The nine year kart race - a Mario Kart 8 retrospective

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Releasing just last week, the fourth wave of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s £22.49 Booster Course Pass became available to download, increasing the game’s already-series high course count from 72 to 80. With this putting us past the halfway point of the announced courses, I thought this might be a nice opportunity to have a look at how far Mario Kart 8 has come since its 2014 Wii U release, and see what kind of value the DLC offers to both those subscribed to Nintendo Switch Online’s higher tier and those not.



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A delightfully familar title screen I've been looking at for a few too many years.


To give a quick history lesson to those who perhaps started with the Deluxe edition on Switch, Mario Kart 8 originally launched on the Wii U in May of 2014 and went on to be the console’s best-selling title by a significant margin, beating out its closest competitor Super Mario 3D World by almost three million units. In its launch state, much of what you see on the Switch was present. Coming from Mario Kart 7’s gliders and underwater driving, Mario Kart 8 added anti-gravity sections to the mix. What was nice here is that it didn’t really do away with any of Mario Kart 7’s main features, instead adding to them with a layer of polish you’ve likely come to expect from the series. The game launched with eight cups, which has been the standard since Mario Kart DS, splitting the courses between 16 new and 16 returning. These returning courses did see a really nice face lift, with many of them getting anti-gravity sections added on top of the graphical improvements you’d otherwise expect.

For those not playing online, your draw to replayability was collecting coins, which would then go onto unlock car parts for you to pick between when going back to courses. Mario Kart 8 went on to make series history when it released several sets of DLC between August of 2014 and April of 2015. Starting out with a free Mercedes Benz collaboration (no really, this was the first piece of DLC in Mario Kart history), we then got two more Nintendo-themed collaboration packs in the form of a paid DLC featuring The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing. Each of these packs cost £7 apiece, or £11 if bought together, and came with two new cups and three new characters to enjoy. On top of these, we also saw a free update releasing alongside the second DLC pack. This introduced another series-first in the 200cc setting, which ended up being quite divisive in the community due to people not having used the B button before in their 20 years of playing the games. While divisive, this new level of speed offered players an entirely new way of playing the now-48 strong track list, and gave them a reason to replay older cups alongside those that were freshly added.

Mario Kart 8 wasn’t perfect, but to me was certainly a new high for the series, doing more than enough to earn its spot as the Wii U’s best seller. How does that translate to the Switch though? You shouldn’t be surprised to know that it’s also the best selling game here, and that it’s outsold its Wii U counterpart six times over. What did it add to make it worth buying just three years after its original release? Was it just a port to free it from the acursed shackles of the Wii U? It was kind of that, but there were a few changes to mix things up, and they really were appreciated.



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Oh baby that Merc looks just as good on the Switch.



So what did we get? Naturally you got the base Mario Kart 8 experience, as well as all the DLC released to-date. That includes your Zelda and Animal Crossing packs, but more importantly, the Mercedes Benz collaboration. You also got 200cc right out of the gate and a few new characters, including my personal favourite Inkling Girl. It's a bit of a shame we never saw a full Splatoon track to come in with them, but we did get some of the game's multiplayer action, along with an associated map, with a new battle mode. While I do say new, it was a fairly standard affair for the series that was absent in the Wii U game.

Mechanically-speaking, there was one big change, and it's genuinely quite hard to go back to older Mario Kart games having experienced it: purple drift boosts. It's a simple concept for those familiar with drifting in Mario Kart. The longer you hold your drift, the better boost you get. Previously your drift would turn blue for a small boost, then red for a bigger boost... But now we have purple, and boy is that a good boost for those who can hold their drift long enough. It's something that really stands out on 200cc with courses like Mario Circuit and its long turns. Deluxe also brought back the ability to hold two items, which was really great to see after suffering the unique frustrations of Wii U Mario Kart 8's first place coin syndrome.

Outside of these though, and the usual boost to framerate and resolution we're used to seeing between Wii U and Switch, it was basically the same Mario Kart 8 you knew and loved repackaged for the same price as it originally cost. Did it really add enough value to warrant rebuying at full price? It's hard to say, but I'm fairly sure most of the people reading this will have bought it regardless. If nothing else, the game on the Wii U with its gamepad gave you a taste of a truly high fidelity Mario Kart in your hands. Was any fan of the series really going to pass up being able to take it on the go?



