Review: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Victory Laps
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a lot more than just the “complete edition” – it’s the only edition that exists from this point forward.
It takes a lot for me to admit when I’m wrong about something. When Nintendo announced Mario Kart 8 would be returning to the Nintendo Switch, I was reserved about my feelings because I played it on Wii U and thought it was good but remarkably similar to Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS. I scoffed publicly at the $59.99 price tag, thinking it was silly to once again ask full retail price for a re-release of a game from 2014.
When I saw Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the floor at PAX East, all my reservations immediately faded once I saw how well it ran on the Switch. Everything looked so crisp and vibrant, and everything was buttery smooth. Once I finally got a copy in my hands, I found myself even more impressed as to how well this game runs. I’m confident in saying that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best performing software currently available on the Nintendo Switch.
The game runs at 1080p when docked, and 720p when portable – though it looks so good on the go that you likely won’t even notice. Playing by yourself or with one person keeps the game at a solid 60 FPS, which really helps give Mario Kart 8 Deluxe the sense of speed that Mario Kart 7 never quite seemed to nail for me. While it does slow down if you play with more than two players, I’m thrilled at how well it works with two as I rarely have anyone local to play games with me.
Battle mode also features a new mode called Renegade Roundup which is particularly fun – you play as either a “cop” or “robber” and you catch the “robber” drivers with the giant Piranha plant on the front of your car. If you capture the enemy team, you win – while the “robber” team races to open cells that will free captured drivers. It’s a really fun new mode that I personally like better than the classic Balloon battle.
One big thing I’d like to mention is the inclusion of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s driving assist options. So many times I’ve watched little kids pick up Mario Kart and fail miserably at it, because Mario Kart is downright NASTY in difficulty on the 150cc (and the new 200cc is absolutely BRUTAL), and yet young children who are just learning the basics struggle to keep the karts on the road when you play advanced tracks like Rainbow Road.
With the driving assist, help is immediately available to those who are less skilled or less coordinated than their counterparts, meaning I can race against my 9-year-old nephew and he’s just as hard to beat as someone my age who’s been playing Mario Kart since the SNES original. Nintendo has been really good about making gaming feel “appealing” to everyone, and this small addition does a terrific job of making everyone feel included. I can hand my Switch to anyone of any age and feel like they can play this game, which is the biggest reason why games on mobile phones have become so popular and Nintendo is more aware of it than we give them credit for.
The inclusion of the DLC racers and tracks really helped me to appreciate the work that went into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe environments. Big Blue, in particular, is extremely impressive with all the water sliding and effects, and I really love how charming the Animal Crossing track is despite not being a fan of that game series. Battle stages like Lunar Colony are equipped with a lot of glowing lights and lighting effects that really help capture a “racing on the moon” presentation. It’s also really fun to see newcomers to Mario Kart like Link included here, but it’s equally satisfying to see the Splatoon Squid Kids and a dry bones version of Bowser for when you really feel like being sinister. There’s like 42 characters available to race as in this game, and if you have Amiibo, you can unlock character suits for your Mii racer.
When Mario Kart 8 came out on the Wii U I had previously been playing a lot of Mario Kart 7 on my 3DS because of the portability, so I found myself without much enthusiasm on the original release – but because it’s been a few years, I’ve been having an absolute blast playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on my Switch. This is the game you need to be taking with you to show people what the Switch can do. It appeals to all the right reasons why the Nintendo Switch is the best console Nintendo has released since the GameCube. Zelda looks pretty but runs like garbage in comparison to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and I’d even argue that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best looking game that Nintendo has released to date. We’ll see if that changes once Switch gets a proper Smash Bros. entry, but for now, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the undisputed champion.
There’s a ton of great things to say about this game, but unfortunately, there’s also some bad. Mainly, the Joy-Cons being able to detach for two-player on-the-go gaming is a great idea, but they’re uncomfortable to use for an extended period of time. While I can appreciate the Joy-Con’s HD Rumble adding depth to parlor tricks like those found in 1-2-Switch, the trade-off that normal full impact rumble feels weak and cheap.
Smashing into another player or the wall gives you a fairly pathetic rumble that’s about as intense as my iPhone’s screen haptic feedback. Online multiplayer is still the same mess that it was on Wii U. Having to create rooms to play with friends is silly, but thankfully you can actually change your kart options while in the lobby this time instead of having to choose ahead of time and go back in. Not having in-race voice options sucks too, but apparently, there’s a smartphone app coming at some point that’s supposed to fix that issue or something, we’ll see.
All and all, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best game currently available on the Switch. It’s not perfect, but in my eyes it’s the complete feeling version of Mario Kart 8 that’s been released, and the absolutely fantastic performance of the software on the Switch itself makes Mario Kart 8 Deluxe the “must own, must buy” game for this new system, even more so than the fawned over Breath of the Wild, which might be far more impressive technically but performance is king when it comes to action games and there’s never a moment in Mario Kart 8 that isn’t fast and responsive. Fan boys be damned, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe packs all the value for the buck and is the current crown jewel of the Nintendo Switch.