Peak Mario Kart.
Mario Kart 8: Deluxe is just about perfect. There, I said it. Now you can skip ahead to the end of the review to see what the score is, I’ll wait for you to be back.
Surprised it’s not a 10? There’s a very basic reason why it’s not- as perfect as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is, and as much as I struggle to point out a single flaw with it, the very real and inescapable fact remains that this is a very perfect, three year old game that’s been iterated on in those three years to achieve that perfection. It wasn’t actually always this good.
Mario Kart 8 may actually be a modern multiplayer classic, but when it first launched in May 2014 as a last gambit on Nintendo’s part to turn the fortunes of the ailing Wii U, it was rather lean. Its mechanics were as great then as they are now (and indeed, they laid down the foundation for what would come later), but the game lacked a whole lot in the way of anything. It has a Grand Prix mode with the requisite 32 tracks (16 new and 16 old ones, but remade beyond recognition), it had a good number of characters, a lot of kart parts, online and local multiplayer, and really, not much else. The lack of content in the game clearly demonstrated that Nintendo had rushed the game to the market to get it out as soon as possible and help the Wii U- and nothing demonstrated that better than the Battle Mode, which was gutted beyond belief. Gone were the traditional confined arenas where Mario Kart battles had taken place in the past. Instead, we were stuck with trying to go round and round in circles on the race tracks and hope we ran into other players so we could lobby a shell at them. It was a mess.
"Mario Kart 8 may actually be a modern multiplayer classic, but when it first launched in May 2014 as a last gambit on Nintendo’s part to turn the fortunes of the ailing Wii U, it was rather lean."
But in spite of all of that, the game was fantastic- and over the next few years, Nintendo continued to build upon it, adding 16 new tracks with some of the best post launch DLC a game has ever seen (including from other Nintendo franchises like F-Zero, Zelda, Excitebike, and Animal Crossing), new characters, and new karts. Free updates continued to add content to the game. By the time Mario Kart 8‘s post launch support ended, the game was already dangerously close to being perfect- there was just that little matter of its Battle Mode holding it back.
With Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which collects and consolidates Mario Kart 8, all of its DLC, all of its updates, and which adds a full fledged Battle Mode, the best this series has had, in fact, it is no longer dangerously close. It has raced past the line of perfection in a triumphant finish.
So, here we are- we have the best playing Mario Kart, with the most finely tuned mechanics, and the best collection of additions to the racing ever, with the underwater, gliding, and anti gravity racing sections. We have the perfect handling, and the fantastic feel of each differentiated vehicle. We have the best balance in item use and distribution that Mario Kart has ever had, with items adding to the chaos and fun, but still giving the skilled player a chance to pull ahead. We, in fact, have the dual item mechanic from Mario kart Double Dash return here, allowing players to hold on to two item boxes at once (though they cannot swap between the two like they could in that game). We have the greatest track design the series has ever seen. We have content from a multitude of Nintendo franchises, including all the ones listed above, plus Splatoon. We have a staggering 48 tracks, and all the karts, kart parts, and characters from the base game and DLC, available to you right at the outset. We have the traditional 50cc/100cc/150cc available, plus Mirror Mode, and the brand new, absolutely crazy 200cc racing mode (which was added to the original game in a free update, and is available to play in Time Trials for the first time ever).
"So, here we are- we have the best playing Mario Kart, with the most finely tuned mechanics, and the best collection of additions to the racing ever, with the underwater, gliding, and anti gravity racing sections. We have the perfect handling, and the fantastic feel of each differentiated vehicle."
Add to all of this, we have the most full fledged Battle Mode in the series’ history ever- the traditional Balloon Battle and Coin Runners are both here, but there is also Renegade Roundup, a fantastic mode that adds a Mario Kart spin to the traditional cops and robbers formula, Shine Thief, which is Mario Kart‘s version of capture the flag, and Bob-omb Blast, which makes things very literally explosive. Battle Mode’s five modes give you enough rules to find something that is to your liking- and they also give you eight brand new, custom made Battle Mode arenas to duke it out in, including an arena inspired by sister franchise Splatoon. It is all truly fantastic.
The online play is great- while there is no traditional voice chat or invite system, you can still race with friends with fully custom rules, race with randoms, engage in online battles, and even create or participate in online tournaments with fully custom designed rules. The game also supports local multiplayer, four up to four players per Switch system (whether on a TV, or in tabletop mode), with up to three being able to link up via LAN for a full 12 player race, or eight systems, each with one player, able to link up for eight player wireless multiplayer. There is no lag in any online multiplayer, and disconnections are infrequent, if present at all- all of which seems to bode well, preliminarily, for Nintendo’s upcoming paid online service later this year.
"It’s eye catchingly pretty, and in handheld mode, it is without a doubt the best looking handheld game ever created. It is also, without a doubt, the best a Nintendo game has ever looked."
Finally, throw in that this is one of the best looking and sounding games Nintendo has ever made- the soundtrack is fantastic and jazz inspired, but it is the graphics that truly take the cake. Mario Kart 8 was always a bit of a stunner, even on the Wii U, but now, running in glorious 1080p, it is beyond beautiful. It’s eye catchingly pretty, and in handheld mode, it is without a doubt the best looking handheld game ever created. It is also, without a doubt, the best a Nintendo game has ever looked.
So, yes- at the end of it all, we are left with a game that is truly perfect. I’ve thought about it for a good while, trying to come up with something that may be a flaw, and the only thing I can think of is that I literally don’t know or understand where they can take Mario Kart from here- the series has achieved peak perfection. But yes, its perfection is a product of three years of relentless iteration and work, and this game has the benefit of having had that time to build upon itself. For that, we refrain from giving it a 10.
But if you are just jumping in for the very first time, prepare to have your mind blown away. A true modern multiplayer classic, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe stands as one of the greatest games that Nintendo has ever made.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Gorgeous to look at; Great soundtrack; amazing track design, with some of the best tracks in the series; loaded to the brim with fantastic and an almost overwhelming amount of content; a fantastic and fully featured Battle Mode; online play works without a hitch; full support for local multiplayer in all of its forms; incredible mechanics, with some of the most finely tuned racing ever
It is, ultimately, a remaster of a three year old game, and the DLC and post launch content it has got ever since
If you are just jumping in for the very first time, prepare to have your mind blown away. A true modern multiplayer classic, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe stands as one of the greatest games that Nintendo has ever made.