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North America

Mario Kart: Super Circuit

by Mike Orlando - September 18, 2001, 8:27 pm PDT


Though most of you have already bought this game, I've written this review for the people without a GBA, because if you've got a GBA, but not this game, your baby is now Miss Cleo's.

You buy it. That is all. Mario Kart: Super Circuit is the best game available for the Game Boy Advance. Good night.

What do you want from me? My feelings and impressions about the game? Fine. You’re going to read them, go out to buy the game, bump into a woman on the subway, marry her in three years, get in a nasty separation, and then you’ll email me complaining about how I ruined your life. I warned you. And if you’re a self proclaimed ‘GRRL’ gamer, I regret to inform you that reading this suggests that you’re a lesbian. If you are, in fact, a self professed lesbian gamer, please email me. orlando@planetgamecube.com .

Super Circuit is best described as a mix of Mario Kart 64 (N64) and Super Mario Kart (PS2? I forget. I wish Nintendo would leave monikers at the end of their games directly related to their current console). SC offers classic but improved Mode 7 graphics, SMK songs, and tracks in one hand, and multiple turtle shells, balloon based battle mode, and spikey turtle shells in the other. Add new themes, backgrounds, graphics, voices, and game mechanics, and you’ve pretty much got everything one could ask.

I still don’t understand why you haven’t gone out and bought this game yet, or why you aren’t playing it right now. Does crack let you have a break?

Initially, MK:SC offers you 20, brand new, never seen before, as advertised on TV tracks. Some of them range from the familiar settings of Bowser’s Castle and Mario’s Circuit to the not so familiar Cheese Land and Ribbon Road. Levels such as Bowser’s Castle have been given a nice GBA style polish. Each Castle level has a different background, multiple road surfaces, and even patrolling enemies, which vary from a flying witch to goofy looking, wind up guards.

Even though it’s been years upon years since the very first Mario Kart was released to the world, I still remember the names of some of the tracks to this day. Remember ‘Mario Circuit 1’? Good fun. And then there was ‘Mario Circuit 2’. Unforgettable music. And of course I lost my virginity while playing ‘Mario Circuit 3’ for the first time, so I’ll never forget that course’s name. As for hers… Once again, all of these tracks have been put on the cart, and all of them feature their original, kick ass music. I cannot stress how beautiful it is cruising around Koopa Beach while on the bus.

But does it play the same? Not entirely. The control in Super Circuit has been altered, making your cart handle a lot like a rally car. No longer are you super glued to the track, as simply turning left at full throttle on a dirt based track will often have you ramming into the multicolored wall. Is this control for the better? Yes and no. As the 20 SMK remake courses were designed with the old control in mind, this alters the tracks’ feel. Again, this both helps and hinders the gameplay for these tracks. Guiding your character onto a narrow bridge while coming off a 90-degree turn proves to be a hell of a lot more frustrating than it used to.

On the other hand, it does add some freshness in the older tracks. Calculating your speed and whether or not you should power slide around a sharp, hairpin turn always factors in, and does give you the odd experience of playing an old track for the first time. While some may complain about the change to the feel, I think it raises the difficulty, adds new to the old, and is a nice alternative.

On the weapons side of things, almost all of them have returned and been tweaked. You have your basic green and red turtle shells, banana peels, lightning, stars, and mushrooms. As featured in the 64 update, you now have the ability to hold 3 green or red turtle shells plus the dreaded spiked turtle shell is here. Nintendo felt it was best to not bring back the feather. Nintendo also felt it was best to make the Virtual Boy, and the 64DD. Why. Why did they not bring back the feather?? God only knows, but unfortunately, without the feather, some of the shortcuts from the remade tracks are inaccessible or near impossible to make, and the battle mode suffers a bit.

New to the franchise is the ability to drop red and spiked (blue) turtle shells. Once dropped, the shells just sit on the track, until someone passes (or in the case of the spiked shell, the leader passes). It then homes onto said person. This new technique adds strategy, and comedy to the game. Being one who never reads instruction books, I literally freaked out when I saw a red turtle shell sitting on the track for the first time. My boss found it amusing, I did not.

What else has been changed? Regarding the new courses, Intelligent Systems (that’s right, their insanely underrated asses made this game) decided to bring back some of the old flavor (Bowser’s Castle) and sprinkle in some new ingredients (Cheese Land, Ribbon Road, etc). These new tracks seem like they’ve been taken out of various Disney movies, and do seem a bit out of place in the Mario Kart universe. Nevertheless, balance is always a good thing, and I’d rather race around a course featuring multiple stages of a sunset with campy Western music playing, than doing laps around Mario Circuit v.2.300f3. With these new courses come new traps, ranging from quicksand drenched flower plants to Native American Shy Guys. Yes, Shy Guys that live in teepees and steal your money when you run into their houses. There’s a joke there, somewhere.

Most of the old characters are back, though one Koopa Troopa is noticeably absent. Hello? Nintendo? Why don’t you just send a shock through the system every time we select a classic track while you’re at it! The characters and their respective karts are rendered and animated beautifully, several steps above their SNES incarnations. In fact, it would seem that there are more frames or angles of each character in the GBA Mario Kart than there are of the characters in the N64 version. Amazing, to say the least. Like the originals, there are three classes when it comes to racers. Slow acceleration with fast top speed, vice versa, and evenly balanced. Oh, and each racer has their own horn! (!!!)

