Mario Kart Marathon
Image: Nintendo Life

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Mario Kart 8, George recently enlisted a troupe of willing racers (at least that's what he told us) to tackle every single track in the upgraded, DLC-laden Deluxe version in a local four-player blowout to end them all.

What follows is a twisting tale of glory and grief, friendship and failure — a fittingly epic Mario Kart marathon to commemorate a decade of both Wii U and Switch's best-selling game.

As I’m sure you’re already aware, Mario Kart 8 is 10 today – TEN! Nintendo’s perfect competitive couch creation has been a favourite of mine since the SNES days and knowing this (I assume) Nintendo was kind enough to deliver this beautiful baby on the same day of the year I came into the world – though it technically arrived on these shores a day after the Japanese release.

Prising the Wii U game open as a fresh-faced 20-something and tearing through every track new and old was an absolute blast. A few years later my wife Hannah and I sat down and played all the tracks in one go and had an amazing time doing so – it’s a memory I cherish greatly.

So I figure, what better way to repay Nintendo the favour than indulging in a sit-down playthrough of all the tracks the game has to offer now on its milestone birthday. I do the maths – 96 tracks, averaging about three minutes each, that’s about five hours. I can do that, right? Well, I guess we better find out.

To get the full experience I need to draft in some fellow players and it needs to be played locally, of course. Nothing beats MK on the sofa. Sadly Hannah can’t join in this time, so who are the idiots (sorry – 'competitors') mad enough to take on this challenge?

(L to R) George, Jonny, Alfie, Tom, Matthew, Mitchell — Image: George Banks

There are a few who want to join but can’t commit to the whole marathon – Matt, Tom, and Alfie. They form a team and will be hopping on and off between each Grand Prix until Alfie takes over full-time for the tail end. Matt has deep MK experience and Alfie has youthful exuberance on his side – this could be a formidable partnership. Tom has a PlayStation.

Rounding out the competitors are Mitchell and Jonny – a Crash Team Racing eulogiser and my game coding partner respectively. I’m hoping this won’t sour the working relationship. And just for a little extra spice, we aren’t playing for the bragging rights alone, no no. We are playing for this glorious trophy:

Image: George Banks

A trophy which definitely isn’t a child’s FA Cup replica with a sticker from New Super Mario Bros. 2 I’ve inexplicably retained since 2012 hastily placed on the front. Look at it. It’s magnificent.

Start your engines


Pro Controllers charged, mountains of snacks we shouldn’t be consuming at our age opened, Switch docked, let’s-a g—

Mitchell: It is quite sunny outside, isn’t it...

[Some beers later]

George: Right, we really should crack on – this is actually going to take ages.


Recharged by the sun, we return from our false start and lay out the rules:

  1. A democratic vote decides 150cc over 200cc, there’s going to be enough chaos without having to actually use the brakes
  2. No changing of kart or character – this is a proper playthrough
  3. Short break after each ‘quarter’ of six GPs and all played in order on the selection screen, left to right
  4. Items on (of course) and hard CPU

The second rule is important because you can’t actually select 96 tracks to play through, despite the DLC. Nintendo has assumed most people are smarter than that. Not these guys. It’s going to be two lots of 48.

Character and Kart selection is deeply considered. I go for Tanooki Mario (to match the tee) and a nice, average construction – picking speed over acceleration with the Koopa Clown.

George: I think you need to just try and get ahead of the pack.
Jonny: Nah, acceleration and grip for me because you need it if you’re getting caned with items.

Jonny duly picks Bowser Jr. and a slow but nippy Pipe Frame.

Mitchell: I just love Animal Crossing.

Fair. Mitchell picks villager in the Sports Coupe and after some team discussions (all very hush-hush – you’d think there’s a Constructors Championship on the line too) the team select Gold Mario – which feels like a deliberate provocation before we’ve even begun, and the 300 SL Roadster. Quick but pretty slippy.

Lakitu, bring the lights. And you – buckle up. There’s a long and bumpy journey ahead.

Image: George Banks

Mushrooms and Flowers and Stars, oh my!


As soon as that intro jingle kicks in, a hush descends – all players sit upright simultaneously like a clan of meerkats.

The simple tracks of the Mushroom Cup whizz by and it’s a very amicable, even jovial affair. A bomb on the line dislodges me from first position as Mitchell romps to victory on Water Park and Jonny outrageously Bullet Bills into second place past Matt on Sweet Sweet Canyon. But nobody minds — we celebrate the chaos, even. Koopa shell hits of any colour are met with cheers. This is going to be a great night.

