Ultimate Mario Kart Joyride

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Revitalizing the Joy of Karting: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch

In the ever-evolving landscape of gaming, the strategy of enhancing and expanding games from the last generation for new consoles is a well-practiced art. This tactic often involves releasing deluxe editions, director's cuts, remastered versions, or even Game of the Year editions. Nintendo, a pioneer in the gaming industry, has seamlessly adopted this approach with the beloved classic, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, for the Nintendo Switch. This move not only enriches the early gaming experience on the new console but also introduces a potential new audience to the sheer delight of one of the finest titles in the Mario Kart series.
Screenshot from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe showing colorful kart racing action on Nintendo Switch
Image credit: Polygon

The Essence of Mario Kart 8

To understand the brilliance of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, let's take a brief journey back to the original Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U. It was, and still is, a fantastic title that marked a significant leap for the series, not only in terms of visuals but also in the technicalities of racing. While maintaining the anarchic fun essence of its predecessors, Mario Kart 8 introduced a more balanced and enthralling racing experience. The integration of innovative ideas, such as anti-gravity, coupled with the refinement of classic kart racing elements, set the stage for a game challenging to be the best-in-class.

The original game remains a timeless delight on the Wii U, with captivating visuals and intense action. In an alternate universe where the Wii U achieved greater success, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe could have been considered a 'Game of the Year edition' for the last-gen system. However, in reality, Deluxe encapsulates the brilliance of Mario Kart gaming, offering a comprehensive and enhanced experience.

Visual Brilliance and Technical Refinements

With the transition to new hardware, expectations naturally arise regarding graphics. Although Nintendo's Switch, in its tablet form, doesn't boast revolutionary graphical capabilities, it still represents a step-up from the Wii U. In a manner akin to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the differences are pleasing but not groundbreaking. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe primarily elevates its visual appeal by enhancing the resolution; the original version was native 720p, upscaled, whereas the Deluxe edition runs in pure 1080p.

While it may lack real anti-aliasing for the graphics enthusiasts, the overall effect is visually stunning. The resolution boost adds sharpness and extra detail, and the improved processing and full RGB range deliver richer colors. Nintendo has also fine-tuned visual effects, such as the Blue Shell's explosion, and amplified turbo-boosted motion blur. The game maintains a consistent 60 frames per second in solo or two-player splitscreen, fixing minor frame skip issues present in the Wii U version. The result is an impressive and delightful visual experience, showcasing the chaos of trademark Mario Kart races on the screen.

Switching to portable mode doesn't compromise the visual appeal; the drop to 720p on the smaller screen is hardly noticeable, maintaining crispness and vibrancy. Considering the previous portable option was Mario Kart 7, the leap to a game of this caliber on the go is truly remarkable.

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Content Galore and Unlockable Joy

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is not merely a graphical upgrade; it's a content-rich package. It includes all the updates and DLC from the Wii U original, providing an extensive array of 48 tracks across 12 cups, all unlocked from the beginning. Players have immediate access to nearly all characters, including newcomers like Inklings, King Boo, and Bowser Jr., spanning all weight classes. The freedom to dive into faster classes or adhere to the traditional progression from 50cc to 'Mirror' 150cc and 200cc is a refreshing aspect of the game.

Nintendo's decision to present all content upfront aligns with a player-friendly approach, although it slightly diminishes the traditional pursuit of unlocks. The primary unlockable elements through repeated play are vehicle customizations, obtained through coin accumulation. Battle and online play also contribute to profile totals. Mii characters, along with amiibo costume unlocks, make a return, further enriching the customization options for players.

Gameplay Evolutions and Accessibility

Beyond the familiar joy of racing, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe introduces subtle yet impactful evolutions in gameplay. The underlying values and physics have been refined, offering a slightly 'heavier' feel to characters. This refinement, whether intentional or perceived, adds a nuanced layer to the overall experience.

A notable addition is the introduction of optional assist items at the vehicle select screen. Auto-accelerate and auto-steering cater to less experienced players or those seeking a more relaxed gaming experience. While these assist tools ensure accessibility for a broader audience, they don't overshadow the skill required for seasoned players in higher classes. Nintendo strikes a balance, making Mario Kart 8 Deluxe welcoming to all without compromising the challenge for seasoned racers.

A distinctive purple boost point during drifting adds depth to the racing strategy. This third boost point, triggered on long, sweeping bends, extends the duration of the boost, offering a nuanced advantage for players striving for top times in Time Trial runs or gaining an edge in races.

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Control Options and the Joy of Multiplayer

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe supports various control options, catering to diverse player preferences. Whether using a Pro Controller, a sideways Joy-Con, Joy-Con in Grips, or the new tiny Switch wheels, players can choose the input method that best suits their style. The introduction of the Switch wheels adds a layer of precision over the old Wii Remote equivalent, requiring a brief adjustment period for players familiar with the previous setup.

