It’s hard to knock Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, even if it’s just a “complete” version of the excellent Wii U racer. Thing is, not that many people really owned a Wii U. The system was widely disregarded, while the Switch is now the hot new thing in gaming due to its portability. Enter Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. No doubt about it, this is the quintessential kart racing game, and probably the best the series has ever been. But it’s not perfect. MK8 Deluxe is held back by the less than stellar online gaming experience of the Switch as a console, and by the odd decision to not give solo players any real sense of progression. This is our Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will probably go down as the first video game my son really remembers. Some fantastic added control options make it possible for a 4-year-old who hasn’t gamed to really get into the racing. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe lets you choose to turn on auto-acceleration and smart steering. These two items made it so my son’s able to focus on just using items, learning to drive, and learning to accelerate. It’s training wheels for kids and bad kart racers in your family, and it’s a godsend. Oh, and for those of us who get Mario Kart blisters? Auto-accel helps a ton with that too.
Visually, there’s no doubt that this is the best Mario Kart has ever looked. At full 1080p and 60fps when docked, it’s almost like Nintendo finally gets what gamers are wanting visually… now to wait for the 4K Switch 2.0. Deluxe is packed with every possible course you could imagine too. 48 to be exact, including one in Hyrule and one inspired by Excite Bike. There’s a lot of customization for each kart/bike/etc to unlock too, though oddly the game doesn’t really track any of this for you. You just play and earn coins and things get unlocked. It’s here where my number one complaint with MK8D is – there’s not really a solid single-player experience.
Yes, you can beat your own times, compete in insanely fast 200CC races, and play through the usual Grand Prix modes, but with all the racers and tracks available at the start, there doesn’t really seem to be a form of progression or “stuff to work towards” if you play solo. Local co-op and online modes make up for this, as you have ratings to climb and family or friends to topple, but the solo gamer will wonder why they’re playing.
Online is a riot, even with complete strangers. Especially when using Mii Racers (the ability to play as your Mii, and use Amiibo outfits), there’s something strangely compelling about racing others with your cartoon self. The experience is safe from vitriol too, as even the canned emotes are harmless and friendly. No, it’s not the act of online play that’s faulty – it’s the lack of real online functions with the Switch itself that make Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s online fall a bit short. I would have loved to direct message a friend from the Switch dashboard and invite him to play with me as I can on Steam, Xbox, and PS4 online services. But that’s missing here, and it’s noticeable the more Nintendo gets into the online playspace. Splatoon will likely feel the same way, and ARMS as well unless more online features are added to the console.
Overall though, there’s not a lot I can fault Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for. It’s a remake, sure, but it’s also the best the series has ever been and now a family favorite in my house. Oh, and I barely even mentioned the return of the excellent Battle Mode and all its arena-based kart combat fun. This one is highly recommended, and I only hopes Nintendo releases more content in the future.
Note: Our review was conducted on the Nintendo Switch with an eShop code provided by Nintendo PR.