Tom switches in for the team and the goodwill carries over into the Flower Cup, until...


The first brag is uttered. After clinching Thwomp Ruins Jonny also takes Mario Circuit.

Jonny: Did you see that? Two blue shells and I still came 1st!

There’s a shift in the air as we line up for Toad Harbor (unanimously agreed to be the first ‘banger’ of the evening). It’s a tussle and Jonny celebrates pipping us to the post again.

Jonny: YES!

Joy quickly turns to despair.


Image: George Banks

Mitch chuckles at this. Instructions are being yelled to Tom by his teammates, but Jonny and I are silent – the clacking of thumbsticks as we snake through the trams the only sound we emanate. I squeak it over the line and involuntary fist pumps erupt from me.

George: Victories, when razor-thin like that, are just the best.
Jonny: Absolutely. Thought I had that one.

A calamitous performance from Tom on both Twisted Mansion and Shy Guy Falls prompts good-natured derision from his team – highlighted by his immediately falling off the course after a teammate proudly declares, “I’ve taught him well.” Impeccable comedy timing.

The Star Cup is where we feel the tracks start to get a little more interesting. Then it happens…


Police, please. I’d like to report a crime at Dolphin Shoals. I am blue-shelled from 2nd to 5th. As I rant at this injustice Matt dryly utters the words that will become synonymous with the evening: “That’s Mario Kart, baby.”

A hearty and knowing laugh goes up – he’s not wrong. I’ll shorten it to 'TMKB' for now.

It’s during this cup that we really start to identify our CPU antagonists, too.

Mitchell: I swear Baby Rosalina has it in for me.
Alfie: King Boo is evil.

This simmering resentment is made worse by King Boo storming to victory on Mount Wario after we chat about how much we love non-looping courses.

Mitchell: Guys, we let a CPU win.
George: I genuinely feel sick.

If only we knew what was to come.

Over the Rainbow

Image: George Banks


Mitchell can’t help but laugh as the first item box of Special Cup’s Cloudtop Cruise gifts me three orbiting shells which instantly smash him off a ledge. RNG payback is swift, though, as the last jump of the race sees me get struck by lightning, skid off, land on a banana skin, and finally get shelled to go from 1st to 8th. The profanity seal is loudly broken.

Matt: TMKB.

We all seem to forget how to drive for the majority of these tracks and instead just pummel each other with items so hard that Matt and Mitch end up coming 11th and 12th. The battering on Rainbow Road is so punishing that Jonny is pushed over the edge.

Jonny: I hate this game.

'IHTG.' The second catchphrase.


A gauntlet is thrown down. Tom is in for the team on the Egg Cup but as we chat through the tracks on the selection screen Alfie pipes up about Excitebike Arena.

Alfie: I’m actually really good at that one.
Everyone: Ohhh!

Willing to back up his words, Alfie subs in and for the first time in a while hush descends; the creeping apathy of the Special Cup vanishes in an instant. The course is frantic and action-packed – glowing white thumbs pressing as hard as possible onto the accelerator to try and urge a few more MPH out of our shuddering machines. It’s very, very tight - but Alfie walks the walk! Pulling away on Lap 3 and sealing the win. Light applause breaks out.

We muse about how much we miss F-Zero as we speed 'round Mute City and by this point the foot’s definitely off the gas competition-wise – everyone’s eased back and is happy to chat. That is until...


Baby Park. Who needs energy drinks? This track is the most powerful stimulant on Earth. You always think it’s not as manic as you remember but it really is.

Baby Park Last Lap
The last lap — Image: George Banks

Everyone’s wired again and the energy carries through the remaining tracks. Jonny and I bemoan the computer cheating all the time on Cheese Land and a CPU lands in front of us from the shortcut with timing so perfect you’d think it wanted to prove that point.

Jonny: IHTG!

The rage monkey rears its head for the first time as Mitchell smashes into a snowman on the final lap of his ‘home turf’ of Animal Crossing - costing him the race. The controller eats some sofa cushions. Good time for a break. Jonny checks in with his girlfriend, Elly, who’s been popping in and out.

Jonny: What’s it like spectating?
Elly: Quite amusing, actually.
Jonny: You should feel my pits.
Elly: I can feel the heat coming off your back!

The room is already pretty musty.

Standings Quarter
The standings after a quarter of the game — Image: George Banks

Back to the Future


We are refocused and there's a little ripple of excitement from the group as we scroll through the cups to see what’s coming up and we chat about tracks we love from previous games. Moo Moo Meadows is the inaugural track of the Shell Cup and my wife’s favourite. I don’t know if the others went easy on me (the amount of Koopa shells smashed into my ribs says no) but I managed to dig out the win and felt genuinely elated. It’s a win for her.


