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Feature: A Look At the Super Mario Kart (SNES) World Championship 2014

Posted by Darren Calvert

Start your engines

With the arrival of Mario Kart 8 soon this year, the franchise has come a long way; yet while plenty of gamers look ahead to what's next in the series, competitive gaming on its predecessors is still going strong. An example is the original Super Mario Kart on the Super NES, just recently released on the Wii U Virtual Console.

There is a huge active community worldwide that competes in both Time Trial and Multiplayer; they have Official World Championships held annually in France every August. These are run by the French Federation of SMK (http://www.ffsmk.org/), hosted by Guillaume Leviach (France), the current Time Trial World Champion, and a team of other members from Europe. Nintendo of France have been a partner of the Super Mario Kart Championships since the beginning in 2002 and each year provide some top Nintendo consoles and games as prizes, with trophies and medals also awarded. Some other partners include the Super Mario Kart Time Trial World Rankings (http://www.mariokartplayers.com/smk) run by Sami Cetin (UK), SNESOT (http://www.snesot.com) by Julien Holmiere (France) for graphics / posters and http://www.ffviman.fr run by Daniel Guemy (also France) for technical support during the event.

The Super Mario Kart World Championships are played on the European PAL Version SNES Consoles and PAL Super Mario Kart cartridges. The televisions used are all CRTs so there is no lag on the gameplay that is noticeable when playing on flat screens; they're set up in a perimeter around a venue hall. The event lasts 4-5 days where a mode of the game is played each day and scores are recorded on an automated database, and there's then a ceremony at the end of the event to announce the overall ranking of the Championship.

The 2013 event was held in the town of La Suze-sur-Sarthe near Le Mans, in France, and for the first time it was featured on twitch.tv so people around the World could watch the action. Florent Lecoanet of France has been a multiple Champion over many years and was the overall winner of the 2013 edition, followed by runner up Sami Cetin of the UK and Julien Holmiere of France in 3rd.

The 2013 and previous editions have had competitors from all over Europe, USA, and even players from Brazil and Japan attending. You can see some snapshot photos of memories from last year’s event in this video made by one of the players:

In the past editions, such as 2009 when there was a major uplift in the number of competitors from around the World taking part, a media crew made a short documentary for a French channel:

The 2014 edition of the World Championship is shaping up to be a large event, and the good news is that the same venue from 2013 will be used, and again be featured on twitch at www.twitch.tv/ffsmk for viewers at home. The event is to be held from Tuesday 12th August until Sunday 17th August; let's take a look at some key details of the Championship.

What is the format of the event?

Tuesday 12th August: Arrival, and opening ceremony, followed by a Time Trial one try competition. All of the tracks are played in a random order and it eventually leads to a ‘last person standing’. The Top 3 players lasting to the final one tries stages are awarded medals.

Wednesday 13th August: Traditionally two player Match Race is played on this day, although it may be 150cc Grand Prix, and the other mode will be played on Friday (TBC). All of the competitors are split into evenly balanced groups and leagues take place in the afternoon where you will race on x number of races vs each opponent in your group and points are awarded based on wins, losses and draws. Those that qualify will enter the Top 16 playoff bracket in the evening. The top 3 winners of the Final stages later in the evening are awarded medals.

Thursday 14th August: Two player Battle Mode in which the objective is to burst the opponent's balloons. This is considered by some to be one of the most fun Mario Kart modes and the original version’s is certainly addictive. This contest follows the same format as the racing modes, with medals awarded at the end of the evening.

Friday 15th August: The other racing mode not played on the 13th is played on this day, either 2 player Match Race or 150cc Grand Prix (TBC).

Saturday 16th August: Total scores are calculated combining the four modes, and Trophies awarded to the Top 3, with console prizes from Nintendo of France awarded to the Top 4-5, and more games for the 6th to 10th places. Several other Nintendo related prizes are available for the remainder of competitors, provided by the other sponsors of the Championship. Some freeplay gaming commences for the rest of the day.

Sunday 17th August: The competitors return home and the championship has ended.

Can anyone take part?

Certainly; the organisers are encouraging more players of any skill levels to get involved. The top players from around the World attend but every year there are a wide range of skills levels present ranging from champion, professional, intermediate / casual level and some beginner level players. Tournament organisers comment that it's great to see a mix of regular and new faces, plus watching the casual players pick up skills, and grow in the competition, returning the year after at a much higher level. It's likely there are players out there who were very active in Super Mario Kart back in the '90s and would be superb contenders. Those interested in reviving their SNES’s and copies of Super Mario Kart again could make the competition even greater; there are always competitions between groups of players at a certain rank level who try to beat each other on the overall scoreboard at the end. This can include long time rivalries between two players that have lasted for years, no matter whether they are very highly ranked, or two of the casual competitors. Just to note also, a disclaimer form is required to be signed for anyone under the age of 18 who is attending without a parent or guardian (information and forms are on the registration website).

