REVIEW – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Nearly three years ago, Mario zoomed back onto the track, as well as the water, air, walls, and ceilings, in Mario Kart 8 for Nintendo Wii U. The title thrilled fans in 2014, albeit a generally poor battle mode experience, especially when 16 new tracks and a 200cc mode was added as DLC.

Come 2017, Mario is back with the same set of wheels for the Nintendo Switch, this time with some shiny new enhancements. Will Mario Kart 8 Deluxe take home the gold, or will it end up being a burnout? Find out in our review, after the break!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Nintendo Switch
Developed by Nintendo
Published by Nintendo
Released: 28th April 2017 (Europe/NA)
Review copy provided by Nintendo
Screenshots/Art Courtesy of Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 had great variety from the get go, something which is definitely evident in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Every single racing track from the original returns in it’s HD glory on Nintendo Switch, from Mario Kart Stadium, all the way down to the N64 Rainbow Road. That’s not all, all the DLC is also included in this big package, topping the track list at 48 tracks, the most in any Mario Kart game. The 200cc mode is also included without any downloads, you can also now play Time Trials in either 150cc or 200cc, allowing you to hone your skills at the the fastest speed Mario Kart can offer.

As well as returning characters from Mario Kart 8, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe digs a bit further in the past with even more returning characters, such as King Boo, and Bowser Jr.. There are also three brand new characters, Inkling Boy, Inkling Girl, and Gold Mario, bringing the roster up to 42 racers. I bet you cannot wait to unlock all these characters and tracks as soon as the game releases. The good news is that every single track and character ( with eh exception of Gold Mario) are unlocked as soon as you launch the game, so get right on down to Rainbow Road with Funky Kong… oh yeah, he never made the cut. The only other things that require unlocking are the car parts, 30 coins collected per part.

There are three main controller schemes for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. You can either use a pair of JoyCons, an individual JoyCon sideways (motion optional), or the Switch Pro Controller. All the controls are easy to grasp, and are essentially the same on each controller, though it may take a bit of getting used to the JoyCon on its side due to the size of the controller.

There are some brand new enhancements to the gameplay of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe too. There’s a brand new feature called Smart Steering. Say you are having a family gathering so you play Mario Kart with everyone, and say one of the people you are playing with is your five year old niece. Enabling Smart Steering for them means that their kart will automatically steer them in the right direction if it looks like they are going of astray. It will even completely stop the from driving off the track. This makes it so that even the most inexperienced player will be able to play Mario Kart and enjoy the experience too.

Smart Steering is very subtle, meaning that it will only give you little nudges when things are looking a bit awry, though it will automatically follow the track if you choose not to steer. Be warned however, it is ill advised to enable the feature on curvy tracks in 200cc mode, I have noticed that it can get a tad fidgety in that scenario. What’s cool is that a little antenna appears on the back of your kart if you have Smart Steering turned on!

Another new accessibility feature is Auto Accelerate, which does exactly what it says on the tin. If you tire of holding down accelerate all the time, turning this on means you can give your stubby thumb a little break. This is also useful for people who may not be able to press accelerate that easily. Both of these great features for new karters can be turned off and on either on the kart selection screen, or at any time when pausing a local game. You can also use these features online, but can only be turned on when selecting the kart. Best of all, both features won’t really give you an upper hand against more skilled players, rather it just allows you to keep up a bit better. You are unable to enable these features in Time Trial though.

You can now also carry up to two items at once, and collect double item boxes, giving you a backup item to use. Unlike Double Dash however, you are unable to swap the items, so you’ll have to use that Super Horn you’ve been saving for a Blue Shell before you can use a Bullet Bill to get into first. Speaking about items, there are two new items returning from previous instalments, you can now use Boos while racing, and the Feather in Battle Mode. The Boo will steal an item from a rival, while making you invisible temporarily, and the Feather will let you perform a high hop with a neat spin.

The drift boosting feature has gotten a small upgrade in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. There is now a third tier boost. If you continue to drift while in the orange tier boost, you will eventually start to see pink sparks, this performs an even more powerful boost than before.

