News Article

First Impressions: Mario Kart 8

Posted by Anthony John Agnello

Turning things upside down

Imagine the Mario Kart series as an enormous living being made out of adorable cars, happy drivers, delightful loops passing through volcanoes and haunted houses and vicious blue shells. Envision this being, this body of Kartdom, and now answer this simple question: where is its heart? What is the thumping engine within the Mario Kart beast that keeps it running after more than two decades? Is it in that place where a simple idea meets perfect execution? Is it among the characters, inside that face off between friends who can play regardless of gamer credentials? Has it been transplanted into the modern motion controls of Mario Kart Wii or in the strategic elegance of Mario Kart: Double Dash? Hard to say. Know this, though: even in our brief time with Mario Kart 8 for Wii U, we can nevertheless still hear its faintly beating heart at this early stage.

Mario Kart 8 does a number of things well out the gate. First is the roster. The standards remain. Mario, Yoshi, Luigi, Bowser, Peach, Koopa Trooper, Toad and Donkey Kong — all grown up from his Super Mario Kart days — remain, as does ‘90s mainstay Wario. Back too are stars of the ‘00s, Princess Daisy, Waluigi, and Toadette are in tow (Nintendo didn’t say whether or not the roster would be expanded in the final outing).

Mario Kart 8 also nails the controls. The insane success of Mario Kart Wii isn’t ignored, and all those little plastic wheels littering the land can be used here. When playing with the GamePad, all you have to do is tap the corner of the touch screen and you’re playing with sweet, sweet analogue stick controls for exacting precision. During one four-way race, that precision was absolutely necessary as well. All four players were jockeying for first place on and off, trading red shells, bananas and blasting forward thanks to a stray booster mushroom, but there was never a blue shell in sight. It may be too much to hope for that Nintendo’s notorious habit of keeping modern Mario Karts competitive for the worst players has been scaled back, but this demo showed none of the rubber banding that’s held the series back.

The track on display at E3 also felt like an instant classic in the Kart canon. A Möbius strip that loops on and over itself as the crew raced around Princess Peach’s castle, it showed off all the graphical flare the Wii U could muster, looking mighty fine in the process. Giant goombas litter the road, their puckish faces glaring in stacks ahead of you, and those glowing question boxes glimmer with a new blue sheen. When the vehicles turn into wacky hovering machines as the track goes upside down or sideways, Nintendo’s intact attention to detail shimmers as well. Spin upside down, and Princess Peach’s hair flows in the same direction. It’s the little things that count.

The little things also add up, though, and it’s the totality of a Mario Kart that really distinguishes it. There are too many questions left unanswered to say whether or not Mario Kart 8 will be a late game hero on Wii U when it comes out in 2014. Will the online racing get a huge following, booming on the Miiverse social network? What about the battle modes? How about a Double Dash mode? Unlockable characters? How will Nintendo support Mario Kart 8 with its new-found love of downloadable content?

Where the heart of Mario Kart lies changes with each new game in the series. Its greatest triumph has always been reinvention, especially in the jumps from Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, and Mario Kart: Double Dash. Each of those games was unique and strange, from Mario Kart 64’s world of hidden short-cuts to the sublime eight-player battle royales possible in Double Dash. Nintendo has shown nothing more than Mario Kart 8’s face so far, and while it's beautiful and forward looking, its heart is still mostly hidden. When Nintendo addresses all of these unanswered questions about its many possible limbs, we’ll know the place its blood flows from.

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User Comments (98)

Thearnaud44

#3

Thearnaud44 said:

I hope they just put the game out this holiday and finish it with some weekly free DLC. Anyone agree?

Pachterkid

#5

Pachterkid said:

And I bet I won't be able to use my Pro Controller with this game... or Super Mario 3D World, or Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, or Bayonetta 2, or Wind Waker HD. Why the hell did Nintendo even make that damn controller if they're never going to let us use it with any of their games? I don't want to play any of these games with a big clunky tablet controller.

Kage_88

#7

Kage_88 said:

Man, this game looks beautiful! Look at the detail in Mario's overalls!

I think this WILL be the game that finally sees Wii U's online community explode. Can't wait.

