(GCN / GameCube)

Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN / GameCube)

Game Review

Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Spencer McIlvaine

Double the usual number of exclamation marks means double the fun!!

Mario…perhaps the most multi-faceted video game hero since MacGyver. He can make fireballs out of flowers, plays tennis and baseball professionally, balances two careers (carpentry and plumbing), and even has two girlfriends. Okay, maybe MacGyver wasn't actually a video game character. But if he were, he'd want to be just like Mario. And he'd be back for yet another outing at extreme go-cart racing in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (emphasis not added).

When Double Dash was released, the Mario Kart franchise was already well entrenched in the Nintendo library. Although Mario Kart 64 had left a bad taste in some reviewers' mouths because of its buggy programming and broken game play, consumers ate it up anyway and demanded more. Nintendo was happy to oblige. Double Dash avoids many of the flaws of Mario Kart 64. But in so doing it also changed the formula in ways that not every fan will appreciate.

For the uninitiated, Mario Kart games are racing games with power ups that allow you to throw items at your opponents or otherwise improve your chances of winning. The items collected are mostly random, but the frequency of some items is determined by your current position. For instance, the person in the lead will more often get a lone banana peel to drop behind them. But the person in last place is more likely to get something more powerful like the blue shell…a shell that homes in on the first place person for an automatic hit.

In this way, Mario Kart games punish the leaders and help the people in last place catch up. The more skilled driver will most likely win anyway, but among players of equal skill this system can encourage 'sandbagging'…the technique of staying behind other drivers on purpose to get better items. Although many reviewers dislike this game mechanic as it adds decidedly more luck than in straight racing games. But we find that it adds to the excitement and makes every single race a real fight.

The new gimmick on display here is that each kart has two racers…hence the 'double dash'. Having two racers doesn't really make you go any faster. But what it does do is let you pick drivers based on their attributes and items and match them according to your strategy. As an example, Bowser is large and can drive the larger karts that have higher top speeds. His unique item that he sometimes gets is the super large shell. So choosing him alongside Mario, who tends to get mushrooms a lot, will give you access to a large kart with a high top speed that can accelerate to its top speed quickly when it draws a mushroom. Additionally, having a large kart accelerate into someone with a mushroom can seriously knock that other kart around and will steal their item in the process. Mixing and matching drivers will provide any number of different combos, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and they all are well balanced without any one being a superior choice to the others. Learning to master each kart as well as combination of drivers is a process that can take you months and provides seemingly endless replayability.

As for the glitches prevalent in Mario Kart 64, here everything runs smoothly with a polish that shows that someone actually play-tested the game before release. You won't be able to hop over walls or launch yourself from one rainbow road track to another anymore. Now the only shortcuts are those deliberately intended by the games designers. And even those shortcuts are more like alternative routes. There is no one path that you absolutely have to take in order to win.

The first thing you will notice about Mario Kart on the Gamecube is that the graphics have been given a major overhaul. In fact, we dare anyone to say that these graphics are not up to par with Mario Kart Wii's graphics. The game is beautiful to look at and rendered in true 3D for the first time. The frame rate is silky smooth. Be warned…going back to Mario Kart 64 after this may induce motion sickness.

The second thing you will notice is that there are more Karts and game modes to unlock than ever. As you have complete each race track, you will unlock bonuses such as other Karts, race tracks, and battle mode levels. Part of the fun of any Mario game is discovering and unlocking hidden items and Double Dash starts out with more content locked than unlocked. So for your first few outings you'll be unlocking things all over the place.

Some of this fun dissipates after you have unlocked everything, but this is where alternate modes of play come in to extend the life of the game. For starters, there is a time trial mode to let you compete against your own best times. This is really just a practice mode and not as much fun as an actual race, but it lets you race the course with minimum randomness involved from other drivers interfering with your attempt to set the perfect speed record for each course. Similarly, there is a versus mode to let you and your friend decide once and for all who is the better driver without anyone else to get in the way.

But the best bonus mode (and some would say the primary fun to be had in a Mario Kart game) has to be Battle Mode. Instead of racing, this is a duel between drivers competing not to finish first, but rather to be the last survivor. Upgraded from Mario Kart 64, there are now six maps instead of four.

