Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

By Blair Nokes on May 5, 2017

Mario Kart has been at the top of the kart racing food chain since its debut in 1992. In that sense, it's quite surprising that in 25 years, there have been only 6 console releases and 3 handheld releases, along with 3 arcade games by Namco. The formula has largely remained the same over the years, though every instalment manages to add a new flavour in some form. For example, Mario Kart 64 was the first to offer 3D visuals and four-player split screen.

The jump in quality from Super Mario Kart to 64 was astounding at the time. For everyone still suffering damaged friendships, they'll certainly know that Mario Kart 64 was also the first entry that introduced the Spiny Shell item, more popularly known as the Blue Shell. Mario Kart Double Dash For the Gamecube was the first and as far as I remember the only entry that dabbled with two-player karts. Mario Kart for the DS was the first to support online racing, and of course was the first to utilize the dual screen of the DS. Mario Kart Wii was the first to introduce motorbikes, and motion controls. And finally, Mario Kart 7 introduced the hang gliding mechanic, submersible gameplay, kart customizations, and even a weird first person perspective.

When Mario Kart 8 originally released on the Wii U, it sought to bring an amalgamation of all of the strongest elements that previous entries possessed and wrap them up in a wonderful high-definition package. 2017 marks the dawn of Nintendo's latest piece of hardware, the Switch, and with it came the announcement of a rerelease of Mario Kart 8, with an abundance of changes to the original game. As expected, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe includes all of the previously released downloadable content for Switch owners, as well as a host of new additions and features to entice fans to double-dip on the new console, or to make it more appealing for newcomers to Nintendo devices as this is the most complete version of Mario Kart 8 available physically.

When Mario Kart 8 originally released with 32 tracks, and 16 following its release via DLC. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe made sure to include all 48 courses out of the box. On top of that, the Deleuxe edition offers 6 new characters that did not appear in the original Mario Kart 8. The Inklings from the cult phenomenon Splatoon make their Kart debut; the other 4 chracters are Series veterans: King Boo, Gold Mario, Dry Bones, and Bowser Jr., all appear in Mario Kart 8 for the first time. It's also worth noting that the Villager has been split into two character slots, rounding out the total count to 42 playable characters.

With so many characters to choose from, expect a balancing act in the form of character rivalry; essentially there are characters that will habitually appear for you when you enter Grand Prix. For instance, if a player selects Mario, their rivals of the rest of the roster will include Bowser and Peach. Toadette's rivals are Yoshi and Wario. There are characters with no predetermined rivals, such as Link, or your Mii created character. For the most part, every character outside of those two have either one or two rivals.

Similar to the original Mario Kart 8, MK8 Deluxe consists of a set of statistics pertaining to the overall weight class for how each racer handles, and have all been rethought of for this new iteration of the game. Link, Rosalina, and King Boo are considered Heavy class, the Inklings, Mario and Yoshi are Medium, and all the Baby Characters, Toad and Shy Guy are the Light class. These values will determine how characters handle in terms of overall speed - which can be further broken down into speed with relation to ground, water, air, and anti-gravity (along with the handling in each field); acceleration and weight are also factors as are overall traction. These can also be slightly manipulated with regards to the specfic Kart you chose, along with its wheels and paraglider. On that note, Nintendo added in some new vehicles to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: The Koopa Clown from Mario Kart 7 makes its HD debut, along with Splatoon-based ATVs.

Items in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are largely the same as the original, however Nintendo of course managed to tack on some new goodies to use. Boos make a return, taking us back to the days of Mario Kart 64! For those who may not know, Boo items are designed to steal the nearest racer's item. The Feather has also made a much needed return - exlcusively to battle mode. Not to mention that the Double Item Box from Mario Kart: Double Dash! has returned, along with the ability to hold two items at once.

Battle Mode has received the total redesign as well for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Traditionally players would start out with 3 balloons, whereas in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe we now have 5. Characters in the lead now wear a crown as opposed to simply having a crown appear on the HUD, like in Mario Kart 8. Players also start out with 0 points rather than 3. You may also respawn now once all balloons are popped, which was a feature in Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7; this also penalizes players by taking half their points and starting them with 3 balloons. One new addition is the ability to tell exactly which character hit whom.

Included in Battle mode are 5 different mode types: Balloon Battle, Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners, Renegade Roundup, and Shrine Thief. Balloon Battle is the classic mode, with results based on the new points system as opposed to Mario Kart 8's last Kart standing. Renegade Roundup is a brand new mode, which feels like playing a game of Cops and Robbers; Racers are divided into Authorities and Renegades. Authorities have Piranha Plants permanently attached to the front of their vehicle that serve to capture the opposing team. Bob-omb blast is a returning mode from Mario Kart: Double Dash., where players attack one another using Bob-ombs to score points. Coin Runner returns from Mario Kart Wii, which has players racing across the map collecting as many coins as they can. And Shrine Thief is another returning mode from Double Dash, where players must retrieve a 'Shrine Spirit' and maintain posession for 20 seconds.

Instead of repurposing racetracks for Battle Mode like in the original, there are 8 Battle Courses available; five are new, and three are classic courses from the Super Nintendo, Gamecube and 3DS. I think this was a wonderful way to really place more emphasis on Battle Mode's individuality. It's always been more than just a tacked on mode, even back in the original Super Mario Kart for the SNES, and I'm glad Nintendo put a considerable amount of effort into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

The uniqueness of the Switch hardware allows for a number of different ways to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. There's of course the traditional docked mode, where you can play on a TV, but undocked allows players to play split-screen, using each joy-con as a controller. What's more, there is also a supported 8-player local multiplayer option, where you and 7 other friends can connect via local wifi, and all play together. And once again, two players can connect to one screen. This is a terrific feature that truly takes the best of what the Switch represents - inclusivity with physical people; leave it to Nintendo to still have conscious design choices with respect to what seems to be the forgotten age of Couch Co-op games.

When I originally reviewed Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, it was for its time a visual showstopper for the console. 3 years later and I can still say that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe wows me with the amount of detail that went into the levels, the charming movements of all the characters and their subsequent reactions to other racers or hits taken, and the spectacular lighting effects. This time around, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is in full 1080p while docked, and 720p undocked. A tremendous increase in double the resolution from the Wii U, while retaining a rock solid 60 frames per second.

Final Thoughts

Mario Kart 8 may have been what I perceive as the best entry in the series, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe only reaffirms that position. With a slew of redesigns and statistical rebalancing, new additions to characters, karts and items, and a totally redesigned Battle Mode, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best version of Mario Kart 8 available, and maintains the mantle of being the best Mario Kart there is. Asking for full retail price may be a bit much for a rerelease, but with Nintendo exclusives it was a pipe dream to think otherwise. Newcomers to Nintendo, this is an absolute must for growing Switch libraries; to those who had already purchased the game on the Wii U, I would contest that there is enough here to warrant a double dip.

Fantastically redesigned Battle Mode makes it feel fresh once again.
A whopping 48 courses and 42 characters makes for loads of replayability.
The game received a much deserved visual upgrade thanks to the new hardware, and still retains a solid technical performance throughout.
8-player local multiplayer offers a fantastic way for friends to connect and play together.
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