Jamie O’Neill

I have vivid memories of Christmas 1992. Nintendo played a huge part in my enjoyment of the build up towards Christmas Day and the fun that was had during that year’s festive period. It’s the anticipation of unwrapping and playing a new game that adds to the magic of Christmas gaming, and without any Internet, it was down to the coverage in magazines of the day to hype-up my yearning for Super Mario Kart.

I had just recently decided to sell my PAL SNES and invest in a US version of the console. I was not particularly enamoured with the breeze block design of the American machine, especially compared to the curved Super Famicom sleekness inherited in the PAL SNES. However, the first issue of a new magazine, Super Play (November 1992), had a feature that convinced me to invest in a 60HZ full screen import machine and a purchase of the 93% scoring Super Mario Kart. At the same time issue one of another new magazine, called Nintendo Magazine System (October 1992), reviewed it with a 92 score, cementing my investment.

Super Mario Kart surpassed my expectations. My friends came over for repeated gaming sessions and it became our game of choice way past Christmas and throughout 1993. We didn’t just learn every course; we mastered timing jump drifts at optimum spots around each corner. We also discovered every shortcut, including the ambitious one on Bowser Castle 1 where you hit a speed boost and then feather jump over a massive section of lava.

Christmas is my favourite time of year and as soon as I hear the title or menu tune from Super Mario Kart I start to feel festive, in the same way as if you put Fairytale of New York on the stereo. I own all of the Mario Kart games, but my favourite courses are the ones based around slippery ice and fluttering snow, because they feel most appropriate during the holiday season. Sherbet Land, which is different for both N64 and GameCube versions, is a perfect example.

Subsequently, it has become a tradition for me to first experience each new Mario Kart during Christmas time. The GameCube’s Mario Kart: Double Dash‼ was a highlight of Christmas Day 2003, my girlfriend and brother both picked up a pad to race that year. I am waiting to play Mario Kart 7 on Christmas Day this year: even though I already have it, it has been hidden away. Similarly, Mario Kart Wii was released in April, but I waited eight long months to play it on Christmas Day 2008.

Partly because of my nostalgia for Christmas gaming, I still consider SNES Super Mario Kart to have a spot reserved in my Top 5 games of all-time, even today.