In this series of articles we'll write about one or more Mario game per day, each representing a different year as part of our Super Mario 30th Anniversary celebrations.
Arriving two years after Mario Kart Super Circuit on the GBA, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (emphasis not ours) is the fourth game in the Mario Kart series, or third home console release. Producer Shigeru Miyamoto was keen for this new entry in the Mario Kart series to be a game which could be enjoyed by veteran players, without alienating newcomers to the series or gaming in general.
The most notable change that Double Dash!! makes to the Mario Kart formula is the inclusion of two riders on each kart. While one character drives the secondary player uses the items. This allows the player to keep an item in reserve which can be accessed by flipping the characters around. Different special weapons could be picked up depending on the character you were playing, such as Wario's devastating bob-omb and DK's giant banana. The game offers 21 karts in all and the character combo's weight class (light, middle, or heavy) determines the kart in which they can ride as well as their speed, acceleration, and weight attributes.
Double Dash!! offers 16 tracks (along with mirror versions of the tracks) which, at the time, played it quite safe by reusing ideas from past games in the series such as Bowser's Castle, an ice track and of course a Rainbow Road track. DK Mountain was one of the more innovative tracks, however, and featured a cannon which would launch players to the top of a volcanic mountain which you'd then descend down.
Powersliding was streamlined in Double Dash!!, also. Previous games would require the player to do a few hops to get a slide started, but here it was as simple as pressing the shoulder button midway through a turn. Learning to power slide effectively in Double Dash was the key to success as all those little speed boosts add up.
As with most Mario Kart games, the single player mode will only hold your attention for so long, but the multiplayer mode really shone in this game. Aside from the usual 2-4 player races there were three different arena-based battle modes on offer. These modes: balloon battle, shine thief and bob-omb blast really added to the long-term appeal of the game, which is something the series has effectively dropped in Mario Kart 8's slightly lacklustre battle mode implementation.
One interesting feature of the game was the LAN Play mode which would allow 8 GameCubes to be connected together using the Broadband Adapter add-on, allowing 16 players to compete simultaneously. Using this mode gamers could even play online using the independently created Warp Pipe software, which caused great excitement at the time. Imagine the excitement of playing a Mario Kart game online for the first time!
Double Dash!! was received positively in its day, with Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell boldly declaring it to be one of the "finest pieces of electronic entertainment ever developed". UK magazine Edge was less gracious however and blasted it for "not being a racing game anymore" and awarded it a paltry 5/10, while other outlets criticised the game for having bland track design and having a single-player mode which lacked substance. It's probably true that the game isn't as fondly remembered as the original Super Mario Kart or indeed Mario Kart 64, which both still have a bit of a cult following.
If you've never had the pleasure of playing Double Dash!! for yourself, this impressive 150cc all cup speed run should get you up to speed!