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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes us to... London?


But that was that. For years after its release there really wasn't much to say. Five years in fact. And then out of nowhere, just as fans were anticipating an announcement for Mario Kart 9, Nintendo came out and did it. DLC. And this DLC really was no slouch. Promising 48 additional courses from the series' history, this DLC would effectively serve to double the available content in the game at a cost of half its retail price. In my mind that's a good deal, and it really took a while for the prospect of an official 96 track Mario Kart game to sink in. You're paying around the cost of a cheap app store game for each course (78p if you're curious).

These weren't all being released at once, and I do think that was a good choice. Instead of effectively throwing a game-sized update at us, Nintendo opted to release two new cups at a time over a period of six waves. For a casual player like myself, it keeps me gradually coming back to the game. It works well for a game with so much pick up and play-ability, and I think the model fits far better than something like Monster Hunter Rise's title updates. I don't think Rise has necessarily handled its updates poorly, but it's definitely the type of game where you want to marathon it for a while in oppose to something you can play once and then ignore for a few weeks. Alongside these waves of DLC, Nintendo have also taken the opportunity to drop updates for the game to add features like item selection for multiplayer games, which is especially nice to see when you consider these updates are available to people regardless of whether they bought the DLC.



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That's a suspicious ramp in the desert...


In terms of the actual course selection, these were advertised as a full cast of returning tracks, naturally upscaled a bit for the newer generation. I really don't have an issue with this myself. Being able to re-experience some of my favourite tracks in the best Mario Kart engine to date? Damn right I want that. It's also been really interesting to see Mario Kart Tour tracks be added with each wave since they've never seen the light of a console before. I've seen complaints about them lacking in detail when compared to some of the base game's tracks, but to me they're genuinely a breath of fresh air. There's really just more to them when compared to your traditional tracks, and each one feels like a unique experience that I've come to look forward to with each new wave.

What makes the majority of Tour courses different is how they change from lap to lap. You'll see signs changing to point you in new directions and take entirely different routes, taking you through various real-world locations in a really cohesive way that probably wouldn't have been possible with the traditional course layout. We do still see a few older courses have seen similar treatment, with Kalimari Desert now taking you onto the tracks and through the train's tunnel on later laps. With this being a fan favourite, I'm sure I wasn't alone in my wonderment going a direction Lakitu would scold me for in the older games. You're not going to see this kind of evolution in every track, but that's probably for the best. You have a good balance here.



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That's a lot of content.


Contrary to what they originally announced, these 48 tracks aren't actually all returning from older game. With wave four having just gone live, we've been graced with not just a new track, but a new character to Mario Kart 8 too in Birdo. Technically we have had one "new" track in previous waves, but these were all Mario Kart Tour tracks that just weren't tagged as such for some reason. I do think these felt more like traditional tracks, with these often being the standouts of their respective wave, but it's still odd. With wave four, Yoshi's Island changes that. It's entirely fresh and boy does it make me want more.

After Birdo's addition too, our character selection screen is sitting with five question marks on it. It'd be nice if we saw some fresh faces to the series and the last two waves ended up being closer to the original DLC of the Wii U version, but I'm not holding out too much hope for this. Even if they are just returning faces like Birdo, it'll be nice to welcome them back.



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I love seeing the Stilt Guys on the new Yoshi's Island track.


So now we've seen how far Mario Kart 8 has come since its release nine years ago and shared in a bit of nostalgia, a few questions remain. First, is the DLC good value alone? It's a no-brainer in my mind. It's content akin to a new game for half the price of a new game. Obviously it's not an entirely fair comparison, with a new game both bringing new mechanics and perhaps more importantly, a decent assortment of brand new tracks. £22.49 feels right to me for what you're getting, but it does lead me to worry a little for the eventual Mario Kart 9 that has to follow this. Are we going to be expecting 96 tracks going forwards? Are we going to have extended support out of the gate with a launch day season pass? We just don't know yet.

