Justin isn’t satisfied with the major content update coming to one of the best selling games on Nintendo Switch.
There’s no denying Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is extremely popular. The title is closing in on a staggering 45 million units sold. That said, part of me was a bit disappointed when I found out that 48 new tracks would be coming to the game over the next two years as part of the Booster Course Pass. Yes, this will double the amount of courses in the game, but is this all we should expect from Mario Kart?
For starters, let me say that I don’t hate Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. The game feels good to play and it looks very nice. The online works and Nintendo even eventually added online voice chat even if it is through their weird mobile phone app known as Nintendo Switch Online. Without the voice chat option online matches felt completely sterile, almost as if you were playing against CPUs. So in general the game is alright, but there are problems.
You see, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in its current form is nothing more than a slightly updated version of Mario Kart 8 that was released in 2014 on Wii U. The innovations in Mario Kart 8 don’t really matter much either. Yes, you can drive on walls but you wouldn’t know it without the Kart’s wheels changing direction, there is Mario Kart TV which I guess birthed the angry Luigi meme, and 200cc which I personally think feels awful to play in 8. Overall, both versions of Mario Kart 8 are very bare bones. There really isn’t much single player content in Deluxe outside of racing against CPUs. Yes, there are some things to unlock and earn in Deluxe, but it’s all rather boring.
You can unlock an alternate color scheme for Metal Mario by getting first place on all the 200cc Cups, slowly unlock Kart parts by collecting coins on the tracks, and the final two parts you can unlock by beating some Staff Ghosts and by getting a certain Star Ranking on the Mirror Mode Cups. And really, that’s it. Most of it is extremely passive or doesn’t matter much at all. The problem is there is no progression and you’ll get most of the important things just by playing in any mode. There isn’t much sense of accomplishment in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
I bring this up because when the Booster Course Pass was announced during the latest Nintendo Direct I knew we wouldn’t be seeing a new console Mario Kart for quite some time. It’s sad because there are so many more innovations we can expect to see out of the franchise and they are proving it in the mobile game Mario Kart Tour. Before you get angry about mobile games, hear me out.
Mario Kart Tour adds so much to the franchise’s formula. There is a scoring/combo system so racing isn’t just about winning in single player games. I’ve never been a fan of Mirror Mode and thankfully it has been replaced with the ability to play most tracks in Reverse, or a Trick version with a bunch of ramps and boosters, or a Reverse Trick version. Some courses get new RMX (Remixed) versions which generally also get R/T/RT variants as well as many completely new tracks. Playing courses in different ways takes some editing of the tracks by the developers and works out much more nicely than the cheap image flip found in Mirror Mode.
Character specific special items are back in Mario Kart Tour. Players can manage a roster of Drivers, Karts, and Gliders and use different resources to power them up to help make a more rounded team which gives a real sense of progression. Earning and using different drivers and items actually matter now. Yes, there are Gacha elements in Tour, but they aren’t that bad compared to other games and there is a fair Tiering system so as to not make new players feel completely left behind. The game’s a slow burn, but it burns so good when you slowly amass power.
Tour also gets updated biweekly with new characters, courses, and events. When all the variants are currently accounted for Mario Kart Tour has over 280 tracks, 140 drivers, 200 karts, and 140 gliders. In many ways it really does feel like Mario Kart Ultimate and the true progression of the Mario Kart series which is sorely lacking in 8 Deluxe.
Now I’m not saying Mario Kart Tour is perfect, it isn’t. The touch screen controls have a bit of a learning curve, the online multiplayer needs work, and certain elements like the Gacha stuff isn’t for everyone. But there is still a lot the next console Mario Kart could learn from the mobile version.
So when Nintendo revealed that 48 news tracks were coming to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe I had very mixed feelings. Sure, more players will be able to experience some of Tour’s cool new courses like the amazing Ninja Hideaway, but each of these tracks will be missing the alternate versions. And for players who think Mario Kart 8 was a bit basic like myself, we will probably have to wait until 2024 at the earliest for a console Mario Kart game that evolves the franchise in ways that Tour teases. That’s a decade of Mario Kart 8. There is so much more we should expect from a Mario Kart game outside the bare minimum, but we may have to wait until the launch of the Switch successor to see a package full of complete innovations the console side of the series is in dire need of.