There’s not much else to say when it comes to the single player game itself. Super Circuit features the insane amounts of fun that the original did, integrates new advances and ideas into the series, and pulls it all off meticulously. In order to unlock the original tracks, you must score quite high in a circuit (your grade is determined by a number of variables, which make the races all the more frantic), and collect many a coin. All of these intangibles wrap up together perfectly and deliver an awesome experience, especially for a handheld title.

But it doesn’t stop there. While playing with yourself may be fun, getting other people involved in the action builds the intensity up even more, to the point where you won’t be able to contain you excitement. Horny yet? Well you should be, as you can play multiplayer with just one game pak. Though you’re limited to four tracks, and the choice of multicolored Yoshi’s, it is an inclusion that no one can complain about. The Game Boy Advance is still a relatively young system, thus it may be hard to find someone else with a GBA and Mario Kart (yes honey, bad people do exist). So how does it play? Well, if you’ve ever played one of Sega’s sports games online (yeah, I’m speaking to the choice Dreamcast online community here, eh?), you’ll understand the feeling. There’s no lag, per say, but the movement is ‘delayed’. It does make the control less spot on, and a little… weird. Though this tiny flaw is easily overlooked given the situation (and the fact that you can still nail your friend with three red turtle shells), it does hamper the gameplay a bit.

But man, if you’ve got at least two copies of Super Circuit, hold on to your freakin seat. You can choose ANY of the forty tracks (providing the classic ones have been unlocked) to race on, and there are also four battle mode maps. The fluidity of karting around any of the courses has been left perfectly intact, as you’ll never notice a hint of lag or delay. The excitement (and trash talking, it seems) of racing against a buddy has been duplicated perfectly, as I have absolutely no complaints. I mean hell, you don’t even have to race split screen anymore, and you can now play four players. Not too bad if you ask me.

Battle mode has also made its welcomed return to the series, and thank God. Though racing against your buddies can be fun, we all know that this is where the real fun comes in. Though the feather has been taken out of the series, there are now water obstacles that you must avoid. Whereas in Super Mario Kart you could jump into the water to evade a red turtle shell, falling into water, and staying there for more than four seconds will cost you a balloon. As the maps are relatively smaller overall in comparison to the original ones, this makes the action even more frantic. Also new to the battle mode (and when you’re racing too, I might add) is the ability to outrun red and blue turtle shells. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, as the shell will chase after you for a good fifteen seconds, and if you slow down just a bit, whether you’re braking or on a rougher terrain, you’re dead. The precise seeking of the original red turtle shell has been turned down a tad too, as it won’t lock onto a foe unless you fire it accurately enough in his direction. You’ve all played battle mode in at least one iteration of the Mario Kart series, and you all know how excellent it is. I’m just telling you that Super Circuit does not falter one bit.

In fact, that’s pretty much the theme of this review. Sure, they left out Koopa and the feather, and the control can be a bit too loose for some tracks, but this is all very minor. Mario Kart: Super Circuit gives you the entire package, and pulls it all off brilliantly. Though I have yet to try the apparently amazing Advance Wars, right now I can easily say that Super Circuit is, hands down, the best handheld game I have played ever. If you’re even remotely interested in the Mario Kart series, buy this game. Today. Now. GO! You won’t regret it.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9 10 9.5 10 10 10

Beautifully rendered racers, multiple levels of scaling in the background, robust colors, mixed with nice, on track animations make for a beautiful package.


From the 'clink' sound you get when a shell hits a wall, to the warning music that fades into your screen when someone with a star is approaching, Super Circuit gives you all of the old school kart racing noises that ones testosterone (or estrogen) levels can take. Though the music for the new courses can be a tad stereotypical, they're still above average for a handheld title. Koopa Beach's music gives this category a '10' by itself.


Though it does take a bit getting used to, the new control scheme waxes those new courses to a tee while increasing the difficulty. A pat on the back to IS for having the guts to tamper with the control.


It's Mario Kart, man. It's Mario Kart.


40 tracks, single pak multiplayer, battle mode, time trials... you're going to be playing this one for a long time.


This is what a handheld title is all about. Though there are some beauties on the GBC, we're finally going to experience console type games on a handheld, games that can (idealistically) emit emotions and atmosphere. Though Super Circuit doesn't necessarily provide, nor need, any of those abilities, you really get the feeling you're playing a console game on a tiny machine. Mario Kart: Super Circuit is the best handheld game I own, and there's a good chance it'll go down as your best purchase as well.


  • Excellent multiplayer options, whether with one pak or four.
  • Forty tracks. Forty. You won't get bored.
  • Great music. What owns your ass? Urgh, I can't remember... oh yeah, Koopa Beach's music does.
  • Altered handling may turn some off. But they are weak.
  • Cannot be hooked directly into your veins.
  • Delay in Single Pak play.
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Mario Kart: Super Circuit Box Art

Genre Racing
Developer Intelligent Systems
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Release Aug 26, 2001
jpn: Mario Kart Advance
Release Jul 21, 2001
eu: Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Release Sep 14, 2001
aus: Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Release Sep 13, 2001
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