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Guide: All You Need to Know on Mario Kart 8 Characters and Kart Customisations

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

The finer details

Mario Kart 8 is now well-established on the Wii U, shifting plenty of copies and attracting a sizeable and dedicated online audience. Whether trying to beat every Grand Prix with three stars or tackling the increasingly skilful opponents online, securing top spot is not becoming a tricky challenge of fine margins.

This is a title not only with hidden depth, but adjustments that could genuinely make all of the difference in a tight finish. Vehicle customisation and character selection aren't just choices on which look the best, or favoured mascots, but fundamentally affect your performance.

In this article, then, we want to arm you with the details that can help you improve your combinations, especially if you want to win those Nintendo Life community events.


When it comes to putting together a kart, first things first — you might think that the more points you put into a stat (speed, acceleration, etc.), the more effective said stat becomes, and this is completely true, with the exception of acceleration. Acceleration only increases with each full point, so if you've got, say, 3.75 acceleration, that's going to do exactly the same as 3.00, you'll have to throw it up to 4.00 to actually receive an increase. For this reason, try to keep the acceleration stat at x.00 or, if you really have to, x.25, because having any half points in acceleration is a complete waste and could be much better used in another stat.

Although all stats could potentially benefit you in some way, speed is naturally the most important, with acceleration and handling not far behind. Weight never really mattered that much in any previous Mario Kart games, but it's even less important here, as bumping into others during anti-gravity sections, which appear on almost every track in the game, gives you a speed boost instead of knocking you away. The tracks in MK8 are also generally quite wide, so you run almost no risk of getting knocked off courses unless you're standing completely still. Traction affects how fast you lose your speed when you go over grass and other terrain that isn't part of the main road. That's something you shouldn't be doing in the first place (unless you've got mushrooms or a star) which means that it is also fairly unimportant.

Weight Classes

While there are three basic weight tiers, namely lightweight, medium and heavyweight, each is actually further divided into additional groups:

Light 1: All five babies, Lemmy, light Miis
Light 2: Toad, Toadette, Koopa Troopa, Lakitu, Shy Guy, Larry, Wendy
Medium 1: Peach, Daisy, Yoshi
Medium 2: Mario, Luigi, Iggy, Ludwig, medium Miis
Heavy 1: DK, Waluigi, Rosalina, Roy
Heavy 2: Metal Mario, Pink Gold Peach
Heavy 3: Bowser, Wario, Morton, heavy Miis

For the most part, the heavier your character, the higher their default speed and (of course) weight, but the lower their acceleration, handling and traction, with the reverse being true if you go lighter. The one exception is with Metal Mario and Pink Gold Peach, who have the same speed as the Heavy 1 characters, but sacrifice acceleration and handling for more weight and traction, arguably making them slightly less useful than the other two groups of heavies. Now of course, due to the nature of Mario Kart and its items, any character could potentially come in first, but the high top speed of the heavyweights simply makes them much more likely to win. Of course, if you're a fan of, say, Toad, that's not going to be be pleasant news, but aside from Mario Kart 64 and Super Circuit, this is how it's always been, so you shouldn't have expected any different.

As a final note, the table below from MarioWiki.com is a useful visual guide.

Here are some setups we would recommend for each of the weight classes. There are several parts which have exactly the same stats, so choose whichever you think looks best. When it comes to gliders, there's only two different types - one which doesn't change your stats at all, and one which lowers your weight and increases your acceleration by 0.25, we'll refer to these as "Weight" and "Acceleration" gliders:

Light 1
Body: Buddybug, Landship
Wheels: Cushion, Wooden, Sponge
Glider: Acceleration type
This build probably won't get you a lot of victories with its low speed (1.25), but the very high acceleration (5.00) and handling (5.00) will allow you to recover from hits almost instantly and make any turn seem like a cakewalk.

Light 1
Body: Mach 8, Circuit Special, Sports Coupé, Gold Kart
Wheels: Slick, Cyber Slick
Glider: Acceleration type
The super lightweights unfortunately don't have high odds of winning no matter what you do, but this way, you've got a least a decent amount of a speed (3.25), with medium acceleration (3.00) and high handling (4.75) that should make any turn a breeze.

Light 2
Body: Comet, Sport Bike, Jet Bike, Yoshi Bike
Wheels: Normal, Normal Blue, Off-Road, Retro Off-Road
Glider: Acceleration type
Due to the nature of the acceleration stat, if you try to use a kart with characters from this group, your stats will essentially be the same as the previous build, but with worse handling. Therefore we suggest to use a bike with these guys, this will sacrifice some speed (2.75) but give you high acceleration (4.00) and handling (5.00) instead.

