Mario Kart is one of those Nintendo franchises that are notorious for jeopardizing friendships. This is because of how much fun it is to play multiplayer and compete with friends. Whether playing through the circuit races, time trials, or battle modes that are staples of series; Nintendo’s mascot racer is always a great game to pull out when you have company over. Mario Kart 8 continues this tradition by not only having some great local multiplayer, but takes the racing fun online through the use of Nintendo Wifi.
Mario Kart 8 takes more of the raving formula established in previous titles and fine-tunes it to perfection. Unlike the last few games in the series, Mario Kart 8 has more racers, tracks, and unlockables to keep things fresh and interesting for a long time. Everything you know from series is present and accounted for. There is the Grand Prix with multiple Cups to compete in, Time Trials to register course times, and Battle Mode to compete against friends. The addition of Amiibo support and downloadable content allow for extra goodness to an already nicely developed package. Amiibos open up new costumes for custom Mii characters to wear during races. Extra DLC content provide exciting mashups in the form of characters like Link from the Legend of Zelda, as well as extra Cups, courses, and vehicles.
The racing itself in Mario Kart 8 is the most solid that the series has ever been. No matter what control style you use out of the many options available, racing feels smooth and finely tuned. Drifting around corners has never felt better, just as much as sending a shell towards an opposing racer has never felt more satisfying. The difficulty of AI opponents during races does not feel unbalanced, as there are fewer instances of “rubber band moments” like in previous games. At the same time, the randomness of items you find in Question Blocks on the maps feels more balanced, despite the person in last place getting higher probabilities of better items.
Racing online is pretty solid. This is everyone will be spending a lot of time when not having friends over to play with locally. There still is some connection issues in depending on who you are matched up with online but nothing that occurs too frequently. There is an option to be paired up with players within the same region or worldwide, which is a nice option to have. All the modes in offline play can be played with other players over Nintendo Wifi. While Nintendo’s online service may not be the most grounded, you can still have a stable series of consecutive matches online.
Mario Kart 8 is exactly what fans of the series wanted on the Wii U. This is more Mario Kart gameplay with new tracks, new characters, and new tricks. The game feels fresh and is just as fun as the series has been in the past. The ability to download new content from the eShop will keep players coming back again for new additions to the game. The amiibo support is a neat feature that adds some cool customization elements to Mii characters. Simply put, Mario Kart 8 definitely needs to be in everyone’s Wii U collection of games.
This review was based on a retail copy of Mario Kart 8 for the Nintendo Wii U.