Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an interesting game. On one hand, it’s a remaster from the version and its DLC seen on the Nintendo Switch’s predecessor, the Wii U. On the other hand, not many people bought the Wii U, so for many Nintendo Switch owners, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe feels wholly brand new. And while The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild may have sold systems at launch, I can’t shake the feeling that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe makes the purchase worth it in the long run.
At its core, Mario Kart 8 is the same formula as its always been: iconic Nintendo characters racing it out on outrageous tracks at high speed, praying that a Blue Shell isn’t in their future. However, after spending a large amount of time with the game, the game feels fresh and insanely addicting.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe helps by making itself instantly accessible. There is no need to get gobs and gobs of downloadable content from the previous game – it’s all there. To win in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you’ll need skill with possibly a smidge of luck on your side as well. But even at 50cc, my 8-year-old daughter, whose only Mario Kart experience was the Nintendo 3DS version, can even put up a challenge. Especially with MK8‘s new Smart Steering setting which keeps players from steering off courses and auto-corrects them when they get too close. It does make no sense why this is enabled by default, veteran players will undoubtedly want to turn this feature off (which is doable from the options menu and the Kart selection screen). However, it’s a nice addition to the settings for novice players just looking to have a bit of fun.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe makes great use of the new Joy Con controllers as well, allowing you to split the two up into separate controllers if you only own the one pair. While my hands are a little big for those small joy cons, the ability to toggle auto-accelerate in the menu helped to alleviate some cramps when playing this way. Tilt controls also make an appearance for those who want to “steer” their carts in Mario Kart around the track. However, it didn’t feel very precise so it was pretty much toggled off from the get go.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sees an upgrade from the Wii U version in its visual presentation. While there aren’t any graphical enhancements from the Wii U version according to Digital Foundry, Deluxe does see a resolution boost when the Switch is docked. When outputting at its native 1080p resolution, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looks fantastic in motion. It feels equally fantastic, never dropping from its 60 frames per second target once in over 20 hours of gameplay since I started playing the game. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been the most stable console game I’ve played since these new consoles launched in 2013.
Online seems to be pretty solid as well. It’s easy enough to connect to matches both regionally and worldwide. The ability to create a room and invite your friends is a great addition, though the lack of actual in-game communication becomes woefully apparent within minutes. The stability has been rock solid as well, a great test for Nintendo’s fledgling online service and should give anyone who is willing to pay for that service come this fall hope that it can be stable in the long run.
The largest addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is its battle mode. There’s more to the mode than just popping balloons also. Mario Kart 8 features multiple modes such as Bob-Omb Blast, Shine Thief, Coin Runners and a version of Cops and Robbers named Renegade Roundup. The variety of modes makes each battle feel unique and the mode never gets stale as a result. Taking Battle Mode to multiplayer can also help alleviate smug friends who dominate races of the all-important “first place crown” your Mii can be seen wearing in between matches.
All in all, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a must have for anyone who currently owns a Switch. The game is solid in terms of performance whether docked or on the go (I play it frequently while waiting at my daughter’s bus stop each day) and whether it’s jump boosting your way through the Excite Bike Map or destroying your opponents in Bob-Omb Blast, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just plain fun. And while Zelda might take the headlines, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the game that will keep players coming back to their Switch as the year goes on.
[Featured Image by Nintendo]