When I got my Nintendo Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was one of the first games I knew I needed to buy. I’ve always been a big Mario Kart fan, and it’s a perfect game to play with my wife — who doesn’t play many traditional video games. I also never played the original on Wii U, because I wasn’t a crazy person that owned a Wii U.
Having spent well over 30 hours with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe — playing both solo and split-screen multiplayer — I’m pleased but not surprised with what’s included in the game.
From an audio/visual perspective, Deluxe is a stunner. I realize that rendering a track, a few characters, and some items isn’t as complicated as putting something together like Super Mario Odyssey, but the visual fidelity shown is impressive, nonetheless. Nintendo has always done a great job of playing with color, and that remains the case here. The detail is also great, with some fun facial animations for racers and great options for customizing your vehicle.
There are different size characters to choose from, and while those categories don’t limit the vehicles you have at your disposal, they do impact how you interact with the other karts. Smaller karts might be able to move around faster and be more nimble, but they’ll also lose any contact battle with a behemoth like Bowser. This is also true of the vehicle options themselves. There’s a marked difference in control between the four-wheel and two-wheel options, but I never noticed a huge difference in performance choosing a kart that has better acceleration instead of top speed. The little details obviously become more important on the higher difficulty levels.
While playing solo, I found the 150 cc level to be the sweet spot. There’s enough difficulty that a first-place finish isn’t guaranteed, but it doesn’t become the insane red shell explosion of 200 cc. Seriously, every racer but me seems to get infinite red shells on that highest difficulty level, and you’re almost guaranteed to see 3-4 blue shells over the course of a race. It isn’t that much fun.
Outside of the traditional races, Deluxe also includes the Battle Mode, which in past games has been pretty forgettable — if not actively terrible. I wouldn’t qualify it as my favorite thing to play in Deluxe, but it’s actually pretty fun to hop into with another player or three. Depending on your tv size, it can become hard to see what’s going on due to the horizontal perspective, but there’s enough insanity that this mode shouldn’t be looked at as truly “competitive” in the first place.
Balloon Battle is the traditional Battle Mode … mode, and consists of throwing items at other players to pop their balloons. The scoring isn’t well explained, and it took me a few matches to figure out whether scores were counting up or down, and why. To me, the other standout mode is Shine Thief, which is essentially keep away with a giant shine star. The player carrying the shine moves slowly, making it important to have guards around to protect the VIP racer. Bob-omb Blast is also a fun mode, though it gets completely insane fairly quickly. Bob-ombs are the only items dropped by item boxes, and they explode much faster than traditional bob-ombs. You can also carry up to 10 at a time. It gets nuts.
The Battle Mode maps seem more designed for Balloon Battle than for other modes. While I definitely preferred some maps to others, all eight feel very distinct from one another. The updated version of the SNES classic is still the best and leads to the most insanity — which is what you want from Battle Mode.
Speaking of the maps, the tracks in Deluxe are pretty high-quality across the board, with 48 tracks spread across 12 Grand Prix challenges. I’d say about half of them — if not more — are new versions of tracks from previous games. While this is disappointing in one sense, most of the updated versions have some significant visual and gameplay changes that really do make them feel new. Some of these were originally DLC for the Wii U version of the game, but everything is included in one package here, which is nice.
I didn’t get into much multiplayer because I just find it more fun to race against AI opponents or friends, but the few races I did play seemed to work well enough. There weren’t any lag issues and I was able to find matches quickly.
All in all, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a solid Mario Kart game. It offers a fun challenge if you’re playing solo or with friends, it has absolutely stunning graphics and catchy music, and its Battle Mode is better than any previous battle mode since the SNES. While it doesn’t do much to change up the gameplay of previous entries, I highly recommend it to anyone that’s looking for a fun party game. Just please, Nintendo — lose the blue shells, already.
So, how do you think Mario Kart 8 stacks up against the other Mario Kart games? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to check out my other video game reviews!