Mario Kart 8 is the best Mario racer you probably didn’t play thanks in large part to its exclusivity to the criminally underrated Wii U. But thankfully, with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo is giving you another shot at playing the fantastic Kart game on the Nintendo Switch, in a much more comprehensive package that includes more content than the vanilla version. But is it worth double-dipping?
On top of boasting a bundle that features all of the original content from MK8, including every DLC track and character, MK8 Deluxe also adds six new exclusive characters (Gold Mario, Inkling Boy and Girl, King Boo, Dry Bones, and Bowser Jr.). Unfortunately however, the game doesn’t add any new tracks to the circuits; most of the new additions come in other areas, which we’ll get to in a minute. Either way, 48 dazzling tracks and 42 Nintendo racers are impressive numbers. And yes, Luigi’s now infamous death stare is still present and as chilling as ever. Don’t give me that look Luigi!
Under the hood you can also expect the game to run at 60 frames per second at 1080p while docked, making this for an even more gorgeous and pleasant experience. The same can be said while playing in portable mode. While it obviously can’t hit the visual benchmarks it does while docked, the game still looks absurdly good while playing on the go. This make for an excellent replacement for your go-to Mario Kart game while traveling; sorry Mario Kart 7, you’ve been dethroned. Load times have also improved making it easier to get in and out of a race.
If you’re looking for a complete overhaul of the core circuit gameplay to Mario Kart, this tweaked version is most certainly not that. The minor changes include a new drift level that will yield purple flames that will garner a longer boost, the ability to carry double items (a familiar feature from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!), returning items (a Boo that steals someone’s item, and the Feather), and a new steer assist for newcomers. The new drift level is great when you can pull it off during long turns, and the double items definitely make for more chaotic races since everyone is tossing the entirety of the kitchen sink at each other. That said, neither one of these is a game changer. Rather, they’re both nice additions for those who’ve already played the vanilla release.
One thing I will note, however, is that all of the tracks and characters (excluding Gold Mario) are unlocked from the beginning. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, to be honest. It gave me almost zero incentive to play through the circuits again (I already did all of that on the Wii U version), but it’s nice for those who just want to jump in with friends and don’t want to go through the grind again. The online features also seemed to run a bit smoother with little to no lag, but it might be completely different when more folks have access to the game.
If those were the only features added for the Switch release, I wouldn’t recommend it to those who already put an ungodly number of hours into the original game. Thankfully, however, Nintendo listened to fans when it came to the awful Battle Mode in MK8. This is the real seller as the Battle Mode on the OG release was decidedly disappointing. The revamped Battle Mode includes eight tracks specifically made for this mode—five of which are brand spanking new. There are also five thrilling modes that make for some stellar party fodder.
OG MK fans, rejoice–Balloon Battle is back and looking good. For those who aren’t familiar, the objective of this mode is to use precise item attacks along with tactical maneuvering to strike and pop your friend’s balloons like a complete a-hole. Bob-omb Blast (From Mario Kart Double Dash!!) is a mode where the objective is still to pop balloons, but only using bombs. Shine Thief (also from Double Dash) is an elaborate game of keep-away. Coin Runners (MK Wii and MK7) is all about collecting that money in a race to carry the most coins.
And finally, my personal favorite and the new kid on the block, is Renegade Runner, an absolutely exciting and refreshing new mode of cops and robbers. Using Piranha Plants, one team is tasked with capturing everyone on the other team before time runs out. It’s an utter blast. Five modes may sound deceptively lacking on paper, but with the track variation and variety of game types, it’s easy to spend hours racing around with friends.
There are inherent advantages that the Nintendo Switch version includes that can’t be matched by the Wii U or the 3DS’ Mario Kart 7. Playing it on-the-go and on a bigger and better screen than the 3DS makes it a more desirable choice when you’re away from home. Then there’s the fact that it includes so much content that again can’t be matched by MK7 or even the original MK8 once you factor in the new characters and Battle Mode. And don’t forget that using the Joy-Con instantly gives you two controllers that are surprisingly serviceable at a second’s notice. Even playing local multiplayer when in portable mode is better than expected, though I wouldn’t suggest playing more than two-players since the screen isn’t very big. At the end of the day, this is the complete package.
I’m confident in saying that you need to play this if you missed out on the Wii U version. It’s easily one of the best Kart games Nintendo has ever made, and I don’t say that lightly. I even recommend it to those who’ve already played the original one, simply because the revamped Battle Mode adds so much content, and is overall a great time alone, online, or with a couch of friends. While some of the minor changes to the core content aren’t spectacular, it’s undoubtedly the best version of an already stellar game, and one of the best mobile racers to date.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Editor’s Note: This review was completed using a Switch copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe provided by Nintendo. The game hits the Nintendo Switch April 28.