The value of buying the DLC aside, it also needs to be looked at as a part of the higher-tier Nintendo Switch Online subscription. If nothing else Nintendo picked the games to have their DLC included here well, with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Animal Crossing New Horizons being number one and two on the best sellers list, and both being games targeted at NSO subscribers. Should these DLC packs be the swing factor in whether you double the cost of your subscription though? That one's really not for me to say. If you're a devout player of just Mario Kart and feel like you won't get any value out of the rest of the expansion pack, you're probably better off just buying the DLC outright and not having to debate a higher subscription cost each year. The expansion pack route probably makes more sense for those invested in the larger first party Nintendo experience, assuming Nintendo keep up this trend of adding first party DLC. With Tears of the Kingdom launching soon, it surprises me to see them not adding Breath of the Wild's DLC to get people back in the mood. Maybe I'm just expecting too much for my money here though, especially given Nintendo's track record with NSO.



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I leave you folks with a not so difficult to beat 200cc time trial on Tick Tock Clock.



Have you been playing Mario Kart 8 since the Wii U days? Have you been enjoying the new courses, or are you hankering for something more? Let us know below!
 

WG481

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Unless you count Tour, this means we really haven't gotten a new, original Mario Kart in almost a decade. DS to Wii was three years. Wii to 7 was three years, and 7 to 8 was three years. If you look at this release timeline, we're missing 3 Mario Kart games :cry:
 

JuanMena

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I don't own a WiiU nor a Switch... to be honest, games haven't been as amusing as they were when I was 20 and younger, I don't know, simply don't care.

What I do care though, is the fact that, Nintendo's been dragging since 2011/2012 with the 3DS onwards, and I'm referring to the awful habit of relaunching old games in "new consoles" (still believe that Switch ain't that different than a WiiU)

Why all of this? Well... Kart Deluxe is obviously an unfinished game. I mean... it's nearly 10 years old and N is still milking it!
And whoever thinks that MKTour isn't MK9 because "iTs a mObiLe gAme" then it's delusional... if it ain't MK9, then why suddenly Tour tracks are being sold as DLC when you can play the same tracks for free in a mobile device?

Also, I'm guessing, N's next move with Mario Kart, is the ditched mechanic of going underground.
And that means, 8/Deluxe's/Tour tracks are gonna be part of "retro tracks", so why get amused, or even support DLC for a 10 year old MK game when possibly, all that's gonna be "free" in Mario Kart 9 (real nine this time) Deluxe Definitive Edition?

But I digress... seriously, this Nintendo trend of relaunching old games with the "HD"/"DELUXE" label glued on them isn't going to end anytime soon... specially with all the ongoing digital trends hipsters pushes and defends so badly...

I don't think MK8 Deluxe DLC is worth it... at all...
How the heck is Nintendo expecting to surpass Tour when Tour will probably have 8/Deluxe tracks sometime in the future?
The game already has over 200 "different" characters, same with Karts and Gliders.

Are they re-releasing a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Definitive Edition HD Remastered alongside their next console? :rolleyes:
 
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orangy57

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honestly they're doing awesome work with the booster pass, lots of people were disappointed with the first wave since they were still figuring everything out. These new tracks though are way more fun than the basegame imo and they're starting to look really good visually even if they don't look 1:1 to the original game. When it's all done the game will feel like an A-side and B-side with 2 full sets of tracks rather than the 48 basegame tracks and the 8 booster tracks which originally stood out like a sore thumb.
I don't think MK8 Deluxe DLC is worth it... at all...
How the heck is Nintendo expecting to surpass Tour when Tour will probably have 8/Deluxe tracks sometime in the future?
The game already has over 200 "different" characters, same with Karts and Gliders.
ehh I disagree, even though mario kart tour has a trillion tracks the game sucks so hard, MK8 absolutely wipes tour gameplay-wise. People wanted tour tracks ported over for the longest time because it was sad that so many tracks were going to such a boring version of mario kart. Luckily nintendo actually added two and two and decided that they'd fit in MK8. I don't think it's milking the game since each console only ever gets one Mario Kart, and I'd rather have these Tour tracks added to MK8 than wait another 5 years for Mario Kart on the Switch 2.
 
