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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch) Review

by Neal Ronaghan - April 20, 2017, 6:00 am PDT
Total comments: 9

8.5

A quality Battle Mode and other additions help this Deluxe edition avoid blue shells and banana peels.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an upgraded port of the 2014 Wii U game, coming with some new tweaks for its existence on a new platform. First things first: this is the best version of Mario Kart 8. It adds a quality battle mode with a mix of old favorite modes and a stellar new one. All of the well-crafted DLC from the Wii U release is baked in from the start this time, and so many characters are playable that it’s almost overwhelming at a glance. Even the system it’s on makes it a better game, as the Switch’s hybrid design makes it easier to play local multiplayer on either single or multiple systems. Really, the only ways Deluxe might be a downgrade from the prior iteration is that it’s now three years older and doesn’t offer that much new content for Wii U owners. And I guess you can’t use the thrilling “horn” feature on the Wii U GamePad.

Even with the sense of deja vu, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a game I’m enjoying more than I did before, but it’s still missing an element that has become more important as the Mario Kart series has evolved: a strong single-player experience. If anything, the fact that all the characters and tracks are unlocked from the start has made the single-player worse, because the only reason to dive into anything by your lonesome is to grind out randomly unlocked kart parts. It’s the culmination of a downward trend in the series as single-player has become a lesser and lesser factor since the height of its powers with Mario Kart DS’ fantastic Mission Mode. Mario Kart 8 offers little of value as a single-player experience, and while some people might say that doesn’t matter, it certainly matters to me.

But my single-player qualms are assuaged by the added variety courtesy of the vastly improved Battle Mode. No longer are the weird circuitous courses the setting of the bastardized Balloon Battle. Instead, eight new Battle Mode courses house the mayhem of five modes, including old standards like Balloon Battle and Shine Thief. Like the Mario Kart 7 iteration, Balloon Battle can only be played in a timed mode, which removes a little bit of the drama and tension. Luckily, the new mode, Renegade Roundup, is designed around the apparent battle limitation of everything needing to be timed. It’s a cops-and-robbers setup as one team patrols the arena with Piranha Plants on their karts that will snatch up the other team when they get close enough. Excelling mostly because it’s not being shoehorned to fit into Mario Kart’s modern form like some of the other modes, Renegade Roundup is a frenetic experience that takes a little getting used to, but once it clicks, it’s excellent.

One of the potential unsung additions to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the variety of assist features that can help out neophytes, or at least help them hang with the pros a little better. Steering Assist, which is on by default, helps keep the kart on the road, while another assist makes it so the kart is always moving forward. The nice things about these is that they’re very helpful but not too intrusive. It’s a gentle nudge in the right direction as opposed to a gigantic handicap. These assists are perfect for that friend who missed out on Mario Kart in the past or a younger child trying to hang with older siblings or experienced parents.

The flexibility of multiplayer, thanks to the very design of the Switch, is also a fantastic inclusion to this version. Split-screen is present, though the drop from 60 frames-per-second in one- and two-player to 30 frames-per-second in three- and four-player is noticeable and suboptimal. The split-screen even works in tabletop mode, though, so the Switch becomes an instant multiplayer Mario Kart device wherever you are. Online is still as strong as ever, even letting you hop online with another player on the same system. New local wireless and LAN modes also let you use two-player split-screen with multiple systems. I wasn’t able to test those modes out, though it’s worth pointing out that no Download Play-like option exists here.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe makes for a great representation of the multiplayer potential of the Switch, but it still doesn’t add too much content to be a simple, slam-dunk purchase for owners of the Wii U version. The content it adds is strong, especially the revamped Battle Mode, though. And even aside from the new, the old stuff is abundant. 48 tracks are available right from the start, and with few exceptions, all are excellent. I might still carry a torch for quality single-player content and progression in Mario Kart, but there’s no denying that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a step in the right direction for just about every other element.

Summary

Pros
  • All Wii U DLC included
  • Helpful assist options
  • Renegade Roundup
  • Still gorgeous after all these years
Cons
  • Limited Battle Mode customization
  • Not much for Wii U veterans
  • Poor single-player experience

Talkback

LemonadeApril 20, 2017

This is one game I will happily buy again. I look forward to trying the battle mode and racing as the inklings.

I played the Wii U version for a bit over 80 hours and most of that was online because it is just so good. I wasnt really interested in the single player. Im not sure if I even finished 100cc.

SorenApril 20, 2017

Quote:

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe makes for a great representation of the multiplayer potential of the Switch, but it still doesn’t add too much content to be a simple, slam-dunk purchase for owners of the Wii U version.

That's what scares me so much about the port-heavy possibility of the Switch's first year. I played the crap out of MK8 on Wii U and had a delightful time with the multiplayer and the DLC but I've never once been compelled to get this version since it was announced. And lots of Wii U games were great, fun experiences but that still wasn't enough to get people to buy that system. Is a "new" Mario Kart game going to help sell a $300 console when the last version of that Mario Kart game didn't do much to help sales of the previous $300 console?

StratosApril 20, 2017

For me it really comes down to convenience, playtime potential,and party factor when it comes to ports. Mario Kart is a major party game so it was heavily skewed towards getting re-bought.


Games I have played and beaten completely are not going to pull me back in the same way. Smash would fall into a similar boat, because I would prefer to only drag one system around for party/group play. But Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 1/2, and Pikmin 3 would not because I can just fire up the old system at home.

