For many of our generation, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! was the introduction to a whimsical world of banana peels, musical stars and the infamous blue shell. Since its release in November 2003, both family bonds and friendships have been tried by the frustration that this game causes, and as the game turns 14 this year and its popularity continues to grow, it seems fitting to look back on its success.
Since its release in November 2003, both family bonds and friendships have been tried by the frustration that this game causes.
Since the first Mario Kart instalment on the SNES in 1992 – Super Mario Kart – the series’ mechanics have repeatedly broken gaming boundaries, and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is no exception to this. In previous Mario Kart games, such as Mario Kart 64 for the Nintendo 64 and Mario Kart: Super Circuit for the GameBoy Advance, Nintendo combined elements of 2D and 3D design into its gameplay; although ground-breaking at the time, it hasn’t aged well, and thus the enjoyment of replaying those games in the modern day is low.
Enter Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. Here, the graphics are in fully-formed 3D, and despite not nearly matching up to the current Switch version of the game we’ve just seen released this year, they are still good enough to enjoy to this day. Despite Mario Kart: Wii’s release coming only five years after Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, the graphics did not change a whole lot between the two games - this is a testament to how outstanding Double Dash’s graphics were for its time, and how impressive they remain.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is its concept of special items per character, and having two characters per kart. This allows for a combination of specials depending on the selection of characters, and leads to some very competitive character selection at the start of each race.
Each pair of characters has a special item, so as examples: Koopa Troopa and Koopa Paratroopa each can get three red or green shells; and, once you’ve unlocked them by beating the Special Cup, Toad and Toadette can each get three mushrooms or a golden mushroom.
The list goes on, with various pair combinations to choose from. Once you have achieved gold on all the cups, including the All Star Cup on 150cc, you unlock King Boo and Petey Piranha, who can both utilise any and all special items. Choosing the right combination of characters to achieve good speed, acceleration, weight and specials is what makes Mario Kart: Double Dash!! such an interesting game.
"the graphics are in fully-formed 3D, and despite not nearly matching up to the current Switch version of the game we’ve just seen released this year, they are still good enough to enjoy to this day"
In addition to these features, there are some hidden features of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! that are worth mentioning. In addition to the shortcuts and glitches that can be found in most editions of the Mario Kart franchise, there are features such as dodging red and blue shells through drifting, which cannot be achieved in other versions of Mario Kart. On the downside, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! features only sixteen tracks across the four Grands Prix (not including the All Star Cup, where the sixteen tracks appear at random); while interesting to an extent when playing with friends, this lack of variety can make the game drag after a while, so bear this in mind if you’re thinking of going retro.
As someone who now owns seven editions of the Mario Kart franchise, I can say without question that Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is my favourite, followed closely by Mario Kart 8 and its direct sequel, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. This is simply because it is a much more balanced game than any other Mario Kart, and incorporates features which have not been seen recently in modern instalments – I’d love to see them come back someday.