Mario Kart 64 (N64): Does It Hold Up?
Even though Super Mario Kart marked a strong debut for Nintendo's infamous kart racing series, it's not spoken of with the same gusto that Mario Kart 64 is. That's kind of a shame, because Super Mario Kart is kind of the better game. That said, several key factors helped propel the Nintendo 64 follow-up to insane levels of popularity. But how does the game play these days? While certain aspects haven't aged all that well, I'm happy to report that Mario Kart 64 is still a crazy good time, but only if you've got some friends to play with.
Mario Kart 64 was the first game in the series I played, and I still remember being completely blown away by it. The idea of Nintendo characters racing against one another while throwing shells and banana peels every which way was equal parts wacky and exciting. Even more exciting was the fact that you could play against up to three other people at the same time. It was the party game mentality at its most entertaining. Despite the fact that later Mario Kart titles would feature online multiplayer, you just can't beat local competitive awesomeness.
Truly, Mario Kart 64 thrives on its competitive modes. Up to four players can take each other on in split-screen action in Versus and Battle modes. The former lets you select from any of the game's 16 tracks, while the latter offers up a mild four arenas for you to do battle on. Battles task you with popping your rivals' balloons (three per kart) through the use of shells, banana peels, and other familiar Mario Kart weapons, making for simple, addictive fun.
If it's just you and another player, you can also play the game's Mario Grand Prix mode, which is split up into four cups, each with four tracks. Solo players can still have some fun with this tournament mode and the game's Time Trials mode, but obviously, Mario Kart 64 is a game where more players make the experience all the more awesome.
Probably the strongest aspect of the game is its course design. Whether you're braving the canyons in Yoshi Valley, dodging boulders in Choco Mountain, or performing insane jumps in Wario Stadium, the course variety is deliciously diverse. It's kind of a shame that there are only 16 tracks in total, but even then, they're so great that it's impossible to tire of them. These courses are sure as hell better than the atrocities found in Mario Kart Wii, that's for sure.
Mario Kart 64 is undeniably the worst looking game in the entire series. The original boasted charming pixelated visuals while later installments offered up nice 3D graphics. Mario Kart 64, however, is riddled with ugly polygons and even uglier 2D models (seriously, the characters' faces are hideous). This was an okay look back in 1996 (and just barely okay at that), but it definitely doesn't hold up these days. Thankfully, that's pretty much the game's biggest flaw as far as today's standards are concerned.
The verdict: Mario Kart 64 looks like hell, but it still plays great
Mario Kart 64 goes back to the basics of party-themed kart racing. It doesn't look like much these days — in fact, it looks like absolute garbage — but don't let the heinous graphics deter you from having a good time. If you've been meaning to return to Mario Kart 64, by all means, do so as you please — it's still a lot of fun. If you've never played the game, you may not be too keen on trying it out, but the moment you do, you'll discover some of the series' most memorable tracks.
Mario Kart 64 is available on the Wii Shop Channel, so you don't have to spend more than $10 to snag it. Of course, if you really want to play using the iconic and weirdly shaped Nintendo 64 controller, that's a whole different story. Whatever, all things considered, it was a damn fine controller! Likewise, Mario Kart 64 is a damn fine game, even after all these years.
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