The most significant addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the revitalized Battle Mode. Addressing the underwhelming Battle Mode in the original, Deluxe introduces five modes and eight new arenas, showcasing Nintendo's commitment to enhancing the multiplayer experience. From traditional Balloon Battle to the innovative Renegade Roundup, each mode offers distinct entertainment. The inclusion of teams in Renegade Roundup, with one round of hunting renegades and the other evading capture, adds a refreshing dynamic to the classic Battle Mode. Shine Thief and Bob-omb Blast contribute to the variety, creating an engaging multiplayer experience.

The eight arenas, featuring both remixes from previous titles and new themes, exemplify Nintendo's dedication to making amends for past shortcomings. Splatoon-inspired Urchin Underpass and the dynamic Lunar Colony and Dragon Palace stand out among the vibrant selection. The Battle Stadium, while complex, adds depth with its intricate layout. The ability to wheelspin on the spot and quickly rotate adds a tactical element to battles, showcasing Nintendo's attention to detail in enhancing the Battle Mode.

In local multiplayer, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe provides robust options for Switch owners. Local Wireless supports up to eight players through WiFi, delivering a seamless gaming experience. LAN connectivity, accommodating up to 12 players, offers an additional option for larger gatherings. While we haven't delved into the LAN option extensively, its inclusion enhances the potential for events and expos, providing a dynamic multiplayer setup for participants.

Online play, a crucial aspect of Mario Kart's longevity, remains solid. Supporting up to 12 players in a room, the online experience mirrors the Wii U equivalent, ensuring a familiar and enjoyable competitive environment. Whether engaging in solo races, two-player splitscreen, or participating in tournaments, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe maintains its online prowess. The ability to search by 'Friends and Rivals,' along with customizable tournament settings, offers flexibility for players to tailor their online experience.

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The Quintessence of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

In evaluating a re-release like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the challenge lies in determining whether to scale back praise due to the familiar content or appreciate the release based on its own merits. In this case, the latter approach is apt, as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe emerges as a definitive version of a fantastic Wii U game, enriched with its own extras.

The game is more than a remaster; it's a polished gem that encapsulates the entire content of its predecessor, including DLC, available from the start. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is not just a delightful feast of comedic, cartoonish karting action; it's an addictive and unifying experience. It continuously brings smiles and occasional bursts of the trademark Mario Kart rage as shells strike and positions are lost. For Switch owners, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe isn't just an easy choice; it's an exuberant joyride that sets a new standard for the iconic series.

In summary, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe revitalizes the joy of karting, delivering an unparalleled experience that blends nostalgia with innovation. It stands as a testament to Nintendo's commitment to excellence and its ability to transform a beloved classic into a modern masterpiece. For anyone daring enough to take up the wheel, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch is not just a game; it's an invitation to an enduring adventure filled with laughter, camaraderie, and the thrill of the race.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

1. Q: What's new in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch?

- A: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an enhanced version of the original on Wii U, featuring all DLC, improved visuals, refined gameplay physics, new characters (like the Inklings), and a revamped Battle Mode with new arenas.

2. Q: Can I play as my Mii character in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe?

- A: Yes, Mii characters are supported in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, allowing players to personalize their in-game avatar.

3. Q: How many players can participate in local multiplayer?

- A: Local Wireless supports up to eight players through WiFi, while LAN connectivity accommodates up to 12 players. The game also offers two-player splitscreen for local multiplayer.

4. Q: What's different in the Battle Mode of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe?

- A: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe introduces a revamped Battle Mode with five modes, including traditional Balloon Battle and the new Renegade Roundup. Eight new arenas, some inspired by past titles and others entirely new, provide diverse settings for intense battles.

5. Q: Are there any assist features for less experienced players?

- A: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe includes optional assist items such as auto-accelerate and auto-steering, catering to less experienced players. These features ensure accessibility without compromising the challenge for skilled players.

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6. Q: Can I customize my kart and unlock new vehicles?

- A: Yes, players can customize their vehicles in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Vehicle customizations are unlocked through coin accumulation, with Battle and online play contributing to the overall total.

7. Q: How is the online multiplayer experience in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe?

- A: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe supports online play for up to 12 players. Players can engage in solo races, two-player splitscreen, or participate in tournaments with customizable settings. The game maintains a solid online experience, fostering competitive and enjoyable gameplay.

8. Q: What visual enhancements does Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offer over the original?

- A: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe enhances the visual experience by running in pure 1080p resolution, providing sharper visuals and extra detail. The game maintains a consistent 60 frames per second during solo or two-player splitscreen gameplay.

9. Q: Does Mario Kart 8 Deluxe support amiibo?

- A: Yes, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe supports amiibo. Players can use amiibo costume unlocks, and new outfits, such as those inspired by Splatoon, have been added.

10. Q: Is there a significant difference between docked and portable play on the Switch?

- A: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers an impressive experience in both docked and portable play. While docked, the game maintains a smooth 60 frames per second. The drop to 720p in portable mode is hardly noticeable, ensuring a crisp and colorful experience on the console's display.

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