With Mario Kart's ever-expanding roster of eligible drivers, it can be tough to keep track of them all. When you're out there on the crowded raceway, how are you supposed to tell your Petey Piranhas from your Ludwig von Koopas? Have no fear: Nintendo Life is here to help you with handy character profiles on every racer in this May's hotly-anticipated Mario Kart 8. We begin this three-part feature with the series veterans who have been around since the first two entries, 1992's Super Mario Kart and 1996's Mario Kart 64.


First appearance: Donkey Kong, 1981

Karting record: Mario has appeared in all eight of his eponymous Kart titles since 1992.

Racing style: Mario is the archetypical Everyman of kart racing, with a middleweight range in every single Mario Kart title.

Home track: Mario Circuit, a Mushroom Kingdom-based course that has appeared in every Mario Kart in some form. It appears Peach lets Mario build his tracks in her castle's back yard.

Career highlight: You've heard about Mario saving Princess Peach and defeating Bowser dozens of times... but do you remember when he won an epic arena fighting tournament in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door under the name "the Great Gonzales"? "Squarin' off next, folks... are the Hoppin' Hardheads... the GOOMBA BROS.! Aaaaaand... A newcomer with a hankerin' for hammerin', the Greeeeeat GONZALES!"


First appearance: Mario Bros., 1983

Karting record: Eight for eight, just like his more famous brother.

Racing style: Like his bro, Luigi is a middleweight racer. In Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, the two Bros. rode a car together. Using default settings, Luigi had to sit in the back seat. Of course.

Home track: Luigi Circuit is usually one of the simplest tracks in every Mario Kart entry, a generic course playing second fiddle to Mario Circuit, but in MK8 the Lesser Brother gets the unique Twisted Mansion track instead. I guess he’ll never live down that legacy of his…

Career highlight: Luigi finally got a coveted starring role in GameCube launch title Luigi's Mansion, but instead of the burly hero that we all know he is, Nintendo presented him as a cowardly custodian with a vacuum cleaner. His wondrous mansion turned out to be slightly haunted, and much like the man himself, Luigi's Mansion was totally underrated by fans and critics when it hit stores in 2001.

Princess Peach

First appearance: Super Mario Bros., 1985

Karting record: Eight for eight

Racing style: Peach tends to fluctuate between lightweight and middleweight, usually sporting quick acceleration but relatively low top speeds.

Home track: Mario races outside her castle, but since Peach is royalty, she can afford all sorts of luxurious tracks, from Peach Circuit to Royal Raceway to Peach Gardens to the Super Mario Sunshine-themed Peach Beach.

Career highlight: The less said about Super Princess Peach, the better. Apparently the perpetual Damsel in Distress is so forgettable to residents of the Mushroom Kingdom that when she went on a Hawaiian vacation in an episode of The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 cartoon, the Koopas made a robotic duplicate of her and no one could tell the difference. This wasn’t the last time Peach would be turned into a robot: in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, an evil witch makes three Peach-bots to conquer Mushroom Kingdom.


First appearance: Super Mario World, 1990

Karting record: Eight for eight

Racing style: Like Peach, Yoshi ranges from light to middleweight in each of the Mario Kart entries.

Home track: Yoshi’s had a variety of mid-range courses courses, from Yoshi Valley to Yoshi Desert (with Yoshi Sphinx!) to Yoshi Circuit (he shaped the track like himself!) to Yoshi Falls. Lately, though, Yoshi hasn’t gotten any love. Neither Mario Kart Wii nor MK7 included a new Yoshi course.

Career highlight: Did you know Yoshi has an evil rival, like Mario’s Wario and Luigi’s Waluigi? In Super Mario RPG, Yoshi races against Boshi, a blue Yoshi with an edgy spiked choker, sunglasses, and toeless shoes. Boshi is the only Yoshi not to wear closed-toe footwear. Have you ever thought about what Yoshi’s feet look like before? Sadly, Super Mario RPG has been Boshi’s only appearance to date.


First appearance: Super Mario Bros., 1985

Karting record: Eight for eight

Racing style: Bowser has been the heaviest racer around for his entire career, with low acceleration and terrible steering but a powerful ability to knock all the smaller racers off the track.

