Game Title: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Download: 6.7 GB
Availability: Retail (Europe, Japan, North America), Digital (Europe, Japan, North America)
Game Modes: TV, Tabletop, Handheld
Battery Life: 3.5-4.5 Hours
Since the Switch launched, there have been 2 questions I’ve had my eye on. The first is the lack of First Party titles outside of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The other is the lack of a AAA racing game. Both of these are relative to my personal interests in loving Nintendo games and loving racing games, and they were both answered just a week or two ago, when Nintendo’s top racing franchise hit the Switch and proved to be an overwhelming success: Mario Kart.
Mario Kart has been a huge popular thing since Mario Kart 64 brought the racing franchise into the true 3D Racing scene. It has expanded upon countless times, going aware from just base kart racing to more strategic racing with learning tracks, drifting, manual boosts, etc. It’s even evolved quite a bit since the last game I played of the series, Mario Kart 7 for the Nintendo 3DS.
So, let’s get right to it. Originally on the Wii U, here is my review of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe!
Due to the game having no story, this section shall remain blank.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is basically an expanded version of Mario Kart 8. It is a 3D Combat Racer where you drive various vehicles through 3D tracks while avoiding hazards, collecting items, and using said items and power-ups to attack enemies or defend against attacks aimed towards you.
Before diving in, let’s talk about differences. There are 2 comparisons to be made. First of all, for Wii U owners, what’s different between Mario Kart 8 and Deluxe? Deluxe contains all base content and DLC from 8 as well as 5 new playable characters, 2 new item power-ups, a few new Kart Mods, new gameplay modes for the Battle Races, and the most strategic improvement is that you can now carry 2 items at once, rather than just one.
However, if you’re coming as a handheld gamer from Mario Kart 7, there’s a lot more to be gained. More than twice the character roster, more tracks, anti-gravity stage sections, etc. So, depending on what game you’re coming from, you might get more content in comparison.
From the Main Menu, you can choose from Single Player, Multiplayer (Local for Single Joy-Con Play), Online Play, and Wireless Play (Two Switches locally communicating with one another). Within each of these, you have 4 Game Modes to choose from. Grand Prix for doing 4-race tournaments for trophies and unlocks, Time Trials to test your skills on courses against not only online ghosts but also developer ghosts, VS Race that lets you set up races with custom rules, and Battle that lets you dive into the many Battle Modes that Deluxe offers.
Your main task in Single Player will be to play through races and earn coins to unlock Kart Parts. Just like with 7, your coins are used to unlock mods to affect how well you can race. These include Kart Models, Tires, and Gliders. Each Kart has a class from Light and Heavy weight to Bikes and ATVs. Each Kart has different stats, like Top Speed, Acceleration, Traction, Handling, and more. The Tires and Gliders also affect these stats, so it’s a big matter of finding the right combination to help you navigate the tracks and win your races.
Unlocking parts is done by collecting coins. When you hit a milestone, a random Kart part will unlock, starting at 30 coins all the way up to 2200 coins. Because the maximum number of coins you can gain from any one race is 10 coins, that’s a minimum of 220 races if you want to unlock everything.
Doing this is pretty easy if you go through Grand Prix Mode. It has 12 different cups with 4 tracks a piece, meaning that all 48 base and DLC tracks from MK8 return here, including the F-Zero, Animal Crossing, and Legend of Zelda tracks.
When going through a race, it’s pretty straight-forward. Your goal is to win the race by navigating the course, collecting items to attack or defense yourself with, and make it to the end. In the earlier difficulties, like 50cc and 100cc, this is a pretty simple task, but once you get to 150cc and above, it’s an all-out war and feels much more like a strategic combat racer and less like a casual Kart Racer. So if you want to finish 200cc to unlock Gold Mario, you’re in for a fight.
Then you have Battle Mode. As before, there are new Battle Mode game types. You have the classic Balloon Battle, Renegade Roundup where you use Plants to gobble up criminals, the explosive Bob-omb Blast , Coin Runners, and the capture the flag-like Shine Thief. Each one feels very different from the others, so there’s a lot of variety here, even if you just stick to Battle Mode.
Just to mention it, there’ve been a lot of folks out there talking about the online features of the game being flawed with constant disconnects. I’ve done about a dozen or so matches and they’ve all been perfect from start to finish. This may change in the future, but I’ve run into no problems with online connectivity.
Difficulty is definitely there in the higher CC’s in Grand Prix, but the game is for all ages. As such, Nintendo has included some hand-holding features for the younger players. You now have Smart Steering and Auto-Accelerate that can be toggled from the pause menu. Smart Steering will automatically steer you in lower CC’s to try to keep you from driving off the edge of the track. Auto-Accelerate, however, is just as it says. It acts as if you’re holding down the accelerator when you’re not. Together the game basically drives itself for you, though it’s not useful for farming in anything above 50cc.
With this much content to go through and the full $59.99 price tag, Game Time becomes something to think about. As far as unlocking content, I made it to the halfway mark of the part unlocks and completing 50cc and 100cc in Grand Prix after I’d been playing the game for about 20 hours. So if you wanted to unlock everything, you’re probably looking more towards the 30-40 hour range, plus more if you plan to use the Online Play.
Controlling the game is pretty simple. Left Analog Stick steers you around and the Right Stick does nothing. The L and R triggers are used for using items and jumping for ramp boosts, respectively. The ZL and ZR buttons do the same functions as L and R, so you can use L or ZL for items and R or ZR for jumping. The R and ZR buttons are also used as the E-Brake for drifting.
With the face buttons, the A and Y buttons are used for acceleration. B is used for your normal brake, and X is used to reverse the camera so you can see behind you. Finally the + and – buttons are used for pausing the game.
Alternatively, you can hit Y in the pause menu to toggle motion controls. They work pretty decently, but I wouldn’t suggest using them competitively without some sort of wheel or grip.
Visually, the game looks incredible. While on the big screen and the small screen, the graphics look pretty much flawless. There are occasional jagged edges in handheld mode, but not enough to really notice. Nintendo did an amazing job at making this game look as pretty as the original Wii U game. For the first few races, I was in awe, just taking in how much detail and how much the game looked like a PS4/Xbox One racing game.
The music is done really well, too. All the retro tracks have redone music and some of the best remixes are from the Animal Crossing and Zelda stages. It’s a lot of fun to do Hyrule Circuit just so you can listen to the new remix of the Zelda Main Theme.
Performance is great as well. Load times never exceed around 5 or 6 seconds and the frame-rate is perfect, whether you’re doing Single Player, Online, or Split-Screen between 2 players.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe exceeded my very-low battery expectations. I expected the max to be 3 hours, given how beautiful and detailed the game’s graphics are. But, here are the times I recorded from 100% to 0%:
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 28 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 36 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 10 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 18 minutes
So, instead of my expected 2-3 hours of battery life, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe not only looks great, but will let your battery last over 4 hours, even while doing constant multiplayer.