(SNES / Super Nintendo)

Super Mario Kart (SNES / Super Nintendo)

Game Review

Super Mario Kart Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Darren Calvert

Back to the good old days before the blue shell from hell

Less than a year after the Super Nintendo was launched, our pals at Nintendo had the bright idea of taking the Super Mario World universe and squeezing it into a kart-racing game. It sounded like a crazy idea at the time, but they managed to pull it off with style and create an almost timeless game, fondly remembered by gamers to this very day. Of course this was one of the games which everybody expected to be available in the Virtual Console’s launch line-up three years ago, but sadly this was not to be for reasons best known to Nintendo. Finally this injustice has been resolved so we can put our virtual pitchforks away and breathe a sigh of relief.

Super Mario Kart pushed the Super Nintendo’s much-touted Mode 7 capabilities to the max, creating an illusion of 3D which was visually quite impressive back then, and still passable even today. There is a good sense of speed too, especially on the 150cc cup where the action comes fast and furious. With just a bit of practice before long you’ll be power-sliding round all those 180-degree corners with the greatest of ease, watching as the landscape effortlessly rotates around you. It was also quite nice to see that Nintendo got the Virtual Console emulation down pat for this release, as the game looks exactly like it did back on the Super Nintendo console.

There are eight different characters from the Mario universe that you can choose between for your race. Each character's kart has different capabilities with differing levels of top speed, acceleration and handling. Mario and Luigi are the good old all-rounders and recommended for newcomers to the game due to their decent top speed and responsive handling. Princess Peach and Yoshi are blessed with great acceleration but poor handling, which can cause you to skid out of control if you are not careful. Expert players favour Bowser or Donkey Kong Jr. due to their impressive top speed, but if you crash or get hit by a red shell the low acceleration is a pain. Last but not least we have Koopa Trooper and Toad who have amazing handling, but beware, the larger characters can easily push these two around!

The use of weapons was one of the things that set Super Mario Kart apart from other racers of its day. Simply running over a “?” block in the track allowed you to pick up a random item to use at a time of your choosing. The clever thing was good racers get less useful items like green shells or banana skins, whereas if you were performing badly for whatever reason you conveniently often acquire items such as invincibility stars, red shells that homed in on your opponent in front and lightning, the most devastating of all as it causes all your opponents to shrink, which means they can be easily overtaken or even squashed! In addition to that you might get a ghost which lets you steal weapons from your opponents, a mushroom turbo boost or a feather that is useful for jumping walls or holes to form a handy shortcut to victory.

There are four different cups you can compete in: Mushroom, Flower, Star and Special (which is unlockable). Each cup ranges in difficulty respectively and contains five tracks themed from the Super Mario World universe. Anyone who is remotely familiar with Super Mario World will instantly remember Donut Plains, Ghost Valley, Bowser’s Castle and Choco Island. It’s amazing how well these themes translated into racing tracks; Nintendo truly did a sterling job here. In addition to this you can also race on beaches, keeping to the racing line through shallow waters, or even take a trip on Rainbow Road. You’ll start off with 50cc karts that are a complete walkover; 100cc puts up a sterner challenge as it is faster and your opponents will fight back more. Seasoned veterans can enjoy the unlockable 150cc class, but be warned: it is much more unforgiving.

The key to success in any racing game is the quality of design in the tracks, and Super Mario Kart does not disappoint in this area. The tracks are nice and tight and encourage the driver to take the perfect racing line to ensure victory. In addition to having to contend with your fellow racers, there are also environmental obstacles such as falling Thwomps, gophers that latch on to your kart and need shaking off, lava pits and deep water to avoid. There are speed boost strips on many of the tracks which you will want to hit to make sure you stay ahead of the pack. Also, a well-timed mushroom boost can make a nifty shortcut across some tough terrain, and it’s worth trying to get hold of a feather to jump over certain parts of the Ghost Valley tracks.

To help gamers hone their racing skills there is the clever addition of a time trial mode. Your best times get saved so you can try and better them next time you play. The best part is you can even race ghosts of your best performances to help spur you on to better lap times.

The single player mode can get a little old after a while, but as the game always plays in split screen anyway (the bottom screen being a map or rear view mirror in single player mode), it should be a good indication to you that this game was designed from the ground up to be best enjoyed with a buddy. This is where the game really comes into its own as you try to sabotage each other’s attempt at first place, sometimes resorting to cheap shots from a red homing shell just before your opponent crosses the finishing line. So cruel.

