‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’ Review: Yet Another Port For The Switch

The Nintendo Switch has been out now for two months, and has yet to have the one true killer app released for it. Both of the biggest games, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and now Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are both ports from Wii U games. While Breath of the Wild is, in fact, an amazing game on any system, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe suffers in that it doesn’t bring enough new to the table — at least for those of us that bought the DLC packs for Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U. And I know that the Wii U was not a very successful system in terms of casual player adoption, and while that is sad (it was a great console), Switch owners are left waiting for a game that was designed from the ground up for the new console, and sadly, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is not that game.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is pretty much the exact same game as before, with the addition of five new drivers: King Boo, Dry Bones, Bowser, Jr., and the Inklings from the Splatoon franchise, a new battle mode, and some small new features, like driver assist (which assists in keeping your kart on the track) and auto-acceleration, which leaves the gas to the computer so the player can focus solely on the turns and weapons. There are 12 circuits, each with four races. The new (in 2014) Mario Kart 8 tracks (with the DLC tracks) are here, along with some legendary tracks collected from previous games in the franchise. There are five different circuits to choose from, from the family-friendly 50cc, to the insane 200cc, which is only for the best-of-the-best Mario Kart drivers. Braking and drifting are essential to succeed here, and it is, by far, the most challenging Mario Kart circuit ever.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

Players can take their skills online to race other people regionally (as in your country of origin) or worldwide, which means anyone can race. The online works well and makes for some pretty fun times, even if we’ve already done it for countless hours three years ago. There is Mii support and amiibo support, which allows players to race as their Miis, and even wear racing suits from classic Nintendo characters that are unlocked by using amiibos. But both of these features were there three years ago as well.

The Nintendo Switch is a powerful little system, but only a trained eye can see any difference in the graphics. Playing it on a better TV than I had in 2014 might be a lot of that, though. The ability to take the game on the go and play it, full-featured, on the gamepad, or with a group via the kickstand mode and multiple Joy Cons is a draw here, but is it enough to warrant a purchase of a three year old game that really doesn’t offer much more that a DLC pack worth of new content?

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

I love Mario Kart 8. I gushed over it in my initial review three years ago. The additions to the franchise, the new racers, weapons, and tracks, and the glorious, eye-popping visuals made it the best Mario Kart game ever. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes all of that and adds the DLC racers and tracks, and a few new racers and a new battle mode. And it’s still super fun to play alone, in a group, or online. At best, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a DLC collection that probably should have been valued priced, instead of a full $60 MSRP. While it’s nice to race with friends and strangers online (which is free for now, but will come with a cost later this year — yet will still be free on the Wii U), the tiny Joy Cons don’t bring anything new to the game, and the best controller to use is the Pro Controller, which, at $70, means to fully enjoy the game, you have to shell out $130 for a game and controller that you may already have, and have played a ton of.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

It’s mind boggling to me that this is Nintendo’s business model. They stop production on something that thousands upon THOUSANDS of people want with the NES Classic Console, and then shovel old games in shiny new packages at full price and convince people that it’s new when it clearly is not. But people buy it up, so the argument means nothing. Maybe the big “new” Switch game in August will be Super Mario Galaxy 2. Not many people played that game either, and it was arguably the best Mario game ever.

In the meantime, Nintendo fans can once again race the same tracks they did three years ago, with most of the same racers and cars, and if you want something new, there’s a new battle mode included for the people who buy a racing game only to drive around and pop balloons of other racers. For veteran gamers, the wait for that first truly new Nintendo Switch IP goes on, and with only more ports of older games from myriad publishers on the immediate horizon, and Splatoon 2 coming in July, that wait will go on until the holiday season, or longer. After all, this is Nintendo we’re talking about. Nothing they do makes sense.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is available now for the Nintendo Switch, in both physical retail and digitally through the Nintendo eShop. It’s been available since 2014 for the Wii U. This review is based off a copy of the game purchased at retail.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review
out of 5

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