Mario Kart 8 Deluxe drifting guide
Image: Nintendo Life / Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the most popular game on Nintendo Switch, no doubt partly due to the fact that it caters to players of all levels. Pro players with Jedi reflexes can compete in 200cc, while there are various speed classes and assists to help all racers have fun.

While you can get through 50cc and easier races with basic steering, if you want to tackle higher speed classes and win online it's worth mastering drifting.

Drifting in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Drift has been a key part of the Mario Kart franchise across multiple generations, and there have even been entries with slightly different (and easily manipulated) techniques. With Mario Kart 8 so well established across Wii U and of course Switch, it's a solid approach that now feels very familiar.

What are the benefits of Drifting in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe?

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Drift
Image: Nintendo

The initial benefit is that it does help you take tougher corners at higher speeds, so as you advance to 150cc races - in particular - it becomes essential to master the technique.

The second benefit, and its key factor, is that it can reward you with three tiers of 'Turbo', short boosts that activate once you complete a drift. In higher classes and against tough opposition, these boosts can make the difference to your finishing position.

How to Drift in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

First of all, we recommend stepping into Time Trial mode to practice drifting, enabling you to master the technique without opponents and items getting in the way.

You'll notice that when you tap 'ZR', 'R' or 'SR' (the latter if you're playing with a solo Joy-Con) your character will hop in the air. This is how you initiate a drift - as you head into a corner press and hold one of these buttons and the drift will begin. Initially you need to be turning in before initiating the drift, and it'll then keep you pointed into the corner as you skid around.

Use your left stick, while drifting, to continually manage your progress around the bend. If it's a tight corner you may need to steer harder into the bend, but if it's a long and slow corner you can alternate your control in and out of the bend. You want to adjust the drift to keep you on a stable line matching the corner.

Turbo Boosts from Drifting in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

As you drift you'll notice coloured sparks underneath your vehicle; these start gradually, or you can speed up progress by alternating the left stick in a drift to 'waggle' the steering a little. The longer and more effective the drift, the different coloured sparks and the better boost you get.

  • Mini-Turbo - Early in the drift blue sparks will form, exit the drift for a small boost
  • Super Mini-Turbo - The next stage brings orange sparks, exit the drift for a moderate boost
  • Ultra Mini-Turbo - The final stage of a drift will show purple sparks, exit the drift for the best boost!

Brake Drifting technique for 200cc

As you move into the most difficult 200cc speed class in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, significant changes to approach are necessary. You may even discover the brake button - 'B'!

There's an advanced technique called 'Drift Brake' that is vital for staying on track in 200cc. When in a drift, press 'B' to slow your speed while still drifting; if you time the release of the brake correctly you'll be able to stop your slide but still boost at the end of the drift.

Slipstreaming in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

In addition to drifting, slipstreaming also returns from past Mario Kart titles.

To slipstream, simply manoeuver behind another karter and remain in their 'wake' for a few seconds. You'll know it's working as you'll hear a 'wooshing' sound and start to see air currents around your character. Hold that position for long enough — which can be difficult if the racer in front is drifting all over the place — and you'll get a small but noticeable boost.

This technique is perfect for getting a speed advantage when you're in a pack of racers with no boost pads or other environmental boosts to use.

More advanced Drifting techniques!

There are a variety of advanced techniques for drifting that are deployed by top-level players. These will require a lot more practice, making Time Trial the ideal mode. We've including a world record video at the end to showcase some of these in action.

  • Neutral Hopping - This is simply hopping without any other button input. It is best used on uphill sections such as the start of GBA Mario Circuit’s anti-gravity section, preserves mini-turbo speed and can also adjust your vehicle’s angle coming out of a boost section.
  • Bunny Hopping / Fire Hopping - Please note it only works on flat or uphill ground. This technique involves hopping left or right multiple times after a speed boost, effectively increasing the length of time at a greater speed. After hitting a boost pad, using a mushroom or using an orange mini turbo, hop 5/6 times either left or right. It can also help you to realign if you are too tight or wide leaving the corner.
  • Soft Drifting - This is where you manage to drift at the same angle as normal, but charge your mini-turbo faster. The sweet spot is found in the upper left corner for a left drift, and the upper right corner for a right drift. It is important to note that it is slightly different for each controller type, so it takes practice to find and master.
  • Demon Slides - These are basically neutral hops, adding in the start of a drift. You hop, then as you land, turn left or right for about half a second, then let go of the drift button. It is most commonly used on downhill or flat ground, good examples being Mario Kart Stadium’s anti-gravity section and Sherbet Land’s final straight. On anti-gravity, you will see blue sparks come out of the side of your kart if you’re doing it right.

That's it for drifting! Keep an eye out for our other Mario Kart 8 Deluxe guides, and be sure to share your own pearls of wisdom in the comments.

This article is part of our Mario Kart 8 Deluxe guide series, featuring tips, hints, tricks and unlocks for the best kart racing game on Switch. You can find the Full Character Roster, every course in the game, including the DLC tracks, and How To Download And Access the DLC itself.

We also explain How To Build The Best Kart, How To Unlock All Gold Mario And All Gold Kart Parts, How To Avoid Blue Shells, How To Farm Infinite Coins, How To Drift, Slipstream, And Boost, and How To Get A Rocket Start, as well as Explain And Rank Every Item, list every every compatible amiibo and unlockable Mii Costumes, explore The Difference Between 'All Items' And 'Frantic Items', plus give an in-depth explanation of All Control Options And Assists and How To Turn Automatic Steering On And Off.