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.
Mario Kart: Double Dash! on GameCube played its part in shaking up home console racing in the iconic karting series, while Mario Kart DS introduced online play in what was just the second portable entry. These were solid foundations for Mario Kart Wii to build upon.
Ultimately it was a release that would introduce a host of new ideas to the franchise, primarily utilising the Wii's features which weren't available on previous hardware. Online play was prominent, including online Battles, but this entry also included its own Wii Channel in which you could view and challenge ghost Time Trial times and check rankings.
This entry continued the trend of its predecessors in boosting the roster, making it the biggest to date in the series. This included Mii support, with these little avatars being classed as light, medium or heavy depending on their settings when created on the system. These have become mainstays in the 3DS and Wii U era, but we shouldn't forget that the Mii concept was new and hugely popular in the Wii era.
Though the doubling up of the GameCube's entry was ditched, Mario Kart Wii did deliver key changes to the racing with the arrival of bikes. These had a very different feel to the karts, of course. Another new feature came in the form of tricks and stunts, which would be executed off jumps.
Of course, the key gimmick of this entry was in the motion controls, tapping in to what was a full-on craze driven by the Wii. Every copy of the game came with a plastic wheel, while third party accessories were everywhere. The tilt controls utilising the wheel - or not, you could also just hold a Remote sideways - certainly made the game accessible to a much broader range of players. They were also pretty darn effective, as evidenced by Nintendo Life alumni Martin Watts being annoying good at winning races in Mario Kart 8 using tilt controls.
While it's easy to write them off as cheap tat, amusingly the design went through a lot of iterations. The following is from the Mario Kart Wii Iwata Asks.
Konno: If we felt anything strange when holding the wheel, we told Ashida-san immediately.
Iwata: You say that you repeated over and over the process of making and testing prototypes. About how many models did you make before you reached the wheel's final form?
Ashida: Probably about 30. With regard to weight, we thought carefully about how many grams would best suit gameplay. When considering durability, we wanted to make something strong using thick materials, but increasing the weight by even 30 grams would have been considered too heavy for some people. We eventually designed it to be as light as possible so people could use it for a long time without getting tired too quickly.
Mario Kart Wii took the market by storm, becoming the second highest seller on the Wii behind Wii Sports. Though it is often criticised for its rubber-banding and a lingering sense that it arguably doesn't - in gameplay terms - stand with the best in the franchise, there's no getting around its extraordinary success. We suspect it'll never lose its place on the podium.