Additionally, in Double Dash there are actually three Battle Modes to choose from. First is the traditional balloon battle in which players attempt to shoot one another with items and are 'killed' when they lose all three balloons. Second is 'Shine Thief' which is essentially a game of keep away in which players attempt to hold onto a 'shine' from Mario Sunshine for as long as possible and lose the shine if another player manages to hit them with an item. Lastly, 'Bomb Blast' is a new take on balloon battle in that instead of using regular items you use only bombs that can be thrown or set behind you. Instead of automatically dying at three hits as in balloon battle, players can get back some of their life by hitting the other player with a bomb. In this way, a battle can last for much longer and is in some ways more strategic. It is a shame that Bomb Blast was not carried over to Mario Kart Wii, as such it can only be enjoyed here.

A curious design choice in the battle mode courses is that, with few exceptions, the maps feel smaller and flatter. Gone is the sprawling block fort of Mario Kart 64. In its place is a tiny, claustrophobic map that doesn't even allow you to drive up on top of the blocks. The idea behind smaller maps was to make the game more exciting for the small number of players available in local play. As exciting as the large maps in Mario Kart 64 were, a lot of time was spent just driving around looking for your opponent. Nintendo made the conscious choice to shrink the battle mode maps this time around so as to force the players together into a more frantic match. Many old timers will not appreciate this change and will wonder why, with these fancy new graphics, are most of these maps simply flat, two-dimensional planes with no obstacles.

Another downside to Battle Mode on Double Dash is that there are no computer AI players to play against. This was a noticeable weakness at the time of its release and is even more so now that the game is in competition with Mario Kart Wii which does allow for computer players in Battle Mode. Even so, for some fans of the series this is a blessing in disguise as Mario Kart Wii does not allow you to play battle mode without a full room of players, whether they be online human players or local computer controlled players. If you want to play head to head with just you and your friends to see who is best, you won't have that option in Mario Kart Wii but you can do it in Double Dash.

Worse, although Mario Kart: Double Dash was one of the only Gamecube games to feature online play, the accessory required to make it happen means that most players never got to experience online play and it is even less likely to happen now. This means that you are limited to playing locally unless you and someone else have a broadband adapter for the Gamecube. But in this day and age of online gaming for the Wii, jumping through these hoops to play online feels downright archaic.


Mario Kart is a staple in the Nintendo library and Double Dash is a worthy successor to that tradition. This franchise pre-dates the Smash Bros. franchise and for many Nintendo fans this is the must have multi-player title on any system. As a result, Mario Kart Double Dash enjoyed tremendous success on the Gamecube and was even included in a bundle with the system at one point. Nevertheless, the game has lost some of the edge that it had in its first two outings and shows fewer innovative ideas here. This time around the game was mostly about better graphics and less buggy programming with a few gimmicks thrown in like having two drivers instead of one. As a result, Double Dash is not the most recommended Mario Kart game in the franchise. But compared to other games in general it's still one heck of a ride.

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User Comments (63)



Bahamut_ZERO said:

Deserves this score.. My favorite Mario Kart by far. I especially enjoyed the Bomb-Omb battle. One of the best GCN games.

Oh, and first



Bass_X0 said:

Nine stars is too high. Its really not that great of a Mario Kart game and has the worst courses out of all of them (I'd much rather play the flat SNES and GBA courses on the retro cups of the DS and Wii games than Double Dash!!'s). To elaborate, the courses seem very 'manufactured' as if the designers were ticking off boxes based on the results of a focus group rather than being labors of love as in the older Mario Kart games. The whole game feels like this actually, not just the courses.

I'd rate it a 7 or an 8. But it would be a middling 8 at most (and the conclusion paragraph suggests that is what it should be). A 9 does not accurately represent its flaws -- an average Mario game should not be rated higher than it should be just because it has Mario in it.



Stevie said:

This is my favorite Mario Kart of them all, you could be more strategic with the weapons and save one whilst still being able to pick up and use another. We used to play this at my friends flat constantly, and to stand any chance of winning you had to be what we called "flat trained". If you were not flat trained it didn't matter how many lightnings/blue shells you collected, you would be lucky to win 1 in 100 races.



luke17 said:

Not as strong as the first, but much better than the lackluster MK64



Philip_J_Reed said:

Put me in the "least favorite" camp. I do confess, however, that I only played this for a few hours with an old roommate of mine. We rented it, fooled around with it, returned it...and never felt compelled to play it again. Which, for a Mario Kart game, is unfathomable.

Maybe one day I'll give it another chance, but, to be honest, I'm perfectly fine leaving it behind in favor of the better entries in the series.