Home track: Bowser’s Castle is the most consistent course in the entire Mario Kart catalogue, appearing in every single entry in all its fiery glory. In every sequel after the original Super Mario Kart, Bowser’s Castle appears as the penultimate track, right before Rainbow Road. In Mario Kart 7, Bowser ventured outside his castle for the first time with the futuristic Neo Bowser City.

Career highlight: The 1992 PC classic (yes, classic) Mario Is Missing features an ending cutscene in which Luigi rips off Bowser’s shell to reveal polka-dot boxer shorts, and then violently kicks Bowser off a castle wall. This may be King Koopa’s most humanising moment of all. Haven’t we all been there at some point in our lives?


First appearance: Super Mario Bros., 1985

Karting record: Eight for eight

Racing style: Toad is always one of the most lightweight competitors in Mario Kart, with buttery smooth steering and acceleration but a top speed that leaves something to be desired.

Home track: Contrary to what we’re led to believe in the core Super Mario games, Mario Kart lets us know Toad is a true urban dweller. Toad’s Turnpike in Mario Kart 64 features bustling city traffic, and Toad’s Factory in Mario Kart Wii is all about industrial development. Toad took a sightly more standard route with Toad Circuit in MK7, but the mushroom head is set for a return to city life with Toad's Turnpike in MK8.

Career highlight: Toad’s only starring role was in the final game ever released on NES in the United States, Wario’s Woods, which also happened to be the first Mario game not to feature Mario in any capacity. But was it really Toad? With a species full of lookalikes who all dress the same, it’s tough to tell if Toad from Mario Kart is the Toad or simply a Toad.

Koopa Troopa

First appearance: Super Mario Bros., 1985

Karting record: Despite appearing in the inaugural karting game, Koopa Troopa hasn’t always received MK love. He’s appeared in five of eight: Super Mario Kart, Double Dash!!, MK Wii, MK7, and MK8.

Racing style: The Koop Troop is a lightweight to middleweight racer.

Home track: Being a turtle, Kooper Troopers have had many coastal-themed courses, even in some games in which Koopa Troopa wasn’t a playable character. Koopa Beach, Koopa Troopa Beach, and Koopa Cape.

Career highlight: You might have thought Koopa Troopas made their début in the original arcade Mario Bros., but in fact those were Shellcreepers, the Koopa Troopas' four-legged ancestors. By the time the Troop was formed in Super Mario Bros., they'd learned to walk on two legs. According to the Koopa Troopa trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee, “They all wear T-shirts and shorts under their shells.”

Donkey Kong

First appearance: Donkey Kong, 1981

Karting record: Seven for eight. It was DK’s shirt-wearing son Donkey Kong Jr. who premiered with the series in Super Mario Kart, but by the time the N64 sequel rolled around in 1996, the success of Rare’s Donkey Kong Country had pushed Junior out of the limelight. Like an unwanted child, he would never be seen again in the Mario Kart series, and Donkey Kong Sr. has appeared in every subsequent MK title.

Racing style: A wise man once said, “He’s bigger, faster, and stronger too!” so DK has always been a heavyweight in Mario Kart.

Home track: Donkey Kong has had a variety of jungle courses over the years, although for some reason, in Mario Kart DS and Wii, his tracks are winter-themed. Gorillas are known to live in snowy climates, right?

Career highlight: Donkey Kong and his family are virtually the only characters outside the Mario series to appear in Mario Kart, likely due to Mario’s origins in Donkey Kong. DK’s most tragic encounter with Mario came when he was imprisoned by the portly plumber in Donkey Kong Jr., the only game to feature Mario as a true villain.


First appearance: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, 1992

Karting record: Seven for eight. He’s appeared in every entry since Mario Kart 64.

Racing style: Wario is a heavyweight, with low acceleration but high bumping power. With anti-gravity spin boosts recently revealed for Mario Kart 8, Wario should be a formidable foe.

Home track: Wario’s tracks are some of the longest in the Mario Kart series. Traditionally they’re based on monster truck courses like Wario Stadium and Wario Colosseum, but lately he’s branched out to a Gold Mine, a Shipyard, and in MK8 he’s set to get his own snowy Mount Wario track.

Career highlight: Whenever Wario shows up in Mario titles, Nintendo likes to play up his old coin-hungry ways. But when Wario is left to his own devices, he’s become a budding indie game developer, as seen in the wondrous WarioWare series and the recent Game & Wario. If only he could get a trippy microgame-themed Mario Kart course.

So those are the veterans, which is your favourite?