The icing on the cake has to be the Battle Mode: if you have a friend with a competitive streak you can have hours of fun with this. Both players are given three balloons and duke it out in a giant battle arena of your choice. All the regular items from the main game can be picked up to be used against your opponent. Red shells make for an easy hit, but skilled players will know when to power-slide around a corner or drop a green shell behind them at just the right time to avoid this. Before long the arena gets filled with green shells ricocheting from wall to wall eventually destined to collide with someone’s kart; it doesn’t pay to stay still.

Gamers who have not yet picked up a Classic Controller would be advised to do so - it totally recreates the feeling of playing this classic SNES game on your Wii. The layout of the buttons and tiny D-pad on the Gamecube controller doesn’t quite feel right. Of course you could do yourself one better and import one of the Super Famicom Classic Controllers to get the authentic experience.


Super Mario Kart has certainly made its mark on gaming history, spawning several sequels on successive Nintendo consoles, not to mention many imitators. To play it today is every bit as enjoyable as it ever was; sure the graphics and sound may have dated, but the core gameplay is still top notch. This is one hell of a fun racing game with enough playability to keep you coming back for more. It’s amazing that Nintendo chose to wait three years before treating us to this seminal game on the Virtual Console, but we’re glad they finally saw sense!

From the web

Game Trailer

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube

User Comments (84)



I only liked Double Dash, but the graphics on this one are charming.



suburban_sensei said:

Downloaded it, and it brings back some good memories, but I forgot how touchy the karts were when it comes to turning. My girlfriend had never played this version, and she'd didn't care for it much, she is more a fan of Mario Kart 64 and Mariokart Wii. Nonetheless, great game, totally worth 800 pts.



pixelman said:

My favorite racing game of all time. Of course, my opinion is heavily colored by nostalgia, but that doesn't change the fact that this is an incredibly fun game. Downloading it as soon as I get some points.



JeanLuc_Vaycard said:

I agree with the score. My favorite in the series. The rubber band AI and cheap items in the newer games kill it. Long live the original.



AVahne said:

ah the good old days before the Blue Shell came to our planet and started killing our men, raping our children, and eating our children.

i remember playing this game so much as a kid, playing even more Super Mario World and A Link to the Past



Adam said:

My only complaint about the game is that 150cc is annoyingly cheap. Rubber band AI is in full effect. Luigi always manages to be hot on my tail with a constant stream of invincibility stars. But Time Trial is much more fun for single-player anyway, and 150cc becomes a real blast with a friend, either versus or with computers. So glad this is finally out.



KnucklesSonic8 said:

Also really happy it's finally out as I can finally experience this game properly. I'm enjoying it so far.



@Koto: I hate the blue shell but I can live with it. The Lighting cloud on the other hand...<_<



Corbs said:

This is my favorite Super Mario Kart title still to this day. I love it.



megaboomface2 said:

i think this is a sucky game why? because time has done nothing good for this kart other then ruin it so ill get super metroid or a weird 4-7 star 1000 point wiiware game only time will tell



Ren said:

yeah, this one is for the old guy in some of us. If you were raised on other ones it's probably tough to swallow, but SNES was my heyday, so it's only fond memories for me.



Gabbo said:

Perhaps the one game I am better at in competitive play than any other. Here's to a thousand hours or more of my life well spent.



ioioi210 said:

Sorry the DS on rocks, there is no denying it...
Then the N64...

Still might get this though



KeeperBvK said:

This ist most definitely my favorite Mario Kart which has next to nothing to do with nostalgia. It just still plays a lot better than the other ones, has way better Battle Mode stages, better tracks and better items.



WolfLink22 said:

As Jay O. Sanders who played Ranch in Angels in the Out Field and Ziggy on Roseanne would say: "All i can say is, It's About Time."

I liked this one over all of the other Mario Karts before and with my 26 Inch LCD HDTV DVD Combo Player it looks just as great as it did when i owned it on the SNES before i had to wait until last night to get it again.

If you have never played it before but like it's graphics then get it and play it.You may hate the Rubber Banding AI in 150 CC.But i have a newsflash for you.I would take that over the cheap Item useage of the later Mario Karts of today any time.Sure this may only have 2 players but don't let that stop you and friends from enjoying this Masterpiece.

