The Evolution Of Mario Kart
Blue shells, golden mushrooms, lightning bolts, and the destruction of friendships. One video game series has all of these things in common; and it is Mario Kart.
The Mario Kart series has been the best racing series in the Nintendo franchise. Some can argue that Mario Kart is the best racing series in video game history.
As of today, it’ll be one month till the release of Mario Kart 8; which is on May 29th (in Japan). The North America release is on May 30th.
Mario Kart 8 is (obviously) the 8th game released in the series since 1992. I can’t believe it’ll be almost 22 years since the debut of Super Mario Kart.
I’m not the biggest fan of the Mario Kart series but I love playing it. Super Mario Kart was the first one I played. It’s interesting how the next Mario Kart game I played was Mario Kart DS. Mario Kart Wii is the last Mario Kart game I’ve played and owned. I have never really played the other five but I’ve seen enough gameplay to familiarize myself with each game.
Since the release of Mario Kart 8 is coming really soon, I will do a little history of the Mario Kart series and how it has developed and evolved into what it is today.
Super Mario Kart (SNES)
Super Mario Kart made its debut in 1992. This was something new in the Mario franchise. Gamers were so use to the platforming style that seeing the characters race was something new and exciting. I mean wouldn’t you have fun racing against your favorite Mario characters?
The basic gameplay of Super Mario Kart has been used throughout all the Mario Kart games. The basic goal was to get a gold trophy in every cup (Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special) in each driving class (50 cc, 100 cc, 150 cc). It seems simple enough. You didn’t have to beat Bowser in a castle to beat the game.
The first set of characters used were Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Toad, Bowser, Donkey Kong Jr., and Koopa Troopa.
There were five tracks for each cup (20 total). You had different variations of Mario Circuit, Donut Plains, Vanilla Lake, Choco Island, Bowser’s Castle, Koopa Beach, Ghost Valley, and the infamous Rainbow Road.
This game also introduced items to spice up each race. Those items included Red Shell, Green Shell, Lightning Bolt, Banana Peel, Feather, Boo, Coin, Mushroom, and Star.
The development and gameplay of Super Mario Kart made it an instant classic. Yet, gamers would have to wait 4 1/2 years ’till the next Mario Kart game.
Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64)
Mario Kart 64 made its debut in early 1997. It’s the only Mario Kart game for the Nintendo 64. It went through many changes from Super Mario Kart.
Obviously, with the advancement of technology, the graphics incorporated the 3D style. Remember that Nintendo 64 was still young and the generation of video game consoles were new to 3D graphics.
The gameplay was the same with completely new tracks and new characters joining the cast. Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Bowser, and Yoshi came back; with the addition of Wario and Donkey Kong.
The items were the same with the addition of the Fake Item Box, Golden Mushroom, Triple Mushrooms/Banana Peels/Red and Green Shells, and Spiny (Blue) Shell; which scopes out whoever is in first place. Also, the concept of coins was removed.
Although Mario Kart 64 was a bestseller, it had been criticized for being too easy and the poor graphics.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit (Gameboy Advance)
Mario Kart: Super Circuit was released in 2001. It was the first handheld Mario Kart game, as it was released for the Gameboy Advance.
The gameplay, characters, and items were all the same from Mario Kart 64. The only big difference was the addition of a new cup called the Lightning Cup.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit also did well in sales and had critical acclaim; probably for being the first Mario Kart handheld game.
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GameCube)
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! was released for the GameCube in 2003. There are some major differences with this Mario Kart game.
This was the first (and only) Mario Kart game to have two drivers (hence the name Double Dash). You had the option of switching between drivers during the race.
This also introduced a wacky variety of go-karts. You didn’t have the standard Kart used by everyone. Each kart was different based on speed, acceleration, and weight. This meant that you could use a kart to your own advantage depending on those criteria and who you use to drive.
Since you could use two drivers, many characters were introduced for the first time in the Mario Kart series including Princess Daisy, Birdo, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Paratroopa, Diddy Kong, Bowser Jr., Waluigi, Toadette, Petey Piranha, and King Boo.
