Nintendo really know how to please their fans so it’s no wonder Mario Kart 8 has made it into the running for game of the year. There’s nothing new on offer but there’s comfort in familiarity and Nintendo play the nostalgia game very well.
What makes Mario Kart so great as a franchise? It’s basically a racing game but with adorable characters and a crazy premise. It’s fun, pure and simple (not Hear’ say, another not so memorable trip down nostalgia lane). Mario Kart 8 has a wonderful mix of new and old tracks, and it looks amazing. It really shows off what the Wii U can do in terms of graphics and framerate. The courses are dynamic; there’s always something to see and you’ll be lucky not to run off the track whilst distracted by what’s going on in the background. Mario Kart has never felt so polished or run so smoothly. Even online multiplayer runs without a hitch, with races of up to 12 players from all over the world taking place.
New features include anti-gravity on some parts of the course, where you can be awed by the pretty blue lights and gain a boost by bumping into opponents. There are also new items to be collected as you whiz round the tracks, like the Boomerang Flower which gives you three chances to knock out other players, the Piranha Plant which gobbles nearby racers and the horn, a long awaited defence against the dreaded blue shell.
There’s also the fact that this is the first fully orchestrated Mario Kart – maybe not something you would think to be a big deal but it’s the details that really propel this game from being just another in a line of money-making successors to something that grabs and enthralls people. The details like the music, the little sparks as you screech round a corner or the look of your character as they perform a trick help immerse you in Nintendo’s wonderful world. It’s hard to be negative about a game that brings so much joy by simply picking your customisable kart and wacky character. And, to make things even better, the newest DLC tracks include Hyrule, with playable Link and associated kart with accessories. My only regret is that I have to stay on the track.
Mario Kart is a simple idea but it is executed so well it’s hard to resist. It’s chaotic and charming, colourful and, most of all, fun.
MLG Family Award
I’ve mentioned how Mario Kart pulls at your heartstrings and brings a tear to your eye as you remember your childhood while being bombarded by shells and falling off Rainbow Road. This is what makes it a game for the whole family, not just for the kids (or the big kids).
Nintendo cater for everyone and Mario Kart is suitable for all ages; you don’t need to worry about gratuitous violence (slipping on banana peel doesn’t count) or inappropriate twerking from Peach (though I’m pretty sure there’s something out there if you look…). No blurred lines here, only sharp clean ones that highlight the delightful silliness of the races.
It’s completely accessible, with simple controls and recognisable characters. Mum and dad may get excited about Mario and Donkey Kong, while the kids get excited about Toad and the Koopalings, or vice versa. It’s a game that brings out friendly competitiveness (you really can’t get annoyed when you’re racing across Sweet Sweet Canyon) and it’s highly polished finish draws everyone in. You can’t help but have just one more race.
Mario Kart is a great all-rounder, a game that really highlights what it means just to have fun.