Why I’m Suddenly Excited For Mario Kart 8

In case you missed it, just over a week ago Nintendo dropped a completely unannounced half-hour Nintendo Direct broadcast focusing entirely on their upcoming Wii U mega-title Mario Kart 8 (You can watch the whole thing below). I thought my fondness for the Mario Kart series had peaked a decade ago with the excellent Mario Kart DS, but this rather incredible recent information rush has really grabbed my attention. I’ve given it some thought over the last week and that all-too-rare feeling that something special is coming has well and truly set in. Here are five reasons why 8 might just be the magic number come the end of this month.

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Wonderfully ambitious online features

Nintendo had some pretty impressive online player numbers in the heyday of Mario Kart Wii, even if they never really called much attention to them, and it’s obvious that they want those players back. I have never seen such an ambitious suite of planned online features for a Nintendo game. According to the Direct, players can customise the item sets, karts, difficulty and more that they want for their own personal online tournaments, which can be set to repeat at a certain time every week so that you and your friends can meet for regular sessions. The same can be done for public tournaments, meaning if you want to race in a matchmaking environment without items at all, you can. Astoundingly, Nintendo has also managed to allow for video replay editing that can be uploaded straight to YouTube, a feature that is still missing from the PS4, although the Xbox One added it earlier this year. Now the only question remains, will it run smoothly? If so, I shall dance a merry jig in my living room, because not only will that make for some intense races, it also means good things for the upcoming Super Smash Bros for Wii U. 

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It looks gorgeous

I’ve said before on this blog that the comparative processing power difference between the Wii U and its current home console counterparts, the Xbox One and the PS4, hardly matters as long as you’re talking about first party Nintendo games. They tend to use a signature “cartoony” style with very few unnecessary textures, so getting their games to run in a full HD resolution was only a matter of time as the Japanese technicians got their heads around high definition development. The proof is in the scrumptious pudding, because Mario Kart 8 looks damn good. New and old tracks alike are stunning to look at, while little animation details like Mario’s flapping mustache or characters once again actually holding their acquired items add up very nicely indeed. The game runs in native 1080p at 60 frames per second even in two-player splitscreen (four-player takes a hit), which may elevate it to the unofficial title of best looking Wii U game thus far. You can find plenty of video footage online to make up your own mind, but for me this retro track comparison video from Eurogamer highlights the new look particularly effectively:


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Legitimate balancing efforts

One of the principle reasons why Mario Kart Wii ranks among my least favourite games in the series is the 2008 emergence of motorbikes as an all-around superior alternative to traditional karts in competitive play, despite their inability to acquire significant mini boosts from drifts. So imagine my delight when a surprisingly meaty section of the MK8 Direct was devoted to highlighting the efforts the development team have made to balance the pros and cons of the two vehicle types, with a third – ATVs – added in for good measure.


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More jazz-tastic live music recordings

As good as 2013’s Super Mario 3D World is to play, it’s arguably equally renowned for its amazing soundtrack, which is headlined by plenty of good old fashioned brass blasts. The Direct made a real point of highlighting that the music of Mario Kart 8 features plenty of the same, stressing the live studio recording quality of the soundtrack. Most of the game’s tunes have already been released online, by Nintendo themselves no less, and they sound pretty damn snazzy. You can listen to all 32 of the track tracks (hehe) with accompanying visuals here. Seriously, do it.

More of this goodness please.

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The Super Horn

Since the dawn of time, or rather the dawn of Mario Kart 64, players have cried out for an item capable of blocking the all-powerful Blue Shell (referenced in the Direct as the Spiny Shell). Now, finally, along with a handful of other new items, the Mario Kart development studio has bequeathed upon us the Super Horn. Supposedly an uncommon item, this angelic gift to frustrated racers everywhere works both as an offensive crowd controller and a defensive shield, capable of instantly negating any type of offense with a single button press. Not much more is known about how exactly it will function or what race positions will be able to pull the item from a box, but it is about freaking time something like this happened.


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Bonus: That ridiculous promotion

Call it a show of desperation if you will, but this is the best kind of desperation there is. Nintendo is offering a free full game download from a choice of ten big titles to anyone who buys Mario Kart 8 , whether via physical copy, eShop download (just shy of 5GBs required) or as part of the recently announced MK8 Wii U hardware bundle, then registers it with Club Nintendo by July 31st. The games (along with their current download sizes) are:

    • Nintendo Land (3.6GB)
    • New Super Mario Bros U (2.3GB)
    • Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (7GB)
    • Game & Wario (4GB)
    • Pikmin 3 (4.5GB)
    • The Wonderful 101 (12.9GB)
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (2.5GB)
    • Sonic Lost World (8.5GB)
    • Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games (9.8GB)
    • Wii Party U (6.5GB)

With the exception of Nintendo Land, all of these games currently sell for $80 Australian (both at retail and on the eShop), making the value proposition quite something to behold. What’s more, several of the choices make up a significant representation of the Wii U’s very best games. This blog recommends Pikmin 3 in particular, unless you haven’t played Zelda Wind Waker in any form in the past or are a fan of punishingly difficult challenges (in which case you might enjoy the extensive depth of Monster Hunter or The Wonderful 101). And yes, Aussies can relax because for once, all of this has actually been confirmed for Australia. If you don’t yet have a Wii U because you’re holding out for something worthwhile, bam, there you go.

Some love for Aussie Nintendo fans at last.

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