What about accommodation / food etc?

There is a small venue fee which covers use of the venue / tournament entries for 5 days, plus breakfast and evening meals are provided. The local town has shops a few minutes walking distance from the venue if anyone needs anything extra. This has traditionally been a camping trip and there is a campsite nearby where the majority stay, however if some prefer to stay in a hotel in the local town they may book if they wish.

I would like to attend… how do I register?

The new website launched at the start of the year is the place to go, and you can register on http://www.ffsmk.org/. There is a form to fill in your details and information on methods of payment for the venue fees. Once registered, you will be on the list of Participants; then you just need to plan your travel to France / the venue. An important note for anyone from the UK, if you are keen to attend you may wish to speak to Sami Cetin as he is organising a group travel via the Eurostar and other internal trains. He and the rest of Team UK are planning to book this early (by the end of April) so do get in touch with him before the end of April if so. The rest of the National teams are most likely going to be organising something earlier on too.

The deadline for all international submissions is 30th June.

What would be the best method to train for this event?

If you are planning to attend with another friend who is also competing, then doing all of the multiplayer modes with a sparring partner is a great way to hone your multiplayer tactics skills. Otherwise check out some of the videos from the championships and various races to get an idea. For driving techniques, the best way to raise the bar is also to join the Super Mario Kart Time Trial World Rankings — http://www.mariokartplayers.com/smk/ (which has been active every week since 1998) — where mostly all of the competitors are ranked. Definitely speak to some of the top players there for advice and tips, record some video replays of your current driving level and you can ask one of the Pros to help point you in the right direction with cornering strategies.

Who are some of the top players from each country right now?

The French team have a strong list and more are rising; Florent Lecoanet, Julien Holmiere, Geoffrey Label, Harold Christensen, Guillaume Leviach are some of the top names and they each excel at different modes, with Florent having earned many trophies from racing mode success. Julien, Geoffrey and Harold running the show on Battle Mode and Guillaume Leviach is the front runner on Time Trial one tries. From the Netherlands, Dutch Champion and Multiple World Record holder Karel van Duijvenboden is a regular attendee and will be joined by the 2nd fastest in the Netherlands, Aron Langerak, who is also the 6th fastest Mario Kart Double Dash player in the World. In 2012 the Championship included the Mario Kart Double Dash World Champions from Sweden, Richard Karlsson and Andreas Rudmarker, who also compete on SMK and are ranked very highly. From the UK, Mario Circuit 1 and multi-track World Record holder, Sami Cetin will be attending with his team of Time Trialers and battlers; this also includes his niece, the World’s fastest female player Leyla Hasso, currently his primary training partner in Super Mario Kart. From USA there'll be Drew Blumfield of California, who is one of the most skilled Battle Mode players, and America’s best racer flies to Europe every year to compete. Last year Takashi Ogasawara of Japan travelled to the Championships and showed his skills as Japan’s fastest 150cc player. Previous editions have also hosted National Champions from Switzerland, Germany, Algeria, Belgium and Brazil. The organisers hope to see a number of these guys returning again this year.

Overall, the competition is fierce, but the best part aside from enjoying a classic Nintendo racing game is meeting some great people from around the globe and taking some fun memories home.

Can I see a bit more of the event in action?

Below are some more videos from last year:

Time Trial one try Final between Florent Lecoanet (France) and Guillaume Leviach (France); a special set up was used on the main screen so both videos could be blended into one screen, so viewers could see how close the one try was:

This is the 2nd Part of the 150cc Grand Prix Final between Sami Cetin (UK) vs Florent Lecoanet (France):

Here's the Battle Mode Final between Harold Christensen (France) and Julien Holmiere (France):

This is the Match Race Final between Julien Holmiere (France) vs Florent Lecoanet (France):

After the ceremony on the final day last year, the players did some exhibition races and Time Trial attempts. Here is the female World Champion Leyla Hasso doing one of the most technically difficult tracks, Vanilla Lake 2, live on twitch tv where she landed a 52 second run. After several close attempts, at around 9:40 on the video she successfully reaches her goal!


We hope you enjoyed this glimpse at the Super Mario Kart World Championships of past years and the 2014 event that's coming up. Is this an event you'd like to attend this year or in the future?

We'd like to offer a special thanks to Sami Cetin for his assistance with this article.

