart first introduced. While the competitiveness is there, for one reason or another the aggression in other ‘vs’ games I’ve played doesn’t seem to be. There’s no CoD or League of Legends-style hate with these games, and make no mistake, that is a good thing.
Mario Kart was a great game in its day. It provided hours of pixelated fun and its legacy carries on to this day, with a strength that still surprises some people. When looking at the sales of Wii U, (admittedly terrible), you can see a big spike with the release of Mario Kart 8, far more than any other console exclusive had for other systems. This shows how widespread the love of Mario Kart is (not to mention it’s importance to Nintendo as a franchise), and it started with SMK.
Super Mario Kart is a simple game, but it was, and still is, a damn good one. Simple doesn’t always mean bad, folks. For this reason it gets an easy 4 out of 5. While it may not be a game you dust off to replay now, mostly because it’s sequels just give a superior version of the same experience, it definitely deserves a fond place in our memories.