The resentment for the computer is really starting to kick in now – with King Boo and Baby Rosalina firmly staking their claims as utter villains, wrecking us on Toad’s Turnpike to accompanying shouts of "IHTG!" Though when I call the CPUs out for this, I am met with a dagger to the heart.

Jonny: George, I’m pretty sure you’re the villain.
George: It’s tough at the top. [Not helping my case]
Matt: TMKB.

I remind Jonny that I’m the one writing up this experience and as such will be painting myself as a plucky underdog with a heart of gold – ultimately strengthening his claim. Luckily, any tension in the room is instantly broken when Tom subs in for the team and on Race #29 picks up the controller and earnestly says:

Tom: 'A' to go, yeah?

Excellent. We enjoy the absolute classics of the Banana Cup and karma is still working her magic nicely – blitzing me with a blue shell literally seconds after wiping the others out with a boomerang and gleefully shouting “laters” as I pass them on Royal Raceway.

Image: George Banks


The Leaf Cup brings the first 'spectacular' of the night – Alfie has subbed in for the team, and on his return finishes Wario Stadium by crossing the line backwards. Not only that, but he repeats the feat a mere two tracks later as I get wiped out by a blue shell near Melody Motorway’s finish line and I have to watch it happen. It’s the last straw for Jonny.

Jonny: I’ve checked out.
George: We aren’t even halfway through!
Jonny: IHTG.

Tom departs from the tournament just before 6pm and Matt picks up the controller for his final GP, vowing to climb back up the rankings. I point out that I’m currently about 100 points ahead.

Matt: It can still happen.
Alfie: Definitely.

Horsepower, wisdom, and courage


It doesn’t get off to a great start for Matt as the doorbell rings seconds before the countdown to Tick-Tock Clock of all tracks. I’ve known him for more than 30 years and have never seen him move faster – he gets back and nails the boost for a lightning start to the Lightning Cup.

It’s around this time that things get weird. After smashing into Baby Rosalina (who definitely did something to deserve it), we begin to discuss what the Mario Kart medical team must go through. An entire improvised scene emerges with voices, fully formed characters and relationships, backstories, all seamlessly played out with no planning or discussion and everyone chipping in as we move onto the Triforce Cup.

George: Another Koopa shell – he was so young. Why – why all this madness? Let’s open him up.

Our brains are so tuned in now that they’re clearly itching to do anything else to occupy themselves.


Matthew has bowed out so it’s just Alfie left for the team. Giddy giggles and a sort of hysteria begins to spread. Wario’s Gold Mine results in people banana-ing themselves with billboard rebounds and Alfie tries yet another reverse finish on Ice Ice Outpost - ending up in fourth as a result.

Image: George Banks

Jonny: Yes! Hubris!

The polite appreciation and compliments of earlier Grand Prix escapades are well and truly gone now and smack talk is rampant throughout the Bell Cup.

Mitchell: I just can’t get this bit.
Alfie: Have you considered getting good?
Jonny: [While bombing then overtaking] LOVELY!

Every shell, every lightning strike, every bomb is now accompanied by a muttered, ‘Have that’ – or something similar and definitely expletive-free.


We see the on-screen trophy that marks the halfway point. Surprisingly the standings reveal that Inkling Boy is actually the closest CPU to us and nobody has said a bad word against him the entire time. Sneaky squid.

Standings 1
Image: George Banks

George: It’s pretty close down there.
Jonny: I’m surprised you can see us from your ivory tower.

Elly checks in again.

Elly: You okay?
Jonny: I’m in hell.
Mitchell: How is this both horrendous and fun?
Elly: How are you, George?
George: My jegs feel like lelly.

Hmm. With basic functions breaking down, we take another much-needed break and fill up on the most traditional of gaming fuel – Chinese takeaway. And not only that, but birthday cake too!

Image: George Banks

I feel a bit bad for that smack talk now. Candles blown out I decide to be a bit more positive.

George: Halfway there! We can do it! It’ll be more fun now as it’s tracks that none of us really know.

DLC tracks - It comes in waves


That previous statement doesn’t really hold true as Paris Promenade kicks off the Golden Dash Cup and none of us can figure out the route. We’re just continuously asking, “Wait – where do we go?” like genuine befuddled tourists. Luckily, a perfectly timed exchange on Toad Circuit picks things up.

