Mario Kart Lead
Image: Nintendo Life

Today (September 1st, 2022) marks 30 years since the launch of Super Mario Kart in North America. In the years since, Mario Kart has gone on to be one of the most successful Nintendo franchises of all time, with the latest mainline release - Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - topping the Switch's best-selling titles with over 40 million units sold. Mad!

So to celebrate, we thought we'd take a look at how each of us was introduced to the Mario Kart franchise, and we'd love to find out how you were introduced, too! Check out our "origin" stories below and be sure to post your own in the comments below.

Kate Gray, Staff Writer

My first Mario Kart game, like millions of other '90s kids, was Mario Kart 64. I was single-digits-years-old when my dad got it for Christmas, so I wasn't going to be taking home too many trophies, but it didn't matter too much to me and my (younger) brother. We'd boot up the game, head straight to Kalimari Desert, and just cruise around like it was a Nintendo-made GTA game with zero pedestrians. I'd try to get to know the cows in Moo Moo Farm. I'd learn the shortcuts in Yoshi Valley off by heart (not that it did any good, because I wasn't good at the racing part). I loved the Battle mode, especially discovering that you could be a little bomb-ghost after you'd lost all your balloons, still able to cause one last bit of chaos before departing to the big Mushroom Kingdom in the sky.

I think what Mario Kart 64 awoke in me was that childlike feeling that there could be incredible secrets around any corner. This was before I spoke the language of video games — before I was able to accurately guess which rooms on a dungeon map would be the treasure rooms and the mini-boss fights, before I knew that the first thing you do in a side-scrolling game is go left, because there's always a secret there. When I played Mario Kart for the first time, every secret felt like I was the first person to find it. Did you know you can drive on the tracks in Kalimari Desert? Or that you can go right up to Peach's Castle in Royal Raceway? Of course you did, you plundered the depths of those courses just as I did. But for one golden moment in the '90s, I felt like I'd discovered something new and amazing. I miss that feeling.

Mario Kart 64
Image: Nintendo

Ollie Reynolds, Staff Writer

Much like my experience with Metroid and The Legend of Zelda, my love for the Mario Kart franchise didn't really kick off until the GameCube/GBA era. I can't recall for certain whether I played Double Dash!! first or if Super Circuit was my entry point, but since Super Circuit came out a good two years prior to Double Dash!!, my assumption is I started with that one.

I still love Super Circuit to this very day. When viewed against the likes of Mario Kart 8 or even Mario Kart DS, the GBA entry certainly looks and feels pretty dated by comparison, but there was an undeniable appeal in its simplicity. Tracks like Sky Guy Beach and Ribbon Road were such good fun to race around, despite the obvious lack of any verticality. It also happened to look absolutely stunning for a GBA game!

Super Circuit isn't my favourite Mario Kart game though; that honour still belongs to the wonderful Double Dash!!. But if it weren't for those early days in high school playing through a GP or two during lunch break on my purple GBA, I'm pretty confident Mario Kart would have completely fallen by the wayside. After all, I was just a bit obsessed with Crash Team Racing back in 1999..!

Super Circuit
Image: Nintendo

Alana Hagues, Staff Writer

So much of my Nintendo history started with the N64, and Mario Kart is no exception. Mario Kart 64 was the party game to play with my family – so much so that I would sneak in extra sessions in the evenings just so I could win the odd race or two against my brother or my cousins. I would drive around Rainbow Road and hum along to that lovely, nostalgic tune, and try out those shortcuts in Wario Stadium over and over.

But the moment I fell in love with Mario Kart was with Double Dash!! There was something about the swappable driver mechanic, the exclusive items, and the fact that King Boo was in it, that made it endlessly replayable for me, whether I was with friends or alone. I got to know the ins and outs of every track, and courses like Dino Dino Jungle, DK Mountain, Daisy Cruiser, and Bowser’s Castle have become some of my all-time favourites. The kart-driving mechanics have, honestly, never been better for me. Double Dash is also arguably the game that made me super competitive, so if you end up with a GameCube controller by my side, we’ll have to have a showdown.

Mario Kart is a staple in every Nintendo console’s library for me; whether I end up playing it for five hours or 100 hours doesn’t matter to me. It’s just a burst of fun and a good night in with friends, even as an adult.

Double Dash
Image: Nintendo

Jim Norman, Staff Writer

Perhaps one of the most enduring franchises throughout my gaming life, Mario Kart has caused more arguments in my household than I care to remember. Importantly though, it has also provided some of my best times and continues to be my favourite multiplayer experience to this day.

Like many people of my generation, my entry point to the franchise was Mario Kart DS. Looking back, this is a frankly unfair start. I wholeheartedly believe that the game continues to be one of the series’ best. I distinctly remember losing my mind over the discovery of the starting boost function (3…2…hold accelerate…1…BOOST) and spending way too much time in the game’s strange Pimp My Ride add on where I would design slick new paintjobs for my karts – I assume the graphic design job offer from Mario himself got lost in the mail.

While I concede that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive franchise entry, Mario Kart DS will always hold a special place in the starting grid of my heart.

Mario Kart DS
Image: Nintendo

Gavin Lane, Editor

Mario Kart 64 was my first time behind the wheel of one of Mario’s karts. The game has its detractors, and sure, those character sprites looked a bit old even at launch, but it’s hard to get hung up on trivial details when you’re racing against three pals, avoiding turtles and trains and whatever else stands between you and victory.

Thinking back, two things stick in my mind. The first is the time I managed to pull off the Mario Raceway shortcut on every lap and save it as a ghost. It’s still on a Memory Pak somewhere, and despite having the means to back it up via Everdrive 64, I still haven’t done so. In the big scheme of video game challenges, it’s probably small fry, but I was absolutely delighted with my achievement at the time.

Second, the PAL version was weird. As an early N64 release, it was slower than the NTSC equivalent, but there were some battle stages that, if started with a certain number of players, would run incredibly fast compared to the base game speed. I remember noting the stages and specific conditions that inexplicably made them move like lightning in the back of the manual – and helpfully, I don’t have access to that manual at the time of writing. Was this the case with the NTSC version, too? Let me know in the comments if so!

Mario Kart 64
Image: Nintendo

So there you have it! We hope you've enjoyed this little peek into how each of us was introduced to the Mario Kart franchise.

Now we want to know how you were introduced. Cast your vote in the poll below and let us know which game you played first, then give us a bit of context with a comment!

What was your first Mario Kart game?

Further reading: