Mario Kart 8 was awesome wasn't it? It didn't appreciably help Nintendo move a ton of Wii U systems, but it's still a great game. Since Nintendo has embraced downloadable content on the Wii U and 3DS, Mario Kart 8 is also a title that'll be continually improved with more characters, tracks, and stages. The franchise has a long history of tracks and racers to pull from and DLC means you could see them all eventually.
Nintendo has finally detailed what players will see in the first of two DLC Packs, with additional hints about the content of the second pack. What's surprising is both packs highlight a shift in Mario Kart's overall focus. Up until now, the series has been focused on Mario-related characters and franchise, unlike Nintendo's Super Smash Bros, which pulls from every Nintendo game in the company's history.
DLC Pack 1 will add Tanooki Mario (Super Mario Bros 3/3D Land) and Cat Peach (Super Mario 3D World), but it also makes room for The Legend of Zelda's Link. It adds 4 new vehicles, including the Zelda-themed Master Cycle and the F-Zero-inspired Blue Falcon. Finally, DLC Pack 1 will also have 2 new cups, Triforce and Egg Cup, featuring 8 new tracks. Not all tracks have been revealed yet, but Wario's Gold Mine from Mario Kart Wii and Yoshi's Circuit from Mario Kart: Double Dash are joined by the all-new Excitebike Arena and unnamed tracks based on F-Zero and The Legend of Zelda.
DLC Pack 2 is much the same, but acts a crossover with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. New racers include the Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing, with Dry Bowser returning from Mario Kart Wii. Animal Crossing and Super Bell Cups are confirmed, but there's been no details on the 4 new vehicles or 8 new tracks in the pack.
DLC Pack 1 drops next month, while DLC Pack 2 is coming in May 2015. Both pack costs $7.99 a piece, or you can pick them up Season Pass-style for $11.99.
Content like this is why I was glad to see Nintendo getting in on the DLC action. Yes, DLC can be misused, holding back content that should've gone in the retail release, but it can also be used to extend the life of a title. Mario Kart 8's free DLC, which added three Mercedes-Benz vehicles to the title was harmless, but it felt like a move in the wrong direction. Mario Kart 8's upcoming DLC will expand the title beyond its launch confines and more importantly, it'll expand Mario Kart beyond the Mario-related universe.
This isn't the first time the idea has been brought up. Mario Kart 8 director Kosuke Yabuki told Nintendo Life that the company was open to the Super Smash Kart idea for a future title.
"We're always considering ways to make the Mario Kart games more appealing, but I don't think that just increasing the number of characters would make the game better," replied Yabuki when asked about a Smash-like character roster. "Of course, I'm not ruling out the possibility of such an approach in the future though."
I expected this meant Mario Kart 9 might evolve the series a bit, but it seems that Nintendo had other plans. Two DLC Packs including stages, vehicles, and characters from The Legend of Zelda, F-Zero, and Animal Crossing is a great start, but can you imagine where the series could go? Of course you can, just by looking at the full roster of Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS. Think of all those characters and stages in a Mario Kart. Adding all that and fixing Battle Mode is really the only way Nintendo can improve upon the near-perfection that was Mario Kart 8.