Jonny: I wish there was a thing that told you when someone was approaching, I think it’d be better.
Alfie: You can look behind you.
Jonny: Do you do that?
Alfie: Sometimes, yeah.


Jonny: Take that.

It was green shell, too. Exquisite. Then, in Coconut Mall, Lily (another spectator) offers some sage wisdom.

Lily: It seems to me that you just need to try and get into 1st and stay out of trouble.

Everything falls apart. Nobody can focus on the race as we continuously advise each other to "Just stay out of trouble!" while thundering items ruthlessly at one another. Tragedy strikes on the last lap as my controller disobeys me and Tanooki Mario starts careening to the left.

Jonny: We’ve heard that before mate.
George: It’s true!

The leaderboard pops up and everything being so close lights a fire under us. We’ve found the fun again.

Close scores
Image: George Banks


Until we play Tokyo Blur.

Alfie: This isn’t fun anymore.

That was brief. I also inadvertently restart the smack talk on Shroom Ridge.

George: Where are you guys?
Jonny: That’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever said to me.

Alfie roars into second.

Alfie: Yeah, what’s it like back there?
Jonny: IHTG.

We identify our new CPU villains - Baby Mario, Isabelle, and Kamek.

George: What is it with this game and evil babies?

As we begin the Turnip Cup the complaints and jabs come thick and fast.

Jonny: I feel no longer human.
Mitchell: My eyes hurt. And my back hurts. And I hurt.
George: Oh, Mario Circuit 3 – I love this one.
Alfie: Boomer Road.

Don’t despair - things are still weird. Somehow we decide to play Kalimari Desert in absolute silence – which is shattered on lap 2 as I run over Mitchell and he immediately smashes into the train on recovery.

Desert Strike
Image: George Banks



This quarter of the game is a slog and a strange madness is starting to kick in. Sydney Sprint prompts us all to start speaking in dreadfully inaccurate Australian accents – capped off perfectly by Alfie responding to a green shell attack from Mitchell with a red shell of his own, uttering the immortal line before firing:

Alfie: That’s not a shell, this is a shell.

An impromptu rendition of ABBA’s Super Trouper follows with ‘Koopa Troopa’ replacing the title and everyone pitching in with more appropriate lyrics for the chorus. I remember it being weirdly good. Thankfully there’s no recording to prove me wrong.

Mitch Grief
Image: George Banks

Backs and shoulders are being stretched, eyes rubbed, throats are getting sore as we growl at items whipping us off the edge of Sky High Sundae. Elly looks at us with pity.

Elly: You look like you’ve been on a six-hour flight.

It’s Jonny’s turn to properly succumb to the rage monkey on Rock Cup’s Rock Rock Mountain with three IHTGs barked in quick succession. He’s free-falling down the board with Baby Mario and Isabelle ahead of him.

We pile on the anger toward our CPU counterparts.

Alfie: Link shouldn’t even be here! Go back to Hyrule.
Mitchell: I’m never visiting Isabelle on my island again!

This leads us down a strange, prolonged improvisation during the Moon Cup in which we imagine the AI for the game coming to life and how it would respond.

George: I finally understand this ‘love’ that you speak of. And also, please fetch me a green shell – so that I may end your life.
Jonny: What is happy? Is it lightning?

As the quarter peters out, I try and reassure everyone.

George: Don’t worry – I’ve got a plan to help us enjoy the last quarter.
Jonny: Is it a new back and eyes?

The standings make grim reading for Jonny and Mitchell.

Standings Slog
Image: George Banks

Now I am become Gold Mario


My plan is simple – we need to pretend that this last quarter is actually the first quarter and laugh as much as we can. It sort of helps – particularly with the opener of Fruit Cup’s Amsterdam Drift and the humour getting a little bawdier.

George: Can you imagine if the game had that district in it?

I don’t think I can write our elaboration of that thought here.

By DK Summit, Baby Mario has climbed to second in the rankings, prompting Jonny to chastise Alfie.

Jonny: Come on Alf, you need to pull your finger out, mate.

Jonny is sixth in the rankings.

Mirth has returned to the proceedings by the Boomerang Cup, as we slowly shuffle from being slumped back on the sofa to being upright again. Puns abound as I hit Alfie with a tailpipe banana.

George: How does it peel?
Alfie: If only it had missed by the skin of my teeth.
Jonny: No more slip-ups.

Cheers erupt every time I get wiped out from 1st on the last lap and Jonny crushes it on Waluigi Stadium.

Jonny: Yes! I needed that.

Celebrations and fist-pumping return as each hit and fall off the track is loudly roared on. Cries of "Isabeeeeeelle!" ring out as she tears us to shreds.