DreamyViridi

#8

DreamyViridi said:

Before anyone gets their hopes up; the lack of a Blue Shell is due to the fact that this is a demo. The same happened in Mario Kart 7's development stage and demos. It'll no doubt return; though whether it'll be winged or not is anyone's guess.
A Wii U demo for the eShop would be nice, by the way.

erv

#10

erv said:

This impressed me right off the start. It looks great, seems to inhabit some f-zero in there, seems to have the chaos back, it seems to be polished overall.

I really love the feature set too, considering online mostly. What I do hope it'll get is two players on 1 wiiU with one on the gamepad, the other on the screen, preferably both of them online with others at that setup.

It would fit the wiiU philosophy of alone together and be lots of fun.

Varia01

#11

Varia01 said:

That is good to hear. I do know what the "heart" is the game's enjoyment. Maybe an idea of Miyamoto's not earn a few bucks, but rather to give enjoyment to the players. He did so with his excellent video gaming mind. It will be really neat to see how the game looks in HD. :) Off my kindle fire hd, the screen is 720p, but the Wii U can get up to a maximum of 1080p which would look pretty amazing for this game. The gameplay sounds great too. No blue shell? Maybe something new...

The character roster was small and partially strange for the 7, so I wonder how this will turn out character wise. Maybe: Dry Bowser, Goomba, Waluigi (He may not be in smash, but he could possibly come here), I'm trying to think about characters who have already been in previous games, other than Waluigi.

Anyway. HYPE!!! :O

LDXD

#12

LDXD said:

@koopakid what are you talking about? Most games I have I use my pro controller I'm almost positive that it will be compatible with the pro
Oh and the game looks awesome

DreamyViridi

#13

DreamyViridi said:

@Varia01 - Have no fear. Waluigi was playable in the demo and shows up in the game's trailer. :)
Anyway, I'm really excited for this entry in the Mario Kart series. The first thing that got me were the graphics. Compared to other entries, Mario Kart 8 was absolute eye candy for me, looking at the trailer. So yeah, I'm hyped!!

DestinyMan

#14

DestinyMan said:

This is the game that will finally bring out the Wii U's full online potential. The Miiverse community will practically be buzzing with people setting up tournaments and whatnot.

This is also the most beautiful Mario game by far. It's probably going to be as graphically advanced as a Mario game is going to get. The small details, the lighting, and the background is just smooth and shiny.

It's too bad this won't come this year, but I know what my top birthday item is going to be next spring!

Araknie

#15

Araknie said:

Ahhh....there goes gameplay talk...right out the window.
That's why i hate HD graphics, people forget about all other aspects...

RADencker

#17

RADencker said:

@koopakid I bet this game supports the Pro Controller. Mario Kart Wii supported the Classic Controller Pro, Wii Wheel & wiimote and even the Gamecube controller. For the mario Kart franchise its all about accessibility.

Oh, if you've never played Mario Kart Wii with the Gamecube controller, give it a spin. It's probably THE best way to control the game. I use the wireless Wavebird and its awesome.

Fazermint

#19

Fazermint said:

I think it looks great. Not only the wall / ceiling rides and the underwater / gliding parts, but also the environments. They look way more fleshed out than ever.

Peach64

#21

Peach64 said:

I'm sort of burned out on Mario Kart, even though I've never played a console version and just the 3 handheld ones, so I probably won't pick it up, but it does look really, really pretty.

rjejr

#22

rjejr said:

Was really lackluster about this during the ND reveal but watching it on Youtube I've since changed my mind.
Having played LBP Karting, MNR, and Sonic Transformed, I have to hand it to Nintendo for their kart gameplay mechanics and difficulty progression.

One thing I've noticed overall this E3 is a lack of Miis, and I think thats a good thing. I really like playing as my Mii, and I hope its in 8, but I'm glad they aren't focusing on it.

Samus06

#23

Samus06 said:

I am really impressed by this game. All the mechanics look great. Incorporating underwater parts and the hang gliders from MK 7 along with adding the awesome looking gravity defying hover mechanic makes this game look like the ultimate Mario Kart. It looks like it plays amazingly smooth and the visuals are incredible. This is what I expect of a Wii U game from Nintendo, top notch gameplay and visuals. Can't wait to play this!

DestinyMan

#24

DestinyMan said:

It's really neat that they mixed both Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7 into this. And those gravity-defying tracks are going to be really fun. Imagine what Rainbow Road is going to look like!