Bass_X0 said:

Maybe because I was young or maybe because it was the second Mario Kart game ever rather than being fourth in a series but I quite enjoyed Mario Kart 64 when it was new. However, I can't much be bothered with it on the Virtual Console these days. The "hey, I get to play Mario Kart 64 again after all these years" appeal it had quickly wore off. Even so, I'd still rather play MK64 courses on the retro cups than MKDD ones.



Objection said:

Actually this is my favorite NK out of all of them but the Wii one (which Ihaven't played enough to compare to.)



WiiGuy said:

still have this game, and have everything unlocked
also, Macgyver rocks!



CowLaunch said:

This is the only racing game I've played that has short cuts that actually lengthen your race.



Gabbo said:

Ooo, likes like we've stirred up some controversy here!

I agree with the sentiment that this is not the best Mario Kart. I might even agree that it's the worst Mario Kart. My personal favorite is still Super Mario Kart on the SNES. But we're not scoring Mario Kart games here. In comparison to Gamecube games in general I think this is still one of the very best choices for the system.

But keep the comments coming!



Bahamut_ZERO said:

Double Dash always stirs up controversy. Its one of those "love or hate" games. It's either your favorite Mario Kart, or least favorite Mario Kart. I have (oddly) yet to find a person who is in the middle.



Corbs said:

I agree, the first Super Mario Kart is still my favorite. But the GC version is my second favorite.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Sorry Gabbo, didn't mean to derail your thread. The writeup is very good, no complaints there. It's just that my ultimate assessment of the game would have to be a resounding "meh."

Grading it on a scale of ALL games (which you've done, as opposed to just other games in the MK series) I'd probably give it a 7 or maybe a 6. But I respect your opinion on it.



warioswoods said:

One of the greatest Mario Kart games, naysayers be darned.

This is the only entry in the series where playing with 4 people in races is truly enjoyable -- nothing's more ridiculous than trying to race with just a quarter of the screen; here you can team up on each half of the screen, and the infighting on each team that necessarily emerges from trying to constantly switch drivers and still keep everything together is pure joy. This game encapsulates everything great about the franchise.



MickEiA said:

Never played this but have played MK64 and Wii it is hard going back to MK64 i hope this comes out as NPC but i think they are stopping them



naut said:

I can't tell you how many hours I spent playing this with friends and family. It is truly one of the best games on the GameCube.



Ricardo91 said:

Wow, Wasn't expecting that score. I hear all the time about how this is one of the weakest entries in the series. The best will still always be MK DS though.



Kid_A said:

By FAR the best Mario Kart. Very under-rated. I'm glad it got some respect.



greyelephant said:

I loved this version of MK. This one and the Wii are both fantastic and have high playablility.



Adam said:

The first Mario Kart to play over 4 players makes this a very good game. Though we only did it a few time, 8-player Double Dash lan parties are among some of my very fondest video game memories. While the 2-to-a-kart thing does seem very gimmicky, it was actually a lot of fun for those who weren't good at driving but still wanted to have fun with the rest of us, so we'd leave them to shell shucking duties.

Of course, MKDS allowed as many players, but for some reason it wasn't as exciting. I guess it was because the LAN adapter for GC was only used by Double Dash!! (as far as we were concerned) that it was more eventful to play it. Or maybe it's just more fun to all be playing on the same screen, I don't know.

Anyway, I still think the original is the best as far as pure game play goes, but for a few select reasons this one deserves its place near the top of the Kart series.

Oh, and what's this about "online play"? To my knowledge, Double Dash has no internet play, only LAN play, which I don't think counts as online. I know someone made a website that allowed you to use it for online play (never worked for me due to firewall), but there was nothing official. That seems like an inaccuracy in the review, I think.



Neomega said:

My fave!!! I cant put it down.
Coop on this game gave you a great advantage!



Burning_Spear said:

Great game and the best tracks in the series, IMO. Don't kill me for this, but I prefer the Wii's steering mechanism to the Gamecube's. And the Wii version seems just a bit more polished and a bit deeper to me, so I favor the Wii version. But this is an absolute must-have classic game to me.