Also you may hate the controls but they take some time to get use to and also you can shrink your driver for ever more of a challenge if you find this game to easy for you with a normal sized driver.You will indeed find at least 1 or 2 Tracks that you will like racing on too.After getting to re enjoy this after like 10 years i not only like the first SMK Mushroom Track.But i also still like Ghost Valley 1 and i like the Ice Tracks a lot too.

If you don't have 800 Nintendo Points on your Wii and want it don't fear or in this case don't let the Ghosts get to you or slide away from wanting it just get it when you get more Nintendo Points it will still be there when you are able or ready to finally get it.



strenny said:

I remember playing the 150cc cups in 2 player mode when i was alone, just to eliminate at least one cpu opponent straight away. Naive thinking one can say... I'll get it someday for sure on vc!



Mario_34 said:

Downloading when it comes out in Australia and Europe. I am really hoping that it gets released this Friday



Raylax said:

Mmm, the retro Mario Karts aren't my thing. Didn't like the handling in MK64 and wasn't keen on the coins=speed mechanic or being forced to retry/retire if you finished lower than 4th in MKSC. I'm sure they're all great games to the right (read: more skilled) players, but not for me. I like the more chaotic nature of the more recent installments. MKDS and MKDD are the series highlight for me.



Incognito_D said:

like others have said, on harder difficulties, rubber band AI is in full effect, but this is still arguably the best Mario Kart game ever made, and anyone who has never played it really has no option but to get it as soon as possible!



Taya said:

I don't think this is the best Mario Kart but it's still pretty fun. I loved Battle Mode back then and the feather is an awesome item for getting secrets.

Feather shortcuts are better than mushroom shortcuts.



JamieO said:

Dazza has hit the nail on the head in referring to the tight course design, Super Mario Kart is one game in which elements of the track design border on impeccable. Shave seconds off early tracks in time trials, like Donut Plains 1, and it is apparent that you can find perfect lines and drifts. Choose Donkey Kong Jr, to skim the corners and never lose top-speed, from touching the sides in Ghost Valley 1.
Through multiplayer with two other mates, we were able to fully learn the timing for speed starts and for each timed jump into a drift corner, the placements of speed boost pads and every feather short-cut. The game is packed with hidden time savers, many are completely risk and reward, you mess them up and you are scuppered, for example Mario Circuit 2 has a cheeky little jump, to bounce pad. There is also an awesome one on Bowser Castle 1 in which you hit a speed strip on the far right, fly towards the brick wall on the far left and time a feather leap across an entire lava section, which separates a rectangular hair-pin portion of track. These are not spoilers, finding them is the easy part, the skill is in regularly pulling them off.
Just imagine if SNES Super Mario Kart was online, the multiplayer emphasis is on pure player skill, not "catch-up" , it encourages weapon prowess, not cheap power-ups ("blue shell from hell", ha, ha). Online would make for some amazing races, even if it is never going to happen, it is a nice thought.
For the above reasons, like a few of the other comments, SNES Super Mario Kart is without doubt my favourite Mario Kart game, in fact it is actually in the running for my "Best SNES Game Ever". I love this game!!! Cheers @Dazza



Knux said:

I have never played SMK. But hopefully before this year, I will buy it and see what the fuss is about!



luke17 said:

The battle mode alone is worth a 10/10. This game involves actual SKILL unlike the latter MK's which rely WAY too heavily on power up items and gimmicks. This game takes alot of time and patience to master, apparently something some of you aren't willing to put into this game.



she_gamer said:

I agree, Luke. The people who love this game have put countless hours into planning and memorizing the perfect lines, and developing some crazy skills. After beating this game, I can remember my dad making me a special dinner and cake just because it was seriously something to celebrate. Then I beat MK 64, and it was like, meh, that didn't take much.



BobberyFan98 said:

Man, i'm wanting this game more and more. Since i have enough to buy some more point's, probably going to get this since A Link To The Past has never been my kind of game.




Gamebits said:

My brother and I spent a summer playing this game's battle mode. I thin the final count was 300 to 200.



MetalMario said:

Back to the good old days before the blue shell from hell.

YAY I'm in first (2 seconds later) OH NO I'm in 7th! (guy with Star) Oh no I'm in 12th!


But love this game. Great review.



bestbuck said:

Good review but I'd have gave it a 10. This game is incredible fun, it is my favourite game of all time. I have played most AAA titles on every platform over the last 20 years and I put this in the top spot. Its Perfection Personified.



DIRTY said:

I would have to agree, this game deserves a 10/10. Easily the best racing game ever, one of the very best SNES games ever, and among the best games ever in gaming history.