One of the main disappointing aspects of Mario Kart 8 was the uninspiring battle mode. Battle Mode should allow you a nice little break from the usual racing with race fighting! Unfortunately Mario Kart 8 skimped out on Battle Mode by only including Balloon Battle while reusing a selection of standard racing tracks, instead of the usual unique battle arenas. Deluxe, not only brings back a proper battle mode, but it also reinvents it to an extent.

The most amount of different Battle Modes in a Mario Kart game prior to Deluxe is three, in Double Dash for GameCube. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has five! Yup, there are five frantic modes to battle it out in your karts, and they are Balloon Battle (a staple), Coin Runners, Bob-Omb Blast, Shine Thief, and a new one, Renegade Roundup. There is also an option to play a random Battle Mode on every turn, to really mix things up.

Balloon Battle gets a bit of a face lift. You now start with five balloons, instead of the usual three, and when you loose all your balloons, you loose half your points and then respawn, similar to Mario Kart Wii. Coin Runners has you collecting the most coins in the time limit, you’ll drop a bunch when you get hit by an item. In Bob-Omb Blast, it’s essentially Balloon Battle, but the only item you can get is Bob-Ombs, and you can hold up to ten at a time. Shine Thief is a bit like Capture the Flag, but with a Shine Sprite. Hold onto the Shine for twenty counts (thirty if you are in team battle) and you win. Players can either make you drop the shine with an item, or even steal it with a Mushroom or a Super Star. Don’t worry if you drop it though, once you pick it back up, the counter will resume where you left off.

Finally, we have Renegade Roundup, a brand new Battle Mode for Mario Kart. This acts a bit like Cops and Robbers. One team is the law and carries around potted Piranha Plants, and the other are trying to evade the law. When the law gets close, their plant buddy’s siren will start to go off, and if they get near a robber, the robber will be consumed by the Piranha Plant and will get sent to a nearby cage.

The robbers however, can set trapped convicts free by pressing a button under the cage. Robbers can use items which stun the Piranha Plants for a few seconds, but the cops are also able to use items, just remember, if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. Though this new mode is extremely fun, it does feel a bit unbalanced in favour of the robbers at times, but in the end it does come down to strategy, if you leave the cages un-guarded, it’s open for release. You may also find that capturing robbers in different parts of the map will help too as then there will be more cages for the robbers.

It wouldn’t be Mario Kart if you couldn’t play with your friends, and the multiplayer in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is very smooth… smoother than a newly surfaced racetrack. You can, of course, play a four player local match, using pairs of JoyCons, Split JoyCons, or the Pro Controller. Up to four players can play docked or undock, there’s no limitation. Even though the screen may be a bit small for four players undocked, it still runs it pretty smoothly.

If you have friend who also own Nintendo Switch consoles and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, or if you you are fortunate enough to have multiple copies of the console and game, you can also use LAN play to have up to eight player matches. I have been unable to try this on my version, but when I demoed it in January, it seemed to also play smoothly. I will update this review when I get the chance to try it out. You can have up to two players on each console, but you can either use a single JoyCon or the Pro Controller, at the moment it does not seem to be possible to use a pair of JoyCons as one controller. Online also runs smoothly, assuming you have a semi-decent connection.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looks as stunning as ever. The game now runs at 1080p natively, compared to 720 on the Wii U, as well as at 60FPS for most of the time docked; I never noticed any dips in frame rate. When undocked, the game runs at 720p, but it still looks just as stunning.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is easily the biggest Mario Kart game to date. IT has the biggest selection of tracks, the biggest selection of characters, the biggest selection of engine classes, and the biggest selection of battle modes. It would be very hard to top it off. Not only that, but Deluxe is also the most accessible Mario Kart game too; with the Smart Steering and Auto Accelerate features, nearly anyone of almost any age can jump behind the wheel and have a bloomin’ good time. Though a few new tracks would be nice for those who owned the original, there is still so much to enjoy about Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, making it a must have for the Nintendo Switch.

If you own Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U and you own a Nintendo Switch, I would still recommend you purchase Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

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