When Mario Kart 8 first graced the Wii U in 2014, it went on to become one of the console’s defining masterpieces. Not only was Mario Kart 8 considered by many to be the series’ best game to date, but it also became one of the most frequently enjoyed multiplayer draws on Nintendo’s last-gen console, as well as the top-selling Wii U game of all time, moving over 8 million copies to date, giving it a sizable sales lead over the second best-selling Wii U game, New Super Mario Bros. U, which has sold just over 5.5 million copies worldwide to date. Considering that the Wii U sold just over 12 million units worldwide over the course of its entire life cycle, that means that approximately two-thirds of the console’s entire user base bought a copy of Mario Kart 8!
Naturally, that’s going to prove to be one tough act to follow for the next inevitable Mario Kart sequel. Thus, perhaps wisely, the new next-gen Nintendo Switch isn’t rushing to generate an all-new Mario Kart game of its own. Instead, Nintendo’s hybrid platform is remastering Mario Kart 8 as an early launch window offering, while Nintendo Switch owners wait for the next proper Mario Kart follow-up. The result is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a fantastic remaster of a fantastic kart racer that rivals The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as the best game available for Nintendo Switch at this point, period!
Even if you already own Mario Kart 8’s original Wii U build, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is well worth the double dip, even at the full $59.99 USD/$79.99 CDN price. The portability option innately offered by Nintendo Switch is reason alone to invest in this remaster, and that’s before considering the new racers, tightened mechanics, all of the Mario Kart 8 DLC being included for free, and best of all, a revamped Battle Mode that pretty much completely renders the original Wii U release obsolete. As icing on the cake, the game looks and performs better than ever on Nintendo Switch as well, sporting updated graphical resolution and speedier, more responsive performance. All in all, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe stands as the series’ new best entry to date, and it absolutely shouldn’t be missed by any current or imminent Nintendo Switch owner, particularly the social ones!
Mario Kart 8 was a visual masterwork in its original Wii U incarnation, even when being restricted to 720p resolution and a 30fps framerate. Thanks to the added power of Nintendo Switch however, both of those numbers are bumped up in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, with the game’s gorgeous graphics now rendering at a full native 1080p resolution when the Switch is docked in TV Mode, adding a noticeable amount of vibrant and colourful new details amidst a cleaner and sharper visual presentation. The game returns to a 720p resolution when playing in Handheld Mode, naturally, but that still amounts to being able to take a game with Wii U-level graphics on the go with you, and on the smaller Nintendo Switch screen especially, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe truly looks incredible! It even loads noticeably faster too, cutting the time between races significantly in contrast to the original Wii U release.
Even when played in Handheld Mode as well, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe upgrades the performance to a full 60fps clip during both online and offline play to boot, resulting in racing that is tighter, more responsive and more satisfying than it ever was in the series’ prior entries, including this game’s original Wii U build. The framerate does go down to 30fps if you play split-screen with more than two players at once on a single Switch unit, but that’s to be expected. In all other instances, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe never drops below a slick 60fps clip, even when the Switch is undocked and played in Handheld Mode. Fast RMX may have already proven that the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have to compromise performance when it’s not docked and taken on the go right from the hardware’s launch, but it’s nonetheless amazing to see such a technically ambitious Wii U game sport a visual design that’s both more detailed and more responsive in every way on Nintendo Switch, even when it’s not in TV Mode!
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe more or less leaves the audio exactly as it was on Wii U, but that’s fine, since the original Wii U release’s soundtrack doesn’t really require any tweaks. The fun track music, zany sound effects, jovial voice clips, and overall peppy, energetic presentation to the soundtrack all continues to feel highly satisfying to listen to on Nintendo Switch. This audio suite gets even better now that you can plug in a pair of headphones when playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in Handheld Mode as well, which brings out the power and punch behind each race more than ever. Ultimately, the Mario Kart series has never changed its audio playbook too much, but it’s never truly needed to. Mario Kart 8’s entire audio presentation was packed with charm and energy on Wii U, and that continues to be the case on Nintendo Switch!
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe boasts much of the same superb gameplay that has always defined the Mario Kart franchise as a whole. The game sports all of the same play modes from the original Wii U release, between competing for dominance against the A.I. in Grand Prix races, honing one’s technique in Time Trials, engaging friends and foes in local Versus Mode, and, of course, taking the competition online to square off against up to eleven other racers from all across the world. That’s of course not including the newly-revamped Battle Mode in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as well, which adds new variants and a whole new style, deftly fixing the one major weak link in the original Wii U release.