Light 2
Body: Wild Wiggler
Wheels: Slick, Cyber Slick
Glider: Weight type
If you love characters from this group but just can't get used to the way bikes handle, this is a solid alternative using one of the game's few ATV bodies. ATVs can't take turns as sharply as bikes or karts, but you'll get medium speed (3.25), acceleration (3.00) and high handling (4.75), making this a rather balanced build.

Medium 1
Body: Badwagon, Tri-Speeder, Steel Driver, Standard Quad
Wheels: Roller, Azure Roller, Button
Glider: Weight type
Mario, Luigi and Yoshi are usually the jacks of all trades and masters of none, so this build does just that, with average stats across the board: medium speed (3.25), medium acceleration (3.00) and medium handling (3.00). It's your choice whether you want to use a kart or an ATV.

Medium 2
Body: Mach 8, Circuit Special, Sports Coupé, Gold Kart
Wheels: Cushion, Wooden, Sponge
Glider: Acceleration type
The combinations lend themselves slightly better to this group, as this particular combo will give them both higher speed (3.50) and handling (3.50) than their slightly less heavier buddies. Acceleration (3.00) remains the same however!

Heavy 1
Body: Mach 8, Circuit Special, Sports Coupé, Gold Kart
Wheels: Roller, Azure Roller, Button
Glider: Weight type
As we move towards the heavyweights it becomes quite obvious that there's one particular set of karts that's much more useful than the others. This combination keeps things speedy but moderately balanced, with high speed (4.25) and medium acceleration (3.00) and handling (3.00).

Heavy 1
Body: Mach 8, Circuit Special, Sports Coupé, Gold Kart
Wheels: Slick, Cyber Slick
Glider: Acceleration type
This build puts a larger focus on speed (5.25) at the cost of some acceleration (2.00) and handling (2.75). You'll be almost unbeatable in terms of pure speed, just try not to get hit!

Heavy 2
Body: Mach 8, Circuit Special, Sports Coupé, Gold Kart
Wheels: Roller, Azure Roller, Button
Glider: Acceleration type
Essentially the same as the first Heavy 1 build, this gives exactly the same speed (4.25), acceleration (3.00) and handling (3.00), with the only differences being in weight and grip. Unfortunately, a speed-focused build with these two characters is not very useful as you would get the bare minimum in acceleration, which is why we recommend picking one of the other two Heavy groups if you just want to go fast.

Heavy 3
Body: Mach 8, Circuit Special, Sports Coupé, Gold Kart
Wheels: Roller, Azure Roller, Button
Glider: Acceleration type
This keeps things a little balanced, but still gives you high speed (4.75), with medium acceleration (3.00) and low handling (2.25)

Heavy 3
Body: Mach 8, Circuit Special, Sports Coupé, Gold Kart
Wheels: Slick, Cyber Slick
Glider: Weight type
The fastest build you can possibly get, with the highest achievable speed (5.75). Of course, as a tradeoff, it has very poor acceleration (1.50, which as explained before becomes 1.00) and low handling (2.25), which means a single item could cost you the race. The obvious best choice for time trials though!


So those are some of our tips on getting the most out of your drivers and vehicles. Share your favourite combinations and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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User Comments (50)

BMDNERD

#1

BMDNERD said:

So the half-point being irrelevant only applies to acceleration? And how sure are you about this?

ACK

#2

ACK said:

No mention of hidden stats?

Eh, I don't like these sorts of guides anyway.

Tsurii897

#3

Tsurii897 said:

I'm almost always using Bowser with the Pipe Frame + Gold Wheels and - of course ;) - the Bowser Kite. I think it's decently balanced for a heavy character and the top speed's not too shabby either. I know there are better combinations, but I just love how it looks and so far, I've always been at the very least in 3rd position,
I'm all about having fun with the game, rather than being an uber-pro MK player, tho. ^.^

Ryo_Hazuki-san

#4

Ryo_Hazuki-san said:

i prefer to mix and match every person plays this game completely at their own style. so just pick you own.

Kosmo

#6

Kosmo said:

I'm amazed at how you write that basically only Heavy Weights can pull off a victory. I'm not criticizing the article, of course, but I don't believe that Nintendo would be a game THAT unbalanced...

vitalemrecords

#9

vitalemrecords said:

So in Mario Kart Wii, I used the Dolphin bike and I SLICED through water levels - and in Mario Kart 8 I use the cloud glider and I feel like I am lighter in the air - but it doesn't always have an advantage - I'm doing my best to describe things that aren't quite in line with this. Like is there a better cart for sand? Etc

SavoirFaire

#11

SavoirFaire said:

I'm one of the oddballs that is more concerned about looking cool, as I go with aesthetics when playing local co op. I refuse to win and look bad, as I see that as losing 😀

BearHunger

#12

BearHunger said:

Weren't Toad and Peach the slowest characters in Super Circuit? I don't know, I always thought they had their attributes lifted from Toad and Koopa Troopa in Super Mario Kart. I know they were the fastest in 64 (the only characters with any speed difference in that game, it seems to me).

