Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch) Review

It’s a daunting task to improve upon near gaming perfection, but Nintendo approached this challenge with confidence and optimism as they sought to enhance Mario Kart 8 with a fresh deluxe version for the newly released Nintendo Switch. Mario Kart 8 was originally released in 2014 for the Nintendo Wii U, and the title was praised for its innovative gravity defying racing system, brilliant sound design, and exquisite track design. The culmination of these made Mario Kart 8 one of the best Mario Kart titles to ever release; yet the title had one flaw: a poorly implemented battle mode. This one blemish has been purified in 2017, as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Nintendo Switch has a full featured battle mode and other enhancements that make it the best version of Mario Kart 8 and pure joy to play on Switch.

If you played Mario Kart 8 on Wii U and devoted hundreds of hours of playtime to the game over the last few years, you may worry that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe doesn’t offer enough new content to justify a double-dip. While those concerns are certainly valid, one must consider what the duo of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Nintendo Switch offer to the player. For starters; all of Mario Kart 8’s downloadable content – 200cc, more tracks, and more vehicle customization options, is featured in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Then there is better resolution, along with graphical and performance upgrades. An improved Battle Mode that features new tracks and multiplayer game modes. Local and split-screen multiplayer without the need to buy a second controller. And, finally, the gift of portability and freedom to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe anywhere.

Single-player provides the player with all the standard modes you have come to expect from a Mario Kart release – 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, 200cc, and Mirror Mode. Unlike the vanilla release of Mario Kart 8; all difficulties, characters, and cups are unlocked from the start in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. This modification is a bit like a Green Shell – it has its benefits, but also runs the risk of damaging one’s self. What we mean by that is it benefits those who have played Mario Kart 8 and may not feel the desire to grind through the single-player to unlock their favorite character again; but also negates the need to play through the single-player mode.

This change is one that may not bother some, and it may bother others. Luckily, the single-player is entertaining and well worth playing through as the coins you collect will aid in unlocking karts and customization parts in the game. There is one other incentive exclusive to 200cc, and that is Gold Mario. If you earn the gold on all the cups in 200cc, you will unlock Gold Mario as a playable character. Completing 200cc and earning the gold trophy is quite the task and requires an intimate knowledge of the course design, as you will need to know when to brake to avoid falling off the track. Gold Mario is a nice reward for completing 200cc in first place and it provides the single-player a purpose.

The biggest addition made to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is Battle Mode and its five game modes – Balloon Battle, Shine Thief, Coin Runners, Renegade Roundup, and Bob-omb Blast. Each of the five modes offer a distinct multiplayer – or solo – experience, thus offers the player multiple variety. Allowing for up to 12-players to compete, matches in each mode can become chaotic, exciting, and be an absolute thrill.

Balloon Battle has players throw items to pop opponents’ balloons to earn points. The player with the most points at the end of the round wins. If all your balloons are popped in a match, you are sidelined for a few seconds, lose half of your point total, and are given a new set of balloons.

Bob-omb Blast is similar to Balloon Battle as your goal is to destroy the balloons of the other competitors. However, the key difference between the two modes is that the only item available in Bob-omb Blast are bombs. This mode is explosive fun as you time your bomb drops to catch an unsuspecting opponent, or blindly toss a long-distance bomb in hopes it hits a rival racer.

In Coin Runners your mission is simple: collect as many coins as possible within the time limit. To gather extra coins, you can throw items at opposing racers to make them drop coins or ram into them while using a Mushroom to steal a few coins. Coins will appear on the map every so often in random drops, so it’s a competition to collect and steal as many coins as imaginable. If are in the lead, you will be marked with a crown on the game’s mini-map and may need to play a bit of defense to keep predators away from your coin stockpile.

Shine Thief, which debuted in Mario Kart Double Dash!! for the Nintendo GameCube, makes a return in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and it’s one of the game’s most competitive modes. Players desperately try to gain control of the Shine and hold onto it until time expires. The player with the Shine moves at a slower speed and must use all their skills to evade items thrown by other players. Getting hit with an item or being rammed by another player using a Mushroom will cause the Shrine to be dropped. Shine Thief is frantic, and a whole lot of fun.

The fifth and final Battle Mode game is Renegade Roundup. It’s a lot like Cops and Robbers – one team is the Authority and the other the Renegades. The Authority wins if they capture everyone on the Renegade team. The Renegade wins if at least one member of the team remains free when time expires. Those on Team Renegade can free their captured allies by driving over a jail switch. Meanwhile, Team Authority is equipped with Piranha Plants who will bite Renegade racers and send them to jail. Renegade Roundup requires a fair bit of teamwork as everyone needs to work together to achieve a win for their team. You can use items to evade pursuit of an Authority member, or slowdown the escape of a Renegade. Renegade Roundup has all the makings to be the most played online Battle Mode of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It is competitive, tense, and a gem to play.

If you are playing in a local match, you can customize the rules to fit your needs – meaning you can remove CPU opponents, change the round length, etc. All of Battle Mode can be played in single-player against CPU opponents, but these modes really shine when played in multiplayer – whether it be online or local.

What’s nice about the Nintendo Switch is that the system allows for split-screen local multiplayer to be enjoyed at anytime, anywhere, and without the need for extra controllers. You slide the JoyCons off and you are ready to enjoy Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with a friend. Local multiplayer is one of the game’s attractive features, and now it is easier than ever thanks to the portable nature of the Nintendo Switch.

Online is another strong component of the game, and it is as addictive as ever. Whether you are playing an online race or one of the new Battle Modes, the urge to play just one more will stick with you long into the evening hours. Nintendo has improved the online by including one significant refinement: you can change your vehicle and character while waiting for a match to begin. It may be a small change, but it makes a world of difference. Another minor alteration made to the online is how races or battles are selected. Each player will vote for a course, and then the game will assign a Battle Mode for players to enjoy. When it comes to normal races, you vote for a course, and then game will randomly choose which speed you race at – meaning 100cc or 150cc. This is welcome change as it keeps the experience fresh by adding in a bit of mystery.

Other notable additions made to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the inclusion of a Steering Assist, which is enabled by default. Steering Assist helps keep the kart on the track, while Auto-accelerate will keep the kart moving forward. These features make the game more accessible to younger children who may not have any experience with Mario Kart, or for those that aren’t big gamers but want to have fun with the game. You can deactivate these options during a match by pressing the ‘+’ button, and the game will save that setup as your default.

Stat tracking has been improved, and now gives a more comprehensive breakdown of online and local play. Data sets like Total Number of Online Races/Battles and how many times you finished in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd is given. It is a useful tool to keep track of your performance.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best way to play Mario Kart 8, and it excels at demonstrating the multiplayer strengths of the Nintendo Switch. No matter where you are or who you are with, you can enjoy the multiplayer offered in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. That alone makes the game a worthwhile purchase; but when joined with the new content, and improved performance, it makes for the best Mario Kart experience ever.

[Editor’s Note: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]