Welcome back to Warped Pipes, your premier location for over-analysis of Mario game plots. Start revving your engines because this time I’m talking about...
The original cart racer; Super Mario Kart redefined what both Mario and the SNES were capable of and launched one of Nintendo’s most successful franchises. Despite these high praises, I was initially hesitant to consider the game canon due to its perceived lack of story elements and its odd setting. However, those issues never stopped me before and if I can fit Mario The Juggler into the timeline, then I owe the same treatment to Super Mario Kart.
The game manual, shown below, gives a pretty limited story but it does provide some basic context:
So it seems that a Lakitu is the one behind these races. Interestingly, the manual also implies that the NES Formula One games are also canon and connect to Super Mario Kart. While I’m not jazzed about having to eat my words regarding canon so often lately, I am happy to be able to add even more games to the ever growing timeline.
In the actual game we see Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, an unnamed Koopa, Bowser, and Donkey Kong Jr. compete across four different cups with Lakitu refereeing. These races appear to be very dangerous and violent, with weapons handed out to the racers and tracks filled with common Mario foes like Thwomps and Boos.
And that’s about it. So let’s move onto....
While it’s not really inconceivable that Mario and his friends might like to spend a weekend carting, it does seem odd that his enemies like Donkey Kong Jr. and Bowser would join in. Unless, of course, that isn’t really them at all.
We have already seen that magic exists in this universe which can turn creatures into perfect copies of another being. In fact, we’ve already seen over a dozen Bowser doppelgangers between Super Mario Bros. and The Lost Levels.
In my interpretation, that isn’t the real Bowser or DK Jr. and it’s probably not the real Mario either. Just like the Super Mario Bros. 3 stage play, this tournament exists in the Post-War Era as a means to entertain and retell stories from the Koopa War. Lakitu’s dialogue in the manual even seems to suggest this as he talks about choosing your racer. What Mushroom Kingdom citizen wouldn’t love the opportunity to race around as their favorite hero (or villain) and see the sites they’ve heard about from the War?
It would seem that Lakitu built most, if not all, of these tracks on Dinosaur Land as we see familiar locales such as Donut Plains, Chocolate Island, and Vanilla Lake.
This finally brings back the commentary on capitalism and colonialism found in the early Mario games but largely absent since then. Following a war waged by two foreign powers across its beautiful and rugged expanses, Dinosaur Land has been transformed into a garish tourist destination. In other words, Lakitu paved paradise and put up a... race track. At least Yoshi’s Island seems untouched for now.
The one race track that doesn’t seem to fit this context is Rainbow Road, which seems to be some kind of energy field in outer space. Hopefully future titles can help explain the existence of this strange race.
This game also helps to explain the fate of the Koopa following Bowser’s defeat, if Lakitu is anything to go off of. Without their reptilian king, it seems that many of Bowser’s forces were able to integrate well into Mushroom Kingdom society.
It’s clear that the game takes place after Super Mario World and likely is in the Post-War Era. I also personally think that the game takes place after Mario The Juggler where we first saw a Lakitu interact in a friendly way towards the Mushroom Kingdom. Maybe it is even this same Lakitu who, after witnessing Mario juggle, realized just how marketable this plumber was and came up with a lucrative new idea. Based on this, I’ve placed the game right after Mario The Juggler and concurrent with the Grand Prix games.
In this next article I will return to a more traditional Mario adventure in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins!
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