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Mario Kart 8 pulled into the lead when the Wii U was released, getting ahead of the pack and passing us by. But now that the Switch is on the way, the game is pulling a 180. It’s turned around and racing back to us, all so we can have a launch window that includes Mario Kart 8 Deluxe . More than some simple HD remaster with a few graphical and audio updates to make things more interesting, Nintendo’s putting something better out on the show floor. We’re getting a bigger and better version of an existing game.
To understand why Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is such a good thing, we have to go back to Mario Kart 8 . When thinking of the games that defined the Wii U, the ones that made you want to own the console and gather with friends to play games on it, Mario Kart 8 was the cream of the crop. This racer was the karting pinnacle. We had access to a huge roster of 30 characters, 36 if you purchased DLC, and 32 courses before DLC, with 16 add-on tracks bringing the count up to 48. This meant more characters and races than ever before, especially since there were 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and 200cc engine classes. Whether online or off, it was a thing of beauty.
The Switch edition will offer all 36 existing racers and 48 courses divided into 12 cups. 20 amiibo can be scanned in to add Mii racing suit costumes, for people who choose to race as Miis. Oh, and by the way, that’s in addition to 37 different kart, bike, and ATV options.
Also coming back to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are all of the Mario Kart 8 modes. There’s the Grand Prix, which everyone will remember as the standard races. You pick a cup, go through all four of its courses, and hope you place in the top 3. 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, 200cc, and Mirror options are available, and between one and four people can race together. You can try for a best time in Time Trials. VS lets up to four people customize a race, set solo or team rankings, and determine which items appear. The standard Battle mode is set on a race track where you fight on teams or enjoy a free for all. And, of course, there’s online multiplayer races and tournaments, where you can enjoy single track races with friends and strangers. Of course, with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe we’ll have local wireless for up to eight players and online multiplayer for up to 12 people.
But wait, we’ve spent a lot of time going over what’s coming back from Mario Kart 8 . What’s important are the new features. There are new characters joining the cast, to start. Bowser Jr. Dry Bones, Inkling Boy, Inkling Girl, and King Boo have all been added. We don’t know which ones will be light, medium, or heavy racers yet, but Dry Bones was a light character and King Boo was a heavy one when the two appeared in Mario Kart Wii . The Animal Crossing villagers have been divided up into two separate racers, instead of being combined into one as they were in the previous game. Both the Inkling Boy and Girl amiibo can be scanned in to add motocross racing costumes for Miis.
You may notice some vehicle changes in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe too. The Splat Buggy and Inkstriker Splatoon ATVs can be driven, as well as Koopa Clown kart from Mario Kart 7 that resembles Bowser Jr.’s iconic vehicle. But it’s your AI opponents that might show the most variation. In Mario Kart 8 , they were limited to the default versions of certain vehicles. Here, their cars will have greater range and variation, altering their own abilities.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will mark the return of two familiar items that took a pass in Mario Kart 8 . One is the Boo. He functions as he did in previous Mario Kart games. When you get and use him, your racer will be temporarily invisible. In addition, Boo steals an item from the racer nearest you and gives it to you to use. The Feather will show up as an item you can collect and use in the Battle Arenas. When used properly, you can jump over an obstacle or short wall or leap over someone’s kart to take one of their balloons. Both will offer a new level of strategy for experienced racers to enjoy. These two come alongside the ability to carry two items at the same time. Which means you don’t have to quickly use every item to make space.
But wait, I mentioned something in that last paragraph that happens to be related to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe ’s biggest selling point! Battle Arenas will be making a comeback. Unlike the default Mario Kart 8 ’s Battles, these aren’t races. You just zip around an arena, trying to be the last kart standing. There will be Balloon Battle, Bob-omb Blast, Coin, Shine Sprite, and Piranha Plant-related Battle Modes, which can be played in the Battle Stadium, Splatoon -themed Urchin Underpass, Super Mario Kart ’s Battle Course 1, and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! ’s Luigi’s Mansion. You start with zero points and five balloons at the beginning of each map, and the player in the lead’s character wears a crown. You also have a chance to keep playing, even if your character “dies.” You can sacrifice half of your points to be resurrected with an additional five balloons.
Think of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as Mario Kart 8 version 1.5. This is a bigger, better, and fuller racing experience. It’s more comprehensive. All of the supplemental content from the Wii installment is here, accompanied by Battle Arena modes inspired by earlier installments. With new consoles, its difficult to find games that pull people together and form communities. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is going to be that game. We’re all going to jump in the drivers’ seats again, and this time we’ll have a console racing experience with us wherever we go.