I’ve been a Mario Kart player since I first picked up Double Dash on the Gamecube. For me, Mario Kart is supposed to be a fun, exciting and frustrating experience – and Deluxe definitely delivers on that. Being my second Switch title, I was pretty excited to try out the local multiplayer and see if the game ran well on the console (and vice versa – if the hardware ran well with the game!).
Platform Reviewed: Switch Platforms Available: Switch Developer: Nintendo EPD Publisher: Nintendo Release Date: April 28 2017 MSRP: Php. 2,795.00 (USD $59.99) This review is based on a retail copy purchased by the author.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is exactly as advertised – It’s still pretty similar to the WiiU Mario Kart 8, but with the DLC tracks bundled in. There the usual plethora of tracks, sorted into four-track cups. Some tracks are taken from older versions of the game, like the 7-lap Baby Park and several different Rainbow Roads, including the 8th generation one.
Something interesting for me is that the cups aren’t binary sorted into old and new tracks – the cups can contain a mix of older and newer tracks, like the Triforce Cup featuring a Hyrule Castle stage. I found that particular track really cute, as the on-stage coins are replaced with rupees and the music for acquiring an item box is changed with a remixed version of the treasure chest tune from Zelda. Speaking of which, Link himself makes an appearance as a playable racer in game, as well as several Animal Crossing characters and the squid kids from Splatoon.
The roster for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is pretty incredible, though the game doesn’t tell you if the characters are heavy, medium or light-classed anymore. This is something that I appreciated from the previous games, especially on the DS titles where kart customization was a thing. That said, it’s pretty easy to just jump in blindly with your favorite character regardless of the play styles that they have. It’s also fairly obvious what size class most of the characters are – Bowser and DK are clearly heavies, while the baby characters are lightweights. These factor in during races where your weight and vehicle class can make some differences especially in shorter courses where you’re more likely to get into scuffles with other racers. A heavier racer has worse handling but can ram into other players and is somewhat resistant to getting hit (by someone zooming by with a mushroom, for example), while a light racer can swerve away from obstacles but will be sent flying at the slightest bump. On a more superficial level, some character have color palettes, with Yoshi and the Shy Guy featuring lots of colors, and the Inkling kids having three sets.
Vehicle customization options serve to further complicate things – though again I stress that it’s not that big of a deal for someone starting out. Karts and other car-like vehicles are a good and balanced choice. Bikes have lower speeds but way better handling (and are easier to do stunts on – not that I’ve figured out how, though I have been told that the drift button or jiggling the controller works.), and ATVs seem to work like karts only with better handling. You can pick and choose which vehicle you want, as well as the wheels and type of parachute that you want. I’ve found that wheels are great for increasing and decreasing your surface area, but do contribute to the handling to some degree.
As is the usual, you start with a group of 12 racers and points are awarded at the end of each race to players depending on their performance. Score high and consistently and you’re likely to get first place at the end of the cup. Coins are scattered over the race course, which seem to affect your top speed and give you a small speed boost if picked up. Items can be picked up over the course that you can use to secure your spot or claw your way up the ranking, and in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe you’re allowed to hold on to two at once. Some interesting items have changed up the game – a mini soundbox item acts both offensively and defensively, clearing nearby obstacles and even cancelling blue shells if timed properly, while the boomerang flower is a repeated use item that disappears after a bit. I’m a big fan of the PiranhaPlant item, which bites nearby opponents. Favorites like the triple banana and triple shrooms are back as well.
Racing overall hasn’t changed except for an 8th generation addition – the course will sometimes swerve to a gravity-defying orientation, and your tires will switch modes to compensate, allowing you to go up down and around the course as it loops up and everywhere. A lot of these parts of the courses also feature splits in the track, with some of them involving an obstacle that alternates between the two (like the Bowser’s Castle stage). In these bits of the course, bumping into other players can give you a small (but significant!) speed boost.
The graphics are a definite bump up from previous Mario Kart games, as well as the course design and the sound. Stages are colorful and bright, with light-up tracks and cool particle effects. Some new stuff is in there that older players will notice – there’s a sort of autocorrect system in the game for when your racer is about to steer off the course (this is especially noticeable on the Rainbow Road stages) or into territory that otherwise impedes your racer, including some shortcuts on some courses. (Looking at you, Thwomp Ruins. I’ve run that map 10 times and still haven’t done the center-path shortcut.) You can still use mushrooms to boost through them, but you can’t intentionally drive through them. This is great for streamlining the new player experience, as it ensures that they don’t spend the whole race falling off the course, but I felt that it was unnecessary.
Races come in the standard 50cc, 100cc, 150cc and Mirror difficulties, as well as 200cc for completely insane people. For people uninterested in racing and wanting a party experience, Battle modes are back, with five modes to choose from, ranging from “kill each other” modes like Balloon Battle and Bob-omb Blast to more strategic modes including one where you chase the enemy team around with Piranha Plants.
Now for the important bits – for all intents and purposes, Deluxe is a port. What’s it like playing on the Switch?
Joycons-on-the-screen – The Switch gets heavy after a while and if you’re playing in an awkward position you can sometimes get a bit dizzy depending on what track you’re looking at. If you’re prone to motion sickness I suggest playing in an upright position. I did not have this problem while playing BotW.
Pro controller – Not too different from playing on a traditional console. This orientation is better for players who play Mario Kart using the steering wheel peripheral.
Joycons off – Not too different from the pro controller. I would actually prefer this over the pro controller configuration as it’s great for couch and comfy play.
2 person multiplayer using one Joycon each – It seems that only the right joycon (the red one if you own the colored ones) has motion sensing. The left one (the blue one) doesn’t. When playing in this config, each player has to use the small inner LR buttons, which made it a bit harder for my fat hands to use items properly, though my ability to actually drive wasn’t particularly impeded. Whichever player is using the motion sensing joycon may also find their character steering improperly by accident, likely because the motion sense detected their hands going in some direction. Bear in mind if you’re giving the red controller to a newbie, as they might not notice if it’s screwing up their controls – though this is the controller to give to anyone that steers “manually”.
Overall this is a pretty good game, and one of the best Mario Karts so far. There’s not much on the Switch at the moment so this is a great purchase for people to tide them over until Fire Emblem comes out.
Graphics, sound and course design are all pretty good. Really good character roster and customization options.
Item design and balancing make the game pretty fun and frustrating even for people that aren’t new to the series.
You can play with two people on one portable console – a first for Nintendo.
Reasonably good replay value with all the difficulty levels and characters.
Playing on the Switch screen can make it hard to see certain turns due to the screen size – there’s at least two or three maps where I’ve missed a turn because of how blind the curve was. This is worse in splitscreen multiplayer.
Some games are tilt-inducing, especially if you’re hit with multiple shells. Even with the catch-up items, it can be difficult to rush through the pack because of all the interference. Not recommended for
If you’re prone to motion sickness, this is the worst Mario Kart for you.
It’s highly recommended. It’s your bang-for-the-buck game! There are elements that outweighs the bad parts.
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