It’s hard to believe that the Mario Kart franchise has been around for nearly 20 years and appeared on eight different consoles. Mario Kart: Super Circuit may have been first released in 2001, but now it’s back for a whole new generation of players ten years after release through the 3DS Ambassador program.
There are four cups to play, with four tracks in each, as well as a fifth unlockable special cup. Many of the tracks reflect classic settings in the Mario series, and some settings are completely original to this game. Taking a page right out of Super Mario Kart's book, all of the tracks here are completely flat apart from a few small bumps.
Just like in any Mario Kart game, there are items that can be picked up and used to aid you while racing. Many classic items are featured, including mushrooms that give you a speed boost and red shells that home in on your opponents. You can also collect coins to increase your kart's top speed, with currency also needed to unlock some classic tracks too.
The cast of characters is a little on the thrifty side, featuring the same eight characters from Mario Kart 64. Though there may not be that many different drivers to choose from, they each vary in weight and speed, making the selection enough for any player to choose their favourite type while still getting a bit of variety.
The controls are both simple and intuitive. The A button is used to accelerate while the B button brakes, and the D-Pad is used to steer your kart. The right shoulder button can be used to drift, making getting around tight corners an easier task, while the left shoulder button uses items. This 3DS port also allows you to use the Circle Pad to control your kart. While the Circle Pad’s positioning on the 3DS console may be more accessible and easier to reach, it does seem to be a bit more sensitive than the D-Pad, so may take a bit of getting used to.
Some of the biggest draws of the Game Boy Advance original were the extraordinary multiplayer modes. Ranging from Grand Prix to Battle Mode Mario Kart: Super Circuit provided so many GBA owners with hours upon hours of multiplayer entertainment. Unfortunately the multiplayer modes on this 3DS Virtual Console release are rendered completely useless. If you were planning on using the multiplayer features, then you’re going to be severely disappointed when you realise that you’re stuck with the basic single player modes.
As far as the audio and visual presentation go, it’s safe to say that this game has not stood the test of time too well. While the soundtrack may be fun and is very fitting for a Mario Kart game, the graphics look dated and flat: character sprites look as good as can be expected from an early GBA game, but many of the courses just look grainy and unclear, especially when they feature fences, grates or other complex textures. Playing in the original resolution — press Start or Select when loading — does help, but it's still not aged particularly well.
Of course Super Circuit doesn't hold a candle to Mario Kart 7, but you have to keep in mind that it came out over ten years ago. With that being said, this game has a whole lot to offer on its own merit: the graphics may be a little dated, and the multiplayer gameplay has been completely removed from this 3DS Ambassador version, but that doesn’t make the available gameplay any less fun. It may not have aged as well as some other classic games, Mario Kart: Super Circuit is still a good time and provides hours of kart racing action to anyone looking for it.