Twilight_Crow said:

For me and my best friend this ain't just one GC game, it's THE GC game, and the best MK of them all, we spend so much time playing it, dominating mini turbos and snaking, avoiding red and blue shells, using short cuts and elaborating our own techniques, this game had so much too offer, but most people never got to discover it's full potential. We entered many tournaments (actually, in one of those my friend met his girlfriend), and he won three consecutive tournaments, he is known as the best MK:DD player in my city, of course, I'm also pretty good too.
I'm with Edwin, I'd kill for an NPC version with wi-fi.



Dazza said:

I'd have a hard time scoring this one myself. As you can see I awarded the SNES original the same score which I think is better by a country mile.

However aside from the silly switching drivers thing MK DD really isn't a bad game at all. Some of the tracks like DK Mountain are just downright amazing the first time you see them. I think compared to other games on the cube this does stand out as one of the best. I agree with Spencer's evaluation here, somehow an 8 would just be too low.



KnucklesSonic8 said:

One of the best reasons to keep playing this: The awesome Luigi's Mansion battle stage. I was dying to hear it would make it in for MKWii's stages but alas, it didn't make the cut...

And, yes, many of the tracks are amazing. Second favourite MK. Can be hard to go back to after MKWii, though...

@Twilight Crow: As awesome as that would be, if they didn't add online to MPT, there's just not enough reason to think that they'd actually add Wi-Fi in, nay release this under the NPC brand period.



Twilight_Crow said:

And then you came and broke my illusions into pieces lol. To be honest, just the idea of an NPC version of the game seems to me, due to the existence of MKWii, a very close to impossible thing; I didn't even thought about wi-fi, as you said they aren't adding it to NPC, but Edwin mentioned it, and well, as impossible as it is, we can dream .



jorenmartijn said:

I loved this game! Especially being strategic with your items was one thing that appealed to me. Loved the tracks, like Bowser's Castle, Wario Colosseum and DK Mountain.



Kirigirisu said:

I loved this game and in the grand scheme of things I think it most certainly deserves the score it got!



Gimic300 said:

Amazing: Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart Double Dash, Mario Kart DS

Not so amazing: Mario Kart Super Circuit, Mario Kart Wii


Personally, I have just as many fond memories of 64 as I do Double Dash, but DD wins out in the end because it helped me rediscover how amazing Nintendo can be.




Sorry but IMHO Mario Kart Wii is the best and the definative version; not taking away anything from the other incarnations which are superb as well.



AUnkownFuture said:

I still own this game and its great fun.me and my little brother had great fun playing this game overall this is a great game look for it on ebay.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Amazing: Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart DS, Mario Kart Wii

Not so amazing: Mario Kart Double Dash

Not played: Mario Kart Super Circuit.




StarDust4Ever said:

One thing I felt about this game was the difficulty curve was too high. I finally ended up using an Action Replay to unlock the other carts/characters.

I really missed the old N64 one for it's nostalgia, but I really love the Wii version. For racing, the Wii version is better, but double dash has the best battle mode by far!



Cowmansr said:

I loved this one best. If only because of Co-Op for unlocking stuff.

I, for one, have little interest in playing Mario Kart very long by myself, but almost every version of the game forces you to play tons of single player to unlock everything.

Mario Kart DD was one of the best games ever in this regard. Unlocking stuff with 4 players was even possible if someone would take the back seat. Awesome.

I was SO disappointed when they didn't include this feature in MK Wii that I almost sold my copy the next day.

Now that I've done the lonely task of unlocking some things, I'm glad I have the Wii version, but I'm still fuming over the loss of one of my most cherished features.



Gabbo said:

You have to have the broadband adapter and an internet connection. It's a whole lot of work for little reward. It was always more for 'enthusiasts' than for normal Gamecube gamers. And it's not really worth the effort now with the ease of being able to go online with Mario Kart Wii and finding tons of people to play with.



verymalty said:

Never have I been so disappointed with a Mario Kart as DD - slow and boring. The original Super Mario Kart will never be beaten - still the best and untouchable by the rest. I hate the way the series has turned more and more into Wacky Races over the years. There's little to choose between the other MKs, which are all pretty good.



gameking23 said:

I originally bought this game within a week from it's US release. It was still in the original packaging (rare for a GameStop game). It's hard to believe that MKDD came out 6 years ago.



blackknight77 said:

I like this game and thought it had some of the best courses like Peach Beach, Daisy Cruiser, Baby Park and Wario Stadium. I did not care for the 2 riders on one kart and I prefer the more traditional karts of Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart Wii. But this is still a great game.



Chunky_Droid said:

Though I did enjoy this game, Mario Kart 64 ranks highest on nostalgia and quality of courses.

