Mario Kart 8 is the Switch's Most Successful Game. So Why Isn't it Getting Updated With New DLC?

Mario Kart 8 is the Switch's Most Successful Game. So Why Isn't it Getting Updated With New DLC?

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe drives down a lonely road, and it makes no sense.

It might surprise you to learn Mario Kart 8 is five years old today. Chances are you're not nostalgic for Nintendo's latest entry in its massively popular kart-racing series. Why would you be? Mario Kart 8 skidded into our hearts in 2014, then parked there permanently. Mario Kart 8 remained at the top of the Wii U's best-sellers chart until the system's demise, and the Switch upgrade, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, has been a constant on weekly best-selling game lists since 2017.

Combined, the Wii U and Switch editions of Mario Kart 8 have sold over 25 million units. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe alone is the Switch's best-selling game, and the most recent UK game sales charts show Mario Kart 8 Deluxe still nestled in the Top 10. It's not too surprising: Everyone loves Mario Kart, and everyone seems to love the Nintendo Switch. It's a perfect pairing.

What is surprising is Nintendo's prolonged hesitance to add new content to its most popular game through DLC. Outside of occasional small additions like Link's sweet bike from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Labo support, Nintendo doesn't seem too interested in keeping its most popular game fresh with new tracks and racers. The Wii U edition of the game offered meaty DLC packs with racers outside the Mario universe, but after Deluxe let us unlock the Inkling from Splatoon (may her rude gesture live forever), the promising road to "Super Smash Kart" was claimed by weeds.

Nintendo is an opaque, baffling entity, particularly when it comes to its plans for DLC, microtransactions, and the online world in general. On one hand, it admirably doesn't want to rip kids off with microtransactions for its games, but then we learn Mario Kart Tour for mobile might have some heavy nickel-and-diming (subject to change, as this info is based on a beta). Nintendo's also not shy about giving us DLC for Super Smash Bros Ultimate, but DLC for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe? Crickets.

Dry Bones is more alive than the Mario Kart DLC 8 scene | Captured by Mike Williams

Sure, Nintendo's generally doesn't go bonkers with DLC and microtransactions the way some publishers do, but it's still clearly OK with DLC as a concept. That's fine! In fact, I'm more irritated there isn't DLC for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe than I'd be if it had lots. The term "games as a service" makes people groan because asking people to pay into multiplayer content over the long-term can get exploitive, but Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is worth paying into. In fact, it's highly unique amongst other games that have roosted on the Best Sellers chart for months because it's managed to do so without offering a constant trickle of DLC. Grand Theft Auto 5 is another game that's lived forever, but that's because it's a gateway to the constantly-updated Grand Theft Auto Online. I'm not saying we need a Mario Kart Online—not that I'd object to it, either—but it'd be great if we had the option to buy more racers and more tracks.

Again, Nintendo's DLC/online strategy is simply weird. I wonder if it didn't foresee a world where Mario Kart 8 Deluxe dominates the sales charts year after year, so it simply had no plan to continue offering DLC after the original Mario Kart 8. And since Nintendo's not great at changing lanes on the fly, no plan equals no new DLC. It's baffling, because it's not as if Nintendo lacks properties to shoehorn into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. We can have ARMS fighters, Octolings—heck, get BoxBoy and BoxGirl in there! No hands? No problem! They can just steer with their mouths…oh wait, they don't have those, either. OK, BoxBoy and ilk are out, but if Smash has taught us anything, most publishers will shank their own grandmothers for a chance to get their characters into a Nintendo game. Joker for Smash? How about Joker for Mario Kart?

More racers equals more mayhem. | Captured by Mike Williams

It's worth mentioning Nintendo promised more Mario Kart 8 Deluxe content is incoming a year ago, but that promise hasn't manifested into anything significant. Could Nintendo be waiting until Mario Kart Tour hits mobile so it can perform some cross-platform magic? Is there a chance we'll get something special for this fifth anniversary year? As with many things related to Nintendo, the answer is "Who knows." You may as well put in a few more laps on Baby Park until we hear something, but don't be surprised if you wind up circling that cursed loop forever and ever.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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