It feels like it’s been ages since Mario Kart 8 got its awesome Hyrulian update. Last Novemeber, Nintendo introduced the first non-Mario property racer option (if you don’t count the Mii racer) with everyone’s favorite Hero of Time, Link. That month’s DLC pack also included Tanooki Suit Mario and Cat Suit Peach, as well as a couple of new vehicles & tracks. It was a welcome shot of freshness that gave us a reason to dust off our discs and racing wheels and add some more gold stars to the record books.
At the time, Nintendo had promised us that a second premium DLC pack would be released in May, this time centered around another popular title, Animal Crossing. The pack is set to come with its own new courses, carts, and playable characters including Isabelle (who, tbh, deserves the title of Mayor more than the player does,) Villager, and Dry Bowser. During this week’s Nintendo Direct, The Big N pleasantly surprised racers by announcing the release date had been bumped up to April 23rd! Sure, that’s not the biggest jump forward from a May release, but it is so much more welcome than an, ahem, announcement of delay.
But the surprises did not stop there! A game update will also be pushed out that same day that will give players two other new features, including one that really has the potential to revitalize the series.
First, a new slate of Amiibo compatibility will unlock Mii character costumes. Currently, you can tap existing Amiibo to your Game Pad to unlock Mii racer costumes based on Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Peach, Donkey Kong, Link, Kirby, Captain Falcon, Samus, and Fox McCloud. Captain Falcon and Fox have since become pretty rare finds, but the others are still available widely for the most part. Below is a preview of what the existing costumes available look like.
New character costumes unlocking on the April 23 correspond with the Rosalina, Mega Man, Sonic, Pac-Man, Toad, Bowser, Wario, Villager, and Olimar Amiibo figures. Of those, Rosalina is the rarest, and three figures are still on the way. Wario and PAC-MAN are set to release with the rest of the Wave 4 figures on May 29th, with Olimar releasing on a TBA date in September. After a slow start, Nintendo does seem to be making a more concerted push with Amiibo in the coming months, so I have my fingers crossed we’ll get another update or two for Mario Kart expanding the roster of playable characters and costume bonuses. Given that they’re working on their next console already, it makes sense to just go ahead and extend the life of 8 for as long as they can.
The second feature is one that is going to make local and online multiplayer an even more intense spectacle: A brand new 200cc racing class! Yeah, you heard me: 200cc. 150cc is fast for a n00b, sure, but for old pros it’s the only way to play. By the time you have each curve of the courses memorized though, even 150cc can feel a bit stagnant. I mean, the first Mario Kart game came out in 1992, so that’s 23 years that we’ve been capped off at the 150cc racing limit. Now, with a 200cc upgrade—which is available on every single course in the game—the entire series feels new again. Drifting boosts will become not just recommended, but mandatory. The extra speed means that Glider carts will drift further and higher, requiring new strategies determining which arial paths a player takes.
The game update with the 200cc mode and Amiibo support is free to all players. The second DLC pack is available for pre-purchase now for $7.99, or can be picked up as a bundle with the first pack for $11.99.