Surprisingly, I don’t just go considering Mario Kart 7 the best in the series because it’s a 3DS game. But out of all the games in the series of which I’ve tried (aka, not Super Mario Kart) or that could be written about in comparison to other games (not Super Mario Kart because it was what all these games had to live up to), here are what I think of each one.
Mario Kart 64
Admittedly I didn’t really play this game all too much considering that I rarely bought video games at all in the Nintendo 64 era and merely rented it a few times, but I do have to say the tracks weren’t exactly the greatest.
That’s not because they were particularly badly designed (they obviously weren’t), but because they just dragged on for far too long. Yes Nintendo 64 games had to tone down background detail in multiplayer games to keep the frame rate at a management level (see, F-Zero X), but it seems your average Mario Kart 64 track just went on for about twice as long as it needed to. Look at Kalimari Desert and tell me that level needed to be as long as it was. Same with Banshee Boardwalk and Bowser’s Castle. That’s not even getting into the hell that was Rainbow Road…
Above: Two minutes a lap is probably overkill if you ask me. It meant people had to use the shortcut/glitch to even be able to save their course ghost/best time.
To add the fact that this was an early Nintendo 64 game and the areas weren’t as interesting as those in Rare’s works like Banjo Tooie and Donkey Kong 64, and it meant the tracks seemed to drag on way too much and without a whole lot happening to make them interesting.
The rubber band AI was over the top as well, and could literally catch your character in seconds even with an enormous lead. Was this since toned down in future games? Hard to tell, but it was certainly more noticeable back here because of the lack of overpowered items.
Mario Kart 64, good but generally a bit dated in this day and age.
Mario Kart Super Circuit
Terrible physics made this game nowhere near as good as it should have been.
Which was a bit of a pity considering how many fantastic ideas for tracks the game had and how much work was put into making it feel like a proper Mario Kart game (it had more content than most games before or since). You had the entire track list of Super Mario Kart to unlock once you beat the new ones. That’s a nice freebie. And some of the tracks looked pretty nice:
But the physics of the game just held it back drastically. Mini Turbos did absolutely nothing of value whatsoever, you didn’t so much steer as do a 90 degree turn or random slide in the general direction you held on the D Pad and gravity was so low that using a Mushroom off a ramp shot you about twenty feet into the air. Not joking on the last one, the best runs on Ribbon Road and the game’s version of Rainbow Road seem to come down to skipping half the track:
Above: Shortcuts in Mario Kart Super Circuit were easier than ever. Then again, the game was just flawed in general:
Above: Blink and get last place was the standard in the Japanese version…
It was nice of them to include all the tracks from the original SNES version of Mario Kart though. Pity they removed all the obstacles from the tracks (and you thought making the Koopa Cape pipe underwater was a stupid change). Not to mention these nightmare controls meant that the tight turns required to do well in some retro tracks were practically impossible to pull off consistently without slamming straight into the nearest wall.
Above: No Thwomps + poor physics equals a let down
Not to mention the coin system in this game was the harshest it’s ever been and causes you to spin out on any contact with an opponent if you don’t have any coins. Did I mention you needed to get some insanely high number of coins to get triple star ranks in all the cups and that your only reward for it was the sky on the title screen changing colour?
Yeah, Mario Kart Super Circuit was sort of fun with a difficulty brick wall that took away much of the game’s accessibility.
Mario Kart Double Dash
Probably one of the more party game like instalments of the series, this was very much meant for local multiplayer and people who didn’t care too much about playing it seriously. Kind of like a proto Mario kart Wii in some respects.
You can see this with a lot of the new additions to the game. The two players per kart and carrying two items at once for instance helps to make the item system really over the top and rather random, the addition of the winged Spiny Shell serves simply to screw up first place and absolutely no one else while the new items are generally designed to be a bit on the chaotic side. Just look at those Bowser Shells and Giant Bananas and you know exactly what I mean.
Above: The Mario Kart Wii equivalent of its day.
The tracks also seemed to be designed to accommodate casual play, with generally wide paths and gentle turns that seem to be more designed for a party setting than hardcore Mario Kart players (of course, Wario Coliseum, Bowser’s Castle and Rainbow Road seem to be exceptions here but the others tend to be quite easy)
As for how well the two players in a kart works, fairly well. It’s actually rather fun if you can find someone bored enough they’re willing to play co-op with you and take on the Grand Prix mode as a team and I hear it makes dodging Blue Shells much easier. Plus you can steal items, which is nice.
The game does have a bit of a problem with content though, in that there isn’t enough of it. One player vs. mode and one player battle mode don’t exist, wifi obviously hasn’t been implemented as this point in the series (outside of some unofficial hacks utilising the LAN system) and there’s practically no variety in tracks with only sixteen total. That’s the least in the series.
Some of this I guess is made up for by the interesting level themes; Daisy Cruiser and Dino Dino Jungle being rather unique levels that you wouldn’t find before or again. But it still doesn’t quite make up for the fact you have literally zero freedom in this game. Every track has fifty foot high invisible walls bordering it on every sides or counts you as out of bounds if you go even a foot past the boundary line, and the tracks seem to have been designed to stop you finding anything out for yourself. Even cutting corners is fairly difficult considering how few places give you a chance to do so and the game couldn’t have possibly been more obvious with the intended side routes if it tried. Guess you could say it worked though, only two shortcuts have ever been found since the game’s release back in the Gamecube days:
Above: Who ever thought a Blue Shell could actually help someone?
Interesting that Mario Kart 7 beat the game’s record within a week of its release, right? None the less, perhaps they went a bit overboard considering how linear the tracks ended up being.
I also hear the controls weren’t too great and the kart physics a bit off, but that doesn’t match up with my experience of the game at all.
All in all, Mario Kart Double Dash was an interesting addition to the series, although its party game like nature meant reaction to it was mixed to say the least.