Mario Kart 8 Wii U review: A classic returns with style (and anti-gravity)


There are few gaming frustrations greater than mentally celebrating first place as you spot the finish line in sight, only to be hit by a shell, leaving just enough time for a friend to overtake. And yet the flash of anger in the face of virtual injustice always manages to dissipate in time for the next race, making way for the fresh hope of victory.

There is no question that Mario Kart 8 looks better than ever. Levels have been designed with such loving care and intricate attention that you almost wish Mario could park up and take a wander around. There are over 30 tracks to choose from, many re-vamped versions from previous Mario Kart incarnations such as 3DS’s DK Jungle, or N64’s Yoshi Valley, right back to Donut Plains 3 from the SNES Mario Kart original in 1992. And of course an array of gorgeous and imaginative new tracks – my personal favourite being Twisted Mansion.

There are 30 drivers available, many of which need to be unlocked, and more vehicle customisation on offer, so it’s a matter of finding the right kart and driver for you: fast, but too heavy for nippy speeding-up, like Bowzer? Or perhaps you bump into a lot of obstacles, requiring good acceleration and better handling, like Baby Mario?

The first option available after each race is ‘Watch Highlight Reel’. At first I questioned, “why is this above ‘Next Race’??”, but then I watched and squirmed when it showed my unassuming Yoshi ram into a tree, and laughed in the face of Luigi’s human controller as they tasted sweet revenge in the form of a banana skin. Or you can watch the moment you actually managed to angle the maverick green shell so that it hits a rival – and you can see it in slow motion! Clips can be uploaded to Miiverse, and yes, even YouTube. Nintendo ahead of the curve on that one.


So what else is new? Well there’s the new attacks, for a start. The Boomerang Flower can be thrown three times to hit multiple enemies. The snap-happy Piranha Plant gets bitey with the other players (or grabs coins. Who wants the bloody coins? They do offer a very slight boost, I suppose). The Super Horn can be used as a defence against the dreaded Blue Shell – good news for those often in first place. And then there’s the Crazy 8, a fantastic addition for players at the back which offers a mighty and chaotic eight attacks in one.

An anti-gravity element has also been introduced, which means you can race along walls and ceilings, mixing up the routes. The switches between angles and levels are so beautifully effortless – it’s astounding how much you pass along the way while managing to hone in on the details that matter.

You can of course play online, but naturally, Mario Kart is best played surrounded my friends. Though the frame rate drops by half from the solid 60fps when four players are on the screen, it really doesn’t matter. Players can avoid motion control with the GamePad – which can also show the map, or offer a car beep. But not the screen separately in two/three-player mode – which is a shame. It wasn't universally agreed between our group whether handling was easier on the GamePad, some players still preferred the Wii remotes.

The only real downside is Battle Mode. Arenas are no more, as tracks from Grand Prix have simply been altered. It’s just means battles aren’t as good, as it’s not as easy to find people to attack.

Mario Kart is a timeless classic. The 22 year-old series is still massively accessible, with incredible graphics that are endlessly vibrant and inviting. Ultimately, it’ll prove to disbelievers that both the Wii U and Nintendo have a lot to offer. It’s one shell of a good racing game.

Wii U (£49.99)

election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'