Mario Kart 8 is almost at the finish line, heading to both retail and eShop download on May 30th. Avid fans await the franchise's HD debut, consistently playing Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7 in the meantime to keep their skills razor sharp.
We're happy to report the game is definitely worth the wait, as we've been driving around in circles with it for some time, both in single and multiplayer. In fact, this is easily the best entry in the series to date. How could we make such a statement? We’ll break it down.
The Introduction of Mario Kart TV
With Mario Kart TV, you can edit your highlight reel after each race and then post videos to your channel, showing everyone just how debonair a driver you really are – or how clumsily you drive off into lakes. We expect big things from the Mario Kart community, and can’t wait to watch the thousands of videos they will no doubt upload.
Since the game is on the Wii U, it supports various control types – the GamePad, the Pro Controller and the Wii remote, either on its own or snapped onto one of those Wii Wheels. The best is without question the GamePad, with the gas mapped on the A button, items equipped on the left trigger and drifting controlled with the right trigger. It all works really well, and will have you driving like a pro in no time. If you prefer the other controllers, don't worry – they're great, too.
Anti-Gravity Turns Everything Topsy Turvy
Track design is a vital ingredient to making Mario Kart work. Sure, we like older favorites, but nothing beats staking out – and dominating – new terrain within a matter of laps. For Mario Kart 8, you can literally race along walls and ceilings using new anti-gravity tires, while not losing traction on your vehicle. It's an effect that works wonderfully, and will keep you racing to see what's around the next corner. Just wait until you see Rainbow Road.
Sixty frames per second, and in high-definition for practically the first time ever. This game is a beauty. On top of that, the GamePad display is superb, not only giving you a glimpse of the track that you're on (and where the other racers are), but also a small mini-window that displays live racing action.
You Can Defend Against the Spiny Shell
The much-dreaded Spiny Shell makes a return in Mario Kart 8, and continues to be more lethal than ever before, turning a first place victory into a last second loss in seconds. Fortunately, Nintendo finally included a way to stop it in the form of the Super Horn. One well-timed blast is all it takes to destroy the almighty shell. If you pick one up, hold onto it. It'll save your butt when trying to cross the finish line.
If you're a consistent MiiVerse user and want to share your experiences with others, stickers are the way to go. These bad boys are rewarded to you after completing races with particular opponents on the track. You can then use them in messages to share your love of Mario Kart with others. It may not be as sociable as the Mario Kart TV accessibility, but it's still a fun option for those who want to take advantage of it.
More Vehicle Customizations
The modifications introduced in Mario Kart 7 once again make a return, allowing you to update everything on your car from monster tires to a bigger manifold for flying. For good measure, you can also choose between the 50CC, 100CC and the 150CC class, depending on what kind of challenge you're in for. Good luck – you'll need it.
Multiplayer is Better than Ever
Finally, multiplayer is stacked all over the place in Mario Kart 8. Sure, it's great in Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7, but Nintendo pulled out all the stops with this version, and we've been racing laps with it ever since.
First up is a new and improved Battle Mode, where you fight with others on tracks instead of enclosed arenas. Although the general rules are still the same – stay alive and don't lose all your balloons – it feels like it's been overhauled for the better.
Then there are the general races, which you can play one of two ways. If you have friends coming over, you can do four-player split-screen, with one player holding the GamePad and the other three using other controllers. If you remember the good old days of Mario Kart 64, you'll be right at home.
Finally, online play was massively expanded, with up to 12 people taking part in a race, either friends or strangers, locally or worldwide. Considering how addictive Mario Kart Wii's multiplayer is, multiply that ten-fold and you've got Mario Kart 8's experience. You'll be able to find out for yourself in just a couple of weeks.
Mario Kart 8 arrives in stores and on the eShop May 30th.