In terms of the tracks, you had the basic four cups. Also, this game might have been the first to introduce Mirror Mode. In Mirror Mode, all tracks are opposite and is considered harder than 150 cc.
The items are the same but each specific pair had a special item. For example, Mario and Luigi has Fireballs, where you can throw fireballs at the drivers.
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! received great reviews; probably for being a little different than the past three Mario Kart games.
Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS)
Mario Kart DS was released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2005.
The gameplay went back to the original but it did incorporate some elements of Mario Kart: Double Dash, such as the variety of Karts.
The same eight characters from Mario Kart 64 were used. Unlockable characters included Daisy and Waluigi, with the introduction of Dry Bones, R.O.B., and Shy Guy.
There are 8 cups in this game. You have the original four. The other four (Shell, Banana, Leaf, and Lightning) featured 16 tracks from the previous Mario Kart games.
New items included Bob-omb, Blooper, and Bullet Bill.
Mario Kart DS is the third best-selling game for the DS. It has definitely received critical acclaim and even won awards from Gamestop and IGN. The only problem is the repetitive single-player mode. As someone who has played a lot of Mario Kart DS, I agree. After beating the game, I did get bored of it. I even tried to see how many times I finished first place. I don’t remember the number but I did reach up to 999 points (the highest you can get) and finished a few more races before I came in second.
Mario Kart Wii (Nintendo Wii)
Mario Kart Wii came out in 2008 for the Wii.
The gameplay is pretty much the same; also having 8 cups and 16 different tracks from the previous five games.
Mario Kart Wii introduced the use of bikes an a vehicle option. I have always used the bike to race. I actually think it’s better, faster, and doesn’t occupy as much space as some of the karts.
Mario Kart Wii was the first to use the Wii Wheel. You can actually experience “driving” similar to driving a car. As long as you pressed the accelerating button, you were able to slightly turn your wheel to make your driver turn. You didn’t have to be in the standard controller position to drive. This was new as the Wii was incorporating the sensor bar feature.
It also introduced tricks. You are able to do tricks after riding off a ramp.
There are 24 drivers in this game. Baby Daisy, Rosalina, Funky Kong, and Dry Bowser make their debut. You can also play as your Mii but there is a lot of criteria for unlocking your Mii as a playable character.
New items include Mega Mushroom, Thundercloud, and POW Block.
Mario Kart Wii is the second best-selling game for the Wii. With over 35 million copies sold, Mario Kart Wii is probably the best selling Mario Kart game. This is my favorite Mario Kart game. I have become really good at it; breaking almost every Normal and Expert staff ghost. I don’t play it as much as I use to but it has become so easy for me.
Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo 3DS)
Mario Kart 7 is the last Mario Kart game to be released before Mario Kart 8. It was released for the Nintendo 3DS. I guess the developers didn’t have a clever name for it so it might as well be called Mario Kart 7 (being the 7th installment of the Mario Kart series).
Mario Kart 7 has a few new features.
It introduces gliding. When racing, after riding off a ramp, you can now glide through the air for a short period of time.
There is also the option of vehicle customization. You have the option of choosing the body of the kart, the wheels, and the glider. Speed, Acceleration, Weight, Handling, and Off-Road are all factors when it comes to customizing your vehicle.
The concept of coins are back but it’s not to make your kart go faster. The coins are used to unlock new bodies, wheels, and gliders.
The same 8 cups concept is used, using 16 different tracks from the previous 6 Mario Kart games.
New characters include Metal Mario, Honey Queen, Wiggler, and Lakitu.
New items include Fire Flower, Super Leaf, and Lucky 7.
Mario Kart 7 received high praise but not as high as the previous handheld game Mario Kart DS.
And now we wait for the release of Mario Kart 8. I hope you all are excited. There hasn’t been any recent update other than video about new courses and items. There are also screenshots of the game as the release date approaches. Based on the videos on the website, I see good things to come for Mario Kart 8.
For more info on Mario Kart 8, click here.