I don't know what to think of the bikes returning, though. I just hope that they are better balanced this time. I also hope that I get to play Wario driving on his motorcycle from the WarioWare series again!

Funny_Moblin

#26

Funny_Moblin said:

I played it at Best Buy. I love how the kart goes sideways. However, the camera follows you while upside down, so basically it won't be upside down...

19Robb92

#27

19Robb92 said:

The visuals look outstanding. I can't believe they managed to keep it 60fps at 1080p! Great job.

Banker-Style

#29

Banker-Style said:

Graphics are so sexy,nice to know Nintendo are pushing every once of graphical power out of the Wii U.

Dogpigfish

#31

Dogpigfish said:

What's especially important about this game is Nindi revealing the graphical prowess of the system. Nothing really graphically stellar has come out of this box that looks better than what we see today. This is a great example of the power of the equipment, showing graphics that stand up against Xbone and 4.

valcoholic

#32

valcoholic said:

@19Robb92 this would be a blast. read about smash bros. what's bugging me about that is, why isn't NSMBU in 1080p then? That game could really profit from that resolution when playing with 5 players. It's not like it had better graphics as smash bros or mario kart ;D
but thanks for the interesting news, I think someone really should do an article about 1080p on WiiU!

element187

#33

element187 said:

@koopakid wow, calm down, SM3DW, Bayo2, MK8 have all been confirmed by Nintendo reps to support the pro controller.. In fact in 2 weeks time you can be using the Pro Controller in both NSMBU and NSLU

OorWullie

#34

OorWullie said:

I wonder if its been held back till the start of the year just so that there will be more consoles out there after Xmas for playing online?Mario Kart Wii's online was fantastic,still is but with a lot less Wii U's out there it wouldn't be as easy to find a race,especially a full grid.

element187

#35

element187 said:

@valcoholic Because NSMBU was rushed to market just so we could have a mario game at launch.... Iwata's last investor meeting they described how they had to move teams off of MK8, SM3DW to get Nintendoland and NSMBU done in time for launch which pushed other titles out further.

The 32mb of eDRAM wasn't a part of the SDK documentation until a month or so after launch, so none of the launch games used this extremely fast sub memory/caching system.... I wouldn't expect very many games to be 1080p, only the most basic of games, like WW and Smash... Now if MK8 turns out to be 1080p I will just faint, the game already looks gorgeous in 720p (I honestly think it will release at 720p @60fps)

andrea987

#36

andrea987 said:

Looks very promising. This and X are my most wanted. Shame about the wait, though.
Fantastic article, btw, very well written.

Ducutzu

#37

Ducutzu said:

This game looks like the CGI sequences that were used to promote the Gamecube Mario Kart game (and even better).

Therad

#38

Therad said:

@19Robb92 it shouldn't be a surprise. Graphical power is all about the gpu. It has a gpu that is 2-3 generations ahead of ps360. Granted, ps360 had trouble outputting that.

Hd is also highly overrated. Shaders and polycount are much more important. Most people can't see the difference between 720p and 1080p from their normal viewing distance.

OL_G

#39

OL_G said:

@koopakid they made that controller for the fps freaks the gamepad works fine and is not clunky its not like you have to take it with you wherever you go

valcoholic

#40

valcoholic said:

@element187 thanks man. actually that's finally really good news about the system's architecture. I was always like 'well, everything looks good enough to be fun' but in the end, it's nice to have some extra power hidden in that system. especially because it doesn't make you feel like already knowing what to expect for the next years (in a technical way .. of course )
So. What I am now really, really thrillllled (yeah, with 5 Ls) to see is, what Nintendo is doing with that power when designing the real WiiU Zelda game, hehe :)

aaronsullivan

#41

aaronsullivan said:

Still waiting for a Diddy Kong Racing successor even if it's Mario Kart: In other words, give me an adventure mode! :P

Oh, and this is a day one purchase either way. :)

Gilius

#42

Gilius said:

They said this is to be released of Spring 2014. Though, I have a feeling that they'll finish early and release it on holidays. If that's so, I'll get a Wii U for Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. As of right now, i'm only getting SSB on 3DS.

Joshers744

#43

Joshers744 said:

This game looks beautiful. I love the style of it.
Here's hoping first place doesn't get destroyed with every item known to man like in other recent outings!

