Way back in 2014, we reviewed Mario Kart 8 on the Nintendo Wii U, rating it one of the best karting games around. The Nintendo Switch has launched, and the new console brings with it an updated version of Mario Kart 8, called Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Naturally, we hauled out our racing gear with some excitement, because who doesn’t love a nice bit of friendly competition?
Since this game is an update to the original Wii U version of the game, and is in many ways almost identical, you should start by reading the original review over here. And then, to understand how Mario Kart can be a love-hate affair, watch this gif below, because it’s precisely this sort of thing that Mario Kart is famous for.
Anyhow, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, as I mentioned before, is the updated version of the game for the Nintendo Switch console. It comes preloaded with all the DLC tracks and characters (as discussed here and here), as well as all the updates and patches. Not content with just compiling it all, the Deluxe version comes with a few extras. The first of these is the addition of the Inklings from Splatoon as racers, as well as karts to match. New characters also include King Boo, Dry Bones, and Bowser Jr. to round out the roster. There’s no Splatoon-themed race track, sadly, but we do get Urchin Underpass as a Battle Mode stage (more about that later). The second change affects the races themselves: a second item slot. This is coupled with a new, double-decker item block that refills both item slots at once.
The biggest changes, however, come in the form of stack of new Battle Modes and specially-built arenas to add to the single Balloon Battle from the original. The first of the these modes is Coin Runners, a race to collect the most coins within the time limit. The catch, of course, is that if you are hit with a weaponised Koopa shell (or other projectile weapon, for that matter), you lose some of the coins you’ve gained.
The next mode, which is a spin on the Balloon Battle mode, is Bob-omb Blast. Instead of the usual gamut of weapons, the only weapon you have at your disposal is the Bob-omb. Like Balloon Battle, it’s your job to pop the balloons of opposition karters before time’s up.
Renegade Runners is a team-based cops-n-robbers styled battle, with the “cops” being armed with Piranha Plants. Renegades that are captured are placed in prisons, and you have to wait for a teammate to spring you free. The round is over when either all the renegades are caught, or when the renegades have evaded the law for long enough. I wasn’t too certain about this mode because in the times you’re caught, you’re sitting in the prison, twiddling your thumbs until help arrives.
My favourite mode, Shine Thief, is a capture-the-flag style mode, with the “flag” being a giant, shiny star. Whoever holds the star for the requisite amount of time wins the round. The simple concepts work the best here, and the sheer thrill of trying to evade 11 other players while holding onto the star is exhilarating, as is the fun of chasing down the player holding the star and blasting them with a shell. It’s mad, frenetic, and absolutely what this game is about.
The biggest issue with the Balloon Battle on the Wii U version was that the battle was jammed into existing tracks, and the problem here is that the existing tracks are so large that you spent ages just driving around by yourself, looking for something to launch a shell at. For Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo has crafted a set of eight smaller arenas specifically for the battle modes, and suddenly even Balloon Battle is fun again. I’d played the actual Grand Prix mode to the death on the Wii U version, so I didn’t spend much time with it here, especially since all the racers and tracks are unlocked from the start (you’ll still need coin to unlock all the karts and accessories, though). Once I played the new Battle modes, however, it’s all I can play on the Switch. And of course, with the online component, I never run out of opponents to play against.
And in fact, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of those games that the Switch was made for, and stands as a perfect example of what makes the Switch such a brilliant console. I can take the Switch to a friend’s house, and with no plugging in of anything, no needing to sync anything, I can simply undock one controller, hand it to said friend, and be racing or battling within seconds. It’s utterly brilliant.
If you already own a Nintendo Switch, then getting Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a complete no-brainer, especially if you haven’t previously played it on the Wii U. The game is an instant hit, and the controls are simple to pick up and play with. I’d suggest that you get two extra joy-cons to make for four player matches, because the more the merrier. The game has a highly robust online system, too, so you’ll be matched quite quickly with opponents. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of those few games that’s a complete win-win.