Mario Kart is one of Nintendo's most beloved and bankable franchises - with just one release per system and the addition of DLC on Wii U, it's an integral part of any console from the big N and a must have. Mario Kart 8 on Wii U is no different.

It's also a popular game to watch, and the next two weekends bring an opportunity to take in the knockout stages of the Mario Kart World Cup 2015, in which teams from 18 countries have been battling it out in Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart Wii to be crowned the champions.

Before we outline the details for the next nine days of action, organiser Jake Stevens gave us the following lowdown on the contest's history.

The current online competitive scene began with the launch of Mario Kart Wii in 2008, and with over 30 million copies sold, it brought with it an influx of new racers. Highly skilled players started searching for others to compete with, using forums/websites including Gamefaqs, Gamebattles, the Player's Page (the main hub of competitive Mario Kart time trialing), and the community's main forum for many years, mariokartwii.com. Afte a while things transitioned into more of a team focus, with the launch of GTT (Grand Team Tournament) in the summer of 2008; a 3v3v3v3 tournament over 3 GP's. Players from the Pro Lounge - a group of people from Gamefaqs - got together to create a clan, and clans started becoming more popular. 2009 saw the launch of WCL - the World Clan League. Reaching a peak of 15 6-team divisions within the first few seasons (each lasting 10 weeks), it allowed many players and clans to compete with the best of the best, with clans from all six major continents vying to became the best clan in the world.

New strategies and ways to play started to develop, such as the now-notorious sandbagging and trolling strategies. Sandbagging being one player from your team staying in last to obtain the lightning bolt, whilst trolling is having one player of your team be a lap behind and focus on hitting the other team as much as possible. WCL lasted until 2011 and saw the birth of a new league, IL - the International League. The launch of Mario Kart 7 saw its own league as well in PL - Prime League. Mario Kart 7 was actually the first game to have a World Cup, having 2 in total - one in 2013, and one in 2014, hosted on the PL forums. In 2013, a few community members felt a change was needed to help the community advance and move forward, which is why MKBoards was founded in June 2013. Staff members there began preparing for the launch of Mario Kart 8, and it became the home for IL as well.

Once Nintendo revealed that the Wii's online servers would be shutting down 10 days before MK8's launch, 2014 saw IL come to an end. MKBoards hosted the largest ever Free-For-All event in the history of Nintendo's servers for the western community on 17th May 2014, with it reaching the front page of twitch. 2 days after the servers were shut down, private servers (dubbed Wimm-fi based on its creator, Wimmii) came to fruition which allowed people to continue playing Mario Kart Wii online even after Nintendo's servers were shut down, which saw the most recent, and current, Mario Kart Wii league - the Custom Server League - be created. Alongside that saw the launch of the MKBoards League (MKBL); the main league for Mario Kart 8, which has since been renamed to MKU - Mario Kart Universal.

The summer of 2014 saw the very first World Cup for Mario Kart 8. It was highly successful in many ways, however lack of prior organisation meant it wasn't as smooth as it should have been. This year, however, saw the founding of EndGameTV in March 2015; the only dedicated platform for Mario Kart tournaments and events. EGTV staff worked hard on organising the largest and most ambitious Mario Kart tournament to date; the Mario Kart World Cup 2015. With 18 nations across both Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 8, along with gaining support from Nintendo Life, Elgato, Sanshee and PDP, it has definitely become the largest event in the community's history, which has so far been very successful as it enters the elimination stages.

There are a number of matches this weekend for the quarter finals with the times below in UTC. As an example 12 (noon) UTC is 5am Pacific / 8am Eastern / 1pm UK / 2pm CET.

If you want to catch live action the best place to do that will be http://www.twitch.tv/EndGameTV1. In addition the following pages will have plenty of information.

Are you planning to tune in for any of the quarter finals this weekend?

[via mkworldcup.com]