Anyway, this guide doesn't cover the hidden stat differences that nobody knows about (e.g. speed underwater), but the note about acceleration is a helpful and unfortunate tip.

Howser

#14

Howser said:

You forgot a point about the Heavy 2 class.
Yes, they have an awkward blend of Heavy 1 and Heavy 3 stats, but they also have a Medium sized hit box instead of a Large hit box.
This can cause some attacks to miss them, which would have hit a larger racer.

she_gamer

#15

she_gamer said:

Wow, I'm surprised to see that I already figured most of this stuff out... other than I was always choosing either Metal Mario or Metal Peach. Good to know, but I still like the look of the metal characters over the other heavies, so I'll probably just stick with them. Metal in HD!!! Hate the look of the button wheels, but I do know they're one of the best.

outburst

#16

outburst said:

I play Mario/Rosa/DK with Mach8/CSpec + Slick tires. I can't stand using bikes maybe because I'm use to drifting a lot.

Thanks for these tips though. I'll try and bump my Acceleration to 3.0 and add points on traction. For handling, I think it's a useless stat if you are use to drifting. It's good if you are using bikes though.

Kroisos

#17

Kroisos said:

Mostly I play Daisy because she's my favorite, and my setup is as close to average in all stats as I can get because the most important thing to me is how easy it is to drift around corners; everything else is secondary. I have such a difficult time with bikes that I don't bother with them (making them stay difficult but I don't care, even though Daisy does look sexy in the bike suit, so maybe I'll try a few more times), and the heaviest characters are also too difficult for me to handle, and also not worth taking the time to find setups that work (and Bowser will never be sexy, so I won't try a few more times). Honestly, there's so much luck involved in winning full races, and I'll never be good enough to compete in worldwide time trials, that playing the combo I like most is better than playing the one I'm best at.

bezerker99

#18

bezerker99 said:

I like the following combination and have stuck with it for a while now:
Iggy
Comet bike
Azure Roller wheels
Gold Glider

H_Hunter

#19

H_Hunter said:

Aren't we going to get a kart with full stats eventually in the game? Like the one we got in Mario Kart Wii..

DrakeStaff

#20

Drake said:

@Kosmo Obviously luck plays a big part, but when it comes to pure stats and skill, heavyweights should win practically every single race.

sketchturner

#21

sketchturner said:

I like a heavy character like Wario, paired with the landship, cyberslick wheels, and the MKTV glider. In my experience, this gives great speed, while also having a good balance of acceleration and control.

Fearsome

#22

Fearsome said:

I am surprise that they didn't mention your rank/level score is what really matters in the end. The higher the score, the greater your chances no matter the customization.

Maelstrom

#23

Maelstrom said:

So, how is Metal Mario, the rocket-shaped bike, Rollers, and Acc. type glider?

edit: Meant Jet Bike.

bofis

#25

bofis said:

And no recommendations for bikes? Or any mention of how only a few of the bikes can inside-drift, while the others drift more like karts? Also, I disagree that Yoshi isn't good at anything and your assessment that heavyweights dominate, which is really not always the case either.

RogueBologna

#26

RogueBologna said:

I sometimes use a super light setup that has the maximum mini-turbo and win plenty of races. I don't know about this whole heavy domination thing. On turns any good drifter can gain some ground on the faster karts.

Doobie

#27

Doobie said:

Decent guide! I however prefer a kart that looks cool over padding my stats. Every one has their own style and way to play this game, so it's best to keep experimenting and mixng up your kart kreations!

Yosher

#28

Yosher said:

All I need is my Yoshi on Yoshi Bike with Slick tires and an acceleration kite, and I win most of my races, hah.

DaemonSword

#30

DaemonSword said:

Great read, def recommended for all beginners and veterans. Not trolling, as I love MK8, but I also love Sonic Racing on the Wii U as well. Is there a stat sheet for the customizations for that game as well? No luck finding on the net as of yet...

Tasuki

#31

Tasuki said:

Thanks for posting this guide it will help me alot. Trying to figure out what parts are good for what status confuses me. Hopefully trying these combinations will help me do a bit better.

WreckItRyan

#32

WreckItRyan said:

My best advice is to take some information from a guide like this, but more importantly, EXPERIMENT for yourself. Try a heavy character with a fast car, and then try a light character with a slow car, etc. Try them on the same course and see how you fare. (You can even try a time trial if you really want some clear comparisons.) Pick the one that feels right for YOU.

