Answers to Common Questions About Mario Kart 8

Mariokart for Wii gamecover

Photo from Amazon

Nintendo's Mario Kart 8 (MK8) is a kart racing game for the Wii U gaming console. In fact, it's the most popular Wii U game on the market. It was released around the world in May of 2014. 

Mario Kart 8 is different from earlier versions of Mario Kart games in that it has anti-gravity areas that let users drive on not-so-usual driving environments like walls and ceilings. It has multiplayer and single-player modes plus online multiplayer support through Nintendo Network.

Below are answers to some common questions about Mario Kart 8.

Mario Kart 8 is different than Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which is for the Nintendo Switch.

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What Are My Controller Options?

MarioKart on tv with different controllers

MK8 supports any controller available for the Wii U. Two of these controller options — the gamepad or the Wii remote, let you play by rotating your controller like a steering wheel.

You can change your controller by going back to the opening game screen, then pressing the A button on whatever controller you want to use.

  • Gamepad: The gamepad can be used as either a standard controller in which you steer with the left analog stick or d-pad or as a gesture controller where you steer by rotating the gamepad like a steering wheel.
    By default the touchscreen has a big horn in the middle, a list indicating your standing in the current race, a toggle to switch between d-pad or gesture steering and two panels that can be expanded - one with a map, the other for off-TV play.
  • Wii U Pro Controller / Wii Classic Controller: The same button configuration as the gamepad but without gesture controls or the touch screen.
  • Wii Remote: Held sideways, it's turned like a steering wheel to control your racer.
  • Wii Remote / Nunchuk: The remote / nunchuk option was the standard way to emulate a traditional game controller on the Wii, but may be less appealing now that there are other ways to do that.
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What Is the Point of Honking the Horn in Mario Kart 8?

MarioKart on Wiiu controller

If you play MK8 using the gamepad, you’ll see a big horn in the middle of the touchscreen. Tap that horn, or press the appropriate button on another controller, and your horn will cause other racers to look startled.

That’s all you get for that. The Super Horn power-up is useful; the regular horn is not.

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How Do I Choose the Best Character / Car / Wheels Combo?

MarioKart Vehicle Customization

The various characters, vehicles, wheels, and wings you select for your racer will affect speed and handling. Each character is assigned a weight, so Baby Mario is considerably lighter than Bowser.

Light characters have good acceleration (the time it takes to reach top speed) and handling (how sharply you can turn) but are easily bumped off the road by heavier characters.

When choosing a vehicle, first hit the plus (+) button, which will show you stats for cars and wheels. This lets you see the effects on speed (the top speed of a vehicle), traction (how well you’ll stick to the road), and other attributes as you scroll through your selections.

What works best will depend on your driving style and the track you are on. This handy chart shows stats for all choices, and this Mario Kart 8 Calculator is used to see the results of any combination.

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How Do I Enable the On-Screen Map?

Mario Kart 8 onscreen map


After many complaints about the lack of an on-screen map in Mario Kart 8, Nintendo added one in an update.

You can turn it on by pressing the minus (-) button on the gamepad. Inexplicably, this won't work with the other controllers, so even if you're using one of those, you'll still need to reach over and press the gamepad button to enable the map.

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Are There Track Shortcuts in Mario Kart 8?

Mario Kart 8 ToadHarbor

Of course. Check out IGN’s Mario Kart 8: 30 Shortcuts in 3 Minutes to see most of them.

Keep in mind that if a shortcut takes you over rough ground, which slows you down, you’ll only want to take it if you’re holding a speed-boosting mushroom.

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What Don't People Like About Mario Kart 8?

Mario Kart 8 Balloon Battle


MK8 has received rave reviews and had great sales, but it’s not perfect. There are, in particular, a few features of the game people are complaining about, often because they’re changed from previous Mario Kart iterations.

  • Battle mode takes place on race tracks rather than in special arenas, lessening the intensity.
  • The horizontal split screen of previous MK games has been changed to vertical, which makes sense with the advent of widescreen TVs, but it still bothers some people.
  • There is no in-game chat in MK8.
  • The gamepad cannot be used as a fifth screen to allow 5-person local multiplayer.
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What Is the Luigi Death Stare?

Luigi Death Stare


The Luigi Death Stare is an internet meme focused on the hostile look that the Mario Kart 8 character, Luigi, gives other racers as he passes them.

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How Do I Get a Free Game When Buying MK8?

Mario Kart 8 free game offer

You can't. Nintendo's offer of a free download code when you registered the game expired on July 31, 2014.