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User Comments (33)

SamiCetinSMK

#2

SamiCetinSMK said:

Hi everyone,

Just a note; I will be around for any Questions and Answers regarding the Championships, so please let me know.

Best Regards,

Sami Cetin

JamieOStaff

#4

JamieO said:

This feature is brilliant, everything from the skill on display, with a sense of community, to the artwork and font used in the poster is fantastic.

@SamiCetinSMK I've also been watching the video of your amazing 0'57"90 Mario Circuit 1 time from the PAL version during Christmas time. The way in which you hop as Donkey Kong Jr and just skim across the dirt is stunning. I can't drive like that, I need to stay on the smooth tarmac, because if I hit the rough surface I miscalculate my control and lose speed. It reminds me a little bit of skipping around the edges of the water in Vanilla Lake 2, but even when I do that, I don't take many risks. You seem to time each hop so you leave the tarmac just late enough to only glance against the gravel.

Fair play, this is definitely the sort of thing I'd enjoy watching and observing as an audience member. I'm not that competitive as a gamer in general, but I practise enough Super Mario Kart to appreciate the skill that goes into driving like this.

SamiCetinSMK

#5

SamiCetinSMK said:

@JamieO Yes there are off road boosting techniques that the Japanese players discovered many years ago. It is basically the same as the turbo powerslides you do in all of the other Mario Kart games. Have you played Super Circuit on GBA? Exactly same as when you get the blue spark out + boost except it is hidden a bit more as they couldnt animate the graphic back then. We enjoy a number of tracks. Vanilla Lake 2 is a favorite also, Leyla's video is on there as another example, she has improved it to 51 seconds since. With the times you said you have hit you would be a good contender at an event like this. Each year we take wide spread of skill level as there will also be the same at the event; there are people for everyone to compete with.

JamieOStaff

#6

JamieO said:

@SamiCetinSMK Thank you, but the time I posted on the Wii U review comments board was after a very long session where I beat every GP from 50cc to 150cc in succession to test the Wii U release. That's a very long warm-up period before I went to Time Trial, plus I was just chilling with my girlfriend, with no pressure. I was still inconsistent and all over the road, repeatedly hitting the retry option, and the time was still far away from a record. I don't think I'd enjoy being a contender in something like this, as much as I’d like to watch the real masters as an observer. I'd play just for fun, of course!

I enjoy Mario Kart Super Circuit on GameBoy Advance, too. I had no idea that the blue spark technique was in SNES Super Mario Kart. It's incredible that I'm still learning new things about the SNES game 22 years later. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

VolcanoFlamesNL

#7

VolcanoFlamesNL said:

Wonderful. One day I'll participate. Oh, and @SamiCetinSMK sorry if this question is a bit obvious but does the program also involve other Mario Kart(s)? Are you thinking about adding MK8?

James1993

#8

James1993 said:

I would definitely compete with the top players if only the competition was in the UK.

Nintenjoe64

#10

Nintenjoe64 said:

@SamiCetinSMK are you a Wii U owner? Can you stick some decent times on Miiverse and see how close we can get please?
Also what is your Mario Kart Wii SNES Mario Circuit 3 record? That's my forte.

SamiCetinSMK

#11

SamiCetinSMK said:

@VolcanoFlames Great to hear you are keen to take part :) This event is exclusively for Super Mario Kart SNES, however a lot of the competitors are also World Ranked on some of the other Mario Kart games so there will be an opportunity to have some races vs them on the side. I am sure a handful of the guys will give Mario Kart 8 a whirl when it is released but more for fun. We are linked up with a lot of guys who will do Time Trials in MK8 though. I think Nintendo of France will eventually give some of these items out as prizes, we don't have any conformation yet though as this info usually appears nearer the summer.

@James1993 You may be pleased to know that a number of the Top UK Super Mario Kart SNES players have meets in London from time to time. We did host a UK championship in South London four years ago which was good but haven't organised one since as we normally put our energy and focus into making the Worldwide event the best it can be. A lot of players are planning to visit in the next years from other continents, so remember that France is very near for us too :) Aside from that if you have a SNES on the go, you can join us on the Time Trial World Rankings, plenty of fun competition on there vs the globe.

SamiCetinSMK

#12

SamiCetinSMK said:

@Luigifan141 Hi there, in the original SNES, Donkey Kong Jr, although Bowser is identical on driving stats. So normally using one or the other in a race is fine.

