Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review: The definitive version of Nintendo‘s racing franchise just gave the Switch its second killer app.
With the Switch sales still booming, Nintendo has smartly primed one of their key titles to keep that momentum going. Yes it’s a souped up Wii U port, but when it comes to a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review there’s simply no denying that this is the most essential iteration of Mario Kart ever.
I’m not a massive fan of the current trend for companies seemingly remastering everything under the sun (Prototype, really?) but Nintendo has played a blinder with Mario Kart 8. It was the biggest seller for the Wii U sure, but in the grand scheme of things it ended up being one of the lowest selling home console versions of the game due to the poor install base.
If you bought the original, then Mario Kart 8 Deluxe pretty much picks up where you left off – the vehicle parts are locked but all the tracks and modes (including DLC) are there for your pleasure. New players might find the loss of the traditional Mario Kart progression structure somewhat lacking, but then this is no traditional Mario Kart.
So what’s new? The double item boxes are a nice convenience – essentially giving you one active power-up and one on standby. The smart steering is automatically switched on from the start, but it’s nowhere near as pedestrian as it sounds. Indeed, I didn’t even notice until trying to take a shortcut through the Twisted Mansion track and finding the vehicle seemed to hit an invisible wall.
Most significantly, the multiplayer mode has undergone a complete transformation. With a handful of brand new stages on offer, there are multiple competitive modes with varying rules. They fit perfectly alongside the Switch‘s “anytime, anywhere, with anyone” mantra and for the first time in a very long while, multiplayer isn’t an afterthought or a compromise – indeed it feels as though somebody at Nintendo sat down with a SNES and remembered just how fun it can be.
There are no real negatives to pull Mario Kart 8 Deluxe up on. If I had one complaint, it’s that the game continues to punish you when you’re doing well – the barrage of red and blue shells that come your way once you’re leading sometimes feels very unfair, and it’s a very un-Nintendo thing to do. That’s not a criticism unique to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe though.
If you listen to the Last Life Club podcast, you’ll have heard us discussing the future of Mario Kart. It’s all wild conjecture of course, but this feels like the perfect swansong for the series. You can never second guess Nintendo, but with the introduction of characters and tracks from The Legend Of Zelda, Animal Crossing and Splatoon in Mario Kart 8, a full blown Super Smash Kart feels increasingly like an inevitability rather than a possibility.
In the meantime though, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is quite simply the most definitive Mario Kart in existence: a home/handheld hybrid that gets everything just right and is an absolute essential for Switch owners.