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AmandaRose

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Unless you count Tour, this means we really haven't gotten a new, original Mario Kart in almost a decade. DS to Wii was three years. Wii to 7 was three years, and 7 to 8 was three years. If you look at this release timeline, we're missing 3 Mario Kart games :cry:
There is pretty much no need for a new Mario Kart. Nintendo have done everything they can for the series. They had double karts in Double Dash. They added in bikes then flying with the kites and ramps then underwater tracks then antigrav. What on earth can they possibly add to keep the series fresh and exciting?
 

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There is pretty much no need for a new Mario Kart. Nintendo have done everything they can for the series. They had double karts in Double Dash. They added in bikes then flying with the kites and ramps then underwater tracks then antigrav. What on earth can they possibly add to keep the series fresh and exciting?
Would be neat to have airplane and hovercar racing options like Diddy Kong did 25+ years ago

Diddy Kong Racing still better than Mario Kart all these years later
 

Lostbhoy

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There is pretty much no need for a new Mario Kart. Nintendo have done everything they can for the series. They had double karts in Double Dash. They added in bikes then flying with the kites and ramps then underwater tracks then antigrav. What on earth can they possibly add to keep the series fresh and exciting?
Speed boats. :rofl2:
 
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There is pretty much no need for a new Mario Kart. Nintendo have done everything they can for the series. They had double karts in Double Dash. They added in bikes then flying with the kites and ramps then underwater tracks then antigrav. What on earth can they possibly add to keep the series fresh and exciting?
So I'mma guess Mario Kart's gonna join F-Zero in the "series that Ninty's ain't gonna make a new game of 'cus they can't think on how to 'innovate' it"?
Heh
 

AmandaRose

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So I'mma guess Mario Kart's gonna join F-Zero in the "series that Ninty's ain't gonna make a new game of 'cus they can't think on how to 'innovate' it"?
Heh
I feel that is the very reason there hasn't been a new Mario Kart or F-Zero or indeed Punch Out.
 

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I feel that is the very reason there hasn't been a new Mario Kart or F-Zero or indeed Punch Out.
I think whether ninty likes to admit it or not a large part is really business sense

F-zero doesn't sell very well (60 million copies sold of MK8 and about 1 million of FZGX), and punch out probably wouldn't either

Nintendo is probably not wanting to oversaturate the Mario kart market before releasing a new console - and if they can continue to make money on an old game with minimal dev costs it makes more sense than launching a new one
 
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What on earth can they possibly add to keep the series fresh and exciting?

FIFA and Pokemon are series that keep selling a lot and both are stuck in 1998 innovation wise. I choose those as examples because I play those a lot, but there are tons of other cases like that on our pretty gaming world.

It is not good to see innovation freeze, but huge successes have this possible side effect.
 

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For some (incorrect) reason I thought the DLC waves were only able to be purchased as part of the Switch Online expansion pack. I get Nintendo’s strategy less knowing the content is available as a standalone DLC for less than the cost of the expansion pack.
 

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What on earth can they possibly add to keep the series fresh and exciting?

A story mode. Also while this would be horribly controversial taking Mario kart to the simulation route would be very interesting. Having the game be more like Ridge Racer, and less reliant on powerful power ups, would be a 180 degree change for the series.
 
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There is pretty much no need for a new Mario Kart. Nintendo have done everything they can for the series. They had double karts in Double Dash. They added in bikes then flying with the kites and ramps then underwater tracks then antigrav. What on earth can they possibly add to keep the series fresh and exciting?
New maps? New maps with gimmicks?
 

AmandaRose

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A story mode. Also while this would be horribly controversial taking Mario kart to the simulation route would be very interesting. Having the game be more like Ridge Racer, and less reliant on powerful power ups, would be a 180 degree change for the series.
I would rather just have a new Ridge Racer rather than a Mario Kart that plays like Ridge Racer. Sadly though Bamco have the exact same problem as Nintendo in that there is nothing new they can bring to the series.
 

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For a casual player like myself, it keeps me gradually coming back to the game.

I wholeheartedly disagree here. If there's one thing in life that I HATE WITH THE PASSION OF A THOUSAND BURNING SUNS is "trickled DLC".

Release meaningful content (more than 25% compared to the base game) at once, or don't bother me with it.

I really, really miss the old days when Expansion Packs were the norm.
 
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I am willing to bet that MK9 will be a launch title for the New Switch.

The final DLC for MK8 ends at the end of this year, it coincide with the launch of the new console and MK9.
 
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