While the racers themselves might not have been truly 3D (rather they were detailed Donkey Kong Country-style sprites created from 3D character renders), Mario Kart 64's huge, undulating circuits still showed off the benefits of 64-bit hardware. It added inclines, items, obstacles, and a four-player multiplayer mode to the winning formula Nintendo cooked up on Super NES. This is also the game which gave us Toad's Turnpike.
Each iteration of the Mario Kart series adds a little something new, but following on from the flat circuits of Super Mario Kart, there's arguably been nothing quite like this first jump to 3D-except-for-the-racers. Like any Mario Kart game, add three friends and you'll have an epic time in no time.
Following the online exploits of Mario Kart DS, it was almost a given that Mario Kart Wii would follow suit and include the ability to play against the world — thankfully, despite the console's rather anaemic online capabilities, the experience was nothing short of stunning.
From the outside, the Wii entry might have sacrificed some of the kart racing series' personality, but the online multiplayer with support for up to twelve players, optional motion controls (who could forget that plastic wheel accessory?), and additional vehicles and characters helped make it one of the most accessible entries in the series. Successful, too. It sold a staggering 37.14 million copies.
Whether you can forgive its snaking ways or not, this was still a cracking entry in a series which arguably doesn't have a dud. Snaking — a technique which involves using power slide boosts — did admittedly dampen the online experience back in the day if you hadn't mastered it, but online isn't an option now, so if you're unhappy with how your local competitors are snaking, you can simply lean over and communicate your dissatisfaction in a direct manner.
It should also be remembered that Mario Kart DS was the first in the series to offer online play – and that was a real game-changer back in 2005. Of course, it's been surpassed since by its sequels, but having a fully 3D Mario Kart in your hands was a special feeling back in the day, and MKDS holds a special place in many a kart-lover's hearts, including ours.
Your favourite Mario Kart game tends to depend very much on which one you played first, or which one you've played the most in multiplayer. This can lead to much contentious debate, but we have wonderful memories of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! despite it often getting short shrift from many.
While not overflowing with new ideas, the racers were presented as gorgeous fully 3D models for the first time, the two-driver gimmick was extremely satisfying and introduced a new layer of strategy as you switched characters and juggled items, and it has some great courses, including DK Mountain (ah, that little shortcut at the end!) and perennial favourite Baby Park, the hilariously hectic mini-course. It might lack a certain je ne sais quoi if you're devoted to other entries in the series, but make no mistake, this remains a chaotic karting classic. We love it.
Mario Kart 8 delivered a huge amount of racing goodness right out of the box on Wii U and was only a proper Battle Mode away from being top of class. The big twist this time around was the introduction of 'anti-gravity' sections which allow tracks to bend and twist on themselves in surprising ways. This doesn't impact the gameplay all that much but during anti-grav sections it's possible to collide with other racers and gain a small speed boost, adding a welcome layer of tactical play. It's a game that continually raises a smile and, occasionally, induces that trademark Mario Kart rage as shells strike and positions are lost. It's addictive, unifying, unfiltered fun that draws in anyone daring enough to take up the wheel.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe repackaged the original for the hybrid handheld for all of the millions of people who didn't play on Wii U and added in that excellent (and sorely missed) Battle Mode for good measure. This is the pinnacle of the entire series; a fast, attractive, sublimely playable romp which has to rank as one of the best racing games of all time. It's the definitive Mario Kart experience, content-rich and a delightful feast of comedic, cartoonish karting action. Essential.
And the addition of 48 more courses with the awkwardly named Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pass DLC? Well, that's just more icing on an already-grand cake, isn't it?
I'm-a Luigi, number one! Hold up, Luigi wasn't even an option.
So there you have it; the running order of the Mario Kart series. Surprised by the result? Remember, the ranking above is subject to change according to each game's User Ratings on the site, so if you're not happy with one of your favourites being in the bottom half, have your say by giving it a personal score out of 10 and watch to see if/how that influences the table.
Feel free to let us know your thoughts and share a comment about your personal favourites below.