Drawdler

#33

Drawdler said:

"Although all stats could potentially benefit you in some way, speed is naturally the most important, with acceleration and handling not far behind."
I don't know if this changed from MK7, but handling was pretty unimportant there. While you can use it to make turns a little tighter, you ultimately get used to the way a poor-handling combo moves after you've used it for a while. This is partly why you see the most people use Red/Monster Tires there, despite their poor handling (both variations give absolutely no boost to land/sea/sky handling).

eviLaTtenDant

#34

eviLaTtenDant said:

Good to know that about acceleration. Guess i'd never have figured that out on my own. :)

The super lightweights unfortunately don't have high odds of winning no matter what you do

I haven't played any multiplayer yet but if this is true it's a bit of a shame since i like seeing as many different characters online as possible.

@DaemonSword Might this be what you're looking for?

xerneas

#35

xerneas said:

I think the heavy setups are kinda bad if you aren't a perfect player who never hits anything or anyone.. Nice for time trials, but bad for online where you will get essentially rekt bc poopoodoodoocacapoopledoopley acceleration and handling. I like playing with balanced stats, except on light chars of course maxing out speed.

JCnator

#36

JCnator said:

I got a suggestion for a Heavy 3 Bike combination: Comet/Sport Bike/Jet Bike/Yoshi Bike + Roller/Azure Roller + Any acceleration type glider. This combination will give you a speed of 4.25, an acceleration of 4.00 and a handling of 3.25. Sure, you may need to practice their unusual drifting style, but they'll be also able to cut corner faster than any other kart/bike builds.

BassLostie

#37

BassLostie said:

Too bad I'm a huge fan of Toad. I like his handling, but his overall Speed cannot increase more even with Slick tires.

I like fast characters, because..... of course you want to win races. But, the Heavy 3 character have very poor acceleration and handling. I think I'll be switching to the Heavy 1 characters.

Grumblevolcano

#38

Grumblevolcano said:

My main is Yoshi+Pipe Frame+Normal Wheels+Parafoil. Although I guess it's far from the best setup, it's basically the MK64 approach to MK8 which is why I choose it.

Still, my use of MK8 has massively dropped since the beginning of July (generally about 2 hours per week by joining the GameXplain tournament on Saturdays) due to having unlocked everything combined with the urge to play Gamecube games.

Knuckles

#39

Knuckles said:

Does the acceleration rule of 3.00 to 4.00 and nothing in between apply to MK7?

salxicha

#40

salxicha said:

@burninmylight I think acceleration is one of the main stats of you're playing VS mode races otherwise you'll never recover fast enough after a hit. My guess it isnt so important on time trials :)

ikki5

#42

ikki5 said:

So nothing matter except for speed. Yeah.... that's.... quite unbalance but it still doesn't change the fact that Toadette is the best.

WiiULoveSquid

#43

WiiULoveSquid said:

It's all about the drift for me. Get a kart combo with a feel-good drift and you'll have fun plus take advantage of the turns. My advice.

Linkuini

#44

Linkuini said:

I never was sure just what the traction stat meant. I had hoped it might make driving easier in tracks with lots of ice or sand, but I guess it's good enough if it lets you brush past some rough terrain without as much consequence.

I wouldn't dismiss light karts too hastily, though. Heavy karts can hold a lead pretty well with a skilled driver at the wheel, but getting there is hardly a sure thing on a treacherous road covered in banana peels with shells bouncing every which way. I imagine that light karts could compensate for their lower top speed by taking risky shortcuts that most heavy drivers are better off avoiding. You never know until you do some experimenting.

cyrus_zuo

#45

cyrus_zuo said:

"The super lightweights unfortunately don't have high odds of winning no matter what you do..."

I disagree with this. I almost always play light-weight, and I'm far more successful at it.
With the lightweights I can corner like a monster, which on many tracks will greatly decrease the amount of track I have to cover. On many tracks that will more than make up for the lower speed and as a bonus, when you get hit by a blue shell, you're up and on your way again quickly.
Cornering around the inside of a U-turn, just barely off of the grass and on the warning stripe has won me many a race ;).

Alucard83

#46

Alucard83 said:

Some stuff shouldn't be told. Let the gamer find themselve out what's the fasted of best car. That's what's all about if you like to play online. For offline i doubt you really would care all the time to be n1 after beating many m any times. nuff said

GreatPlayer

#48

GreatPlayer said:

I originally thought that traction is the time to maintain the drift when turning a round.

outburst

#49

outburst said:

My new setup after reading this and experimenting:
DK + Pipeframe + Sponge + Cloud

It brings speed to 4.0, Accel to 3.0, 4+ weight, 2+ handling and around 4 grip. I don't care much about handling as you can drift easy on curves. But I'm not happy with the speed being merely 4.0. I wish I can bump the speed to 4.5 while maintaining 3.0 acceleration without using 2-wheels. Any tips? :p

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