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Lifewire / Kelsey Simon
Smooth controls and handling
Wide variety of characters and vehicles
Great co-op gameplay
No introduction for new players
No easy way to see all stats
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a remake of the classic racing game for the Nintendo Switch. With fun and engaging co-op and multiplayer gameplay and intuitive controls, it’s great for all ages.
We purchased Mario Kart 8 Deluxe so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the latest and greatest version of the classic Mario Kart games, designed for the Nintendo Switch. With new maps, intuitive controls, and a focus on co-op and multiplayer, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is sure to become a favorite game at parties and with friends of all ages. We took a closer look at the game, focusing on its plot, gameplay, graphics, and appropriateness for kids.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is easy to set up. Depending on which version you purchased, you’ll either insert the cartridge into your Switch, or let the game download. Once started, Mario Kart will prompt you to create a Mii, which is a human-based character made from very basic geometric models. It basically serves as your avatar in a throwback to the Wii and the Nintendo 3DS. Really, it doesn’t matter what your Mii looks like unless you really want to use it as an in-game character to race against the standard Nintendo characters Mario Kart offers. After this, you’ll go directly to the play screen, and get to pick how you want to race.
The game isn’t a plot based, racing games rarely are. You’re thrown into the game without much introduction. You aren’t even given a tutorial, or a “beginners” race telling you which controls do what. Nintendo likely expects you to have played previous Mario Kart games and know what you were getting into. If you do need some instructions about the controls, at the bottom of the main menu screen there is an info button where you can go through a glossary to learn every move and understand every item.
Thankfully, the game is simple enough that even if you’ve never played a Mario Kart game before, you should be able to figure things out with some trial and error. The mechanics are simple: the Joy-Con’s are intuitive for racing, with the control left and right stick to control direction and camera, buttons for acceleration, breaking, and reverse, and the shoulder buttons for drifting. You can also steer by tilting the Joy-Con to the left or the right, rather than using the control stick, but we found this feature frustrating and deactivated it.
The game is simple enough that even if you’ve never played a Mario Kart game before, you should be able to figure things out with some trial and error.
During the race you pick up various items from the glowing question mark cubes on the track. There are all kinds of items, ranging from ones that boost your speed, shrink or decrease your size, and shells and bombs you can use to take out other racers. The game is all about coming in first, nothing else matters.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has a few different gameplay modes. You can play single player, letting you race against AI in Grand Prix, in Time Trials, or in VS races. You can also play the classic battle mode versus other AI. You’ll be able to pick how fast you want the AI to go, which will increase the difficulty. We started on the easiest mode, as it had been a while since we played a Mario Kart game. But it quickly became obvious the slowest mode was too easy, but the fastest mode was too hard. Most players will likely feel comfortable at 200cc or 250cc.
Of course, while single player is fun in Mario Kart, the game is really made for co-op and playing with friends. You can race against three other racers in multiplayer mode, either splitting the screen into halves or quarters. Playing against friends is a lot of fun, especially when you time the release of a banana perfectly so the friend tailgating you spins out of control, or when you’re behind and you get a red shell hit, allowing you to take the lead. You can also do local play if someone nearby has another Switch, or online play with others if there’s no one nearby to do local co-op with you.
We particularly enjoyed Hover mode, where you can take a side ramp and defy gravity, riding a part of the map that twists almost upside down.
The last mode worth mentioning is Battle mode. If you’re at all familiar with Mario Kart, this should feel familiar. You’ll face off against others in an enclosed arena where question mark blocks are spread across the map. Each player is given a number of lives―or balloons―and you’ll chase each other through the arena, popping other player’s balloons by hitting them with shells or other items in your fight to be the last player standing.
The gameplay overall in Mario Kart is smooth, and the controls feel intuitive. But one of the things that sometimes got to us was that there wasn’t an easy way to see the stats on Kart parts, or compare the stats of different characters. You can open a hidden stat menu by pressing the Plus (+) button in the choosing Kart screen, but if you didn’t know about this, you’d never think to try it. We had to do a Google search to figure it out ourselves. It probably isn’t a big deal, but for a racer who takes things more competitively, it might be irritating that there isn’t some type of table built into the game to compare Karts and character stats.
Our favorite part about Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was the maps. Yes, the racing is fun, and Battle mode can be a great way to spend some time with friends, but the clever map designs caught our interest more than anything else. We particularly enjoyed Hover mode, where you can take a side ramp and defy gravity, riding a part of the map that twists almost upside down. We also loved the integration of enemies into the scenery, such as Boo in Twisted Mansion, or Cheep Cheeps in Dolphin Shoals.
Some of the maps are visually fun and clever with their themes, while still being exciting to race on. Yoshi Valley is beautiful, and while we probably like the old Rainbow Road better, the new one is still bright and colorful. The first few times you go through each map, you’ll be distracted just taking in the scenery and figuring out the shortcuts. But once you get things down, you’ll be able to focus on the race itself and start winning trophies and unlocking new Kart parts for your collection.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is great for kids, especially those with a more competitive streak. The racing isn’t so complicated that a child will struggle with the controls, and there’s nothing graphically inappropriate for any age. While characters can get hit with shells and spin out, they can always find their way back to the track. Like with most Nintendo titles, this is an all-ages game that will appeal to both children and adults.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is great for kids, especially those with a more competitive streak.
If you do most of your gaming as a single player, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe might not be worth the purchase, at least not at full price ($59.99 MSRP). It’s a fun game and it’s well made, but the gameplay really shines when it comes to its co-op features. If you have friends who also love gaming, or a kid with friends who love to game, this is a great purchase. A group of friends can get a lot of laughter out of this game and single-player is just a bonus.
Since Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is really about its co-op feature, and the fun of playing with your friends, that’s the competition we suggest checking out. Super Mario Party is another great Switch game, with the same ability to play with three other friends. In Super Mario Party, instead of racing, you’ll be working through a game-board-like map and play against each other in a variety of fun mini-games.
You might also check out Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. In Super Mario Bros., again, you can play with three of your friends, but instead of racing, you’ll have to work together to play through a platform map filled with traditional Mushroom Kingdom enemies. No matter which of the three games you choose, be prepared to laugh as chaos ensues.
Perfect for those looking for co-op and multiplayer gameplay
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a fun, well-made game for the Nintendo Switch. The controls are intuitive and smooth, and the maps are original, bright, and full of creativity. Although the game there’s no introduction into the game for new players, we’d still highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun co-op or multiplayer game―especially for kids who enjoy playing games with their friends.