We’ve all been there before. Having survived an onslaught of Red and Blue Shells, you’ve managed to hold onto your first-place position for the last two laps and you’re finally on the end straight. But no, what’s this? A stray Green Shell bounces past you, hitting the bumper and flying off right into your path.
You’re hit. You start mashing the “A” button to get yourself going as fast as possible but it’s too late; your best friend – the person you thought you could trust the most – speeds past cackling at their ill-gotten victory. You place third, at best, with your friendship in tatters. But you don’t care. This is Mario Kart, so you jump right back in for more.
It should come as no surprise that, as a revamped version of the excellent Wii U Mario Kart 8, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is absolutely fantastic. Nintendo has piled on extra features, brought back Battle Mode, and packaged up Mario Kart 8’s original and DLC content into a new form that’s utterly irresistible to anyone who enjoys having fun. This is the finest entry in the series yet, and that’s before you’ve taken the Switch’s play-multiplayer-anywhere potential into account.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review: Old dog, new tricks
For anyone who’s previously played Mario Kart 8 and its two DLC expansions, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe adds more than enough new features to drag you right back in again. Alongside all Mario Kart 8’s content, Deluxe brings in five new drivers (King Boo, Bowser Jr., Dry Bowser and two of Splatoon’s Inklings), two new items (an item-stealing Boo in races and a jumping Feather in Battle Mode), the ability to hold two weapons at once for tactical play, an entirely overhauled multiplayer Battle Mode and a devilishly hard 200cc Time Trial tier. So, while you may have already played Mario Kart 8 to death, there’s plenty to keep you busy with this time around.
For those who are yet to delve into the delights of Mario Kart, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the perfect jumping-in point – there’s never been a more instantly accessible entry in the series. In a bid to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, Nintendo has provided Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with some genuinely welcome assist features for novices and younger players.
There’s a “Smart Steering” option that helps you stay on the track during races by softly guiding you away from its edges and also automatic acceleration assist so younger players aren’t left in the dust by the computer. Neither of these options sully the fun and competitive nature of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, they simply allow more people to enjoy it than ever before.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review: Battle is back
If that’s somehow soured your taste for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo’s revival of Battle Mode goes a long way to absolving it of any sins you may feel it has committed. Not only is Battle Mode back to its glory days after Mario Kart 8’s opted to ditch traditional arena battles for track-based ones, but Nintendo has gone all-out and transformed it into its own competitive multiplayer mode. Balloon Battle is back – albeit this time with a time limit, five balloons and no game-over deaths – alongside four other truly brilliant multiplayer skirmishes.
Shine Thief is all-out chaos and sees players fighting to obtain and hold a Super Mario Sunshine shinesprite until your timer reaches zero; Renegade Roundup is a cops-and-robbers team-based skirmish that’s unbelieveable amounts of fun; Coin Runners tasks you with hoarding as many coins as you can with the catch that the more coins you obtain the slower you move, thus making you an easier target; and Bob-omb Blast is Balloon Battle where war is waged with nothing but Bob-ombs.
Every mode feels incredibly well thought-out and Nintendo has created eight battle arenas for you to play in, although three of these are revamped versions from past Mario Kart titles.
Mario Kart 8 review: The Nintendo difference
New content aside, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe really shows you that Nintendo is clearly onto something with the Switch. On Switch’s 720p screen or on a TV running at 1080p, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe runs at a silky-smooth 60fps. Unlike the Wii U version of Mario Kart 8, this doesn’t seem to drop drastically when you start adding in more players via split-screen mode, although we don’t recommend more than two people sharing the Switch screen in Tabletop Mode, otherwise it becomes too tricky to see what’s going on.
Mario Kart has always been the ultimate multiplayer game and now, thanks to Nintendo Switch’s portability, you can really play it absolutely anywhere. It’s great breaking it out when sat on the tube or kicking off a multiplayer session with a friend while sat in the park or at the pub. You’re not even confined to simply playing two-player split-screen as, if you know other Switch owners or have access to the internet, you can connect up to eight players over local wireless or 12-players in online races and battles.
You don’t even have to all own a Nintendo Switch to take advantage of local wireless play. Since every Switch is capable of two-player multiplayer on-the-go, you can have eight-player local races with just four Switches. Excellent. And if you’d rather have a LAN connection, rather than a local wireless connection, you can up Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s multiplayer count to 12 instead of eight.
Mario Kart 8 review: Verdict
Just as with with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo has somehow managed to create another game that goes above and beyond all expectation. Not only is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe good, it’s unbelievably good for something that essentially amounts to a refreshed release of a three-year-old title.
Some of that comes from Mario Kart’s enduring appeal, but most of it is simply down to how unbelievably perfect it is for portable play on the Nintendo Switch. If Breath of the Wild wasn’t reason enough for you to pick up a Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will be the only game you’ll need to convince you that this is how console gaming should be.