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Super Mario Kart

by Pedro Hernandez - July 12, 2011, 7:25 pm PDT
Total comments: 20

Pedro looks back at the game that made him experiment with various game genres on the SNES.

Growing up, I was sort of a picky gamer. This meant that I would only play games that I understood or thought looked fun. Why was I like this? My family didn’t have a lot of money, so when we had a small budget for entertainment, we tried to make the best of it. I would use my allowance to either rent a movie or a game. If the game turned out to be too difficult or hard to understand I would be upset and my mother would scold me for it.

Then I got a Super NES as a birthday present. The same game rental rules applied here. Funny enough, my mother was a little more patient and forgiving, and actually tried to convince me to try other games and experience new things. I did, and thanks to that I got to experience some of the best games ever made. One of them was Super Mario Kart.

I had never played a racing game before Super Mario Kart. Like I said, anything different than easy or platforming games intimidated me. One summer day I decided to rent Super Mario Kart based on my mother’s suggestion, and much to my surprise… I loved it.

Gameplay was extremely easy for me to learn. I quickly understood that each character had different weights that affected their speeds, how to properly use weapons and how to use shortcuts to your advantage. Soon, I was taking a shot at all of the cups and having intense kart battles with my older sister.

That’s the beauty of Super Mario Kart’s design. It’s no wonder that, save for a few additions here and there, the formula has remained nearly intact with each new game in the franchise. It allows anyone, regardless of actual skill and gaming knowledge, to quickly enjoy the game and not feel intimidated by it all.

I will agree with some diehard fans that Super Mario Kart has aged a bit, and for my money, Mario Kart 64 is the best game in the series. That being said, Super Mario Kart still holds very well after all these years. The Mode 7 graphics can be distracting, but the racing remains as intense as ever.

My favorite character after all these years is still Yoshi. I’m the type of racer that prefers control over high speeds, so in all the games in the series, I would always go for the lightweight characters.

The game quickly became one of the favorites among my friends. I even hosted a birthday party with a few friends of mine, and we spent nearly the entire day playing both Super Mario Kart and TMNT IV: Turtles in Time.

That’s why even if the series has advanced with better courses, characters and options, Super Mario Kart still remains one of my all-time favorites, and the game I hold the closest to my heart. It taught me that I shouldn’t fear the occasional change of pace and that you might find an amazing gem if you open your mind and your heart to the possibilities.

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Talkback

Retro DeckadesJuly 12, 2011

Never heard of it.

I had similar memories with Crash Team Racing on the PS1. I never had a N64 and the only Nintendo system I had was the NES, so I couldn't partake in Mario Kart, but Crash Team Racing was a pretty great substitute. Just like your experience with Super Mario Kart, CTR was my first experience with the racing genre, barring an old Gameboy game that I never really got into to.

TJ SpykeJuly 12, 2011

To this day I have never played Super Mario Kart, and I have not like the levels that were included in later games as the retro tracks. My first entry in the series was Mario Kart 64, which I loved at the time.

Retro DeckadesJuly 12, 2011

Quote from: TJ

To this day I have never played Super Mario Kart, and I have not like the levels that were included in later games as the retro tracks. My first entry in the series was Mario Kart 64, which I loved at the time.

That's unfortunate, TJ. I imagine that playing the original now, for the first time, would not compare to the experience one got from playing it when it was first released. That being said, I still find it to be a very fun game.

One big difference found in this game's tracks is their length -- they are quite short, but are five lap races. They aren't as imaginative as current tracks, and rightfully so, because they didn't even have the ability to include hills. However, whereas a gamer like TJ may not care for such retro tracks in newer games, I always enjoy the warm feeling of nostalgia while playing them.

I'd enjoy the Super Mario Kart tracks in the current games more if they were 5 laps like they're supposed to be. It's really tough to go from last to first in three laps on one of those tracks.

GoldmundJuly 13, 2011

Very nice feature.

Quote:

My favorite character after all these years is still Yoshi. I’m the type of racer that prefers control over high speeds, so in all the games in the series, I would always go for the lightweight characters.

Why didn't you go for Toad & Koopa then? If I remember correctly, those excelled at control, Yoshi & Peach at acceleration, Donkey Kong & Bowser at speed and Mario & Luigi finally stroke a good balance between all of these attributes.

Ian SaneJuly 13, 2011

This is one of the first SNES games I ever played, maybe the first.  There is a fair in Vancouver each year called the PNE.  When this game was brand new my family went there and there was a Nintendo semi truck where you could play games in the trailer for a period of time.  It was in high demand so you waited in line and played whatever game kiosk was free.  My brother and I played Super Mario Kart against each other in Grand Prix mode.  The track that was selected?  One of the ghost tracks.  At this point we had never owned any videogame system and sucked at every game.  So to put us on a course where you can easily fall off the track again and again was not a good idea.  Needless to say we didn't get a good impression of the game.  Playing Mario Kart 64 at our cousins' house was the first time we really gave Mario Kart a chance.

I only just recently added this to my SNES collection.  Having no nostalgia for it, I always put off getting it.  I figured it would be dated and only worth owning for historical reasons.  I am blown away by how well this holds up!  For years I've heard about how this is the best Mario Kart and the series has gone downhill since.  I assumed those who said it were letting nostalgia blind them.  Nope, they're not.  This might be the best game in the series.  Aside from the dated Mode 7 effects and the two player limit the game plays incredibly well.  If you're good at this, you are good at this.  You can get way out in front and lap guys.  Most of the items require skill to use, even the red shells can be hard to aim.

