Video Game Thoughts: Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8 was a 2014 kart racing game for the Wii U by Nintendo. In Mario Kart games, players get to pick their favorite Nintendo character to drive go karts around various tracks. All the tracks take place in the Mario universe, many are themed after one or more characters. Each race has at least eight competitors. To spice things up, item boxes are laid out on each course. Driving through an item box picks up a random item, which the player can use to gain an advantage. Some of them directly slow down other drivers while others speed up their own kart.

Mario Kart 8 was my first Wii U game that I bought with my own money. The games I wanted kept coming out around Christmas. My tradition each year is to ask for a game. Until Mario Kart 8, there had been no games outside of the Christmas season that I wanted. I was happy for a good game to come along. I had a $25 gift card from my birthday. I put it to good use to get Mario Kart 8.

I had only played one other Mario Kart game before this: Mario Kart 64. I had a blast with that game. I think it was only my second Nintendo 64 game. I spent around six months playing that game, most times just by myself. I was hoping Mario Kart 8 would be just as good. The new game turned out even better than I expected. It had pretty much all the features of Mario Kart 64 plus better graphics, more polish, and more features.

The roster of drivers to play as was greatly expanded to over twenty characters. Instead of everyone using the same kind of kart, they added a nice parts system. Players could choose the base go kart plus tires and the glider wings they wanted to use. The characters and the parts all affected the overall stats like acceleration and traction. I had a blast combining different parts together to maximize the various stats. My favorite was high speed and low acceleration. If I could get to the front of the pack, I could gain a pretty big lead.

The variety in characters and parts was great for multiplayer. Mario Kart 8 was my first experience of racing online. It was a lot of fun to play with people from all around the world. During the evening, I saw lots of Americans online. Late at night, all the Japanese were online. The online multiplayer was so much fun, I spent months playing a few races every evening long after I finished all the single player stuff in the game. Mario Kart 8 wasn’t a “serious” online game with all kinds of stats and rankings available, but it had more than enough features for me.

The online multiplayer was even better because of the large variety of characters and parts. Everyone had their favorite “looks”. Many times I’d choose characters and parts just based on their look, not even caring about the stats. I might not win very often, but I wanted to look good. Some players even created custom Mii characters with funny faces or celebrity faces to catch interest.

Mario Kart 64 didn’t have a lot of progression in it. The player had to unlock each of the eight cups. They could also unlock higher speeds and a special mirrored track mode for placing well on the slower speeds. Mario Kart 8 had those same features, but it also awarded stars for high placings in each Grand Prix cup. One or two stars were pretty easy to get. Three stars required being first place in all four races. This could be really hard when a random Blue Shell hit me just before the end of the race. I got frustrated many times not getting three stars because of some bad luck. I kept at it, though, until I had gotten three stars on all speeds and in all of the Grand Prix cups.

Another form of progression was collecting more karts, wheels, and gliders. Probably half of the parts were available from the start. The rest had to be earned by collecting coins during races. Each part required one hundred coins to unlock. Only a few coins could be collected per race, so it took a long time. This really kept me playing though. I liked that there was always something more to earn.

Just when I was getting sad that I had done everything in Mario Kart 8, Nintendo announced new downloadable content. It was only $12 for eight new racetracks, four new cups to beat, and several new characters and parts to use. This was an absolute steal. Nintendo also released a free downloadable content pack with a few special karts sponsored by Mercedes-Benz. In addition to the downloadable content, Nintendo did a good job to patch the game. They almost always did more than just fix bugs, adding even more new features to the game. The last patch was the best, adding a brand new high speed mode. I now had a reason to play through all the Grand Prix cups again to get the gold trophies and three stars.

Mario Kart 8 impressed me just as much as Super Mario 3D World. It is my favorite Mario Kart game to date. It was only the second Mario Kart game I played, but the sequels aren’t always better than the original. Mario Kart 8 was better in pretty much every way. Some players didn’t like the Battle mode, as Nintendo didn’t make custom arenas for it like they did in Super Mario 64, but I’ve never played Battle mode much. To me, Mario Kart 8 was the perfect racing game. It had more than enough content to keep me occupied in single player, but then it had endless replayability in multiplayer.

Mario Kart 8 was another classic Nintendo game for the Wii U. I was happy that the big hitters were finally starting to come out. It was two years now, but I still only had four games for the Wii U. Some other games had interested me slightly but not enough to pay $60 for them. Now I was getting the games I wanted. My main goal with the Wii U was playing all of the latest iterations of Nintendo’s classic franchises. I could now check off Mario Kart from the list.

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