Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
We loved Mario Kart 8 when it released. We scored it a nine out of ten and felt that was the start of the Wii U’s strongest run. With so few titles released for the Switch so far, I admit I was a bit wary about one of Nintendo’s biggest early games being a rehash. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is more than just some graphic tweaks and a couple of pieces of DLC however, and fans of Nintendo’s premier racing franchise will find plenty to like about this new iteration.
There were numerous boxes getting ticked off when Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was first released. Comes with the prior DLC? Check. Comes with a handful of new characters? Check. Updated visuals? Check. All of these items were expected, and thankfully delivered upon, but would it be enough to convince Mario Kart fans to open up their wallets for a second time if they already owned the fantastic Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U? I suppose it depends heavily on what you are looking for from the game, but for my money, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
We already owned all of the DLC to the Wii U version of the game. My oldest daughter bought it as soon as it released. While we love Splatoon, I’m not sure that the Inklings themselves would have been that big of a deal, but they are indeed adorable and fun to use. With more than forty overall racers, you are looking at a pretty good roster. While all of these are nice touches, Battle Mode is what I am most excited by.
One of my biggest gripes from the Wii U version of the game is that the version of battle they had was, frankly, just not a lot of fun. I could appreciate that they were trying to do something a little unique, but back in college when my buddies and I huddled around our N64 playing Golden Eye, Madden and of course Mario Kart, Battle was one of our favorite modes. For those who have not played a good, traditional Battle Mode in Mario Kart, know that you wind up with uniquely designed levels where you generally are fighting to be the last one with a balloon. Getting struck by weaponry causes you to lose one of your starting balloons. It’s silly, and it’s fantastic and it’s an incredibly welcome addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
However, even Battle Mode has some twists on it with different options like Renegade Roundup (think team-based Cops n’ Robbers – an incredibly cool mode) and Shine Thief. Straight up balloon bursting is still my favorite, but these additional modes inject the game with some welcome variety.
Speaking of variety, you have a handful of options when you are controlling the game, but one concern I have is that the Joy-Con is just not big-hand friendly when you are using the tiny controllers as standalone devices. I stick to using my Pro Controller, which feels great in my hands, and admit that I pawn the Joy-Cons onto my kids as their hands are much smaller than mine. Still, having the option to get multiple players around this game is great, because Mario Kart 8 Deluxe works best with local play. There are online options, and they are welcome – but I’m going to pull out my ‘Old Man Gamer’ persona here and point out that what has made Mario Kart so incredibly endearing to me over the years is the hilarity that comes with couch competitive play – both racing and in battle. It’s just that a couple of decades have passed and I’ve traded in college buddies for teenage kids.
There are some interesting quality-of-life tweaks that have been added as well here. The auto-acceleration and smart steering allow for slightly less capable players to compete. These won’t give someone a huge edge over skilled racers, but at the same time I can play this with a younger niece or nephew and not feel like a complete jerk either. It allows them to play reasonably well without spending half the race running off of the road or unintentionally grinding rails and walls. Rainbow Road has long been a series staple well known for its awesome aesthetic and painfully brutal railing-less routes that cause players to plummet great distances. This makes the race much more friendly for those with less experience.
Weapons – one of the most distinctive features of the series – get a little love here as well. For starters, you can now hold two weapons at a time, which can create some pretty chaotic situations. If I really, REALLY want to upend the person in front of me, I have a bigger arsenal at my disposal – but that pendulum swings both ways.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a great example of how a company can bring back a well-respected game and give it enough love and polish that instead of feeling like a cheap money grab, it instead becomes essential for your collection. Breath of the Wild is a fantastic game, but I questioned how long it would have to carry the Switch’s momentum. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is now helping to carry the load, and it does so incredibly well.Score: 9.25 / 10