Archive for the ‘Mario Kart Month’ Category

mariokart

Mario Kart Month continues… surprisingly (new readers may not know I tend to take a lot of breaks or start-stop projects). A lot of focus and discussion, or rather, arguments about the Mario Kart series centers around either the characters or the games, themselves. This is why I chose to do the Top 5 on the tracks. I don’t feel like tracks come up enough when discussing the merits of the Mario Kart games. I feel like the tracks have as much personality as the racers. I can’t think of any particular track that feels exceptionally bland. Between actual go-kart tracks and tracks that take you into space on a road made of reflected and refracted light, there are enough tracks to fit anyone’s playing styles. The following is my personal Top 5. These are my favorites, not necessarily THE best tracks in all of Mario Kart. Let’s a-go!


Honorable Mention- Royal Raceway (Mario Kart 64)

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I actually added this one in as an honorable mention after I finished typing this article. While I don’t care for MOST of this track, there is one corner near the end of the circuit that I wanted to highlight. This corner ALWAYS gave me fits when I played this track. I always ended up either in the grass, well off the track, or in the water. The corner is very reminiscent of the infamous corkscrew turn at Laguna Seca. Those that play Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport may be very familiar with this corner. It’s a quick left turn, immediately followed by a quick drop, immediately followed by a quick right turn. This corner cost me quite a few 1st place finishes for me. But the reason I wanted to highlight it here is because it MADE me want to become a smarter Mario Kart player. This corner made me not want to rely on items and luck to ensure victory. I wanted to learn how to take this corner smarter. I learned the merits of drifting, letting off the gas, and even braking because of this corner. Lessons I would apply to other racing games and even real-world go-kart racing. I learned you can’t just go flat-out all the time. Sometimes slow-and-steady DOES win the race.


#5- Excitebike Arena (Mario Kart 8)

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This is one of the newest tracks in the series, being part of a DLC pack for Mario Kart 8. While I haven’t raced on it more than a few times, it has left quite an impression on me. I love how it combines simplicity with exciting atmosphere. The Excitebike Arena is a basic oval shape, but features motocross-style jumps and classic Excitebike hazards. This takes the 5-spot solely for being the newest of the tracks on this list.


#4- Baby Park (Mario Kart: Double Dash)

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I look forward to this track and this track alone when playing Mario Kart: Double Dash. This track is so frantic and fusterclucky, but in a good way. It’s an extremely short track but lasts for 7 laps. The action is so frantic, that anyone can win this race. Even if you find yourself sitting in a low position, you can still affect the outcome of the race, due to the ease of lapping and getting lapped by other racers. It’s one of the few bright spots in a Mario Kart game I don’t hold in too high of regard. It’s a good thing this track was brought back for the retro cups in future Mario Kart iterations, because this is a track that makes an already fun series, just that much better.


#3- Toad’s Turnpike (Mario Kart 64)

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This was my favorite track when I was younger (read: before I could drive). I always thought it would be fun to take a go-kart onto a real road and this was as close to simulating that as I could get (actual, real life go-kart tracks, notwithstanding). The track is a rather basic shape, but the cars and trucks on the road provide one of the most frustrating hazards to avoid in the entire series. Successfully avoiding those that you’re sharing the road with is almost as rewarding as getting the victory. It’s like “Yeah, I only finished 3rd, but at least I didn’t plow into yet another semi-truck for the 17th time.” I feel like this is one of the most challenging tracks in Mario Kart 64. If it were a more abstract shape and not a figure-8, it could have probably fit in with the Special Cup tracks.


