Available April 28 exclusively on Nintendo Switch
Everybody loves Mario Kart, and Mario Kart 8 is arguably the best games in the incredible series. Bringing a ‘Deluxe’ version to the Nintendo Switch makes sense, considering the poor sales of the Wii U. However, for those who did play it on Wii U, is there enough new stuff here to entice them to pick it up again? Not really, but I’ll still buy it, because it’s about what the game and console combine to offer that compels.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe includes all DLC content released on the Wii U version of the game. There are also new characters: Splatoon’s Inkling Boy and Girl, King Boo, Dry Bones and Bowser Jr., a completely revamped Battle Mode to include Balloon Battle and Bob-Omb Blast and new karts. The new karts are as you’d expect, two from Splatoon (the Splat Buggy and Ink Striker) and also Bowser’s iconic clown car which debuted in Super Mario World.
Some classic items have made a comeback too: the Boo Ghost allows players to turn invisible to avoid projectiles, plus passing through other drivers allows you to steal their items. The Feather returns from Super Mario Kart to allow players to jump, which is built for Battle Mode.
Watch: Hands-on with Nintendo Switch
Players can now also carry two items, like in Double Dash, although bizarrely you can’t switch between the main and reserve item, which is doubly strange considering the name of the console I’m playing the game on.
Outside of this, there aren’t really any major changes. The improvement to the game running at 1080p/60FPS at all times (on the TV of course), regardless of split-screen is much-needed, as 30 FPS on Wii U made the game look broken.
I played the game in all its variants: On the TV, on the Switch with the Joy Con controllers attached either side and with the Switch on its kickstand using one Joy-Con, which was housed in a wheel much like Mario Kart Wii came with, though much tinier. All of which worked very well, except when sat a few feet back from the Switch. The size of the screen becomes an issue when playing the likes of the massively-improved Battle Mode, which requires players to be able to spot enemies in the distance and hit them with projectiles. Sitting closer to the screen alleviated this, but it’s still something to take into account.
The Joy-Con controller sits very comfortably in the hands when using half of it. The shoulder buttons, while very miniscule, are fine and I never found myself struggling to find the buttons. The small analogue stick can be tricky when navigating multiple corners. I often found myself pressing the edge of the stick rather than resting my thumb on top of it, but it never cost me in races.
The game still looks absolutely gorgeous on Switch, especially on the console’s screen. Colours are incredibly vibrant and I’m constantly impressed by how sharp the image is on the Switch’s screen.
Where this game really shone was sat around with eightother players, each clutching a Switch, in local multiplayer. As a kid my friends and I used to bring our original DS’ into school and play Mario Kart DS every break period. This felt exactly like that experience, except we weren’t in uniform and talking about girls. It really is an exciting prospect to think of being able to take a fully-fledged Mario Kart game on the go and join up with up to eight people for the same multiplayer I can enjoy on the big TV.
This was another example where I saw Switch’s real potential as its hybrid nature makes it excellent for ad-hoc gaming, and Mario Kart 8 is the perfect game for that. As a kid it was a case of playing the “lesser” version of Mario Kart at school or on road trips, and the “better looking” version at home. The Switch removes that entirely. Kids don’t know how good they have it.
It’s just a shame there isn’t more new stuff for Kart veterans to sink their teeth into. If you bought the DLC on Wii U there will be very little here to excite in terms of ‘new stuff’. For players who have enjoyed a lot of Mario Kart 8, the selling point is being able to take the game with you, which to be fair is still a pretty strong reason to grab it on Switch.
Mario Kart 8 still plays as well as it did on the Wii U and will be a great game on the Switch. However, I can’t help but feel disappointed at the lack of a truly new Mario Kart game for Nintendo’s new console. Three new characters, an improved Battle Mode and that’s pretty much your lot, making it feel a little rushed.
That said, the game plays very well on the Nintendo Switch and the ability to hook up with other players in any fashion – two player local with the Joy-Con, ad-hoc local with multiple consoles or online multiplayer – once again shows off the console’s convenience.
Rather than being the definitive version of Mario Kart 8, Deluxe feels more like the definitive culmination of portable and console Mario Kart games, and that’ll probably be reason enough for me to buy it again.