Review: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Georgina Howlett is in the driving seat for Mario’s Switch debut

Georgina Howlett
8th May 2017
Credit: Nintendo

It has been just over a week since the release of one of Nintendo’s most anticipated games for its newest console, the Switch – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – and it was well worth the wait.

Containing the original Wii U game, all prior DLC characters and racecourses, and a wealth of new additional content such the improved Battle mode, five new immediately playable characters (King Boo, Dry Bones, Bowser Jr., Inkling Boy and Inkling Girl), an unlockable secret character (spoiler – Gold Mario, you unlock him by completing every 200cc cup) and assist features such as Smart Steering and Auto Acceleration for new players, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is undoubtedly the definitive Mario Kart game of the moment that everyone should be picking up.

“spoiler - Gold Mario, you unlock him by completing every 200cc cup”

Perhaps one of the most striking features of the game is, firstly, just how well it plays in both the docked and portable Switch modes. Compared to games with known framerate and lag issues such as Breath of the Wild and Fast RMX, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe suffers from barely any hiccups even when racing on the global and regional online multiplayer modes, and input delay is at a delightful minimum – even in Battle mode where one wrong move could be your end. With various control options available – such as an individual Joy-Con (motion controls or not), both Joy-Cons together, the pro controller (with or without motion controls) – etc. – the Switch is equipped to cater for any preferred play style, and is ultimately accessible for players of all abilities and ages. The controls are highly responsive and intuitive, coming naturally to the seasoned Mario Kart player and easily learnable for newcomers, making Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a wonderful experience for all playing.

The visuals and graphics of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, too, are stunning on the Switch, and I must admit this is one of the first things I noticed when completing my first Grand Prix. No matter whether docked or portable, each racetrack looks crisp and vividly coloured, the characters and vehicles intricately detailed and integrated flawlessly into the overall picture even whilst in motion, and the menus and interfaces are easy to navigate and welcoming in every aesthetic sense. Even the online waiting room is a joy, with the Mii characters of all involved interacting with each other in hilarious and quirky ways. In terms of visual design, I can fault very little, though updated imagery and loading screens wouldn’t have gone amiss to give the game a bit of a fresher feel and divergence from its Wii U incarnation.

By far, though, some of my favourite features of the game are those small changes which players who did not play the Wii U or even older games will not miss or think twice about – for instance, you can now hold up to two items when driving around, making for a more tactical and fun experience when playing against friends (or strangers) both locally or online. There are now three stages of drift boosting – blue, yellow, and pink – each of which grants you an increased speed boost, and gives you an edge if timed right, and returning items from even older Mario Kart titles such as Boo (who steals another player’s item for you and makes you invulnerable whilst doing so) and the Feather (allowing you to perform a huge jump) introduce further variety and fun to the game.

For me, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is already a definitive Switch title, and one which I will continue to enjoy for many months to come. So here’s to falling off Rainbow Road again, and again, and again…

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