Contrary to opting for a challenging sequel, Nintendo has chosen a “high-definition remaster” approach by porting Mario Kart 8 to the Switch. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, as speculated before the recent Nintendo Switch showcase, transcends the realm of a mere port; it introduces substantial additions and transformative changes to the game.
One of the most prominent alterations to the gameplay is the reintroduction of the ability to carry two items simultaneously, reminiscent of the mechanics seen in Mario Kart: Double Dash on the GameCube. While not deemed a necessity due to the abundance of items in the game, Deluxe brings back Boo’s ability to steal items, introducing a layer of tactical complexity. The only drawback is that unless Nintendo decides to implement this change in the Wii U version of Mario Kart 8, the two versions of the game will remain distinct.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe ventures into uncharted territories, quite literally. While many enthusiasts may be eager to acquire it for its online play in stunning 1080p or split-screen gaming at home, these are just two of the three gaming modes envisioned for the Switch. The game now incorporates built-in local multiplayer, facilitating seamless connections for up to 8 systems and players, delivering an exceptionally smooth experience. The artistic style, as enchanting as it was in 2014, remains visually appealing even when scaled down to fit the Switch’s 6.2-inch screen.
The tabletop and split-screen modes effortlessly converge, making the Switch’s stand and dual Joy-Cons remarkably effective for quick multiplayer gaming. Imagining people carrying the Switch to work and engaging in lunchtime Mario Kart races with colleagues is a novel concept that no handheld or portable console has ever successfully addressed. The only genuine concern may be the potential feeling of screen crampiness when split in half. Nonetheless, it remains playable, albeit slightly petite.
The Deluxe edition includes all the original game content along with the two DLC packs released in 2015, resulting in an impressive total of 48 tracks. While there are no new tracks introduced, players are treated to a roster of new characters, including the Inkling Boy and Girl from Splatoon, King Boo, Dry Bones, and Bowser Jr., accompanied by some new karts.
While this might suffice for many players, Nintendo took a step further by addressing one of the main complaints about the game— the absence of a proper Battle Mode. Mario Kart 8’s previous iteration lacked the open arenas seen in earlier versions of Battle Mode, opting instead for racetrack pursuits that didn’t quite suit the potentially chaotic nature of the mode. The Deluxe version introduces a mix of new and classic battle arenas, including Urchin Underpass, Battle Stadium, Luigi’s Mansion from Double Dash, and Battle Course 1 from the SNES original.
The price tag of £50/$50 for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe might initially raise eyebrows, and it’s fair to say that compared to other game consoles and remasters, this price is on the higher side. However, considering the number of players who skipped the previous Nintendo console, the release of a Mario Kart game on the Switch within the first two months is a significant event in itself. The game retains its status as an excellent gaming experience, and this Deluxe version is generously packed with content, making it a worthy addition to any gamer’s collection.