Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

Nintendo puts the finishing touches on an already excellent game.

Review by Mike Williams, .

When I first reviewed Mario Kart 8 for Wii U back in 2014, I hoped it would be the game to turn the Wii U's fortunes around. My lengthy review can be summed up as "Great game, but Battle Mode is horrible". It was. In every other measure Mario Kart 8 was an outstanding entry in the franchise, but Nintendo was asleep at the wheel when it came to Battle Mode. The lack of a real Battle Mode is what kept an excellent game from getting all five stars in my review.

I'm fabulous. [All screenshots taken from docked Switch via Elgato HD60 screenshot function, unless otherwise noted.]

Three years later and Nintendo is pushing Mario Kart 8 back into service, hoping the game will keep Nintendo Switch owners occupied until the next major release. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a repackaging of the original, with most of the same content and a few new additions. From another publisher, this would be have the subtitle of "Definitive Edition" or "Complete Edition". It's a chance for Nintendo to smooth over where they may have erred in Mario Kart 8.

Battle Mode is Back!

There are other additions to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but I want to start with the new Battle Mode. The brunt of the new content is here: eight Battle courses, five modes, and the Battle Mode-specific Feather item makes its return. Classic Battle mode maps like Battle Course 1 from Super Mario Kart, Wuhu Town from Mario Kart 7, and Luigi's Mansion from Mario Kart: Double Dash are joined by new arenas like Battle Stadium, Lunar Colony, and the Splatoon-inspired Urchin Underpass. The latter map is one of the strong standouts in terms of actual play, but they're all solid arenas.

Screen via Switch portable mode, built-in screenshot capture.

Balloon Battle is the classic Mario Kart battle mode we all know and love. It moves away of the last man standing version from Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 8 to a pure scoring system. Hit an opponent and you gain a point. Lose all of your balloons and you return to the match minus three balloons from your score. This adds a layer of tension, because you can go from match leader to lagging behind because of those three balloons. This is where folks are probably going to spend their most of their Battle Mode time.

Bob-omb Blast is Balloon Battle, but every weapon is Bob-ombs. Coin Runners has you racing around the maps collecting coins; get hit and you drop a few. The person with the most coins when the time runs out wins. Shine Thief is a game of keepaway. A Shine spawns in the middle of the map and players have to grab it and hold onto it for a certain amount of time. The Shine Thief drives slightly slower than everyone else and your opponents use items to make you drop the Shine.

They see me rollin', they hatin'...
Screen via Switch portable mode, built-in screenshot capture.

They're all rather fun. The only mode that falls flat for me is Renegade Roundup. Here, players are split into two teams, with one side being the Authorities, and the other being the Renegades. The cops have Piranha Plants attached to the front of their karts that eat Renegades and place them in jail. Renegades can be freed by their free teammates via a button beneath the jails. The Renegades win if at least one member remains free when the time runs out. It's not a poorly designed mode, it's just not my cup of tea and spending more time with it hasn't really changed my mind.

Battle Mode was the place where I always spent hours messing around with friends, so it's lack of inclusion in Mario Kart 8 saddened me. The fact that it's here in Deluxe goes a long way to making this the definitive package. This is what Nintendo should've released in the first place and it's glorious.

It's New To You

Battle Mode isn't the only thing rounding out the package. The roster tops out at 42 characters, with the original Mario Kart 8 cast, all of the DLC characters like Link (The Legend of Zelda) and Isabelle (Animal Crossing), and new additions, including Inkling Girl, Inkling Boy, King Boo, Dry Bones, Bowser Jr, and a Golden Mario variant. All the DLC race cups are present too, bringing the course total to 48.

Nintendo added some new features for beginner and veterans alike. Beginners get Smart Steering, which corrects your course if you're about to fall of an edge or hit an obstacle, and Auto-Accelerate, which automatically keeps your kart moving forward.

For veterans, Nintendo has added a third level of mini-turbo after a drift. Ultra Mini-Turbo has pink sparks as a visual cue during drifting. With the new mini-turbo, Nintendo has also patched out the fire-hopping technique some veterans used to get ahead. Finally, you can now carry two items at once and the stacked item box from Mario Kart: Double Dash makes a full-time return!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has a few smaller quality of life changes too. Players can now change character and vehicle combinations within an online lobby, instead of having to drop game. There's also a new in-game guide accessible from the starting menu. 200cc gets Time Trials for the first time ever.

One place I feel Nintendo has erred is a lack of customizable controls. As it stands, A is accelerate, ZR is jump/drift, and ZL uses items. I find that my larger hands tend to cramp in long play sessions, so I wish I could move accelerate to another button to alleviate the problem. Auto-accelerate is there, but I find it doesn't give me the precise control I want.

