Review: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)

Developed by: Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development
Published by: Nintendo

If you owned a Wii U during its four years as Nintendo’s main home console, it’s very likely that you experienced Mario Kart 8 in some capacity. Mario Kart 8, which was originally released in 2014, is not only regarded as one of Wii U’s best titles, but also as one of the best Mario Kart games in the franchise’s history. With the recent launch of Nintendo Switch, Nintendo decided to re-release Wii U’s Kart entry as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on their new hybrid console. With a few new additions, such as an improved Battle Mode and new racers, and all of the additional DLC content included, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe gives this beloved racing game a much deserved second life. However, there is a big question on many player’s minds: Is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe worth it for players who purchased the original release on Wii U? Does the extra content make Deluxe worth a second purchase?

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe carries over all of the fine tuned gameplay found in the original Wii U release, and also adds a number of appreciated fixes. Racing in a Mario Kart game has never felt better than it does here. Racing feels controlled and balanced. I never felt like I was beginning to lose control of my character on the road, and if I did, I knew it was my fault. All of your favorite items are back, too, including the beloved Blue and Red Shells (heh). Item balancing can be annoying at times, but that’s just part of the hectic Mario Kart experience. For players who are new to the series, Nintendo has implemented a “Smart Steering” option, which prevents the player’s character from falling off ledges or into dirt roads. No longer will little racers, or parents, have to be afraid once the big showdown on Rainbow Road occurs. Deluxe provides comfortable experiences for veterans and newcomers, something I feel even the original release didn’t fully accomplish.

Watch out for the Yoshi gang! Note: All pictures provided by Nintendo.

There are also new improvements to the game on the technical side, fixing a major issue that players on Wii U experienced often. Mario Kart 8 on Wii U often experienced a slight frame rate drop, a glitch that dropped the game to running at 59 frames-per-second, instead of its intended 60FPS. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch completely fixes this problem, allowing the game to run at a constant 60FPS. When docked, the game runs at 1080p with 60FPS on Nintendo Switch. In handheld mode, it runs at 720p with 60FPS. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe runs, practically, without flaws in both modes, and also looks stunning. The presentation in handheld is particularly remarkable. Those jumping from Mario Kart 7 on Nintendo 3DS to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch are in for a treat.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe gives players everything that was included in the original release, and most of it is unlocked from the start. Unlike in the Wii U release of the game, where you had to slowly unlock characters, cups, and tracks, a huge chunk of that content is already available when you launch Deluxe for the first time. This also includes the Wii U’s DLC content and new additions exclusive to Nintendo Switch. Right out of the gate, players have access to 41 racers and Mii characters, 48 unique tracks, and 5 Grand Prix levels to choose from. What isn’t unlocked from the beginning, however,  are a majority of the individual car parts, which players can mix-and-match to create their ideal vehicle, and one secret playable character, which I won’t spoil here. While having most of the content unlocked from the start can take away the reward of overcoming a challenging feat, to most players, this will be seen as a welcomed change.

Characters from Splatoon make an appearance in this title.

While on that topic, it’s hard to discuss Mario Kart 8 Deluxe without bringing up its wide array of racers. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Mario Kart game without Mario, Luigi, and all of their friends. Peach, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Toad, and many more classic characters are back to join the race. Villians, such as Bowser and King Boo, also hit the tracks for some action. The most fun characters, however, come in the form of guest characters from other Nintendo games. Link from The Legend of Zelda series, Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing, and the Inklings from Splatoon, all make an appearance as playable characters. One complaint about the roster of characters that I have, which roots back to the Wii U version, is the overabundance of clone characters. Racers such as Pink Gold Peach, Metal Mario, and the Baby characters feel like lazy additions to the roster, especially when characters such as Diddy Kong and Birdo have been left out. Similar complaints have been made in regards to the Koopalings, but I can defend their inclusion based on the fact that they are different enough from each other to warrant all seven. It’s a minor complaint, especially since this roster of characters feels so diverse.

The biggest addition that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings to the tracks is an improved Battle Mode. A huge component missing from the original release of Mario Kart 8 was a dedicated Battle Mode. On Wii U, the regular racing tracks were re-used for Battle Mode, making it an awkward and lazy addition to that version. Many people don’t even know there was a Battle Mode, of sorts, in the Wii U version. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe fixes all of these issues, though, providing players with a worthy Battle Mode. There are five unique Battle Mode options, each with their own unique set of rules and objectives. Favorites such as “Balloon Battle” and “Shine Thief” make a return in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s Battle Mode, while also adding a new option called “Renegade Roundup,” which is a fun take on “cops and robbers.” Players will play these games on eight unique courses, specially designed for Battle Mode. Again, some fan favorites return in the form of “Battle Course 1” and “Wuhu Town,” while also adding new courses such as the Splatoon inspired “Urchin Underpass” course. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s Battle Mode is a great addition to the game and fixes a huge problem that many had with the original game on Wii U.

Link and Bowser duke it out in “Balloon Battle”

Mario Kart is a series known for its connectivity and community, so its necessary to discuss its online component. Unfortunately, its the weakest part of this package. During my time playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online with others worldwide, I experienced plenty of communication errors and lag. I will admit, my internet connection isn’t typically the greatest, but my Wi-Fi is usually very stable. I also know I’m not the only one experiencing such issues, as I have confirmed with others that they have seen similar issues on their end. Another complaint I have is that racing with friends is way more complicated than it should be. Racing with a friend or private group is easy enough, but if you want to race alongside strangers with your online friend, good luck trying to secure a room. These are issues that can be easily fixed through network updates and patches, but its still something I need to express, especially for those who want to primarily play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as an online game. When these issues are not occurring, however, playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online is fun and engaging experience.

Despite some minor issues, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an excellent package that is packed with great content. For Nintendo Switch owners new to these tracks, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe should be a no-brainer. For those previously bought Mario Kart 8 on Wii U, Deluxe isn’t exactly a system seller, but if you own a Switch or will in the future, it offers enough new content and enjoyment to make it worth a second purchase. Especially since this time around the tracks you can truly play it on the road. (Not literally on the road, please don’t do that, but you get what I mean.) With all the racing goodness you could ever ask for, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is definitely a title worth a first or second time purchase.

Final verdict: Buy It. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an excellent re-release of Wii U’s hit kart racer, with new additions that make a second purchase worth it. While not a system seller, it’s a must have for all current and future Nintendo Switch owners.

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