Since Mario Kart 8 Deluxe boasts every track, racer and game mode originally made for Mario Kart 8 unlocked right from the start, you can dive into whatever gameplay challenge strikes your fancy, whether it’s relaxing and enjoying a casual 50cc Versus race, throwing down the gauntlet in a brutal 200cc Grand Prix race, or anything else in between. The game is very simply played, and supports multiple control options in this Nintendo Switch remaster, including standalone Joy-Cons, the Joy-Con Grip, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, and of course, the innate portable control scheme when playing in Handheld Mode. Obviously, the Wii and Wii U controllers that could be used in the original Mario Kart 8 release on Wii U can’t be used in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which is disappointing, even if it’s also predictable. If it’s any consolation, the superior hardware design of the Nintendo Switch controller options won’t have you missing the legacy Wii or Wii U control options at all though.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also offers compatibility with optional new Joy-Con Wheel accessories (sold separately, sadly), which can enhance the precision of your racing controls with standalone Joy-Con controllers very nicely, with an affordable $19.99 package offering two Joy-Con Wheels together. The Joy-Con Wheels feel especially smooth and immersive, being a tighter and better refined control option than the Wii Wheel ever was, though you really can’t go wrong with any control option in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, since the game’s controls are all around accessible and fantastic on Nintendo Switch! Both the Joy-Cons and Nintendo Switch Pro Controller work exceptionally well, with both making racing better than ever between the consistent 60fps game performance, and the immersive HD Rumble feature that adds more power and intensity to your vehicle’s movements through your controller’s super-detailed vibrations.
More experienced veteran racers however may want to be aware of a new addition in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe called ‘Smart Steering’, which is enabled from the get-go. Smart Steering prevents your vehicle from veering too far off the beaten path, and keeps it moving where it’s supposed to go, acting sort of like bowling bumpers for less secure newcomers who are learning the ropes. Skilled Mario Kart players will probably want to turn this off (and it probably shouldn’t have been enabled by default anyway), since it gets in the way of precision racing and especially taking valuable shortcuts, but this is a great idea for young children and uninitiated players, who don’t have to be intimidated when they first approach Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Smart Acceleration is also offered as well, which makes your vehicle move forward automatically, without players having to hold and mash the A Button, another subtle, but brilliant design addition that makes Mario Kart 8 Deluxe more accessible and more fun than its predecessors. Don’t think that you can use these concessions to cheat in online competition though! Smart Steering gives you a considerable disadvantage against skilled online players, since it limits your ability to improvise, take shortcuts and dodge incoming projectiles, plus it’s not even allowed at all during the game’s competitive online tournaments to boot. This way, Smart Steering stands as a smartly balanced casual player concession that doesn’t break the game, and offers enough advantages while balancing them with enough caveats, until you’re comfortable enough to take off the training wheels and indulge in real, uncompromising kart racing.
Those making a return trip after enjoying the original Wii U release of Mario Kart 8 will also be pleased to see that, not only are all of the unlockable racers and DLC racers available in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe right from the start, but you’ll also get to enjoy five exclusive new racers that aren’t present at all in the original Wii U release; Dry Bones, Bowser Jr., King Boo, and Splatoon’s Inkling Girl and Inkling Boy, along with an unlockable new Gold Mario skin for Metal Mario, plus several new unlockable Amiibo costumes for the Mii Racer, if you scan the compatible Amiibo figures, of course! You’ll still need to collect coins and complete races to unlock new vehicle parts to mix and match, along with various karts and bikes to use as a foundation, but re-purposed racer and vehicle stats in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also help the game feel more balanced and refined than ever in this Nintendo Switch remaster.
As mentioned though, the biggest and best change in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe comes via its Battle Mode, which has been completely overhauled from the original Wii U release. The re-purposed main racetracks from the Wii U release’s ill-received Battle Mode have been completely removed in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and replaced with a mix of new and retro dedicated Battle Arenas, which properly confine up to twelve racers in combat as they seek to amass items, and turn them on their competitors. Two all-new items in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe help to jazz up Battle Mode and various other racing modes further as well, namely Boo, which steals a random opponent’s item, and the Feather, which allows your vehicle to jump high in the air. Power-ups are even more fun to wield in this remaster as well, particularly since Mario Kart 8 Deluxe exclusively allows you to carry two items at once, a la Mario Kart; Double Dash!! from the GameCube era, rather than just one, across all of its play modes.