OedoApril 21, 2017

Quote from: Soren

That's what scares me so much about the port-heavy possibility of the Switch's first year. I played the crap out of MK8 on Wii U and had a delightful time with the multiplayer and the DLC but I've never once been compelled to get this version since it was announced. And lots of Wii U games were great, fun experiences but that still wasn't enough to get people to buy that system. Is a "new" Mario Kart game going to help sell a $300 console when the last version of that Mario Kart game didn't do much to help sales of the previous $300 console?

The fact that the Switch can easily be taken on the go and is two player out of the box is a huge deal for a multiplayer game like this. Perhaps more importantly, the Switch is already a hot item (which could not be said for the Wii U in May 2014), and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just giving people another great reason to buy it.

Agent-X-April 21, 2017

Quote from: Soren

That's what scares me so much about the port-heavy possibility of the Switch's first year. I played the crap out of MK8 on Wii U and had a delightful time with the multiplayer and the DLC but I've never once been compelled to get this version since it was announced. And lots of Wii U games were great, fun experiences but that still wasn't enough to get people to buy that system. Is a "new" Mario Kart game going to help sell a $300 console when the last version of that Mario Kart game didn't do much to help sales of the previous $300 console?

I think you're just down on the Switch and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is not changing your feelings because it's not new to you. I could write a lot of gibberish thoughts around this, but I'll keep it to just this: Your fears for the Switch are misplaced as it's already the fastest selling game console of this generation, and enhanced ports of best-ever versions of games like Mario Kart and Smash Bros will only cement the Switch as a powerhouse market, so this should be seen a hugely positive thing. I don't know why NWR seems to be anti-Switch, but this is the only place I see such negativity across the Interwebs, Subreddits and Gafosphere.


I think unrealistic expectations are to blame. Like, take Neal's second review attempt of this game for example: citing the single player as a con. Like, seriously? In comparison to what? I've played nearly every popular racer, and I don't understand this.

OedoApril 22, 2017

Mario Kart 8 is a great game, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe obviously stands to be even better, but the single-player experience is not all that strong. The only real "fun" to be had is getting three stars on all the cups, except the structure, AI, and random element takes a lot of the fun out of that too. There isn't much to begin with, and what is there has some glaring drawbacks. Luckily the multiplayer is still awesome, and that's reflected in this review. I can understand calling out some the Switch bashing that has taken place on the internet over the last couple of months, but an 8.5 review that's mostly very positive is a pretty bizarre example to point to, man. Also:

Quote from: Agent-X-

I think unrealistic expectations are to blame. Like, take Neal's second review attempt of this game for example: citing the single player as a con. Like, seriously? In comparison to what?

Quote:

It’s the culmination of a downward trend in the series as single-player has become a lesser and lesser factor since the height of its powers with Mario Kart DS’ fantastic Mission Mode. Mario Kart 8 offers little of value as a single-player experience, and while some people might say that doesn’t matter, it certainly matters to me.

If you really want to put up a defense of the single-player though, here's a question: why would you ever play the single-player in this game over the multiplayer?

CaterkillerMatthew Osborne, Contributing WriterApril 24, 2017

I am so ready for battle mode! I just can't wait! Too bad for BlackNMild though, I know he still dreams of an updated Block Fort.


I'm not sure I personally can really complain about all the cups being unlocked from the start. With online available it was like pulling teeth for me to play the single player too much after I got gold through all the 100cc classes. I just wanted to get online right away with decent knowledge of the tracks and didn't even try to do the DLC in single player so I guess I'll be fine with everything open from the get go.

Agent-X-Yesterday at 06:35 am

Quote from: Oedo

Mario Kart 8 is a great game, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe obviously stands to be even better, but the single-player experience is not all that strong. The only real "fun" to be had is getting three stars on all the cups, except the structure, AI, and random element takes a lot of the fun out of that too. There isn't much to begin with, and what is there has some glaring drawbacks. Luckily the multiplayer is still awesome, and that's reflected in this review. I can understand calling out some the Switch bashing that has taken place on the internet over the last couple of months, but an 8.5 review that's mostly very positive is a pretty bizarre example to point to, man. Also:

Quote from: Agent-X-

I think unrealistic expectations are to blame. Like, take Neal's second review attempt of this game for example: citing the single player as a con. Like, seriously? In comparison to what?

Quote:

It’s the culmination of a downward trend in the series as single-player has become a lesser and lesser factor since the height of its powers with Mario Kart DS’ fantastic Mission Mode. Mario Kart 8 offers little of value as a single-player experience, and while some people might say that doesn’t matter, it certainly matters to me.

If you really want to put up a defense of the single-player though, here's a question: why would you ever play the single-player in this game over the multiplayer?

That's just my point though. I don't remember any fantastic mission mode in MK DS. It wasn't particularly memorable IMO, and its omission has gone largely unnoticed. I've never felt single player Mario Kart needed any help, which is why I have easily racked up a hundred hours in every Mario Kart doing mostly single player races and time trials.


Multiplayer is really where it's at though, and attempting to slap in some single player modifications to make playing alone more interesting just feels cheap. Just go online and race if racing the computer isn't good enough.

OedoYesterday at 10:14 am

Plenty of people found the Mission Mode in Mario Kart DS to be memorable though. Daan specifically makes reference to it in NWR's second Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review, and I've seen others speak highly of it as well. The fact that it doesn't matter to you, on its own, is not a very strong argument that this isn't a legitimate complaint.

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Switch

Game Profile

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Box Art

Genre Racing
Developer Nintendo
Players1 - 8
Online1 - 12

Worldwide Releases

na: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Release Apr 28, 2017
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Release Apr 28, 2017
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Release Apr 28, 2017
PublisherNintendo
Rating3+
aus: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Release Apr 28, 2017
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral
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