Then Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart DS, Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart Double Dash!! then last and I think least Super Circuit




TourianTourist said:

Nintendo should release a New Play Control version of Double Dash!! with all the control schemes of Mario Kart Wii, the addition of stunts, maybe some new cups and of course Wi-Fi multiplayer. This would be an instant buy.



Mr_64 said:

It's not as good a pure racer as the SNES one, but this runs it close. Have to disagree strongly with the criticisms of the tracks, I think they're great. There's not one that isn't memorable or enjoyable. Certainly when you compare it to the N64 and Wii versions, Double Dash really stands out as a great game.



moosa said:

This game is such a huge difference from the N64 version... I'm amazed that you think this lacks innovation and originality. There's so much that's new here since the last game. I'm assuming you've never even tried the co-op mode? Also, this game's tracks were by far the best in the series (and probably still are), not to mention that the controls were much tighter.
One other point: this game was never officially online. It features LAN play, for up to 16 players locally, not online. The only reason it's ever been played online was because some ambitious hackers managed to tunnel the Cube's LAN games through a web-connected PC application.



Invertedzero said:

I'm sorry but i have to say, apart from the snes version which i didn;t have the experience of playing back in the day (mostly due to having a megadrive), Double Dash is certainly the top of the series along with perhaps the portables. The worst? I'm afraid i'll have to say the Wii version.

Mario Kart Wii lacked originality and simply seemed like a quick-make for nintendo to fill in a gap and make some money. It plays far slower than Double Dash (if you play them side by side you'll see), and is more frustratingly random, i mean the bullet bill and mega mushroom just make the game ridiculous in aspects, there's little strategy remaining with it. Even though Double Dash was item based, it featured more strategy and less randomness of winning the race based on skill than the wii version. Wii's battle mode is simply crap, Double Dash's battle mode is arguably the best on any mario kart. The courses are very well thought out, after you play with experienced players on these courses you'll see what i mean. I hope they redo double dash with wii control.




Played Double Dash the other day and I must say I'm not as impressed with it as many of you guys on here. Not to say it isn't very good.



HaNks said:

IMO Easily the best console Mario Kart, coming from a long time Nintendo player and fairly hardcore Mario Kart enthusiast. I can see the retro appeal of the earlier versions, but gameplay wise, DD had the most refined powerslide system so far and simply brilliant course designs.

The DS version is very good for this reason too, but the Wii version was truly terrible. Making bikes the fastest vehicle it should have been called Mario Bikes. The new courses were also severely lacking compared to those in DD.



Cally said:

Wow, very astute review!! Thanks!

I don't know what some people's issue is with Double Dash. I think it comes across as too "cutesy" to some, or something, but you're exactly right, it's smooth, it works, no ridiculous cheating racers, and it's still very nice-looking. Even the two-items-per-cart idea didn't ruin it as a racing game by any stretch (or at least, no more than MK64). I'd describe it as "mellow" more than slow like some people out there, but the bottom line is that it just plain works better than MK64 did.

I love it. This became my favorite review of the game. Nicely done. I appreciate the review score, too.



Collinhall said:

BEST MARIO KART EVEH! My sis and I used to make collection of all o fthe different items, eg, you would drive down a track and see all of the games items lying there on the track for everyone to see!



C-Olimar said:

1- Double Dash
2- DS
3-Super Mario Kart

Not Played-Super Circuit (until ambassador games are released)




shredmeister said:

Play the GBA version, then tell me if GC had the worst of the bunch. It's nice that each version of Mario Kart had their own gimmicks. Two players on the same kart was fun, also. One guy cruises around, the other punches everyone out of the way. Double Dash will always be a fun one to revisit just because it's the only one that can do that.



HawkeyeWii said:

I hope in the next MK for Wii U they give a separate game mode for 2 characters in a cart!



LtAldoRaine said:

I like this one better than 64. The controls on 64 weren't very good by comparison. Track-wise for me I think it's more or less a tie. And I loved the character-exclusive special items,I have no idea why that never came back.



SparkOfSpirit said:

This is still one of my favorite games and I'm speaking as someone who has been playing the series since the first one. I hope this gets a VC release or a HD remake (with retro tracks!) sometime this gen. This game does not deserve to be forgotten.



Dr_Corndog said:

Still the best Mario Kart ever. Mario Kart 8 comes close but its failings with Battle Mode keep it short.

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