Mario Kart has managed to lodge itself as a staple of every Nintendo system since the SNES and is a quintessential part of every gamer’s collection. It has excellent level design, well-balanced item pools, as well as an ease of accessibility that gives way to a layer of complexity for seasoned players to chew on (enough to be able to break down staff ghost data with practice and experience). However, for all the strengths Mario Kart has as a trendsetter in the Kart racer genre, it still falls behind the competition in some areas. Here I will explore these and how we could get the best Mario Kart experience to date.
Mario Kart works so well because of its familiar and welcoming mode structure and presentation. Any generation can jump into any iteration and know exactly where to go to play together or alone. It is a fundamental requirement that simplicity and ease of play are maintained. Grand Prix, Time Trial, VS, and online are mainstays at this stage, but the Mii Costumes, kart customisation, paragliding, underwater, and zero gravity features need to be kept with any new gimmick Nintendo decides to add to the sequel rather than replaced to help with backward compatibility. An optional but exciting feature that has somehow never returned to the series is the Double Dash gimmick of two racers in one kart. It’s not exactly a game-changer to the series, but having this as an optional toggleable mode in multiplayer can add a lot of fun for younger players or literal back seat drivers who want to get involved with the mayhem without the pressure of having to race against more skilled family members or friends. One last point here: a real battle mode needs to be included from the start and not introduced in a definitive release or DLC later down the road. For a lot of players, battle mode is a necessity for multiplayer and a highly regarded element that cannot be half-baked for the second time in a row.
Single Player Content
One thing Mario Kart has (mostly) always lacked is dedicated single-player content. This is mostly fine as the majority of consumers are here for the online multiplayer or split-screen fun but for solo players, outside of staff time trials and aiming for stars on Grand Prix cups there isn’t a whole lot to do. Mario Kart DS took a stride in the right direction with its mission mode, adding 7 sets of 9 missions to master and get star ranks. However, a story mode akin to Diddy Kong Racing or Team Sonic Racing would be greatly appreciated. This could be an alternative way to unlock cosmetics for karts, character costumes, characters in general, or even flairs for the karts like alternative horns, particle effects, and all that flashy stuff players love to use online against friends. I’m not expecting a Tolkien-level narrative here, just some simple races and some other modes to add variety in tracks that could help players in the right direction towards track mastery.