Mario Kart 8 is Nintendo’s most recent entry to the critically and generally acclaimed Mario Kart franchise. Now, I’ll admit, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Nintendo first party titles outside of the Fire Emblem series, the Advance War series and the Paper Mario series (basically anything by Intelligent Systems). But after playing Mario Kart 8, I can say that this is a Nintendo game you won’t want to miss.
Aesthetics (Story, Graphics, Sound)
The Wii U recently stepped into the HD game and Mario Kart 8 does a great job showcasing the console’s capabilities. Nintendo’s longstanding art style that’s been with the portly plumber and his friends since early days complements the HD framework nicely, giving everything a clean-cut, smooth, shiny edge in both the new and refurbished tracks. The level of details in the graphics is impressive as well; each burst of flame roaring from your tail pipe looks spectacular as you boost and skid across each colorful circuit. Mario Kart 8 illustrates that Nintendo’s first party titles are gonna look incredible going into the Wii U’s life cycle, more so than the console’s already existing lineup does.
Gameplay (Combat, Systems, Mechanics)
The Mario Kart franchise, from the beginning, has established itself as a top-notch racing series in terms of quality; Mario Kart 8 vehemently reaffirms this by delivering tight controls and an extremely polished gameplay experience. It finds a fine line between being a competent, competitive racing game while at the same time being highly accessible to newcomers and more casual players. Everything runs smoothly, from each vehicle’s handling to the degree of strategy associated with each track. The new anti-gravity mechanic is a nice little addition that brings a somewhat different procedure to the tracks(and creates some interesting aesthetic moments). It’s not the innovative, game changer I think Nintendo was looking for, but it’s a welcome inclusion nonetheless.
Kart customization from Mario Kart 7 is back in Mario Kart 8 with even more parts and combinations. Nintendo hasn’t always embraced a high degree of player customization, but it’s nice to see them moving in that direction as more and more of their titles are starting to broaden their customization options. It’s enjoyable to experiment with different karts, wheels and gliders to get your stats to fit your racing style, although don’t expect to have too much freedom aesthetically — most of the time, the character/kart style you want won’t have the stats you were hoping for.
Nintendo has usually struggled with only play with most of its titles due to clunky interfaces and a lack of user base, but Mario Kart 8‘s online is one of the most enjoyable I’ve experienced in a long time. First, the game offers a feature that I think needs to be included in more games with online play: two player splitscreen online. Hitting the lobbies with some online couch co-op is a blast. Everything about online has been trimmed down and made extremely efficient and easy; you just hit play and you’re in a game. Keep doing online like this Nintendo (I’m looking at you Super Smash Bros. 4).
Mario Kart 8 is, at its core, a game for everyone. The sleek new visuals of the series combined with the extremely polished gameplay is sure to entertain hardcore racing game fans and casual pick-up-and-play gamers alike. I highly recommend this game to everyone (and I mean everyone) and yes, I’d definitely consider this title a console seller if you’re looking for a reason to purchase the Wii U.
Final Score: 9.5 / 10
Written and Edited by Tim Atwood
Chief Editor at The Pixel Pen Review