Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review
Perfecting the Original
Published on May 14, 2017
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Release Date: April 28, 2017
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Mario Kart 8 was a spectacular game originally released on the Wii U in 2014, boasting an incredible 50% attach rate amongst the console owners. Despite all the praise it received, it ended up being one of the worst-selling game in the series due to the abysmal hardware figures.
Four years later, with the release of the Nintendo Switch, players are hungrier than ever for high-quality games for the amazing new hardware. With a limited set of games at launch and the glacial rate of AAA games being rolled out, Nintendo intends Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to be the game that tides us over until the next new release (ARMS?)
Not satisfied with a mere port of the game from four years in the past, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe does its job well in retaining all the fun from the original release while adding enough features to warrant a full $60 price tag.
To kick things off, since the game is running on new hardware, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe can output at a silky smooth 1080p when in docked mode. This is a significant improvement over the WiiU’s 720p resolution and makes the game that much prettier to look at when playing on the TV. On top of that, the loading times are insanely fast on the Switch, with most races loading up within a few seconds. And when you want to drive a couple of laps while you’re on the train, those few seconds help out.
Speaking of, the biggest advantage of having the game on the Switch means that you can take the game on the go (it only runs at 720p when playing on handheld mode.) Not only is it great to squeeze in a little bit of Mario Kart in your commute, but it’s also really convenient being able to bring around a fun party game and setting up multiple consoles is a breeze. The power consumption isn’t too bad either; I was usually able to get 3–4 hours of gameplay on one charge.
But as with any Nintendo game, the emphasis is not placed on the graphical aspects, but rather what type of fun it can bring to the table. And with the re-release, you can feel that Nintendo is aiming for accessibility across the full spectrum. Gone are the annoying unlocking mechanism for characters, the full* roster is available right off the bat. All DLC tracks and vehicles** are in the game as well, minimizing the grind that the first version was known for.
To ease any new players (which there definitely will be with the Switch sales), they also added smart-steering and auto-accelerate into the game. The former will make sure you don’t ever drive off the track (or into obstacles), and the latter will ease your thumb from pressing down the A button the entire time. I didn’t find these features too useful (smart-steering is detrimental in my opinion, and I turned that off immediately), but it’s great to know that Nintendo is always thinking of these little things that enhance the experience.
*One character variant is locked behind Grand Prix victories.
**Vehicles parts are still locked behind collecting coins… And a of couple variants are behind specific criteria. But you don’t need to download DLC to get them all.
Not only were there changes for newcomers, but for Mario Kart veterans as well. New weight classes have been added to the game (basically they dictate top speed/acceleration/how far you go when you get bumped), and a lot of the returning characters had their stats changed as well. Even the vehicle parts had a lot of their stats changed, but it’s unclear if this was for balance reasons or to change things up for long-time players.
For those that grind the Time Trial mode endlessly, a new-level of mini-boost was added so players could change up their lines accordingly for each track. Along with that, the 200cc (an extremely fast mode where you need to brake) speed was also added to the mode to open up even further leaderboard competition.
An exploit that caused a bit of controversy in the first version of the game called “fire hopping,” which allowed players to hop left and right to get extra speed from boosts was removed. But a lot of the other advanced techniques were still left in the game, so there’s no need to fret about the game becoming “too casual.”
Finally, double items make a return from Mario Kart: Double Dash!! as well, allowing players to hold up to two items at once, which allows for even more planning and chaos during multiplayer races.
All these changes provide to be a sort of a “patch” that changes up the game enough to warrant a new purchase even for veterans that have played the original over the past four years.
The biggest addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the revamped Battle Mode. A complaint from the original was that the tracks were re-purposed versions of the racing tracks, which weren’t too conducive for battle play. This was fixed by adding eight entirely new tracks to the mode (5 of which are original and 3 of which are retro), which brings the Battle Mode back to the roots of a frantic, adrenaline-filled brawl.
Balloon Battle was completely changed from the first iteration, going back to the point-based system introduced in Mario Kart Wii. Along with the altered mode, four more battle modes were added to the game:
- Renegade Roundup, similar to cops and robbers
- Bob-omb Blast, returning from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
- Coin Runners, returning from Mario Kart Wii
- Shine Thief, returning from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
The modes are genuinely fun (although it’s questionable if they were all balanced properly…), and it’s great to just have the Switch set up at gathering so you can play in the background. The modes support up to four players locally without affecting performance, which is always great. All of these are playable in the online mode as well and serves well to extend the gameplay options for players.
At its core, not much has changed in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe; it’s still the same hectic, rage-inducing karting experience from four years ago. The new additions make the game easier to access to those on the casual side of the spectrum while keeping things fresh for experts. I would say the biggest change of this version from the original is the fact that it’s on the Switch; it’s incredibly satisfying to be able to play on the go, and fit in a couple races in the few minutes I have while commuting, or taking a break.
The one thing I have to bring up and complain about is the online support. During the initial weeks that I played this game, the servers were fairly unstable, and I would get booted from my lobby or game multiple times in a session. Coupled with the typical Nintendo online features (no chat, no easy way to add friends, no way to join games as a party, etc.), it’s worrying that people will have to start paying for the online service within a few months.
I would say that the online mode is a significant portion of the game (especially with Tournaments), the fact that Nintendo is still not able to get it right brings down what otherwise is an amazing game.
My recommendation is to pick this up even if you played the WiiU version previously, and if you haven’t, well this is probably one of the must-haves for the console.