#2- Neo Bowser City (Mario Kart 7)

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Wow. What a track. The setting is unique. It’s dark, but not in a typical Bowser way. The environment is much different from your typical Bowser’s Castle course. It reminded me more of the Oil Ocean and Metropolis levels from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Or even downtown Hill Valley in Back to the Future Part 2, with Biff’s Pleasure Paradise smack dab in the middle. It has a very dystopian vibe. Like, it almost feels like this course takes place in an alternate universe where the Mario Brothers don’t exist and Bowser grows more powerful. As for the track itself, it is superb! I’ve never seen a track where one stat had such an advantage over the others. This track has so many tight corners, a well-handling character/kart setup combo is a MUST. Top speed is useless here. You are turning, one way or another, almost the entire time on this track. Even the few, short  straightaways have to be spent planning and getting into position for the next corner. This track is the technical Mario Kart racer’s dream course and it’s no surprise that it remains a favorite of the diehard Mario Kart community.


#1- Mario Raceway (Mario Kart 64)

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This right here, I feel, is the DEFINITIVE Mario Kart track. I’ve always enjoyed the tracks that actually look like go-kart tracks (not to discount the other, more imaginative courses). But this has everything going for it. Semi-realistic setting, long straightaways, tight corners, sweeping corners, tricky shortcuts. This circuit is the most complete course. It has everything. Even the hazards are subtle. There’s nothing in the environment designed to screw you over. The only thing you have to watch out for is your fellow racers. All these are factors I took in to account when I decided that this was my favorite track in the entire Mario Kart series.


So there we are! Those are my top Mario Kart tracks! What are your favorites? Agree or disagree with anything on the list? Let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page!

As always, thanks for reading!

mariokart

I love Mario Kart. The series provides multiplayer gaming bliss like no other. Which is why I’m going to devote the entire month of June to Mario Kart! It’s Mario Kart Month, baybay!

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I don’t have a graphics department.

I want to kick off a month of Mario Kart-related articles by ranking all eight Mario Kart games from my least favorite, to my absolute #1. As with any list I do or have done, this isn’t a list to say “this list is fact, your opinion is wrong.” I know my list differs from other people’s (SPOILER: I have Double Dash ranked lower than most other people would). Let’s get this thing started!


#8- Mario Kart: Super Circuit

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This was a was a game I didn’t play until well after it was released. When I say “well after” I don’t mean it was a few months or a year. It was over 11 years before I got to really sit down and play this game. I played it for maybe 30 seconds while I was at a Best Buy when I was 14 years old. I received this game for free as a part of the 3DS Ambassador Program (Nintendo’s way of rewarding early 3DS buyers before a rather quick price drop). Maybe it was because I already had several years of more technologically advanced Mario Kart games under my belt, but I never felt the connection with this game that I do any of the others. But, that’s not to say it’s a bad game. This is surprisingly only the 3rd game in the series. This game was released in Sept. 2001 and missed being a Game Boy Advance launch title by only 3 months. It was the first handheld Mario Kart handheld game and really didn’t look bad for being a near-launch title. But the problem is nothing really stands out about it for me aside from being the first handheld Mario Kart. It doesn’t hold any special place in my heart for nostalgic reasons or anything. It’s the only one on this list that’s just kinda “there” for me, which is why I have it ranked last.


#7- Mario Kart DS

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Because I was never REAL big on Double Dash (more on that later) or Super Circuit and was Mario Kart 64 just kind of appeared for me one day, Mario Kart DS was the first Mario Kart game I actually got hyped about before release. 3D-modeled characters, online play, etc. This game was gonna be big! And it was! But it was surpassed by every Mario Kart that came after it and didn’t have the staying power that the classics did. It was super fun at the time and definitely gave you an idea of where Mario Kart was heading in the future (online play, kart and character stats), but by the time the next game in the series, Mario Kart Wii, came out, it seems like this one was forgotten.