Giving Your Kart a New Shine

It's a testament to the added content that I got this far in review without talking about the improved graphics of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Like Mario Kart 8, Deluxe still holds onto a rock solid 60fps in both docked and portable modes. In portable, it's 720p resolution, just like the Wii U version. In docked mode, the game jumps to 1080p and though you'd think it wouldn't be noticeable, it is. Mario Kart 8 was always a bright and beautiful game, but Deluxe in docked mode adds an additional level of clarity to the entire thing.

Speaking of portable mode, Mario Kart 8 is very flexible when it comes to multiplayer action. Up to 4 players can play on a single screen with a combination of Joy-Cons and Pro Controllers. Two folks can join online or LAN play via a single Switch. Local multiplayer allows for 8 players in various combinations of 1-2 players per Switch, while online and Lan play offers up to 12 players.

Part of the promise of some of the best Mario Karts - Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart DS - is being able to enjoy the game with friends anywhere you want. To get that, you used to have to give up the graphical fidelity of the home console Mario Kart titles. With Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you don't have to compromise. This is a full-fledged Mario Kart, whether you're at home or on-the-go. Battle Mode is back and better than ever. You have a ton of courses and characters, across 50, 100, 150, and 200cc speeds. And multiplayer lets you bring everyone along for the ride.

In my last preview, I wondered if Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was worth the $59.99 asking price.

It's worth every penny. Wrap it up. The best Mario Kart ever is here.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Lasting appeal: Got gold in all 12 cups at 200cc? Then it's time to go online or rock it in local multiplayer. Mario Kart never ends.
  • Visuals: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe runs at a rock solid 60 fps in docked and portable modes. On a TV, 1080p is crisp and clear.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a victory lap for an amazing entry in the series. The only place Mario Kart 8 faltered was in its Battle Mode and Nintendo has rectified that here with a full-fledged version. 48 courses, 42 characters, 8 battle arenas, 5 battle modes, extensive multiplayer action, and the ability to take console Mario Kart with you wherever you go. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is absolutely worth the asking price.

5 /5

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review Mike Williams Nintendo puts the finishing touches on an already excellent game. 2017-04-20T13:00:00-04:00 5 5

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Comments 25

  • Avatar for The-Fool #1 The-Fool 9 months ago
    The Inklings are rather welcome editions. Great characters.

    I just wish that they were the hipster squidkids from Splatoon 2.

    The new Inklings have way more attitude.
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  • Avatar for admiralsnackbar #2 admiralsnackbar 9 months ago
    This and Puyo Puyo Tetris in one week? SWITCH GOT GAMES.
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #3 hiptanaka 9 months ago
    Are there any rewards for getting gold in the cups? I got most of them on Wii U so I'd probably need a carrot to do it all again.
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  • Avatar for Sturat #4 Sturat 9 months ago
    I had a lot of fun racing downloaded player ghosts who were a second faster than me on Mario Kart Wii, but on Mario Kart 8 for Wii U I could only seem to download the record-holder or people who were exactly as fast as me. Did anybody else have that problem and did they fix it for the Switch version?
    I would also like to know whether they fixed the 59 fps problem that was in the Wii U version.

    I liked Mario Kart 8 a lot, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to pay $60 again for a game that doesn't have any new race courses.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #5 yuberus 9 months ago
    It wasn't until Mario Kart 8 that I realized there are people out there who really, really like battle mode. It was always a far afterthought with me and the various folks I played with, who generally preferred multiplayer racing to the battles.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #6 brionfoulke91 9 months ago
    Nice to see they're keeping up the high quality of this series. Switch's games library is off to a strong start!
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #7 chaoticBeat 9 months ago
    I'm going to play the hell out of this. :D
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  • Avatar for CipherStone #8 CipherStone 9 months ago
    The auto-accelerator sounds like a nice function for me, since I find having to hold A (since we STILL can't remap the accelerator to a trigger) gave me an awful hand cramp on the Wii U. I would be interested in knowing how it works in practice. Can I still compete using that or will I want to change to manual on higher cc modes/online?
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  • Avatar for mrhumble1 #9 mrhumble1 9 months ago
    Um, some questions about basic functionality are not addressed in this review.

    1. Is there any single player content??

    2. How does multiplayer work?? Nintendo doesn't have its online infrastructure in place yet, so how do you play with your friends?? Must they all be in the same room??
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  • Avatar for qwilman #10 qwilman 9 months ago
    @mrhumble1 I was wondering about number 2 as well, is it the same infrastructure as the Wii U version?
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #11 MHWilliams 9 months ago
    @mrhumble1 My apologies. The review assumes a certain amount of familiarity with Mario Kart as a series.

    1. Everything is available in single- and multiplayer play. Races, Battle Mode, etc. There's no functional difference and the game simply fills out the rest of any race or battle with AI players. Otherwise, there is no story campaign or anything.

