Mario Kart is back! Well, kinda. This re-release of the Wii U version includes everything you could possibly want from Mario Kart 8 with the added bonus of all the DLC items and tracks from the Wii U one stuffed tightly into a foul-tasting cartridge for you to play anywhere you want on a Nintendo Switch.
For the first time since Double Dash, you can now carry two items to enrage your fellow competitors. This neat addition provides the opportunity for an extra layer of tactics and a considerable amount of mayhem, something you’ll realise when hit by your 7th red shell in a row, going from an easy first place to 9th on the final corner of the race.
In what seems these days to be a luxury, couch co-op for up to 4 players using one joycon per person is as stunning as ever – with a steady framerate of 60fps for 2 players and 30fps for 3 to 4. Mario has never looked this good. Trust me, it’s fucking gorgeous.
If your friends or flatmates are as crap at Mario Kart as mine are, or you told your wife you bought the Switch for the kids and need to hide that ruse by actually playing with them, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe introduces smart-steering and auto-accelerate. These optional hand-holding features prevent falling off the track or heading in the wrong direction and allow you to get a proper race going with people around you, regardless of level. For those brave enough to race without any assists, you’ll be rewarded by being able to take short cuts and using the sexy pink drift spark – giving you and even longer and more powerful boost than with the original orange.
The much-loved battle mode returns, but this time with a huge change. Instead of being restricted to playing on tracks as in the Wii U version, battle mode has been completely revamped with actual battle arenas – including one from the SNES which triggers intense nostalgia in an old fart like me.
The arenas aren’t the only features added to battle mode – you now have a number of new and returning modes including renegade roundup (a frantic game of cops and robbers), shine thief (hold onto the ‘shine’ for 20 seconds to win) and the return of ‘bob-omb blast’ and coin runners from games of old.
The single player method of completing grands prix to earn coins and other rewards has remained pretty much unchanged but with the added feature of 200cc races. These fast-paced clusterfucks will send you head-first into walls at every opportunity before you discover how to use the brake efficiently. One neat and exclusive feature to this category is that with a mushroom, you can actually outrun a blue or red shell.
As with all Nintendo games, the online function functions but doesn’t give a lot of depth. You can take part in tournaments, race against random people around the world and even set up intense, 64-round competitions against your friends. However, voice communication is currently non-existent and the only way to chat to people in the lobby is by using pre-written dialogue options, something which, to be fair, makes a lot of sense given how international people playing MK8D are. That said, I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t get to learn any Japanese swear words.
When it comes to the crunch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe delivers with aplomb. Its already stunning visuals from the Wii U version are given a jaw-dropping upgrade and the revamped battle mode alongside the ingeniously crafted race tracks and the ability to play Mario Kart in 720p on the go or 1080p docked makes it an even more compelling reason for all Switch owners to buy a copy. The karts run as smooth as ever and with hundreds of thousands of people to play against online, you’ll never be short of a real challenge.
Just a word of warning – never, ever, under any circumstances, play a shells-only race.