A little under three years ago, Mario Kart 8 released on the Wii U and managed to do what Mario Kart always does: sell consoles. Unfortunately, the Wii U wasn’t exactly marketed well, and despite the game pulling in over seven million sales worldwide, it paled in comparison to the almost 37 million copies of Mario Kart Wii sold. But with the push Nintendo have been giving the Switch, it’s no surprise to see Mario Kart 8 Deluxe setting records with the most day-1 sales for any Mario Kart title, with over a million sold in the US alone after only three days of availability.
While Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is assuredly going to be a huge success for Nintendo, is it worth picking up again for those who invested in the Wii U version, and does it hold up for those that sat out the Wii generations?
For the most part, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is everything Mario Kart 8 was, plus some new characters, the ability to hold two weapons at once, the return of Battle Mode, a couple of new weapons, and all of the DLC from its Wii U release. So, if you don’t mind, let me just repeat something from my original review:
“For those who have somehow avoided this multi-million selling franchise, and any other Kart racer, the premise is simple: you have three laps, pick-ups that give you weapons, boost pads, a drift button, and the need to come 1st. The best part of the Mario Kart franchise is how simple the game is to pick up, how quickly you’ll be winning races and growing confidence in the early stages of the game, and how challenged you’ll eventually be when playing against others.
The aforementioned Grand Prix is split up into 3 difficulties which are disguised as speed categories. The 50cc option is for anyone new to the franchise, or people who are new to gaming. It’s a slow-paced affair with dumbed down AI opponents. They won’t go the extra mile to earn boosts, they’ll be hesitant with their weapon use, and they most definitely won’t draft behind you to get a speed boost. Veterans will likely either skip this until they want to unlock everything, or they’ll blaze through it in a single setting.”
The original review was written when there were no details on the DLC to come and amiibo had only just been announced. Looking over it post-DLC it’s interesting to see the direction Nintendo have gone. Despite my love for Mario Kart 8 – and it fully deserved the 9 it received – there was something missing.
“... I wasn’t sure what it was until I came to a remastered 3DS track called DK Jungle. This is an absolutely stunning level designed around the Wii and 3DS Donkey Kong Country Returns title. From the environment to the music, everything just feels perfect, and that’s when it hit me. Nintendo needs more of this. If this is the level of detail and love they can give a non-Mushroom Kingdom track, then sign me up for a Hyrule track, a Metroid inspired circuit, or an Animal Crossing raceway.”
For those that haven’t followed Mario Kart 8’s journey, tracks based on both Hyrule and the world of Animal Crossing were released in DLC packs. But that’s not all…
“A new feature to the tracks in Mario Kart 8 [...] is the addition of zero-gravity sections. Instead of your typical hills, jumps, and corners, tracks now take on a more F-Zero aspect.”
And sure enough a couple of F-Zero tracks were released with the DLC packs as well. What I didn’t expect back then, though, was the inclusion of non-Mario characters joining the rank. While King Boo, Bowser Jr, and Dry Bowser have been added to the Deluxe version, you’ve now got Link, the Villagers (both boy and girl), Isobelle (from Animal Crossing) from the previous DLC packs, and the two Inklings from Splatoon along for the ride. For those that may be sitting down with Mario Kart 8 for the first time with the Switch, you may find yourself looking at something more akin to the Smash Bros of kart racing.
But the reason you’re here now is because you want to know what the Switch version brings to the party, and for good reason too. The portability of the Switch and the ability to pass a JoyCon to a friend means you could quite easily jump into a fully fledged Mario Kart multiplayer race experience on the bus, as you make your way back from the store, running at 60fps. It’s huge. The only downside? A single JoyCon experience isn’t overly comfortable.
While the idea of utilising a single JoyCon means an easier way to get friends and family into the mix, you might almost be doing a disservice to the Switch. It’s a tough one. Are their hands small enough for it not to be a problem? Do you bring along the snap on steering wheels that make holding everything much easier, but making it look a lot sillier? It’s a small gripe, but for a proper local multiplayer experience, you’re going to either need a second set of JoyCons (or a Pro Controller), or know someone with a Switch and MK8Deluxe.
One of the other big features is the ability to connect multiple devices together and set up 8 player games over the Switch’s local WiFi. When this works, it’s amazing, but the strength of the Switch’s WiFi has been called out for being overly weak. It seems mileage may vary, but the worst case scenario is that you get a little cozy with a bunch of your friends.
The final piece of the puzzle that fans were sad to see missing was a proper Battle Mode. The Wii U version simply recycled some of the race tracks, and threw some balloons behind your kart. This has been remedied with a fully fleshed out Battle Mode. MK8Deluxe brings 5 different battle modes, ranging from popping or stealing balloons to score points, holding Shine sprites for as long as possible, and splitting into two teams in a cops and robbers style chase. These are played over 8 different Battle Mode courses designed specifically for maximum carnage.
It’s easy to see that the majority of my gripes have been resolved over the last 3 years, and despite that I’m still yearning for more. Unlike Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS every Switch needs a copy of the game for local multiplayer. Here’s hoping Download Play gets added to the Switch in the near future. And while I’d love to see some more non-Mario characters and tracks be added via DLC, with “Deluxe” slapped onto the end of the title, it’s unlikely we’ll see any announced or released.
Those that paid full-price for MK8 and its DLC on the Wii U might find it hard to repurchase everything again, but the extra expense goes towards knowing the online user-base will be larger and that you’ll have access to it whenever and wherever you go. For those that have sat out the last couple of generations of Nintendo and find themselves with a nice new Switch, there’s a reason this series continues to sell as well as it does.
“Mario Kart 8 is easy to pick-up, easy to enjoy, and no matter how good you are, there will be moments that make you smile.”
Reagan received a physical copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and steering wheel accessory from Nintendo Australia for review.