Before we begin this review, I would like to point out that I have never played Mario Kart 8 (the original game on Wii U). Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a totally brand new experience for me, so this review will be helpful to newcomers on Nintendo Switch who are still deciding on whether to purchase the game.
To the uninitiated, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the first remastered title in the Mario Kart series. The “Deluxe” version on Nintendo Switch contains everything the original game has to offer, plus packed-in DLC, new characters, a new Battle Mode, and other tweaks. While Nintendo hasn’t announced any plans for a new “Mario Kart 9” on Nintendo Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was still an instant purchase for me as I was hungry for some Mario Kart action.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe stays true to the Mario Kart formula. Race three laps around a course and make use of power-ups to attack and defend yourself from other racers. However, what makes Mario Kart 8 Deluxe different from previous entries in the series is how visually and musically impressive it is. The game’s soundtrack is essentially a concert masterpiece.
Race courses such as Sunshine Airport and Cloudtop Cruise are a joy to race on. I’d sometimes play on Time Trials to slowly steer around the course and marvel at its details. When I was playing in Handheld Mode, the graphics felt so unreal.
Replayability value is high in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe too. Grand Prix, VS, Time Trials, and Battle Mode are available in both Single Player, Local Play, and Split-Screen Play. There are four different engine speeds (50c, 100c, 150c, and 200c) to choose from depending on your skill level.
The biggest change from the original Wii U title is Battle Mode. Unlike the previous Battle Mode which only featured Balloon Battle with tracks found in the racing modes (which was incredibly bad), Battle Mode now features Coin Runners, Renegade Roundup, Shine Thief, and Bom-omb Blast in 8 new battle courses.
The most important feature of every Mario Kart game however is still multiplayer. The game supports Online Play, Local Play, and Split-Screen Play.
Online Play supports up to 12 players and matchmaking is quick and simple. Other than a couple of disconnects out of the blue, online play has been smooth. You can join an online friend’s match from a list pretty easily. If you are bored of global and regional ranked races, there are various options to create customized tournaments for your community and friends.
Local Play supports up to 8 players on 8 Nintendo Switch consoles in the same room. However, based on my personal experience, Local Play has been very unstable as players have been randomly disconnected multiple times in multiple matches. This is really disappointing compared to the much stable Local Play on Nintendo 3DS.
In the case of Split-Screen Play, up to 4 players can play together on the same system as long as you have enough Joy-Cons and Pro Controllers. The beauty of Split-Screen Play lies in its flexibility, as 2 players on the same system can play together with others on both Online and Local Play.
If you only have one Joy-Con for each player in Split-Screen, everyone will have to play using the single Joy-Con control scheme. However it’s really tough to play with during long play sessions.
A few minor features were added to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to aid beginners, such as Auto Acceleration and Smart Steering. Auto Acceleration frees your thumb from constantly holding onto the A or Y button to accelerate. As a veteran Mario Kart player, this felt slightly unnatural to me so I had to turn it off. I’ve played with some family and friends who were new to Mario Kart, and Smart Steering greatly helped in ensuring they didn’t fall off the track. But for better players, it could be more of a hindrance as you couldn’t go off-track to utilize shortcuts.
In terms of unlockables, there isn’t much to unlock in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as every character and track can be chosen and played right from the start of the game. Vehicle parts for kart/bike customization such as wheels, gliders, and bodies can be unlocked by accumulating coins (you can accumulate up to 10 coins at the end of every race). Golden Glider, Wheels, and Kart Body are slightly harder to unlock, and there’s Gold Mario to unlock for bragging rights.
To end this review, I’ll sum up my feelings for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe feels to me as the most polished and definitive title from Nintendo, filled to the brim with the highest number of characters and tracks in any Mario Kart game. The art direction and visual of the game and soundtrack is breathtaking for a simple racing game and multiplayer options are the most flexible to date partly thanks to the Nintendo Switch form factor. It’s a game I highly recommend to everyone who owns a Nintendo Switch.
High replayability value
Flexible multiplayer options
Beautiful visuals and fantastic soundtrack
The most content in any Mario Kart to date
Unstable Local Play (which Nintendo’s brightest engineers can surely fix!)
VERDICT: Soup full of Golden Mushrooms!