The latest installment in Nintendo's prized kart racing series is being prepped for launch, but already Mario Kart 8 has managed to receive massive amounts of praise. If GameZone's review is any indication, Wii U owners have a definite winner to look forward to come May 30. But while we wait for that game to launch, let's reminisce over the first entry in the series: Super Mario Kart for the Super Nintendo.
Released in 1992, Super Mario Kart was an instant hit on Nintendo's second home platform and garnered major critical and commercial success. Its challenging racing mechanics, addictive multiplayer, and sweet competitive modes made for a truly memorable experience. There's a reason Super Mario Kart became the third best-selling game for the SNES. And after having recently revisited the game, I can certainly continue to vouch for this rather splendid kart racer.
Back in 1992, it was pretty awesome to see a supergroup of Nintendo characters in one game. Being able to play as Mario and Luigi — and even Toad and Peach — was to be expected. But the fact that you could race as Bowser, Koopa Troopa, Yoshi, and even Donkey Kong Jr. was really rad at the time. These days, party games starring Mario and company are quite common, but back then, it was the sort of thing that just got you stoked to play.
The mechanics of Super Mario Kart are simple but captivating. All you have to do is race against other characters and beat them to the finish line. Well, to be fair, that's not all you're doing. You're also collecting shells, bananas, and other power-ups to use against your opponents, all the while dodging projectiles and speeding through crazy, perilous tracks.
While Super Mario Kart is the kind of game that you should totally play with friends, its single player modes are still fairly entertaining. Mario Kart GP is the game's tournament mode, which offers up increasingly difficult trophies for you to win. Each tier tasks you with racing tougher AI opponents, and chasing down those cups in the later tiers can get incredibly challenging, making you feel like a true winner when you finally pull off the first place victory. There's also a Time Trial mode that has you racing against your fastest times, which isn't exactly all that exciting.
If you want to get the most out of Super Mario Kart, you'll bring along a friend. Since this is a SNES title, it doesn't offer the snazzy four-player modes we would eventually see years later in subsequent installments. Still, having just one buddy to play with is fun enough, and you can always get really old school and switch with other people if you've got more folks itching to play.
Aside from the Mario Kart GP and Match Race (which lets players choose individual tracks to race on), Super Mario Kart also features the wonderfully frenetic Battle Mode. If you've ever played Mario Kart before, you know how this mode works. Players have three balloons tied to their karts, and the only way to win is by popping their balloons with the help of some deadly weapons. It's frantic, it's fast, and it's a heck of a lot of fun.
Super Mario Kart utilizes Mode 7 graphics, which at the time was quite a revolutionary direction for video games. These days, the game still looks pretty good, though there are some aging inconsistencies. Still, the bright, colorful course design and undeniable Mario-ness of the whole thing makes for a blissfully charming kart racer that still looks pretty great overall.
The verdict: Super Mario Kart continues to excel as one of the best kart racers of all time
To be honest, the only thing you can really hold against Super Mario Kart these days is the fact that it only offers multiplayer for up to two people. Aside from that gripe — and it is kind of a big deal nowadays — this is still a shining example of kart racing at its finest and most engaging.
You could certainly make the argument that Super Mario Kart is the best game in the series. My personal favorite is Mario Kart DS, but even then, there's something deliciously amazing about this SNES installment. And the fact that you can download the game on the Wii Virtual Console (still waiting to see it on the Wii U eShop) means you can revisit it whenever you want without having to pay a large sum for an original SNES cart.
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