Title : Super Mario Kart
Publisher : Nintendo
Genre : Racer
Players : 1 / 2 Player
Release Date : 1992
Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $10-$15
Today is May 30, 2014. A typical Friday by any means, but one that holds very special meaning for Nintendo fans everywhere. Why do you ask? Well if you don't know, then you must have been living under a rock for the past few months. Today, is one of the greatest days in history! It is the release date of MARIO KART WII U!!!
Mario Kart games, for me anyway, have been one of the saving graces of every Nintendo Console. It's the game that secures my desire to own each of their systems, as it's the one game I can never put down and will always revisit. Not to mention, the Mario Kart games have provided me with some of the greatest childhood memories that I experienced with my friends. Some of those stories which I'll share with you today.
In celebration of the release of Mario Kart Wii U, I decided it would be a perfect opportunity to go back and review the game that started it all. Super Mario Kart for the SNES. This was a revolution for racing games. I for one, had never been a fan of racers. They were boring, and repetitive. How many times did I want to race around a damn track, in the same damn car, through the same damn curves, with no other requirements other than drive fast, and stay on the damn road.
Boring, if you ask me. But Nintendo had the cure. Take the Nintendo mascots, add a few question mark blocks on the roads, a slew of weapons you can use to take out your enemies, and course designs based on your favorite Mario maps? Well, you don't have to really think too hard to realize that this was a recipe for an EPIC success.
Let's not waste anymore time, I'm aching to play some Mario Kart. And don't you dare pick Yoshi. That's my racer, dammit!
I first got this game for my 9th birthday. I remember having a few friends over just to have some Carvel Ice Cream cake, some slices of pizza, and of course, heavy gaming. When I unwrapped this bad boy, my friends and I pretty much lost our shit. We've been dying to play this game since we saw previews of it in Nintendo Power magazine.
Side note - not sure if I was the only one who did this with friends, but we used to just hang out in the afternoons and read the latest issue of Nintendo Power. We'd circle games we'd want to buy when they came out, and basically obsessed over them until they did. I'll get into Nintendo Power in another blog entry lol.
Anyway, we popped this bad boy into my SNES console that was set up in the living room that day, and thus started the first of MANY Super Mario Kart tournaments that would grace my household.
Now, I don't mean to sound like a pompous ass, but I'm a damn good Mario Kart player. Suffice it to say, I rarely lose. I don't know exactly what it is, but I play this game VERY strategically. You wouldn't think you have to, since it's a damn racing game, but I assure you, it really is.
Let's talk about the basic races first.
First off, you'll get to choose from 8 different Mario mascots, each with their own "perks." or types. Mario and Luigi are pretty much your well rounded racers. Good top speeds, good acceleration, good handling, and fall into the medium weight class. Princess Peach and Yoshi have better acceleration with the same speed, but the handling isn't as effective. Bowser and Donkey Kong are the heavy weights with a high top speed, but low acceleration and handling. Koopa Troopa and Toad have got the lowest speed, but the best handling.
As I said earlier, my go to racer was Yoshi. Don't know what it is, but Yoshi pretty much guarantees me a win. It must be my lust for acceleration lol.
Once you choose your racer, you'll get the opportunity to choose your racing class, which is divided between 50 cc, 100 cc and 150 cc. These basically determine the speed of the race, and how difficult your competition is. Trust me, it gets pretty damn frustrating at 150 cc. The other racers definitely give you a run for their money.
A friendly Lakitu will signal the start of each race, which if timed correctly on your gas pedal will give you a little bit of a boost at the start. I think, if I remember correctly, it's right between the end of the second light and start of the third. I don't even look at the screen when I do it, it's all done mentally, like remembering how to ride a bike.
As the race kicks off, you'll see on the top portion of your screen a behind the back view of your racer and the track, while at the bottom you'll see a map of the course and all of the other racers positions. In 2 player mode, the format obviously changes since there's not enough room for a gigantic map on the screen haha. You'll also see your current position, along with your lives, amount of coins that you've collected (which give you more lives, increases your speed as you collect them, and allows you to resist being hit by other players), and the total time on the course.
