Guide: Getting Started in Mario Kart 8

Don't drive into the deep end

As some of the Nintendo Life team still like discs that come in boxes, our original plan was to release a getting started guide on 30th May; then we remembered some of you trendy types may download the title as soon as it pops up on the Wii U eShop, which may or may not be at midnight. You just can't wait, right?

So here it is, a guide with some tips on what to do first when playing the game. Unsurprisingly we're not going to say "jump into 150cc online races and get slaughtered by players from Japan" — no no, that's not the way to do it. Do you want to dive into the fun or be a winner? Better yet, let's try and achieve both.

Start off in 50cc Grand Prix

Yes, we know, you're all pro players that can take on 150cc right away, or many of you will be, but these are also new courses with some key changes in style. You've got anti-gravity to contend with, while the new physics and vehicle balancing that Nintendo's applied will, initially, feel like a bit of a departure from the far looser Mario Kart Wii handling. You've also got a load of vehicle customisation and character types to worry about, which we'll cover a little lower down.

While rattling through the Grand Prix tournaments will help you familiarise yourself with the 32 tracks — looking for shortcuts and quick routes, of course — they also allow you to unlock the latter two cups in the new and retro sections — so that's Star, Special, Leaf and Lightning. It's worth spending early hours doing this; while starting off in 50cc will allow a lot of players to succeed easily to unlock all the cups, it's also valuable practice and allows you to build towards your quest of conquering all classes for a shiny profile status update. You know you want three stars showing next to your name, not to mention that Mirror Mode is an unlock when beating all standard classes and cups.

Remember, you'll be able to enjoy Mario Kart 8 for years to come, there's no need to rush.

Obsessively collect coins

Coins are important for multiple reasons, as like in Mario Kart 7 you can collect up to 10 at any one time so that your vehicle is that little bit faster. That's great in the short term, but like its 3DS predecessor this title also tallies up all of your coins towards unlocking vehicle customisations. As coins are often placed on a good racing line in any case, it's well worth amassing as many as possible so that, before too long, you'll be rocking the coolest vehicles, wheels and gliders in the game.

Complete Grand Prix cups with different characters

Mario Kart 8 allows you to collect stamps, lots of stamps. One way to get hold of neat versions for each character is to simply work through the roster when completing the various cups and classes. Start with Mario at the top left and work your way through, and when playing through the cups the game is very generous in unlocking more characters, to the point that it shouldn't take you too long to unlock the full roster. It may be tempting to simply blast through as your favourite mascot, but if you want to collect stamps those Koopalings may need to be taken for a spin.

Know your weight classes

As per tradition, the character you choose will affect the handling, weight, acceleration and top speed of your vehicle — along with customisations, which we'll come to shortly. Light characters typically have quick acceleration and steer well, but can be easily pushed around. Heavy characters typically have excellent top speed and can bustle others out the way, but can be tricky to handle on tight corners and have slower acceleration. Medium characters are all-rounders, as you'd expect, falling between the two.

Below are the weight classes for the roster:

Light: Wendy, Lemmy, Larry, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Peach, Baby Daisy, Baby Rosalina, Koopa Troopa, Shy Guy, Lakitu, Toad, Toadette

Medium: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Yoshi, Ludwig, Iggy

Heavy: Donkey Kong, Bowser, Wario, Waluigi, Rosalina, Roy, Morton, Pink Gold Peach, Metal Mario

The weight class of a Mii character, meanwhile, varies depending on the size of the Mii in question.

Check your vehicle before heading onto the track

While it's tempting to go for the kart or bike that looks the most rad, if you want to find a ride that suits your style the best in areas such as handling, weight, acceleration and top speed. Oddly, the vehicle select screen doesn't tell you anything about performance by default, so just hit + (Start) to bring up some easy to read charts. Performance is affected by both the vehicle choice and the character, so that combination you're eyeing up will be different depending on the weight class of your racer. In early days experiment, as even a combo that doesn't grab you in terms of stats may just feel right when in the heat of a race.

Meanwhile, Wii veterans should know that bikes can no longer wheelie for a higher top speed, but can benefit from both phases of drift boost rather than just one.

Basic racing tips

  • To get a boost start, hit accelerate just after the '2' appears in the pre-race countdown.
  • Don't forget to use stunts off every jump or even bumps in the road, as they provide useful boosts; to do this you use a timed press of the right shoulder button, also the control for drifting — if using motion controls, shake that controller.
  • When in anti-gravity keep an eye out for small beam pillars — bump off the edge and you'll get a Spin Boost.
  • When drifting, aim to get to the second phase of the drift, shown by orange / red sparks.

Bits and bobs

  • If you insist on tackling Time Trial runs in 150cc to brag to friends, select the choice to race the Nintendo staff Mii; if you win you'll have a glowing sense of accomplishment and a cool stamp, too.
  • Just finished an awesome race and want to upload the Mario Kart TV highlights later? After the race hit the + (Start) button to shortlist up to six favourites.
  • If you want to upload videos from Mario Kart TV to YouTube, you'll need a Google account first.
  • If racing online and keen to take on others using motion controls, or those on a certain race class etc, head to Custom in the online area and hopefully find others keen to follow the same rules as you, or you can try setting up a Tournament.

Those are some basic tips to consider in the early hours of your racing in Mario Kart 8. We'll have some more detailed, precise guide content on the way soon, but if you have any burning questions post them below. Enjoy the race, whenever you get started!

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