Its psuedo 3D gameplay before 3D gaming really existed on anything but a PC was inventive. Its party elements along with being highly competitive and hardcore are a rare blend in any game.

Those knocking it really have not learned how to play it. Mastering this game you will see gaming perfection and incredible gaming design and balance. Buy this now!!!



TKOWL said:

we can all agree this has one of the best soundtracks in video game history



JoeDiddley said:

I had so much fun playing this with my sister when I was a kid. Hope it lives up to my nostalgic memories when it is released in Europe.



Pj1 said:

Its such a good game that I'll be buying points on Thursday if I remember! Europe didn't get any VC titles last week so we could get it on Friday. But in some ways I'm holding out for a Christmas day release!! it's worth the wait, I enjoyed Wii Mario Kart but not the bikes, Mario Kart 64 and a Double-Dash were enjoyable. S.M.K just brings back good memories, I think for those who want or would like their nostalgic fix then they'll be happy!
Hay does any one remember when there were rumours that the game might not have been released due to problems emulating the SNES's special chip? thank goodness these were just rumours...



Draygone said:

Most frequent rental when I was a kid, easily. In fact, it got rented so many times, it probably would've just been cheaper to buy it. Eventually I did, and it's still a game I'll pop in every once in a while. I'll be using the Koopa Troopa every time, because I have the best chance of winning when I can actually steer around obstacles.

Undeniably the most impressive feature of this game (technilogically, at least) were the ghosts. I can't think of any other series for a long time that did anything similar.



cheetahman91 said:

Great game. I'm glad winning ain't based off the items. Skill is much better than luck. Also has some of the best music in the series.



Knux said:

After playing this game, I think it is not the greatest Mario Kart ever made. The turning system is not too great, and the tracks do not have as much variety. Since I don't have nostalgia for SMK, I think I would give the game a 8 or 7. It is a good game, but Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart Wii are the best games in the series.

EDIT:After playing this game more, I'm beginning to like it more and more. The turning system is either much better to me now, or I'm getting used to it. Perhaps a 9 is the right score for SMK.



Porky said:

The best game ever? Maybe for the best game ever for the super nintendo, racing genre.



DIRTY said:


Look no further than this vid for why this MK craps all over the rest of them. The skill based and creative shortcuts and insane track design. You didn't get back into a race by spamming blue shells or POW's, you did it by cutting seconds off using shortcuts mostly with feather/mushrooms/stars with jumping.

No other MK games had this depth to it, that is why SMK crushes them all, the better you get at it, the more you realize it...



Mario_34 said:

I have the points ready to go if it comes out in Europe and Australia on Friday. If it did come out This Friday then it would be 300th for Australia and 320th for Europe.



SmaMan said:

Instant download! As soon as they fix the internet in my dorm that is...



Croz said:

Ive been playing F-zero & Pilot wings all this week so far to get into the mode 7 vibe.



aaronsullivan said:

Wife and I loved this game and will pick this up... I might be able to Christmas surprise her.

We enjoy all the other Mario Karts but the lucky-loser features of them all are always a damper. Never had more fun than with the first.

I wish Nintendo would just add a pro mode to their next Mario Kart. Let's add the coins back for speed bonuses, tighten up the tracks and take out all the give-the-loser-the-most-powerful-power-up scheme that is great for casual gameplay but aggravating to the hardcore players. There's no reason Nintendo can't have it both ways. Mystifies my why it wasn't in the Wii version. Truly.



Zinjak said:

not sure if i agree with this review, i have been with this series since the beginning and this has never been my favorite one.the more i play the newer ones the more i just cant go back. i don't think this ones aged as well as lot of people think



Rerun said:

Great memories with this game. I miss the old shortcuts that you can take when you have the feather. All the new Mario Karts did away with the shortcuts!

@aaronsullivan: I second the motion on the coins for speed bonuses!



JSX said:

with the emulation problems outta the way i hope this is one step closer in getting super mario world 2: yoshi's island



WolfLink22 said:

For those gripping that this was not their favorite Mario Kart deal with it and move on.I mean seriously This one is way better not just because of the Tracks or even the graphics.But the Battle Mode was and is still so much better that if Nintendo had a choice to add the best parts of every Mario Kart and rooled them into one then they'd never have to make another Mario Kart until the fans were ready for one.

Super Mario Kart's Controls are hard to get use to if you are new to it and take time by trial and error just to get use to them.

