The Nintendo faithful are no stranger to remakes and rereleases. The Wii U and 3DS have seen their fair share of updated classics in recent years, but most of those title were in desperate need of a face lift. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe isn’t a big leap from it’s 2014 source material, but it’s certainly the definitive edition.
As the Switch is still in its infancy, many owners are scrabbling for the next big game. While Mario Kart 8 Deluxe isn’t a new IP or even a completely new entry in the Mario Kart series, it’s certainly a must have for anyone who enjoys racing titles or needs a worthwhile distraction until things pick up for Nintendo’s newest console.
When I reviewed the original Mario Kart 8 back in the spring of 2014 I didn’t have much to complain about. The colorful karting title was one of the best looking and sounding entries in the moderately small Wii U library. Like all Mario Kart titles before it, Mario Kart 8 handled like a dream and gave players all sorts of tricky tracks to test their racing prowess. There’s a reason My wife and I put over 100 hours into the game over the last three years. It’s a quality title that expands on some very basic gameplay principles. Unsurprisingly, all the classic Nintendo magic and small touches are still around in Deluxe. In fact there’s even more to love, and it somehow looks even more stunning.
It’s not often a remake or rerelease manages to turn its biggest flaw into one of its greatest strengths. Usually it’s a small fix that players can look at and say, “Well, at least it’s a bit better.” This is not the case with the Battle Mode in Deluxe. It has been given a complete overhaul and been transformed back into the frantic and enjoyable frenzy Mario Kart fans have always loved. Along with this astounding gameplay turnaround Nintendo has introduced various new arenas, such as Lunar Colony, Dragon Palace, and Urchin Underpass of Splatoon fame. Multiplayer staple Balloon Battle leads the way, with Renegade Roundup, Bob-omb Blast, Shine Thief, and Coin Runners rounding out the different battle types.
Deluxe’s upgraded battle mode is easily the biggest improvement to the game as a whole. Players will soon find themselves scrambling to take the lead against friends and enemies alike.
An item in the hand is worth two... on the... road. Wait, that’s not it. Regardless, Deluxe gives players the option of holding two items at once. It’s a feature that hasn’t been seen since the days of GameCube’s Double Dash!!, and it’s a wonderful way to add just a little more insanity to an already hectic race.
Six characters join the already enormous Mario Kart 8 roster in Deluxe. Luckily, Nintendo chose to include some fan favorites like Dry Bones and King Boo, as well as some surprise guests in the form of Splatoon’s inklings. It’s nice to have more options, especially ones who are ghostly royalty and not babies or koopalings.
While some considered the large amount of unlockables in the original Mario Kart 8 a selling point, it seems Nintendo is aware that many players may not be thrilled to go through it all again. You won’t need to complete certain cups to unlock new tracks, and all but one special character are unlocked from the get-go. Kart parts are still behind a wall of coins, but they start trickling in quickly as you begin to play through the Grand Prix and online modes. It’s the right amount of hidden content, especially considering the audience.
And since you have access to every track right from the start, here’s a nifty ranked list of all 48 courses compiled by TAY regulars.
Though I’ve already had more than one argument about whether the rumble featured in Deluxe is technically “HD,” it sure feels more intricate than anything we’ve seen from Mario Kart in the past. Every item box, coin, and wall that you come in contact with while tearing through the games many courses gives a precise amount of vibration. Heavier characters and powerful items hit harder and thus they cause more rumble. It’s the little touches that really bring the race to life in a new way, and the it’s the first part of the game that really had me excited to share the experience with others.
It may seem like a useless addition to seasoned Mario Kart veterans, but drive assist and auto-boost are a godsend for casual players and small children. These two new mechanics help racers stay on the road and get ahead at the proper times. My wife, who is decent at Mario Kart to begin with, unknowingly played with both turned on and was amazed at her ability to stay with the front of the pack and even win a few races. Those who opt out get the advantage of an even more powerful (and pink) drift boost. It’s a win win all around, and a welcome new feature to the Mario Kart universe.
Hey, did I mention this game is on the Switch? That means you can take it to the bathroom, the dining room, the park, or on an airplane if you like. Eat your heart out 3DS, Mario Kart 7 has been dethroned as the best offering in mobile racing.
When it comes to online, Nintendo is always a few years behind. They tend to play it safe. A little too safe. The online play in Deluxe is seamless, and finding friends or strangers to play with is simple, but there’s a few missteps. The ability to change your kart and rider after entering a room is a welcome change, but the whole shebang is still lacking two major additions - voice chat and online leader boards. You may have to boot up a Discord chat or Skype if you want to trash talk your friends. It’s not surprising that Nintendo forwent these features, but it’s disappointing none the less.
Remember the feather from the original Super Mario Kart on SNES? Probably not. Well, it’s back as a Battle mode exclusive. It returns alongside the ghost item, which allows players to become momentarily untouchable and also steal nearby power-ups. Both new items are fine. Nothing to write home about.
There is a lot to love in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. This Switch release is brimming with memorable characters, karts, items, and race tracks. Almost every flaw from the original Wii U title has been remedied in some form. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe isn’t just the best version of Mario Kart 8, it’s far and away the best Mario Kart ever made. And that’s quite the feat.