It’s been a long time since Battle Mode has felt like a true gameplay draw in the Mario Kart series, but finally, we get an outstanding Battle Mode selection in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, one that’s fast-paced, addictive fun. The redesigned Battle Mode in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also easily serves as the best excuse to wirelessly link multiple Nintendo Switch units with your friends, which can accommodate up to two people each across up to four Switch units for especially large-scale local Battle Mode fun! Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s Battle Mode allows you to engage in Balloon Battle to simply turn items against one another to pop each other’s balloons, Coin Runners to amass more coins than your opponents, Bob-omb Blast to try and take out your opponents in a flurry of explosive chaos, or Shine Thief to try and hoard a Shine Sprite long enough to be declared the winner, all of which are very enjoyable in the dedicated Battle Arenas of this remaster. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe even includes one all-new Battle Mode variation, Renegade Roundup, a creative and raucous round-based Cops-N’-Robbers-style game, where one team tries to capture opposing racers with Piranha Plants, while the other team tries to evade their pursuers until the teams switch!
This is the excellent modern Battle Mode that Mario Kart fans have been waiting years for, and it’s one of the biggest and best draws to entice even those who have already played Mario Kart 8 to death on Wii U to purchase and enjoy Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. All the better is that the ‘Retro’ Battle Arenas, such as, “Battle Course 1” from Super Mario Kart or, “Luigi’s Mansion” from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, still hold up amazingly well, while all-new Battle Arenas introduced in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe like Sweet Sweet Kingdom, Dragon Palace and the Splatoon-themed Urchin Underpass give Battle Mode enthusiasts new tricky, devious obstacles and paths to try and outwit their opponents with.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s new additions make an excellent game even better, and every highlight mode in the original Mario Kart 8 for Wii U remains superb on Nintendo Switch. It remains just as satisfying to conquer fast-paced 150cc and 200cc races across the 48 tracks offered in the main racing circuits, just as getting into online matches remains easy and thrilling, especially with an improved ability to toggle racers and vehicle parts without having to back out of a lobby, as you had to do in the original Wii U release. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe stands as an excellent example of how to take an already masterful game, and further polish up its handful of rough spots to make it shine even brighter on an improved and more flexible new platform!
Nintendo has frequently been a class above most other publishers and developers when it comes to making remasters, and that’s never been more apparent than it is with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. This Nintendo Switch remaster could have easily marketed itself on the hardware’s portability, slightly touched up the graphics, and threw in the DLC before calling it a day, but it didn’t stop there. Instead, Nintendo effectively took on additional opportunities for meaningful improvements in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, whether it was boosting performance to a more responsive and satisfying 60fps even in Handheld Mode, adding exclusive new racers, items and vehicle variations to keep players discovering new strategies, making the game more accommodating to less skilled players through the optional Smart Steering and Smart Acceleration, and best of all, taking the lacklustre Battle Mode from the original Wii U release, throwing it out, and completely revamping it to make it now one of this remaster’s most appealing play modes!
Even being a remaster of a game originally released in 2014, and originally designed for Wii U, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe stands as a game that no early Nintendo Switch adopter should be without. This is true whether you’re a hardcore racer, or a more casual player just looking for a good time, and regardless of whether or not you’ve already bought and played the original Wii U release. Some may argue that a remaster of a last-gen game shouldn’t be priced at the full $59.99 USD/$79.99 CDN sum, especially on Nintendo Switch, but Mario Kart 8 Deluxe does do a commendable job of justifying that high price tag, especially since it’s a game that Nintendo Switch owners are bound to enjoy for years!
Of course, there is the obvious question of where Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will stand when the series’ next proper follow-up inevitably releases on Nintendo Switch in the future. For now though, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best Mario Kart game released to date on any platform, as well as easily the Nintendo Switch’s best multiplayer offering at this point. It’s even a worthy rival to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a robust and incessantly replayable single-player masterwork too! Whether or not Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is overall the best Nintendo Switch game at this point is a matter of debate, but either way, there’s no arguing that this remaster is definitely a first-place finish!
- Same excellent racing, further fine-tuned with new racers, items, and a flawless 60fps clip
- Optional Smart Steering and Smart Acceleration make the game more approachable to the uninitiated
- Revamped Battle Mode is now one of the game's best draws
- Price is a little high for a remaster (but worth it!)