Tysamu

#44

Tysamu said:

I honestly still can't get over how beautiful, crisp, the game looks. It's as though we've walked into a new realm with this game; cinematic animated movie graphics lol

Knux

#45

Knux said:

This is probably the best looking Wii U game I have seen except for X. I can't wait to get my hands on it. :D

Tysamu

#46

Tysamu said:

@Therad seriously? It really does have a gpu that's 2-3 generations ahead of the current/last generation?

rlopez1996

#47

rlopez1996 said:

I absolutely mario kart games i cant wait till i can download this although going upside down is gonna be really annoying especially if the controls go upside down with it.

bunnyking

#48

bunnyking said:

@koopakid I like the gamepad but I can see where you are coming from. It sucks that your controller isn't supported by every game. :P

Jamester0722

#49

Jamester0722 said:

Do you think Nintendo will ever allow characters outside of the Mario universe to race? Link? Samus? Kirby?

Sforzando

#50

Sforzando said:

Nobody mentions that Crash Nitro Kart did the gravity thing first...come on, Mario Kart owes a lot to Crash Team Racing and Crash Nitro Kart!!

Rafie

#52

Rafie said:

@aaronsullivan I know right. Diddy Kong Racing was spectacular! My cousins and I spent HOURS on that game! I mean HOURS! Hahaha

I bet preorders are through the roof! Of course the MiiVerse is going to be flooded. This game probably more than any game on the MiiVerse, maybe even Smash Bros. Mario Kart has an unbelievable following that is only matched by COD fans. This game will be great!

Kirk

#57

Kirk said:

I personally think this was Nintendo's game of the show.

There's not a single area of the graphics, presentation, music, sound fx, controls, gameplay, innovation, charm and fun, basically just the entire game design in general, that isn't stellar.

I'm absolutely confident the final product will fully deliver about as good a Mario Kart experience as any reasonable person could expect on Wii U.

This is the kind of highly polished full-on next-gen effort I expect in every big franchise Wii U game coming from Nintendo...

Kirk

#59

Kirk said:

@Jamester0722
Personally, I'd love to see that happen.

Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel each time, pun intended, I think at some point it would just be easier to expand the roster to include all the big Nintendo characters.

That would make the game feel fresh all over again imo without too much thinking about whole new mechanics and gimmicks etc.

I see no good reason why this game couldn't eventually just evolve into "Nintendo Kart" basically, or something to that effect.

It worked/works for Smash Bros and I think it would absolutely work here. You could even have guest characters every now and again, in much the same way the Arcade version of Mario Kart has guest appearances by the likes of Pac-Man for example.

The only reason I would maybe argue against this is it means the roster of racers would inevitably end up being pretty big and that's a lot of work for the dev team that in many ways isn't really necessary other than it would just be cool for us to be able to race as more/other Nintendo characters.

Who knows...maybe one day it will happen...

MrGawain

#60

MrGawain said:

@datamonkey

Not that I know anything, but if Nintendo were planning on supporting Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros with dual game pads, that could explain the delay? It has to come a some point and both these games fit the model.

Just throwing it out there!

Dreamcaster-X

#62

Dreamcaster-X said:

This game is gonna sell SOOOOO many systems along with Smash Bros. 2014 is gonna be a very strong year for Wii U!!!

3DSLUIGI

#65

3DSLUIGI said:

Mario Kart 8 is gonna be one of Nintendo's E3 2013 titles that really makes the Wii U EXPLODE! in sales come Spring 2014. Even though I may not agree with the time period for Nintendo waiting so long to get Mario Kart 8 out at that time, let's just hope it eventually comes out a bit earlier.

DerpSandwich

#66

DerpSandwich said:

I'm just glad they're keeping some of the features from previous games. I hate Nintendo's tendency to add features and remove them later to keep each title feeling unique. You're supposed to improve your game, not just make it slightly different each time.

(BRING BACK CHALLENGE MODE)

GamerJunkie

#69

GamerJunkie said:

This game is like 1 year away..... It needed to be released along with a few other 1st party heavy hitters before the other consoles to build up support for Wii U and make people have to think about what console to get for Xmas.

How it is now, only kids will want a Wii U for Xmas, the vast majority of gamers will chose from the other 2.

The game looks pretty good. Same old Mario Kart with a few twists to it and a little improvement in graphics.