Mitchell: Bad dog! No!
Jonny: That’s a bit much.
Mitchell: This is a bit much for 9:15
Alfie: It’s nearly 10.
Mitchell: Oh, god.

Moonview Highway is gloriously catastrophic as the roving bombs — which we affectionately nickname ‘Bob-ombheimer’ — catch each one of us. But we don’t care – it’s fun again!

The Final Lap


George: Hey everyone, another tour track!
Everyone: Boo!
George: They’re really messing up my rankings, I just can’t get them.
Jonny: Sure.
Alfie: TMKB.
Everyone: Yaaaay!

We haven’t heard that one for a while.

After Sunset Wilds I nearly select the race again instead of Koopa Cape.

George: Can you imagine? ‘Oh, sorry guys, we better start again.’
Jonny: I would rather die.

Vancouver Velocity offers another opportunity for us to try out some accents which largely just amounts to us putting ‘eh’ on the end of every sentence, the best being:

Mitchell: Bombs away, eh? Mitchell nails me with a tailpipe drop.

Image: George Banks

The rage monkey returns for the Acorn Cup – consuming Alfie on DK Mountain. The controller doesn’t quite get flung from his hands, but it’s close. We then all double back on ourselves on the consecutive roundabouts on Daisy Circuit with the exception of Jonny, who derides us until being the only person to repeat the feat on lap 3. I do so terribly here that I get the legendary ‘8’ item – but it does nothing to help and I finish dead last.

Jonny: That’s pretty embarrassing mate.
George: You’re literally being beaten by a baby.
Jonny: TMKB.


We are here. The Spiny Cup. The final Grand Prix of the night and honestly, things have just gotten out of hand. Yelling, laughter, swinging between hyper focus and crushing apathy like a pendulum.

Total physical and mental breakdown starts occurring during Rosalina’s Ice World. I literally feel my right eye pop a blood vessel.

Alfie: Argh, somebody just blue-shelled me!
Jonny: I feel you, bro. It was me.
Everyone: TMKB!

Bowser Castle 3 and lingering rage monkey pushes Alfie to the limit.

Jonny: I love seeing you this angry.


And then it all comes down to this. Well, not the points total – that was a foregone conclusion yonks ago. But Alfie can break 500 points total for this half of the playthrough if and only if he comes 1st on the final Rainbow Road of the night.

Image: George Banks

The meerkats are back. It’s a tense race – all of us seemingly remastering our skills in an instant as we rush out to occupy the top four places, the CPUs might as well not have even been there. Alfie has a near-perfect race – he’s going to do it! Well, nearly. Because Alfie, sadly, has not learned his lesson.

He goes to reverse over the finish line in 1st. And was it the last lap? No. No, it was not.

Alfie: NOOOOO!

Howls from the rest of us. We bust through the last lap to loud cheers from ourselves and spectators alike and take a brief second to soak it all in.

Jonny: We did it!
Mitchell: Oh my god.
George: Mad.

The final standings for the second half of the marathon fall as follows:

Image: George Banks

All in all, it means out of a possible 1,440 points total the table looks like this:

  • 1,051 – George
  • 941 – Alfie and team
  • 849 – Mitchell
  • 845 - Jonny

The Podium


Thoughts of any kind of trophy ceremony are non-existent as we flop back like near-fully deflated balloons along the sofa. I am handed my prize but it’s hard to bask when I feel like I’ve been hit by a train (which did technically happen on Super Bell Subway).

Last GP
Image: George Banks

George: So, would you recommend it?
Jonny: No.
Mitchell: No.
Alfie: Not to a grown-up.
George: But did you have fun?
Jonny: Yes, of course!
Alfie: Yeah, I loved it.
Mitchell: I think I experienced every human emotion. I have just lived a life.
Jonny: Yeah, ‘fun’ is a bit reductive. I also had melancholy, rage...
Mitchell: Bloodlust.
Jonny: Grief.
George: We’ll probably do it again sometime though, right?
Everyone: Definitely not.

I see. Well, what about me? Would I recommend anybody else try this challenge out? Yes. Once. With the right group of people and on a sofa together, because it is possibly the most perfect encapsulation of Nintendo’s multiplayer magic, and the sheer volume of content and variation it offers from its simple core premise is a thing of wonder. I have loved this game for 10 years and, honestly, I think I could love it for another 10. Though it was a slog at points, I felt genuinely sad at the end – and isn’t that the best feeling after playing a game for nearly seven hours? I don’t really want it to end.

Image: George Banks

Battle mode anyone?