If was to think of something wrong about the Mario Kart series as a whole is that it doesn't seem to reward skill.  The AI cheats and the game handicaps the players in first and gives the best powerups to the losers in last and it has only gotten worse.  SMK has some elements of that as you do get better power-ups in last place BUT there are no blue shells or any bullshit like that.  Even with lots of lightning bolts and stars it is hard to catch up if you fall behind.  The AI still cheats though but not in a rubber band way.  They just have unlimited powerups custom to the characer which, frankly, is complete bullshit.  Still I find this does not annoy me to the level that the newer Mario Karts do.

We never ended up getting Mario Kart 64 either so after playing this with my brothers they decided to get that.  They want to return it!  They got so frustrated by the rubberband AI squeeking by them at the last minute on each race that they hate it!  It makes them appreciate SMK all the more.  MK64 was a big step up at the time by offering four player support and having polygon courses.  Take those away and the game doesn't hold up very well.  SMK is different enough from the current Mario Kart games to stand out.

F-Zero is still the best Nintendo racing series though by far.  After being disappointed by MK64 we put in F-Zero X.  Now that's a fucking racing game!

Quote from: Goldmund

Very nice feature.

Quote:

My favorite character after all these years is still Yoshi. I’m the type of racer that prefers control over high speeds, so in all the games in the series, I would always go for the lightweight characters.

Why didn't you go for Toad & Koopa then? If I remember correctly, those excelled at control, Yoshi & Peach at acceleration, Donkey Kong & Bowser at speed and Mario & Luigi finally stroke a good balance between all of these attributes.

You pick Yoshi if you want to win. DK is great for most tracks but is disadvantaged in CHOCOLATE and water (slow accel); it's all about knowing the cups. Also I usually try to avoid picking a character with an annoying CPU "rival" which always sits in second place and tosses the same items at you (whether they've run over an item box or not.. grr). Bowser's rotating fireballs and Peach's shrinkage mushrooms are probably the worst.

ejamerJuly 13, 2011

I miss having coins (that actually matter) on the track.

They're returning in the next version.

BeautifulShyJuly 13, 2011

Quote from: ejamer

I miss having coins (that actually matter) on the track.

I think the 3DS version is going to have them.

These are the characters I used most of the time. Luigi,Princess Toadstool,Bowser, and Koopa Troopa. I liked that they had a different rival depending on what racer you picked. The AI of the CPU racers was pretty tough at times. You basically had to race perfectly on the higher cc.

CericJuly 13, 2011

Yoshi, Toad, Koopa Troopa, Drybones.  I actually beat Mario Kart DS with primarily Drybones.

UltimatePartyBearJuly 13, 2011

My favorite things about SMK:
Exploiting the deterministic AI and infinite supply of feathers of the CPU racers to get them stuck jumping over the ramps on Mario Circuit 2 (or was it 3?) forever.
Using a mushroom with perfect timing before a jump to catch insane amounts of air.
The way item blocks got used up, so you had to choose between following a good line or picking up an item.  This created some tense moments in battle mode, too.

Ian SaneJuly 13, 2011

Quote:

The way item blocks got used up, so you had to choose between following a good line or picking up an item.  This created some tense moments in battle mode, too.

That is a pretty damn awesome feature of SMK.  That and the coins.  They add a lot of strategy to the game.  The way the item blocks got used up also put a little less emphasis on the items and a little more on racing.

BeautifulShyJuly 14, 2011

I think once someone got all the item spaces they would all come back but yeah getting that last item space could be a battle.

Mop it upJuly 14, 2011

I've never been a fan of Mario Kart. In the case of this game, the control is absolutely atrocious, which is where the main difficulty of it lies. Later Mario Kart games never really fixed that issue either, until Mario Kart Wii came out. That's the only one I like, and I like it a lot. The tracks in Super Mario Kart are mostly bland, since they are all flat. I also don't think it's very balanced; usually games which have hazards that slow you down a ton also have ways of catching back up, but Super Mario Kart doesn't. That isn't a good idea when combined with the cheap AI of the game.

I don't really get the complaints about Mario Kart Wii; there is a lot of strategy involved with knowing when and how to use items, as well as which lines to take. Sure, the short and easy tracks are mostly about luck, but on the whole, Mario Kart Wii is less luck-based than every other game in the series besides Super Mario Kart. You know what they say, luck is the residue of design.

UltimatePartyBearJuly 14, 2011

I forgot one.  In SMK, you occasionally have to let off the accelerator to do well.  Once they added the power slide boosts, they couldn't very well design tracks with turns that required braking instead.

yoshi1001July 14, 2011

Still has the best battle mode. I wish they'd bring back the feather (but only for battle mode).

Luigi DudeJuly 15, 2011

Quote from: Mop

I also don't think it's very balanced; usually games which have hazards that slow you down a ton also have ways of catching back up, but Super Mario Kart doesn't. That isn't a good idea when combined with the cheap AI of the game.

Yes, finally somebody says it.  Super Mario Kart is the cheapest, most frustrating of all the Mario Karts because of it's broken cheating AI.  People complain the Blue Shells in recent Mario Karts, but the AI in Super Mario Kart is a million times worse.  At least with the Blue Shells, there's a chance you might not even get hit by one in a race.  With Super Mario Kart on the other hand, your rival will ALWAYS be right behind you and constantly spamming an INFINITE amount of items at you the entire damn race.  Oh and heaven help you if Mario or Luigi is your rival because they get infinite STAR POWER, that's right INFINITE F*CKING STAR POWER

HOW IN THE F*CK IS THAT FAIR?

Seriously, even though I have a problem with the Blue Shells in the recent Mario Karts, I'll take Blue Shells over infinite item spamming bullsh!t any day.

DespicableJuly 21, 2011

I've never played this but man am I missing out......  :'(

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