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.
2005 was a busy year in terms of Mario releases, with a whole host of options across portable and home console systems, all in the form of spin-offs or alternative franchises featuring the mascot. Looking over the available titles we decided that Mario Kart DS couldn't be ignored, as it was a vital game in the IP's history.
It was, of course, the first Mario Kart game to support online multiplayer. While that's the familiar norm nowadays, back in 2005 it was an outstanding addition; online gaming was increasing in popularity and, naturally, a prime multiplayer Nintendo experience was perfectly suited to it.
That prompted huge excitement, while also raising a gameplay controversy that would lead Nintendo to adjust mechanics in future entries. 'Snaking' had been around for a couple of entries, in which it was possible to create boosts while on a straight, but it was with the arrival of online multiplayer that obvious divisions emerged; for those unfamiliar with the technique it seemed unfair. As Nintendo's goal was to encourage players of all abilities to enjoy online matches, it's unsurprising that the technique was tackled in subsequent games.
Offline, though, Mario Kart DS is regarded by some as one of the finest games in the series, possibly the best. It delivered four retro cups (and therefore 16 extra tracks) which beefed up the content, and Battle mode could be taken on in single player. Mission Mode was full of quirky challenges, as another example, and one of a few features that sadly got fazed out in following entries.
Unfortunately the Mario Kart DS online play switched off in 2014 along with the general DS and Wii network, with the subsequent Wii U Virtual Console release being offline only. As one of the best-selling DS games and an excellent effort outright, though, its place in Mario Kart history is assured.
2005 also brought us Mario Kart Arcade GP, the first of multiple arcade units that are considered separately from the core karting series. Developed by Bandai Namco, Nintendo merely ensures these games are respectable representations of the IP. In general those that play the units comment on them being perfectly playable, but they're rarely praised heavily.
There are a few tweaks to gameplay, notably a lock-on option with items. In a feature that would pop up in Nintendo titles on hardware with a camera, the arcade also snaps a picture of each racer to go next to their profile in a race.
This arcade - and its follow-ups - were also the first to bring in non-Mario characters, in this case with Bandai Namco mascots. Eventually Mario Kart 8 broke the Mario routine, too, albeit with Nintendo properties as DLC.
Though Mario Kart DS is a classic that stands tall as an important game in the Mario Kart series, it's worth having a go on a Mario Kart Arcade unit if you see one; it has its own (unofficial) role in the series' history.
Please note that the following trailer is for the Mario Kart Arcade GP DX release.