Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Makes It Easy to Get and Stay in the Groove
There are games that feel great when you first find them. You can’t help but think there’s something special about it every time you play. It pulls you back in months, maybe even years, later. Mario Kart 8 was one of those games. It was one of the Wii U’s shining jewels. Yet, there were moments where it wasn’t entirely perfect. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is as close to a perfect kart racer as we can possibly get. It is gorgeous, runs well, has fantastic racing and battle modes, and will unquestionably prove to be one of the Switch’s best titles.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will be a refreshingly familiar and welcome face to anyone who owned a Wii U. For those who missed out last generation, they’ll find themselves taking off with a kart racer that has everything they need to provide optimal speed runs at home or on the go. Which, to my delight, looks and runs as good in both situations. While Tabletop Mode isn’t the best way to play, it takes first place in TV and Handheld mode on the Switch. The game runs consistently in either situation, with comfortable control schemes whether you’re using the Joy-Cons, Pro Controller, or even motion controls. (The Pro Controller is my recommended scheme, though using both Joy-Cons attached to the system in Handheld mode is almost as delightful.)
I spent four hours straight yesterday savoring Mario Kart 8 Deluxe ’s single player modes. You know those Switch commercials where Nintendo showed people seamlessly going from handheld, to dock, to handheld again? That was me. I was doing that with the Single Player. Which, by the way, is incredibly impressive and robust. There are Grand Prix, Time Trials, VS Race, and Battle modes for people to enjoy alone. The first has 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, 200cc, and Mirror modes immediately available in Grand Prix, with 12 cups that offer 48 courses. Should you not be up for four races in a row against 11 other racers, you can set records or race ghost data in Time Trials, set up a custom race with VS Mode, or head into one of the Battle’s five different challenges. Of course, all 42 racers are immediately accessible and ready to dash around all of these tracks, with Inking boys and girls, Bowser Jr., Dry Bones, King Boo, and the Gold Mario variant being new, though you will still need to earn coins to unlock assorted kart and bike bodies, wheels, and parachutes.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe ’s Battles are the game’s biggest addition, and it is more than welcome. It is this amazing return to form. Rather than being placed on a race track, you get large Battle Course 1, Battle Stadium, Dragon Palace, Luigi’s Mansion, Lunar Colony, Urchin Underpass, and Wuhu Town maps. Instead of only having one or two types of games, like only being stuck with Balloon Battle and one or two other options, you have Balloon Battle, Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners, Renegade Roundup, and Shine Thief ready to go. When you set up a series of matches, you get to determine if there will be teams, items, round lengths, COM AI and vehicles, courses, and how many rounds must be played to win. There’s this amazing level of control here, which only serves to make the Battle modes better.
Some Battle challenges and maps are of course better than others in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe . Balloon Battle, where you must pop or steal opponents’ balloons, is a classic and absolutely solid win, and Bob-omb Blast is a more explosive variation on it. In each, you are attempting to attack others for points, while preserving your own precious balloons. Coin Runners is my favorite, since it encourages you to pay attention and practice evasive maneuvers. It is all about accumulating the most coins and staying on top. Shine Thief is great fun when you can have people in the same room to play, since it encourages temporary alliances in pursuit of the greater good. It’s all about holding the Shine longer than anyone else. The only one I’m not fond of is Renegade Roundup, where a group of designated Authorities with Piranha Plants on their cars must capture Renegade plant-less racers. Authorities win when all Renegades are caught, but Renegades win if at least one can evade capture before time runs out. It seemed like Renegades were always winning, since most arena sizes made it difficult for Authorities to capture all of them.
Battle’s arenas are amazing. They’re so well thought out, with paths that twist and turn. I’m a big fan of Urchin Underpass, which is uncannily identical to the Splatoon map of the same name. Lunar Colony is distracting with all of its intricate details. Luigi’s Mansion’s indoor and outdoor elements, as well as its twists and turns, are endearing. It is also wonderful to see the Feather back as an item for these modes, making it possible to jump over small barriers and surprise an opponent. But then, with the two item system, every item feels a little more valuable and viable.
The item system helps greatly enhance Mario Kart 8 Deluxe ’s formula. It is present in the Grand Prix, VS Race, and some Battle challenges. Instead of being able to carry one item at a time, you have two. This allows a greater element of strategy to races. You don’t have to hoard an item away; you’ll have plenty. There are 23 items available in all, though the feather only appears in Battle matches. The Boo is back again, allowing you to temporarily become a ghost and pass through opponents. The only flaw is I could find no means of switching between the two to determine which one I used. The game does nothing to explain how to take advantage of dual items, even in the Driving Techniques section.
You may consider the ability to carry two items a quality of life feature. It’s one of many present in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe . Some are designed to make the game more accommodating to people who aren’t as skilled or use motion controls. Smart Steering is one, since it keeps you on track barring unforeseen circumstances. (Be advised, it is automatically on in settings at the start.) Auto-Accelerate is another. When you’re online, you can change your racer and kart or bike setup by pressing Y instead of leaving a lobby. I noticed barely any loading screens. New techniques, like a U-turn has been added for Battle and Ultra Mini-Turbo speed boost for any mode when Smart Steering is off, give skilled players a chance to really push themselves and take advantage of situations. It’s all about feeling like the tightest and best version of something we already love.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a game that rekindles a fire you may not have even realized was fading. This racing game is absolutely incredible. It takes Mario Kart 8 , an absolutely fantastic game, then improves upon it by offering the sort of Battle arenas and experiences we adored in previous games, the ability to play it anywhere in any way, and various quality of life adjustments. Everything has been tightened, fine tuned and is firing on all cylinders. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe isn’t just here to help you coast through the launch window, it is a game that will offer comfortable cruising for years to come.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is at its best when you’re playing alone in TV mode, since it can run at 1080p and 60 FPS, but it looks just as wonderful in Handheld mode. 5.0 Control
Every possible control scheme feels comfortable in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and the Smart Steering function makes the motion controls even feel viable. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has an amazing soundtrack to accompany its tracks. 5.0 Play Value
There is just so much to do here. Whether you’re alone or with friends, offline or online, you’re going to have tons of characters, vehicles, tracks, and modes to enjoy and master. 5.0 Overall Rating – The Best
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best