Random Game Wednesdays is kind of a weird series on this blog. Because I let a random number generator choose the game I cover, we end up with a strange assortment, and you never quite know what you’re going to get. Sometimes I get obscure games that have been sitting on my shelf ever since I found them at Goodwill years ago. Other times, I get undisputed classics. This week is the latter.
The Mario Kart franchise is one of the biggest and most important of all of Nintendo’s properties. It has the right level of “pick up and play” style gameplay that can get people who’ve never played invested immediately, while also containing enough depth for dedicated players to learn every nook and cranny of each course. Going back to the original game, I was kind of surprised to see just how much of Mario Kart’s essence has been around since the beginning.
In Super Mario Kart, you play as one of eight Super Mario Bros. characters and race go-karts around tracks that are themed around Mario locations. In every other Mario Kart game, I play as Yoshi, but for whatever reason, I always choose Koopa Troopa in the original. So, for the purpose of this write-up, I chose Koopa Troopa, selected 50 cc (which is basically easy mode), and played the first couple of grands prix (which is apparently the plural of “grand prix” according to Google).
For the most part, Super Mario Kart still handles great. Holding down B accelerates your kart, hitting either shoulder button makes you hop into a drift, and the A button uses an item. I did find drifting to be a little more squirrelly in this game when compared to the other games in the series. As a result, I usually just let go of B while going into turns instead of trying to slide around them. This worked out fine, but I’m sure another player who was better at drifting then I am would completely destroy me.
One of the most iconic features of the Mario Kart franchise is the items. Lots of the items that have become staples in the series started out here. You’ve got your green shells that you can shoot ahead of you or drop behind you, bananas that will slip up opponents, red shells that home in on the next kart in front of you, and more. There’s also a feather which makes you jump really high enabling you to find secrets. This is a cool item that hasn’t been featured since, that is, until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe launches later this year.
This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, since I mentioned earlier that 50 cc is basically easy mode, but I had very little trouble with the first grand prix. I ended in first place in each race with little effort. The second grand prix gave me much more trouble, however. The tracks become considerably trickier, with more jumps, sharp turns, and ways to fall of the course.
It doesn’t help that the rubber-band AI that has plagued the Mario Kart series forever got it’s start here. If you don’t know what rubber-band AI is, it’s the idea of the game intentionally helping out certain characters to keep them competitive. Luigi was my nemesis this morning, and no matter what I would do to knock him back, he would snap right back to the front of the pack. This is frustrating, by I understand why it exists. Because Luigi was so much better than everyone else, getting the most points was really a competition between me and him. If it was fair, all of the points would have dispersed amongst all the AI players, and it would have been much easier for me to get first place.
Due to the nature of Random Game Wednesdays, I wasn’t able to check out any of the multiplayer offerings. This is a shame, because really, multiplayer is where Mario Kart has always shined brightest. I have a lot of fond memories of playing this game with friends and family, but I won’t actually talk about it here. I just felt like it was too important to not at least acknowledge here.
Super Mario Kart was great and still is great. While it certainly isn’t my favorite in the series (that would be either 64 or 8), it lives up to the lofty expectations those games have received. If you’ve somehow never had a chance to check this game out, do it. It’s not just a solid foundation for the games that followed, it’s a great game in its own right.