SamiCetinSMK

#14

SamiCetinSMK said:

@Nintenjoe64 I don't have a Wii U, but a good friend of mine has one, I have only had a brief go on it so far. Ooh Mario Kart Wii, it is the one I played the least of the series, and I have barely touched it since 2010. Even before then probably a few goes on all the tracks. Funny you mentioned the retro MC3 track though as it is one of a few that I could get into as well. I have a very old time on the site which I did beat some years ago on a random go but don't seem to have posted so I may have to dig it out. It is probably at least 1'20" - 1'21 now. The UK record is 1'18"425; and World Record is still 1'18"107 held by a gentleman in USA.

James1993

#15

James1993 said:

To you and every Super Mario Kart player since 1992/1993
Bring it!
I WILL rule.
Super Mario Kart has a special place in my heart.
I will defeat every Super Mario Kart player, the day it will be playable online.

SamiCetinSMK

#16

SamiCetinSMK said:

@James1993 Although it is not as smooth as on a CRT TV it is possible to race online via emulators. Other than that, do get involved on the Time Trials site listed in the article, as that you can do from home if you have a snes /smk and can record some replays of your records. Easy to do.

SamiCetinSMK

#18

SamiCetinSMK said:

@James1993 It would be great, not sure if it will be done at least yet but we hope. But you don't need to wait for that if you want to try online racing. Get a snes to PC usp adaptor on ebay and you can compete on SNESOT via Hamachi. Can be set up to race quickly. Are you UK / London based? As per your first post asking if there is UK competition... we can organise something locally very easily vs one of the Top 5-10 players in the UK. They are ready when you are for some new competition :)

NikkiChu

#19

NikkiChu said:

I just wasted about 2hrs watching watching YT videos of the last championships. I've recorded the date down so I remember to tune into Twitch to watch some this year. :)

The maneuvers you and other competitors make are incredible.

A few questions if you don't mind:
Is there any consensus among the top racers as to who the best character to use is?
Do you get many female competitors? I notice your niece Leyla Hasso is mentioned but no others.
And finally, how often do you practice at the game?

MadJay1664

#20

MadJay1664 said:

That's amazing I so wish I could be there! Maybe they'll do something like that in the UK some time....

Mario86

#21

Mario86 said:

@James1993 that's too bad you cannot (don't wanna?) attend the championships to show us how strong you are. Maybe you could perform some Grand Prix 150cc / Time Trial at home and record yourself to prove the skills you claim to have? :)

MarkS27

#22

MarkS27 said:

Wow, that is so cool that they still have tournaments for Super Mario Kart, despite it being over 20 years old!

SamiCetinSMK

#25

SamiCetinSMK said:

@NikkiChu Thank you for your post
To answer your questions, we both use either D.K.Jr or Bowser as they have identical stats. Normally we have a favorite for time trial. For racing we don't mind using either.
We have had some more female competitors in the last few years, and another joined from the UK last year. 2012 edition had a couple of ladies from France join with their partners.
Training... short bursts and semi regularly works best. We have a lot of commitments including work and family so that must come first. But we mix up Time Trial and multiplayer training to keep it balanced. I think in the last week or two before the World Championships a lot of the players have some mini meets to practice together.

Hope that helps :)

ledreppe

#26

ledreppe said:

I'm currently working on a full set of time trial's to upload to the SMK site. I don't possess the level of skill these guys have, they just put me to shame!

PachterStation

#27

PachterStation said:

A totally classic game, but recently going back to it, it's mega outdated. In 2014, not good for your eye sight. But in 1992/93, it didn't seem too bad. But the price of old games from the Virtual Console is a joke.

SamiCetinSMK

#28

SamiCetinSMK said:

@ledreppe Great to hear you are taking part, are you playing on a snes btw? Currently the Wii U version has a save state ability apparently which renders it like an emulator. Please make sure you are doing the timeset on snes console. And don't worry about your initial level, there are a wide range of players on there, tonnes to compete with on wherever you enter plus easy to improve when we show you some routes on a few vids. Looking forward to hear from you.

ledreppe

#29

ledreppe said:

@SamiCetinSMK

I've spoken to you through the SMK website regarding using a PAL copy on a Super Famicom through an adapter. I've been busy with other games since, but will be giving it a serious attempt next week, and hopefully get a full set of times emailed by then. Thanks for your input, I'm sure I'll learn a thing or two about improving my technique in the near future.

SamiCetinSMK

#31

SamiCetinSMK said:

@PachterStation Probably harder for us to see as weve played it semi regularly through the years. But it is technically better for tournaments as the item probabilities are not over-done and you can see much closer edge to edge racing between close ranked players that aren't decided by the usual blue shells and lightnings.

MarkS27

#33

MarkS27 said:

@SamiCetinSMK I would love to attend one of these, but I have never actually played Super Mario Kart before so I probably wouldn't be very good. I think I'll have to get it on the Wii U virtual console though.

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