In Depth

Mario Kart 8: Deluxe - Nintendo's 'perfect' racer

Critics hail racing game's Switch release, despite its debut on the Wii U three years ago

Mario Kart 8: Deluxe launches in a week and reviewers have already got their hands on the Italian plumber's latest outing. 

It's one of the most highly anticipated titles to launch on Nintendo's new Switch console, as the system released with only a handful of games in early March. 

Mario Kart 8 originally released on the Nintendo Wii U in 2014 and many of the base game's features have been ported over to the Switch's Deluxe version. 

New additions include all the original's downloadable content free of charge, as well as some characters from Nintendo's Splatoon and Animal Crossing franchises. 

There's also a redesigned battle mode, with eight circuits specifically modelled for close-quarters gameplay instead of the recycled race tracks found in the Wii U version.

So has the popular racing series stood the test of time? Here's what the critics had to say.

The Week reviews Mario Kart 8: Deluxe

It is no surprise that Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, a port with added downloadable content from Nintendo's Wii U console, is just as good on the Switch as it on its predecessor. 

What does come as a shock, though, is that a three-year-old game can highlight the best features of a system it wasn't designed for. 

The original Mario Kart 8 took all the best parts of the franchise, including flying cars and intense wheel-to-wheel combat, and added in anti-gravity racing and a host of new characters to play with.

On the Switch, the Deluxe version sees the track-derived battle courses replaced with eight new arenas for the likes of Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners and Shine Thief. There are also new characters from the Splatoon and Animal Crossing franchise to race with. 

Smaller tweaks include an increase to two item slots for weapons and power-ups, as well as a third turbo level when drifting around corners, although only certain circuits have corners long enough to pull this off. Nevertheless, it provides a much longer increase in speed over regular drift boosts. 

But arguably, Mario Kart 8: Deluxe shines most when played with friends in split-screen mode.  

Mario Kart titles have always been tailored towards multiplayer racing, but the Switch's hardware adds another dimension to the experience.

Playing in portable mode drops the resolution from 1080p to 720p, but the difference is barely noticeable and the graphics are just as vibrant. 

Gamers get 60fps in both portable and docked modes, falling to 30fps when playing local multiplayer. The racing is so frantic, however, that you won't see any difference.

A raft of new features and improvements means Mario Kart 8: Deluxe feels just as exciting as it did on the Wii U three years ago. It's a vibrant and challenging racer that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, either out and about or from the comfort of their sofa, all of which makes it the best Mario Kart to date. 

Reviews

While Mario Kart 8: Deluxe is essentially "a refreshed release of a three-year-old title", Alphr says "Nintendo has somehow managed to create another game that goes above and beyond all expectations".

This could be down to the franchise's tried-and-tested formula, which is more than two decades old, the site adds. But what makes the Deluxe version so good is "how unbelievably perfect it is for portable play on the Nintendo Switch". 

As for the racing itself, GameSpot says the action is "as strong as in the original and gets minimal updates in this version". 

The Deluxe version includes all the tracks, karts and downloadable content from the original, while "there are also a few new characters to choose from". 

But it adds that "unfortunately, "there are no new tracks, so veterans of the racing game will "pretty much know what to expect". 

Running at 1080p and 60fps, the latest addition to the Mario Kart series "looks and plays great", but there isn't a big visual overhaul over the Wii U version, Forbes says.

However, it continues, for Switch owners and new players, the game is a must-have addition and perfectly complements the critically acclaimed launch title - Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

It's "easily the best Mario Kart yet", says Wired, thanks to the addition of eight "brilliantly designed maps" built specifically for the revamped battle mode. 

"Motion controls are also on offer", says the website, giving the game's effortless controls feel "even more intuitive". This is helped with the optional wheel accessory, allowing players to steer their karts instead of using the small joysticks on the Joy-Con controllers.  

Smart steering and auto-accelerate, however, "effectively take not only challenge, but also skill, out of the game". While both are optional, the site claims they can feel "jarring" and take much of the game's fun away from the player. 

The faster 200cc game mode will give owners of the Wii U version "something new to master", says the Daily Telegraph, while the ability to hold two items at once is a welcome return to the franchise. 

The Switch's Joy-Con controllers "prove themselves a wonderful invention" that allow gamers to seamlessly play with friends, adds the newspaper. In portable mode, the screen can be split vertically to allow for two-player races on the go. 

Price and release

Mario Kart 8: Deluxe launches exclusively on the Nintendo Switch on 28 April and can be found on Amazon for £42.99. There's also a new accessory, a pair of steering wheels for the Joy-Con controllers, available for £13.99.

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