    2. You are misinformed. Nintendo's global online infrastructure is not online yet, meaning their built-in matchmaking system using Nintendo Accounts. This is separate from general online play. Online functionality has been present on the system since launch, notably in Super Bomberman R and Fast RMX. It's just done in-game by the developer, not on the system level. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe shares the same online functionality and matchmaking as Mario Kart 8.
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  • Avatar for mrhumble1 #12 mrhumble1 9 months ago

    You say it shares the same online functionality as MK 8, but I have never played a Mario Kart game so I don't know what that means. I have several friends who own a Switch, but none of them feel like sharing their stupid Friend Code because it's so cumbersome. Is that the only way to add them?? I would prefer to not play against random internet people.

    As for single player, if there is no campaign then it's just random individual races against AI?? That does not sound terribly exciting.

    I would like to want this game, but it seems like it's made for MK fans and people who have a ton of friends with Switches in close proximity. I don't see how that warrants a perfect score, especially at $60.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #13 MHWilliams 9 months ago
    @mrhumble1 If you would prefer not to add friends via Friend Code and not play against random internet folks, I'd argue that the Switch is simply not for you as a platform.

    The lack of story-based campaign is also true of every Mario Kart since Super Mario Kart, so again, I'd say that it's just not your jam.
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  • Avatar for Folkenhellfang #14 Folkenhellfang 9 months ago
    @mrhumble1 you're getting too hung up on the idea that 5 stars means perfect. It's the reviewer's highest recommendation, not the certification of perfection.
    I bet you'll dig it if you like kart racers.
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  • Avatar for mrhumble1 #15 mrhumble1 9 months ago

    I would like a kart racer if it had some interesting single-player content, a decent multiplayer system, and wasn't $60. Honestly, if this game was $39 I would not hesitate to pick it up just to have it. I will never buy this at $60.

    Saying the Switch isn't for me is ridiculous. I own a Vita and a 3DSXL (and had a Game Gear and Atari Lynx back in the day!!), so portable gaming IS my thing. I am just salty that I bought Nintendo's BS about releasing decent games in a timely fashion. I am enjoying Lego City but will be done with it soon and would like something else to occupy my mobile-gaming time.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #16 MHWilliams 9 months ago
    @mrhumble1 I mean, I don't have any visibility for your preferences, but your concerns about Friend Codes seemed to be a game-stopper for you regarding the Switch's online play and that's likely not changing anytime soon. Hence the reason I said perhaps it's not for you as a platform. I'm not trying to be dismissive when I say that and I apologize if it comes off that way.

    If you love the platform, but have issues with certain implementations, I can understand that.
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  • Avatar for themblan #17 themblan 9 months ago
    @mrhumble1 As a solo player, you will play through Cups, which are groups of four tracks, in which you can earn trophies based on how you do.

    You can also do Time Attacks for individual races, where it's just you against the clock. Ghosts of other racers can appear to motivate you to do better.

    I've read that most things are unlocked already, but you can work to unlock the car-parts and Gold Mario.Edited April 2017 by themblan
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  • Avatar for himuradrew #18 himuradrew 9 months ago
    I really want to try out the game, if ever this will be my first ever Mario Kart.

    Two things are kind of holding me back though:

    1) I suck at ALL racing games
    2) I'm playing all by my lonesome.

    That being said, is this still worth picking up?
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  • Avatar for StrwbrryJams #19 StrwbrryJams 9 months ago
    @himuradrew As someone who played through this on Wii U mostly in single player, I'd recommend it! It's a lot of fun, creative, and I think you'll find that you can improve quickly.
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  • Avatar for Toelkki #20 Toelkki 9 months ago
    I'll be giving this a pass. The Wii U version taught that Mario Kart is no longer for me, especially since I'd play it primarily alone.
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  • Avatar for himuradrew #21 himuradrew 9 months ago
    @StrwbrryJams Thank you for the recommendation. I guess I'll give it a shot. Who knows? Mario Kart just might be the racing game for me. :)
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  • Avatar for CipherStone #22 CipherStone 9 months ago
    @himuradrew for what it's worth, I have a 0% interest in racing games as a genre and I love Mario Kart games.
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  • Avatar for himuradrew #23 himuradrew 9 months ago
    @CipherStone Haha. Here's hoping that I'd fall in love with Mario Kart too.
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  • Avatar for chiptoon #24 chiptoon 9 months ago
    I love this game o n Wii u , but cannot pay full price again.

    Importantly Mario Kart is the one game that I love to play online. Until we know what the eventual online pay wall will be, we don't actually know the real cost of the game.
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  • Avatar for Outrider #25 Outrider 9 months ago
    @yuberus I knew Battle Mode was popular since that's what my friends always wanted to play, but I generally don't love Battle Mode, so... Mario Kart 8's lack of normal Battle Mode didn't but me that much!
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