While everyone can agree the original Mario Kart 8 was a force to be reckoned with, I don’t think there could have been a better title to bring over to the Switch. Not only is this easily one of the best entries in the series entirely, but the sheer flexibility of the game’s duration is a perfect fit for the new console. And then there’s the fact that it’s not even just a direct port; Nintendo upgraded the game to make it even better!
We have come a long way since the days of Mario Kart DS. Compared to the blockier visual qualities of yesteryear, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe obliterates its predecessors by retaining every crisp, clean, gorgeous detail the Wii U original had to offer. That applies to both playing on the TV and carrying the console on the go. I just find the latter to be all the more special considering what came before it.
Even with that out of the equation, however, there is no doubting that the folks at Nintendo have a thing for eye candy. Every single course is filled to the brim with phenomenal visuals and touches, and no matter how hectic the action gets the silky-smooth framerate stays consistent at all times. I don’t know how anyone would not be impressed by the creativity poured into these wondrous track designs! I mean…Wow. The exhilarating senses of speed and personality add wonders to the package.
This might be minor to some, but look! Even the boxart is awesome! For over a decade now, each installment would have this plain “white background with a character or few in front” setup as the boxart. Mario Kart 8‘s Wii U art gave us an actual background, which is cool, but it doesn’t compare to the dazzling color
Speaking of adding, the scores continue to complement Mario Kart 8‘s energy. It’s up for debate as to whether or not the use of a “live band” benefited the compositions when compared to previous entries in the series, but you can’t fault them for giving it their all. Several parts of the soundtrack make their respective courses feel like events to a high degree, while others are tamer but nevertheless appropriate for the theme. I also think the sound effects are as distinctive and stimulating as ever, and the sound design as a whole really blends together perfectly.
In traditional Mario Kart fashion, players race around some of the most elaborate race courses only Nintendo could come up with. Mario Kart 8 continues the tradition its DS ancestor started in which half of the Cups featured in the game are composed of remastered tracks from older games in the series. The older tracks are spruced up in modern ways that suit Mario Kart 8‘s superb technological prowess, and the newer tracks provide thrills that rollercoasters wish they could harness.
This is further elevated by the items players throw at each other and the kinds of cars anyone would get to ride along these chaotic roadways. From the classic colored shells to the Fire Flower and Piranha Plant, there’s a childlike wonder to tossing things at opponents to gain the upper hand and see what these crazy things do. I still kind of wished coins never occupied item slots, but Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s addition of double item slots negates that issue for me.
Now that I think about it, let’s talk changes! Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an upgrade over the Wii U release, after all.
What will Switch owners get to see here? Plenty, actually. First, the double item slot feature allows for more freedom with item management; you could go nuts a little more with throwing items, but maybe you’d also want to hold on to a mushroom or Blue Shell Killer (that’s what I call it, anyway) and have something protect you before using those things.
There are a lot of subtler changes as well. For example, there’s a third type of speed boost you could get by drifting, and you could brake while drifting! All of the DLC from the Wii U game is available from the get-go, which includes four extra Cups and some new characters like Mario outsiders Link and Villager. And new characters include those of Splatoon, Bowser Jr. King Boo, and Dry Bones.
The biggest change easily has to be the game’s battle mode. The one glaring flaw of Mario Kart 8 everybody points to is its lazily implemented battle mode; in stark contrast to previous entries, there were no dedicated battle arenas, and players would instead have to try and hunt each other down in the race courses. It, for a lack of better words, sucked; not to mention, Mario Kart‘s battle mode has always been a big part of the package for many fans.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s battle mode, on the other hand, is indeed revamped to include dedicated arenas and individual gameplay modes to change things up (Shine Thief, Renegade Roundup, Balloon Battle, etc). And MAN were these great additions! I haven’t had this much fun playing the battle mode since the days of Mario Kart: Double Dash! It probably helps that the online play in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is seamless addictive fun, whether you’re racing or taking opponents head-on.
Lastly, the game in general is perfect for playing in the Switch’s portable mode. It’s exactly the kind of title you could pick up and play for either a few minutes or a few hours, and the ease of booting it up to kill time with the Switch makes it practically essential for owners on the move or reclining in differentiating fashions.
While I am hoping this game doesn’t occupy Mario Kart 9‘s place on the Switch (if there will be another sequel), Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still some of the most fun anyone could have on the console so far. It’s already one of the best titles the Wii U housed, but now it’s made even better with the changes and improvements made to the winning formula. Pick it up, play it, and love it!