Review: ‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’ Fixes The Original’s Biggest Flaw – Forbes

Mario Kart 8 on Switch is magnificent, but it's still a tough sell for returning players.

Credit: Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 on Switch is magnificent, but it’s still a tough sell for returning players.

Mario Kart 8 has been around for the past couple of years on the Wii U, and now it’s out on the Nintendo Switch. It’s basically the same game all over again with a few new twists and turns. It’s not as exciting as a brand new Mario Kart game, but it’s the definitive edition of what was already the best game in the long-running Nintendo kart-racing franchise. Mario Kart 8 on the Switch is pretty much a perfect game, or as close to perfection as they come, and it’s absolutely stuffed with features. Anyone who missed the game on the Wii U should grab it on the Switch. Fans of the original may want to consider picking it up as well, though that’s a trickier proposition.

Here’s what’s different this time around:

Battle Mode is the biggest addition to the Switch version of the game and includes five new modes and eight new maps.

New Modes

These include the traditional Balloon Battle mode, where the goal is to simply pop everyone else’s balloons while avoiding having yours popped. You start with five balloons and each balloon you pop on another player earns you a point. If you lose all your balloons you’ll be revived with three more, but it costs you three points, so dying even once can mean the difference between a gold medal and a total loss.

In Renegade Roundup teams take on the role of Renegades and the Authorities. The latter carry around Piranha Plants which they use to capture Renegades who are then placed in cages on the map. Teammates can drive under the cages to release captured players. If the Authorities catch everyone, they win. If the Renegades have even one free player when the clock runs out, they win. It can be very tough to round everybody up.

Bob-omb Blast is basically Balloon Battle mode except that players only have Bob-ombs. You can carry multiple Bob-ombs at once, and your own bombs don’t hurt you if you run into them. The bomb blasts match the color of your balloons, so it’s an explosively colorful mode.

Stacking as many coins as humanly possible is the goal in Coin Runners. That and making sure to hit other players with shells and other items so they drop their coins. When you’re hit you don’t drop the entire stack, but you do lose a handful of coins each time, and it’s easy to go from rags to riches and back again in a very short timespan.

Finally there’s Shine Thief. In this mode there’s a Shine Sprite that you try to capture and hold while the rest of the players try to take it from you. When you hold the Shine Sprite you drive a tiny bit slower. Another tough mode.

Here are the eight Battle Maps:

Battle Stadium

Credit: Nintendo

Battle Stadium

This one is similar to the Mario Kart Stadium track, and is a brand new arena for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Sweet Sweet Kingdom

Credit: Nintendo

Sweet Sweet Kingdom

Another all-new map for the game, this arena strongly resembles the Sweet Sweet Canyon track.

Dragon Palace

Credit: Nintendo

Dragon Palace

Dragon Palace is the sister arena to Dragon Driftway, one of Mario Kart 8’s DLC tracks.

Luigi's Mansion

Credit: Nintendo

Luigi’s Mansion

We first saw Luigi’s Mansion in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! and it returns here in a much prettier form.

Battle Course 1

Credit: Nintendo

Battle Course 1

Battle Course 1 first appeared in the very first Mario Kart game. It’s quite a lot busier this time around.

Urchin Underpass

Credit: Nintendo

Urchin Underpass

This is the Splatoon map, covered in ink and based on that game’s Turf War map.

Wuhu Town

Credit: Nintendo

Wuhu Town

Originally a night map in Mario Kart 7, Wuhu Town is sunny this time around.

Lunar Colony

Credit: Nintendo

Lunar Colony

Another original map, Lunar Colony is a space-age map with some Rainbow Road themes.

Items

In the Switch version of Mario Kart 8 you now have the Feather which lets you do a little evasive hop. You can also carry two items at once—a feature that was sorely missing the first time around.

Gameplay

There’s a few new additions and changes to gameplay. To assist younger/newer players there’s now an auto-accelerate feature as well as a smart steering feature. Basically the combination of these features means you can just set your controller down and your kart will still race, albeit poorly. This should be a nice feature for younger kids just learning the game, but I didn’t even notice that it was on. You can toggle it on or off easily enough.

Other new features include an Ultra-Mini-Turbo that comes after the orange turbo and sparks pink (though you can’t achieve this extra boost if smart steering is on.) There’s also no more fire hopping exploit, so that’s good. A number of other small tweaks have been made to basic gameplay like vehicle stats and so forth.

Meanwhile, all characters are unlocked from the get-go except Gold Mario, though you’ll need to unlock some of the vehicles and parts by collecting coins during play. Gold Mario can be unlocked by winning every Grand Prix in 200cc. So good luck with that.

Finally, the game renders in 1080p in TV mode and it looks and plays great. I agree with my colleague Paul Tassi that the visual difference is almost impossible to spot when comparing it to the original, but honestly that’s not the point of this re-release. The game is basically the same thing with a few new features, characters and a proper Battle Mode. It’s not meant to be a visual overhaul.

Multiplayer

You can play solo or in multiplayer split-screen. In two-player mode you can use the Grip and a second Pro Controller, or you can use two Joy-Cons individually. This is doable, but it’s not very comfortable to be perfectly honest, especially if you are an adult with big hands.

There’s also online multiplayer which I tried to join to no avail and multiplayer between multiple Switches in the same space which I was unable to test since I only have the one system. The Switch’s online functions are still a bit murky at this point, but I’ll give the game another go with online multiplayer once it launches to the wider population and report back.

New Characters

There are six new characters including new and returning favorites:

  • King Boo
  • Bowser Jr.
  • Gold Mario
  • Dry Bones
  • Inkling Girl
  • Inkling Boy

This brings the total number of characters up to “the answer to life the universe and everything” and the total number of tracks to 48 since both the original game’s DLC packs are included. Add on the eight battle arenas and you have the most full-featured Mario Kart game ever made. It’s really a tremendous value for a polished, exciting kart-racing game. I’ve had so much fun with the Wii U version over the past couple of years, and it’s awfully nice to add Battle Mode to the rotation.

Returning Players

All that being said, I’m not sure the handful of new characters and items plus a robust Battle Mode is enough to justify a second purchase. You’ll definitely have fun with the Battle Mode, which is absolutely great and finally up to par with the rest of the game. But if you were anything like me you sunk many, many hours into Mario Kart 8 on Wii U already. I’m a little less enthusiastic returning to the game—not because it’s anything short of great, but because I’ve played these tracks so many times so recently. Will four modes and eight new battle maps be enough to keep me interested for long? It’s hard to say. I’m certainly happy I can finally play proper battle mode with my kids. Ultimately, this is a decision for returning players that won’t come easy unless you have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket. It’s certainly a fantastic game to have on the Switch, but it’s only a little new and it costs full price. It’s a full-price game, don’t get me wrong, but if you already have the Wii U version and forked out for DLC you may not want to drop another sixty bucks on a re-release.

For new players the answer is easy: I give the game a glowing Buy on my Buy/Hold/Sell scale. Between this and Zelda you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied on your Switch until Splatoon 2 drops this summer.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

TL;DR: This is the best Mario Kart game ever made, expanding an already great Wii U title into a near-perfect racing game. Even so, players who have the original on Wii U may want to wait for a sale.

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Released: April 28th, 2017

Price: $59.99

Score: 10/10

A review code was provided for the purposes of this review.

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Review: ‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’ Fixes The Original’s Biggest Flaw – Forbes