Review: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch)
- Release Date (NA): April 28, 2017
- Release Date (EU): April 28, 2017
- Release Date (JP): April 28, 2017
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo
- Genres: Racing
- ESRB Rating: Everyone
- PEGI Rating: Three years and older
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
I played Mario Kart 8 back on the Wii U and enjoyed what I had played. It was incredible then, and it’s even better now. The interesting dilemma here is the minute changes that were made to the game itself and more so the platform that it now exists on.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe comes bundled with everything the original game had and a few small extras. There are a couple more karts, some new characters in the likes of Splatoon and king boo, the third drift spark, double items and the revitalized battle mode. These additions could honestly be chalked up to a baby DLC pack that the Wii U could have gotten.
I found that the increased items make this game even more chaotic and honestly a lot more entertaining. Some have argued it takes the skill out. Some would also argue the people are arguing that don’t understand how to have fun in a party racing game.
Mario Kart also controls beautifully on the switch with the joy-con grip and in the tablet form with both joy-cons attached. The button positioning on the controllers is comfortable for long play times, and the various forms of control are also great. I liked using the gyro controls of the joycon on its side, and well as with the joycon grip controller. However, trying to use motion controls in tablet form was incredibly awkward. Just imagine taking a small tablet and frantically jerking it from side to side while trying to focus on the screen at the same time. I don’t recommend it.
What I found both delightful yet slightly upsetting is that all the characters and tracks are unlocked right from the beginning. It is nice to be able to fire right into the game and play yet there’s a hollow feeling to not unlocking as much content through natural progression. You can still unlock plenty of car parts but the joy of unlocking characters in time trials or perfecting your race craft is entirely lost now. Instead, it’s a constant bombardment of rewarded car parts that doesn’t feel as special when all it takes is running through a few coins in standard races. The only unlockable character is Gold Mario and you need to win all 200cc cups to obtain him. I don't quite understand why they didn't do this with more characters because the reward is what entices the gameplay.
With that minor complaint aside, however, it’s genuinely difficult to harp on this game. Deluxe is gorgeous on TV screens and on the switch screen itself. Deluxe also has the luxury of running at 1080/60 in dock form and 720/60 in handheld form. Meaning it runs just as good on the switch on the go as it did at, “full power,” on the Wii U. And the music blends with every track phenomenally and is a joy to listen to while wearing headphones in the Switch’s tablet form.
The revitalized battle mode is also a treat, adding five new objective based modes to the fray. From stealing coins from other players to the joys of popping balloons in battle face-offs, battle-mode managed to come back with a vengeance.
All of this is highlighted even better by the fast loading times and quick matchmaking for online, yet the overall online experience is still as barebones as it was on the Wii U.
The same lobby system since the Wii version of Mario Kart.
I find it incredibly disappointing that in 2017 Nintendo has yet to figure out the proper way to introduce better online lobbies, better matchmaking, lack of communication through the switch itself, an invite system, or any other basic features that other consoles have been pulling off since the mid-2000’s. I don’t just find it disappointing; I find it a hinderance to the overall enjoyability of the online experience.
Don’t get me wrong; I have enjoyed my fair share of online races. I’ve dominated the US scene as my lovely little Isabelle. But I would have enjoyed that experience even more if it were easier to play with the few switch friends I already have. If I want to play with friends I’ve made on our website for example, or people met on the Switch subreddit, I should be able to ping them a message on my friend's list or through MK8D itself and tell them I want to play. The excuses for external communication are getting tiresome, and I don’t want to have to tether myself to other hardware to utilize with a piece of hardware I genuinely adore.
Taken on the handheld splitscreen mode
Which brings me to my main selling point of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the Switch itself. Having this console like racing experience on the go is wonderful. Mario Kart 7 did a lot of things right for handheld Mario Karts (including creating the best track ever, Piranha Plant Slide,) but Deluxe turns all of that on its head regarding content and feel. It is so damn smooth not just as a singleplayer handheld experience, but even in two player form. I took my switch to work and hid it next to a box and played a cup against my coworker on the screen with two joy-cons. The ease of setting it up, getting into a race and being able to play without frame drops and split screened is the most astounding thing about the experience to me. Sure, it was small, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying it to the fullest extent that we could. In the past, you had to organize the time to play Mario Kart with someone or have to be in your home to do so. If you had it handheld, you both had to have a system to do download play and race each other. Now it takes one system, which has two controllers ready to go at all times, and you can be playing your friends in Mario Kart anywhere.
The game does a good job of selling itself. It’s Mario Kart after all. But I think it’s the Switch itself that actually sells Mario Kart as the best way to play the game.
+ Controls wonderfully
+ Can play anywhere
+ Packed with content
- Not as many unlocks
- Bad online infrastructure
If this game had better online services, its presentation would be perfect and would have nailed every aspect of the game. Instead, it holds the game back from being even better.
Mario Kart has damn near perfect gameplay, and it is the best it has felt in any of its iterations.
There is a ton of content and plenty of reason to keep playing. The only reason I maintain this score at an eight is thanks to the online hinderance. I could see myself playing this game online for most of the switch lifecycle if it was not held back by Nintendo's terrible implementations for online.
out of 10
(not an average)
Nearly impossible to put down, chock full of content yet hindered by an archaic online system. Mario kart 8 Deluxe is another phenomenal game in the growing switch library, yet an ominous precedent for the future of Switch online games.