Now let's get into the best part of the game, the courses. There are four different cups in Super Mario Kart. Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, Star Cup and Special Cup. Each course in each cup gradually becomes more and more difficult, but what makes them truly epic are the way they designed. You'll be revisiting so many different Mario style worlds for each course that it's basically a trip through Mario Memory lane. Basic field levels, beach levels, desert levels, haunted mansions, Bowsers castle, etc.
And of course...the dreaded Rainbow Road. We all remember this horror...each Rainbow Road for every Mario Kart game just becomes more and more of a headache! You all know that feeling when your friend chooses Rainbow Road as the next course....everyone basically moans in unison.
As you would guess, the goal of the game is to place as high as possible to ensure you'll win the cup. Winning each cup in each CC will allow you to unlock the others, so race hard and race to win. Place too low? You lose lives...lose lives..GAME OVER, MAN.
So what is it that makes Mario Kart stand out from the other racing games? From what I've talked about it, it's pretty basic besides the Mario styled courses and characters. Sure you've got special boosts on the maps, as well as various obstacles such as jumps and insane turns, but that's been done.
How bout Question Mark power up blocks? OH yes. The best thing ever introduced in racing games. A chance to destroy your friend and ruin all chances of him becoming victorious. BUHAHAHHAHAHAHA!!!!
These power ups were the brain child of a mad man. Every time you run into a question mark block along the course, you'll get yourself a new power up. Some power ups are obviously more effective than others, and some you get more commonly depending on your current position in the race. Yes, I admit that I am one of those people that'll hang back during some portions of a race just to ensure I achieve a better question block item.
How I wish the spike shell was in this game
Here's some of the items that you'll be using to make your friend cry as they attempt to cross the finish line.
Banana Peels that'll cause a player to skid out if they can't regain control of their vehicle.
Green and Red Turtle shells. The Green shells basically can be only fired ahead or behind you in a straight line, but the red shells have the ability to home in the closest target. Very effective for having someone pass you by, and then blasting them with a shell.
Mushrooms which give you speed boosts.
Stars which grant you some invincibility and a speed boost across all obstacles.
Ghosts which grants you invisibility.
Lightning Bolt which causes everyone to shrink and allows you to run over them. This one is the real killer in this game.
The last thing I want to touch upon in the basic races, are the two abilities you NEED to master. The Power Slide and the Hop. The Power slide is the key to winning. It allows you to hang tight into curves, while still maintaining top speed. Hell, if you're good at it, you can use power sliding even on straightaways to gain temporary speed boosts. Skid too long though, and you spin out...MASTER...THIS..ABILITY! Hopping works quite similar, by allowing you to hop and change directions on a dime, and gain a temp speed boost. Combine the power slide and the hop, and you'll be guaranteed victory.
That's enough about racing, let's talk about the other game mode that makes this game a multi player's dream. BATTLE MODE. You'll be able to choose from four different courses that are basically arenas. Your racer will have 3 balloons floating above them, that you need to protect at all costs. Basically, you need to avoid getting hit by items, while at the same time trying to take out your opponent with items. It's not only items that can cause you to lose balloons though. Falling off the course, or even getting slammed into by enemies at certain speeds (although hard to pull off), can cost you balloons.
If you're in it for the racing conquest, do the match modes. If you're in it for more of a Mario Party gaming feel, do the Battle Mode. Battle Mode causes a lot of screaming though lol. It's just so damn frustrating.
What else is there to say about this game? Visually, it's simple yet so effective for a racing game and Mode 7 actually works. Controls are the smoothest you can ask for in a racing game. Gameplay? Dear God, it's one of the most addictive games on the SNES. To this day, I still have tournaments for the SNES version as well as the other consoles.
It's impossible not to own this game for your SNES library. It's a requirement. If you have only played the newer Mario Karts, you need to do yourself a favor and play the game that started it all. There's a reason why they have made so many, because it's the life blood of Nintendo.
Grab your spike shell, and hop on your go kart. It's Mario Kart time, baby. Now go get it for the Wii U, and I'll see you on the track.