DESS-M-8

#71

DESS-M-8 said:

This game looks amazing, if this game is more inline with the competitiveness of Super Mario Kart and they have ramped the speed a bit akin to 150cc mode and lost the blue shells then this will be AWESOME online. Weapon management and pure racing is the heart of this game, not bumbling around at the back with little skill then landing a blue shell and star and storming up the pack. If you keep losing, keep practicing, get better and join in the fun of how intense this game can be once you've mastered it.
Once people start to give you a wide berth when you only have a green shell in tow, you know you've reached a good level.

Tony_342

#72

Tony_342 said:

"...This demo showed none of the rubber banding that’s held the series back."

This has been a pretty common complaint about this series, but I don't get it. I buy every Mario Kart game that comes out, and I haven't seen any rubber-band AI since Mario Kart 64. Certainly not to the extent that it's worth complaining about.

FiveDigitLP

#73

FiveDigitLP said:

This game looks quite gorgeous and sounds quite refined. I felt that 7 was a much more refined experience than MKWii, so I'm certainly looking forward to this one.

H_Hunter

#74

H_Hunter said:

You guys can say whatever you want about mario kart 8. To me, there is nothing different about it with regard to previous versions.

Nintendo is just milking on it like an old old cow.

KAHN

#76

KAHN said:

pretty much the ONLY game at E3 that caught my eye. kinda wish they kept out that stupid hang glider/underwater propellor crap. my favorite mario karts are land only.

idork99

#77

idork99 said:

I'm still upset at the 12 racers per race. But knowing myself, I'll probably still end up buying the game and finally purchase the Wii U in 2014. As of now, still having a blast with my 3DS with MK7 and all the other awesome games so I can wait :)

JebbyDeringer

#81

JebbyDeringer said:

Mario Kart Wii was a great game hampered by the stop & go driving experience and heavy weapon focus. Hopefully the focus is on driving this time around. Graphics look great and the controls are always good. Nice to see a Mario Kart that actually looks a bit different in the art department since the they've been pretty stagnant for a while.

MrZanctom

#83

MrZanctom said:

No Mario Kart game has ever failed to amaze me. Mario Kart 7 is still one of my top 5 favorite 3DS games. Mario Kart Wii was an extraordinary game that reminds you just how good a racing game can be. I have no doubt that Mario Kart 8 will be just as amazing.

H_Hunter

#84

H_Hunter said:

@LDXD I can tell that from the video with the game developer. The main difference is the HD feature. The rest is almost the same with previous versions

SkywardU099

#86

SkywardU099 said:

I actually like all of this game! I cant wait for it to come out! Especially the gravity thing. and I agree with strongest_link, but I want them to hold on to there hat with one hand and once they get hit they loose.

Nico07

#89

Nico07 said:

@MadAdam81 That would be probably about the best day ever... playing Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U I mean. Sure I'm looking forward to Smash Bros, and Mario 3D World among others, but I am very excited for this game to come out.

gavn64

#90

gavn64 said:

How on earth does this game look so much better than everthing else on Wiiu and still pelt around at 60fps it's amazing. Note to NINTENDO use this engine for EVERY FIRST PARTY GAME from now on, no more upscales please justify the tech, dont tether yourselves your the best out there now show it.

Goginho

#93

Goginho said:

I would like the classic, non-winged blue shell, that way there is a chance that everybody in front could get hit (1st place anyway), which would result in possibly everbody gaining seconds, and therefore the owner of the blue shell would actually be able to gain something useful out of it. I didn't really like the winged one, where it just skips to the front and that's it. The one from 64 kept it interesting, where even if you're in the middle of the pact, you had to stay on your toes and try to avoid driving in the middle of the track. Definitely made things more tense.

Haywired

#94

Haywired said:

"Reinvention" seems a bit of an exaggeration to describe each new Mario Kart game.

rainfaze

#95

rainfaze said:

I hope they add some other Nintendo notables like Kirby to the Kart series. He fits into the Mario world and that would put a smile on my face... Also I'd love if Nintendo made the Mario Kart arcade games available for download to make my "Kart" series playing complete!

WiiUMad123

#96

WiiUMad123 said:

@koopakid 3D World was confirmed to be compatible with the Pro Controller. BTW, the tablet controller isn't ver clunky once you use it. And no, It's not as big as an IPad.

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