For decades the Mario Kart franchise has been the flagbearer for Nintendo’s new consoles, with each new entry in the series encapsulating the essence of the studio’s ambition for a new platform.
There are few games that can rise to that responsibility, but then there are few games as polished, fine-tuned and joyous to play as Mario Kart. That Nintendo has managed to keep the series feeling fresh and competitive for this long is testament to just how timeless the game’s appeal is – and to just how hard Nintendo works to maintain that edge.
So you could be forgiven an initial sense of disappointment that Mario Kart’s grand debut on the new Nintendo Switch console comes in the form of a re-release of Mario Kart 8 – which first appeared on the Wii U in 2014 – rather than something entirely new. But dig deeper and you’ll find a remastered racer that’s a better fit for the Switch than it ever was for the Wii.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe packs in everything that was in the original game – 32 fabulously designed and richly coloured circuits – alongside the 16 extra tracks released after launch; as well as a completely revamped Battle Mode that exceeds the lacklustre version that launched three years ago.
That mode is now the highlight, a sort of demolition derby that plays our across different arenas and game modes, each with their own objectives. It’s a brilliant distraction from the straightforward racing.
It’s impressive just how at home Mario Kart 8 feels on the Nintendo Switch. The game fits the console perfectly, both in terms of looks, performance and form factor. It runs at a flawlessly smooth 60 frames per second in both handheld and docked modes, so playing on the go never feels like a sacrifice over playing on the television at home. You can even play while out and about if you can tether to a decent mobile data connection, but playing offline is equally entertaining in either case, with challenging 200CC races against the game’s cruelly difficult AI racers.
Just like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a game that feels purpose built for the new platform. Even if you’ve put hours into the original version, it’s a game that belongs in your Switch.