#6- Mario Kart: Double Dash

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I know this will be THE controversial selection for this spot (if at all). Mario Kart: Double Dash is fun, don’t get wrong. Remember, I like ALL the games on this list. But I know a lot of people who would rank this game, or the game I actually have #1, at #1. Maybe it’s because this was the newest console version of the game when my friends and peer age group were in high school. I really don’t know. But I just don’t see what other people see in this game. It does have the unique feature of two racers per kart allowing for a little bit more strategy when selecting your racer. But later entries would see the strategizing go further with the expansion of stats for karts. For me, I feel like this is the first game that took a turn for the worse. It can get to be a real fustercluck during races with the number of items and characters flying around the course (something that persisted during Mario Kart Wii as well). Playing with friends was alright, because you could share in the misery of getting destroyed by 3 red shells in a row. Single player was a nightmare for me, however. But for whatever reason, it remains the go-to party game if you have a Gamecube laying around. Although my enthusiasm is low going into it, I always end up having a good time by the end.


#5- Mario Kart Wii

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For me, I feel like I hold Mario Kart Wii on the same level as Double Dash, but I think the hype surrounding Double Dash and some features in Mario Kart Wii helped me decide to put this one at #5 and Double Dash at #6. The item and character fusterclucking return for this one, but some gameplay enhancements keep it from dropping lower down the list. I did enjoy the different vehicle types (this game introduced dirtbikes and motorcycles) as well as auto-drift if I was playing with a Wiimote. This seems to be another popular version of the game for get-togethers, but its popularity seems to be waning (at least in my social circle).


#4- Super Mario Kart

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The game that started it all! This game is quite the challenge and still gives me fits, even today. This is the only game in the series to have 5 laps per race, as well as 5 races per cup. I was only 4 or 5 when this game came out and I didn’t get my first Super Nintendo until Christmas 1995, so I discovered this game a little late. I remember being blown away by the idea of a Mario racing game. Usually Toad is my go-to character, but I usually go with Bowser in this one, only because I love is post-race results screen music. Bottom line: How cool was this game back in the day? Heck, it’s still a cool game to play today even with 7 Mario Kart games building upon what this one started.


#3- Mario Kart 8

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This is the most recent game in the series, having only been out just over a year as of this writing. But man, did they do a lot of good things with this game. The anti-gravity, topsy-turvy tracks, the customization, the DLC, everything about this is great. There’s some characters in this game that I’d never thought I’d see in a Mario Kart game (Link!). The DLC is worth every penny and adds plently of neat courses and characters (including one track I’m now including among my all-time favorites). Some of the tracks that go heavy on the anti-gravity stuff are intense! It’s so easy to lose track of your orientation and where you are in the game world, but I feel it just adds to the fun and excitement. I actually, legitimately got dizzy during one race. I haven’t been able to spend too much time with it. It took a while to track down a used copy of it (I’m on a budget, yo!), but I know this will go down in the annals of, not just great Mario Kart games, but great Nintendo games.


#2- Mario Kart 7

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This game blew me away when I first picked it up. I put so many hours into single-player, unlocking nearly everything. I put a lot of time into the online aspect too, becoming one of the few games I regularly won playing online.The unlock system in this game made me a better Mario Kart player, not just in this game, but in all Mario Kart games. Since you have to collect coins to get unlocks, you had to play the races over and over again. This made me discover better lines, better strategies, and better kart customizations. Online multiplayer matchmaking (especially when playing with friends) could have been better, but that is my only major gripe with this game. As far as I’m concerned, this is EASILY the best handheld Mario Kart game. But not THE best Mario Kart game. That distinction of course goes to…


#1- Mario Kart 64

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Yes. YESSSSSS! Mario Kart 64 is the DEFINITIVE Mario Kart experience for me. It provides the fun, multiplayer goodness, and action of the others, but it lacks the gimmickyness of games like Double Dash. It’s a pure Mario Kart game. Mario Kart 64 defines the phrase “less is more.” I could talk more about this game, but I have something planned for later this month where I will delve deeper into Mario Kart 64.


So that’s my ranking of the Mario Kart series. How does this list differ from yours? What do you agree or disagree with? Let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page.

As always, thanks for reading, and stay tuned as I continue Mario Kart Month, taking a look at my favorite Mario Kart racetracks!