It goes without saying that Mario Kart’s latest iteration delivers zany racing action like the series has always done. From the start, the game allows you to choose between roughly 30 characters from the Mario universe. But Mario Kart 8 does something I would not have expected, it becomes a more functional and traditional racing experience. Fortunately for long-time fans of the series, it is able to do so while not taking away from the use of power-ups and weapons. This version of Mario Kart handles better than any release in the long-lasting catalog of kart racers. Driving in this game just feels better than it ever has in the series and the gameplay happens at a faster rate.
High among the list of improvements is the fact that Mario Kart 8 is a thing of beauty! It is safe to say, people will not expect a Wii-U game to look this pretty. The colors on the characters look great, but the tracks are far more impressive. Although the game is named after everyone’s favorite mushroom-popping plumber, the tracks are the true star of this game. It is obvious that the development team were free to be more creative than they have in years past. A single track can take you from a typical road track to an anti-gravity experience, to an underwater environment, and back to the road again before a lap is finished! Mario Kart 8’s track designs are what will continue to keep people coming back.
With two players on the same the console the game still blossoms with 60 frames-per-second. What makes Mario Kart 8 exciting is playing the game with a group of friends in your living room; it is slightly disappointing that the frame rate drops when adding a third and fourth player, but the fun still continues in that experience. If you do not have friends or family to play with at home, you can play with up to 11 other players online as the mode supports a total of 12 players. Racing online can be fun and competitive, but Nintendo’s online options are still incredibly limited in comparison to the other game consoles. For instance, between races you are pretty much limited to choosing between a few canned statements in order to speak to your competitors. I do not know about anyone else, but saying “Go easy on me” might be Nintendo-safe, but it is not much fun at all. Online chat options aside, Mario Kart 8 has the very interesting Mario Kart TV feature which allows the players to edit video and make highlight reels from races.
Mario Kart 8 also is nice to play on the Wii-U gamepad. While not offering any second screen options, I did enjoy allowing family members the option of watching television while I sat on the couch and focused on the gamepad’s screen. Also while playing on the console using the gamepad is an option as the placement of the buttons provide good control despite the gamepad’s bulky size.
If you enjoy traditional racing games and are not typically interested in Mario Kart, I suggest giving this iteration of the longtime franchise a look as you will be surprised by how much better the game controls. If you are a fan of the series, Mario Kart 8 is a must buy for you. This is by far the best game in the history of the Mario Kart franchise.