As promised, Nintendo has opened up about the online features in its big multiplayer title for 2011, Mario Kart 7.

One of the big new features is the ability to create groups for your friends, letting you organise players into specific skill, location or friendship groups, with these shared via StreetPass too. You can also custom rules for each group, opening up the opportunity for innumerable innovative game types. Online leaderboards will also show who's best in a group, and your best results and records can be shared automatically via StreetPass too.

SpotPass features also allow you to download ghost data from the Internet, with up to seven ghosts downloadable at any one time, but what's interesting is you can race against multiple ghosts simultaneously, letting you take part in eight-player races even if nobody's online.

Also, as with Mario Kart Wii there'll be a Mario Kart Channel for your 3DS, giving you easy access to all the recent MK happenings.

How much are you looking forward to Mario Kart 7?

Nintendo News: Drive Home the Fun and Race with Fans Around the Globe with Mario Kart 7 for Nintendo 3DS

REDMOND, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- The upcoming Mario Kart™ 7 game for the portable Nintendo 3DS™ system delivers more than just a glasses-free 3D racing experience. Mario Kart 7 delivers frenetic racing fun by air, land and sea. Longtime fans of the franchise will encounter new features and customization options, while newcomers will love racing with their favorite Mushroom Kingdom characters against opponents near and far.

At the heart of Mario Kart is multiplayer racing. Using a broadband Internet connection or local wireless built into the Nintendo 3DS, players can race against their own friends or even against opponents worldwide. The new Community feature allows players to create groups with other Mario Kart fans while setting up specific rules to make customized racing environments. Easy setup allows players to quickly create a community and share with others via the StreetPass™ feature. Community leaderboards will also show the most up-to-date information from recent races. Solo players can race through the Grand Prix and Time Trial modes using either the Circle Pad layout or the motion-sensitive gyro controls of the system to steer their karts. The gyro controls also allow players to control their karts in a first-person perspective, a feature never before seen in the Mario Kart franchise.

Mario Kart 7 will also use StreetPass and SpotPass™ features built into the Nintendo 3DS system. Walking by other Mario Kart 7 players in real life with StreetPass enabled allows gamers to exchange racing scores, win/loss records, number of collected coins and other game data. With SpotPass enabled, players will be able to receive ghost data to race against. Up to seven ghosts can be downloaded at the same time, allowing for a full eight-player race. Additionally, a Mario Kart channel will be a central location for players to view information collected through StreetPass and SpotPass.

Every iteration of the Mario Kart series introduces new twists and turns, and this newest Mario Kart game is no different. New playable characters include Metal Mario from the Super Mario 64™ game and Lakitu, the spectacled cloud-riding Koopa. Players can also choose to race as their own Mii™ characters. New power-ups include the Fire Flower and Super Leaf. The Fire Flower allows players to throw blazing balls of fire at other drivers, while the Super Leaf makes the Tanooki Tail appear on the back of karts to knock other drivers and items out of the way. And, of course, the karts come equipped with gliders for maneuvering through the air and propellers for underwater propulsion.

The Mushroom Cup and Flower Cup introduce eight new courses, including ones on Wuhu Island and one created by Retro Studios set in the jungles from the Donkey Kong Country™ Returns game. The Shell Cup and Banana Cup feature eight classic courses, including Luigi’s Mansion from the Nintendo DS™ and Koopa Beach from the Nintendo 64™. There will be 16 new courses and 16 classic courses total.