Available exclusively on Nintendo Switch
I’ve loved Mario Kart since I was a kid, but with every new console generation I’ve had to buy it twice. One to play on Nintendo’s latest home system, and another for its portable to enjoy on school lunch breaks and work commutes. Now, thanks to the beauty of the Nintendo Switch, I can take the one Mario Kart game everywhere, as well as play it on my TV, making it an all-in-one experience.
Thankfully, Nintendo has brought the definitive Mario Kart to the Switch with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
At first, the idea of repackaging a Wii U game and bringing it to the Switch may leave a bitter taste in the mouth, especially for players who put so many hours into the original MK8 and were craving an all-new racer. Even I fell foul to early skepticism, wondering if there would be enough on offer to justify purchasing the game again. But combining the pinnacle of the Mario Kart series with the dynamism of Nintendo’s latest console is a match made in heaven.
For those unfamiliar, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe bundles all the content released for the Wii U version into one box, as well as including some new Switch-exclusive content. That means you get 42 characters (including your Mii), 48 Grand Prix tracks, more kart customisations than you can shake a stick at, and the return of the iconic Battle Mode.
With all of this content, there’s literally dozens of hours of gameplay right from the get-go, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been playing Mario Kart since you were a child, or this is your first time with the series; Nintendo has catered this game to work just for you.
For the new player, there are three brand-new control assists which can be accessed when selecting characters or at any time in the pause menu. 'Smart Steering' is an automated system designed to keep your kart on track, a small antenna will pop up behind your kart, and a bulb will glow whenever you’re about to go off-road and keep you on the tarmac. It’s a great assist for kids, especially when coupled with the new 'auto-accelerate' which means players can focus purely on hitting their fellow drivers with all the whacky items the series is known for.
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For experienced players, we have the return of the 200cc tournaments – which are so fast it’s insane, and for once you’ll actually need to take your finger off the accelerator. There’s also a new third tier of boosting when drifting around corners, meaning time trials will get a needed injection of pace and a reason to go back and beat previous times. And finally you can now carry two items at once, adding a greater tactical element.
Then, of course, we have the Battle Mode. Completely absent from the original MK8, it makes a welcome return to the series and is at its absolute best. Featuring five modes – Balloon Battle, Bob-omb Blast, Shine Runners, Coin Thief and Renegade Roundup – each is incredible fun to play across the eight well-designed dedicated battle courses.
Even on the Switch's screen in tabletop mode it's easy to keep track of what's going on amongst all the chaos, thanks to a handy map and the game's super vibrant colours.
It’s hard to sing the praises of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe without also once again swooning over the Nintendo Switch, as many of the reasons I love this game go hand-in-hand with the device I’m playing it on. The fact that I can take this console from the TV mid-cup and begin playing it on the console, on a gorgeous-looking screen, is amazing. It puts the whole “720p is rubbish” argument to absolute shame when you have a bright and colourful game as Mario Kart 8 running on it.
This is without mentioning the versatility of how this game can be played. I’ve played it on the TV using both Joy-Con, or split the controllers so me and my fiancée can enjoy races together both on the TV and in tabletop mode, and also then used the Pro Controller for three-player games when other members of the family want in.
For players looking to meet up with their buddies and play the Switch, local multiplayer is supported with up to eight consoles – two players per console – or you can jump online and take on players around the globe. You can even set up LAN tournaments like the good old days, except you don’t have to drag a giant PC around.
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Amid all my time with the game, a single blemish has marked the experience. When playing with three or more players in local splitscreen, the framerate gets cut in half to 30 FPS. This is similar to what happened on the Wii U version of the game, but seeing the drop from 60 is sharp and races can feel stuttered as a consequence.
But the problem is so infrequent, it’s hard to hold it against the game too much, especially when online is so easy to set up and play. Jumping into matches of Battle Mode or racing is an absolute doddle, and I can even set up tournaments with my friends. In my pre-release multiplayer matches, games ran smoothly with no lag whatsoever.
I’ve spent most of my time collecting cups and shaving seconds off my best time trials, and loved every second of it. Even after spending so many hours playing the Wii U version, I still can’t put Mario Kart 8 Deluxe down.
After Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the next Nintendo Switch must-buy. It’s the best the series has ever been, offering one definitive package.
With the glorious return of Battle Mode, improved visuals and more content than ever before coupled with more ways to play it than ever thanks to the Nintendo Switch, I don’t think fans could ask for much more.