It feels like yesterday since Mario and friends jumped in karts and raced their way onto our Nintendo consoles. There’s been some great Mario spin-offs over the years such as the RPG games, sports games, and the Mario Party series. However, Mario Kart just hits differently. In this list we’re looking back on all Mario Kart Games in release order.
1. Super Mario Kart
The SNES and Super Famicom started it all with Super Mario Kart. The game introduces many series’ conventions such as racers with differing attributes, multi-race cups, and battle mode. There’s 8 playable characters to race along 20 racetracks. Its use of a Mode 7 graphics engine made depth of field very interesting for a 16-bit console.
2. Mario Kart 64
A lot of the genetic makeup of modern day Mario Kart games can be traced back to Mario Kart 64. Of course, this means track design, the introduction of the item block, implementing a Mirror Mode, and the first appearance of the dreaded Spiny Shell. Several iconic racetracks hold up to this day such as Toad’s Turnpike, Royal Raceway, and this game’s iteration of Rainbow Road. Mario Kart 64 is an overhaul of what came prior and is still regarded as one of the best Mario Kart games in the series.
3. Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Mario Kart: Super Circuit marked the first time the series appeared on a handheld. This Game Boy Advance game felt like a mixture of Super Mario Kart with Mario Kart 64. The sprites felt true to the latter, yet the GBA’s smaller screen utilizes parallax scrolling features reminiscent of the original Mario Kart game. Super Circuit has some of the tougher extras to unlock but remains a good kart racer on-the-go.
This Mario Kart game is the second best-selling game on the Nintendo GameCube. Mario Kart: Double Dash has an interesting feature that has not been repeated since. Two characters can now share one kart and alternate as the driver and item user at the push of a button. Additionally, certain characters have their own unique special items. Mario and Luigi use fireballs, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong can drop huge banana peels, while Wario and Waluigi get Bob-Ombs. Double Dash is often regarded as one of the best Mario Kart games in the series.
5. Mario Kart DS
Mario Kart DS may not have a generous assortment of playable characters like Double Dash, but it makes for a funner handheld experience by surpassing Super Circuit. We can thank Mario Kart DS for fan favorite tracks like Waluigi Pinball and Tick-Tock Clock. It’s the first game in the series to have a single-player Battle Mode. There’s an additional Mission Mode that requires the player to complete specific challenges during an active race with certain characters. The Nintendo DS’s unique hardware lets players use the bottom screen to preview the raceway, locate incoming obstacles, and track stats.
6. Mario Kart Wii
When the Nintendo Wii changed the way games are played with motion controls, Mario Kart changed with it. Mario Kart Wii came packaged with the Wii Wheel. For added immersion, players can now steer a plastic wheel to control the racers. What’s more is that Mario Kart Wii introduces more gameplay-augmenting features than ever before. Motorbikes are now an option, and various kart and bike options influence racing capabilities.
7. Mario Kart 7
It’s with Mario Kart 7 on the Nintendo 3DS where we can see a lot of modern amenities in the series. Thanks to Mario Kart 7, vehicle customization is through the roof. The body of the karts can be swapped out, including wheels, and paraglider to influence top speed, handling, acceleration, weight, and off-road traction. Speaking of which, the paraglider feature makes its debut in this Mario Kart game making mid-air travel a new concept. Underwater track segments also lend more diversity in the design of the racetracks.
8. Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 brings a natural step forward for the series with the advent of anti-gravity racing. Certain portions of the racetrack will curve unlike ever before. Players can drive along walls and upside down. The camera and controls working in tandem for this new feature feel surprisingly smooth and intuitive. Older tracks from previous games are given fresh ideas and reimagined aesthetics. Mario Kart 8 goes further than its 3DS predecessor and opens customization options to karts, bikes, and a new ATV option. Perhaps its greatest setback, aside from lacking proper Battle Mode stages, is that Mario Kart 8 launched on Nintendo Wii U.
Nintendo made the right choice in porting Mario Kart 8 to Nintendo Switch. This rerelease carries over the DLC of the Wii U original and revamps Battle Mode with dedicated courses rather than repurposing the existing tracks. This version of the game lets players hold two items at once. Rather than release a new entry in the series, Nintendo opted to release Booster Courses years after the game’s original release. Several courses lack the polish of the base game’s racetracks, but it’s impressive that Mario Kart 8 has doubled in size. Now you can play in over 20 cups and even more racers have been added to the base game. Deluxe is easily one of the best Mario Kart games you can play.
10. Mario Kart Tour
Mario Kart Tour is a mobile kart racer available to Android and iOS devices. This makes Mario Kart more accessible than ever before. The Tour moniker comes from the game’s tendency to feature biweekly tours with their own cups and racetracks. The game does bring back some classic racetracks dating back to Super Mario Kart, but its neatest draw is the original racetracks based on real world locations. In one track you’ll be zooming through New York’s Central Park and Times Square and in another race past the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Many of these racetracks move their way to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
11. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
At last we come to Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch. What’s undeniably the most original of all games in the series, Home Circuit stands out for its use of physical karts you can race in your own home. The game launched with both a Mario set and a Luigi set. Each Mario brother has their own actual kart peripheral that can be placed on a homemade racetrack. Augmented reality takes care of the rest. The karts have a built-in camera. On the Switch’s screen, and TV screen, players will be transported to the raceway of their own design to compete with AI opponents.
You may stumble upon this Mario Kart game at your nearest arcade. Mario Kart Arcade GP is a collaboration with Bandai Namco and dates back to 2005, although you’re more likely to come across the 2017 GP DX machines. The latest arcade machines incorporate recent Mario Kart standards like the paraglider and underwater racing. Another awesome feature occurs when players opt into Team Mode. Two players can combine their karts together into one super-powered kart. In this form one player can take over on driving while the other serves on the offensive.