When it comes to ideas to ‘improve’ the Mario Kart series and stop the games looking a bit like a bunch of mission pack sequels, one of the obvious things that often comes up is to add non Mario Nintendo characters such as Link, Samus and Pikachu and change the whole game to be less Mario themed. Or in other words, turn it from Mario Kart to Super Smash Kart or Nintendo Kart or whatever you want to call it.
But would this be a good idea? I’m not sure, and I have to admit I have quite a few concerns about the whole concept.
For example, while making a series more ‘diverse’ and changing it to be less based on a single universe can have its advantages, it also kind of makes things like choosing a decent character roster much more difficult. For instance, while some people may have disliked the replacement of Waluigi in Mario Kart 7 with the completely pointless Metal Mario and Honey Queen, generally the character roster of your average Mario Kart game doesn’t get that many complaints. I mean after all, the Mario franchise doesn’t have huge a cast list who need to be playable in any particular title, and the likes of the Mario Kart Double Dash or Mario Kart Wii roster tend to please most fans perfectly well.
Now imagine if the Mario Kart series had to include characters from every possible Nintendo franchise it like in Super Smash Bros. What they going to do? I mean, it’s slightly easy to put a giant roster in Mario Kart given that you have only have to divide characters into three or four weight classes and don’t need to give them individual abilities, but it’s still unlikely Nintendo is going to throw in ten or more characters per series and keep representing all the obscure Mario B and C listers regardless. So now not only do we have the fights over potential characters rosters that have characterised the Super Smash Bros fandom ever since Brawl was announced those years ago, but we then get to see more obscure Mario characters like Bowser Jr or Birdo or Daisy or Rosalina or King Boo thrown out just to include characters like Link, Pikachu and Samus.
That might be nice for some, but I have to say I like how Mario Kart and the other spinoffs feature less well known Mario characters. It adds variety, it lets Mario fans see characters that haven’t been seen in the main series titles for years upon years and it means we can see characters from the likes of Donkey Kong Country and Wario Land/WarioWare represented where they (likely) wouldn’t have a hope in hell in a Smash Bros game.
The Mario Kart series is also made for a very different audience to the Super Smash Bros one and might not go over so well with the types of people who like Super Smash Bros Melee or Brawl. Smash Bros is a very much skill based thing where items and hazards aren’t central to the gameplay and where play a competitive level is based upon stuff you’d expect to see in other fighting games. Mario Kart? The items are literally half the game and can’t be disabled, the tracks are as dangerous to the characters and as important to the gameplay as the basic racing mechanics are and luck plays a huge part. God help you if you try and ‘balance’ Mario Kart for a tournament setting.
And I’m also not sure that the Mario Kart feel, the feel of heroes and villains racing around in fancy vehicles and blowing each other up with thrown Koopa Shells is going to fit all too well with many of the universes represented in a Smash Bros style game. Maybe it might work for Pokemon, Kirby or F-Zero, but I’m not sure people would be able to take Metroid or Fire Emblem or Zelda particularly seriously after seeing Samus racing around Zebes on a go kart or Link hitting Ganon with a Spiny Shell. It’s just that a crossover fighter, I can sort of take seriously, while a comical go kart racing game with crossover elements might look more than a little ridiculous.
Still, on the bright side, a crossover Mario Kart like title would be worth seeing just for the sheer absurdity factor alone. Imagine a somewhat solemn, ‘realistic’ ghost house area like Lavender Town or the Bottom of the Well, then Mario charging through on a motorbike firing Koopa Shells everywhere. Or Captain Falcon in an F-Zero race car going speeding through Bowser’s Castle. It’d at least cheer everyone up a bit, even if reactions would be more freaked out than anything else.
And I guess you could say that a Mario Kart game getting the level of attention given to a Smash Bros title might do the series a whole world of good after the barebones effort that was Mario Kart 7. Maybe we’d at least get to disable Blue Shells for once.
But I’m not sure the idea really works, and I’m sort of having a hard time taking it seriously. Would mixing realistic series with wacky races style go karting make sense? Would I and all those other Mario Kart fans be willing to potentially lose beloved Mario characters like Waluigi just to add in crossover elements. I don’t know.
Do you think the risks associated with turning Mario Kart into a Super Smash Bros like crossover series are worth taking? Or should Nintendo just keep it to a Mario only franchise and leave the mega Nintendo crossover elements to the fighting genre?