This one has one thing that Mario Kart 64 took out and one thing that has only been in Super Mario Kart to this day.The taken out thing was allowing the second player press start or the b button in time trial to add a ghost racer for you to try and beat by pure speed alone and with no items or even bumping into the racer or cpu to begin with.The other and only thing that was in Super Mario Kart was the option to Shrink your driver for more of a racing challenge to try and not get flattened by each driver as you try to pass them or stay in the lead if you manage to take the lead while you are small too.

If you don't like it then don't get it.If you've never played it and want to enjoy it or just try it out then get it.It is best played with the Classic Controller.If you want to use a GCN Controller you will have a problem because of it's layout.the X button is placed where the A Button needs to be and the A Button is where the B Button needs to be and the B button is where the Y Button needs to be.Where as with the Classic Controller or Super Famicom styled Classic Controller the buttons are just as they should be for SNES VC Games.

Now for N64 VC games the GCN Controller maybe perfect for say SSB or Majors's Mask or even Mario Kart 64.

Should you choose to get this please enjoy it.If you want fair racing but want a challenge later on after you master the earlier and easier cups and classes 150 cup will be your challenge just to get first place if at all with Mario and Luigi putting Stars on most of the time, Princess Toadstool and Toad Posion Mushrooming you, Yoshi Egging you, Bowser Fireballing you, Donkey Kong Jr Banana peeling you, and Koopa Troopa Green Shelling you will get much more mad then than you did in the earlier classes and cups.

The ending if you get to it on both 100CC and 150CC is the same but is great and is an epic ending compaired to later Mario Karts.Sure Mario Kart 64's ending was great as well.

But if you have a choice of getting one Club Nintendo wise it would be this one as it is worth 10 coins if you register it and do the Post-Play Survey.By the time it pops up next week i will have like 5 to 6 post-play surveys that i have yet to do but will do in due time.



WonderboY101 said:

Personally, Super Mario Kart is my favourite version of the game. I've own every version or format of Mario Kart except the DS one. I have played the DS one and it's very good.

Back in in the 90's it was either this or Streetfighter 2 for two player games. Only trouble is I doubt I'll get anyone to play SMK with me now. I'm still getting it regardless when it comes to the EU.

I'll persevere with Mario Kart Wii online until then!



Digiki said:

The Spiny Shell wasn't bad in 64, it could potentially hit everyone in front of you, and the impact on the victim wasn't much more than a regular shells impact.

MKDS blue shell is terrible though , atleast it lacked rubber-banding.



Kadaj said:

While I've enjoyed every Mario Kart ever released, and having a 3 star 9999 profile on MK Wii (at one point, anyway) as well as a great rating for the DS wifi, so I've played some Kart in my time. None of them even compare to the greatness of the original.

It's a shame gamers these days know so little about actual skill. The hundreds of hours playing this against friends and my dad was the best Mario Kart competitive play I've yet to experience.



d2_s said:

I totally agree with all the folks saying this is the best Mario Kar game ever. The controls were/are spot on and though it had a steep-ish learning curve compared to modern games, it you could only really appreciate the greatness of this game after playing it for 100s of hours and learning all the intricasies of control and each level. The game has alot of depth that can't be appreciated unless you put in the effort. One of my most played games of all time next to Street Fighter 2.



WonderboY101 said:

Despite it's age it still stands as one of the best two player games ever made. Single player's challenging too @ 150cc.



Big_A2 said:

Uuuh, after all the waiting for this game to come to PAL consoles... it freakin' decides to give me motion sickness.



Rensch said:

Yeah. I'm definitely gonna download this one. I've been waited since effing christmas when it was released in North America. It took until freaking easter, I never expected that for such a wanted title.




Its a classic, but not my favourite one at all. I think ppl are a bit snobbishly traditionalist sometimes when it comes to retro classics like this. Not everyone, but many still. Thats IMHO anyway.



Kelvin said:

Wow. This is much harder than it was when I was a teenager! I must have had better reflexes back then, as I struggled to get a silver trophy on the second cup on 50cc on my first go! Still well worth a 9/10 though.



SuperMarioFan1995 said:

Ugh!! I've been waiting for 2 or 3 weeks to get this game, and yet I STILL haven't got it. Perhaps if I'll try and do the Connection Ambassador to get 500 points. Since I have 300, then it will be 300 + 500 = 800 points.

By the way, great review.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...