With the arrival of Mario Kart 8 soon this year, the franchise has come a long way; yet while plenty of gamers look ahead to what's next in the series, competitive gaming on its predecessors is still going strong. An example is the original Super Mario Kart on the Super NES, just recently released on the Wii U Virtual Console.
There is a huge active community worldwide that competes in both Time Trial and Multiplayer; they have Official World Championships held annually in France every August. These are run by the French Federation of SMK (http://www.ffsmk.org/), hosted by Guillaume Leviach (France), the current Time Trial World Champion, and a team of other members from Europe. Nintendo of France have been a partner of the Super Mario Kart Championships since the beginning in 2002 and each year provide some top Nintendo consoles and games as prizes, with trophies and medals also awarded. Some other partners include the Super Mario Kart Time Trial World Rankings (http://www.mariokartplayers.com/smk) run by Sami Cetin (UK), SNESOT (http://www.snesot.com) by Julien Holmiere (France) for graphics / posters and http://www.ffviman.fr run by Daniel Guemy (also France) for technical support during the event.
The Super Mario Kart World Championships are played on the European PAL Version SNES Consoles and PAL Super Mario Kart cartridges. The televisions used are all CRTs so there is no lag on the gameplay that is noticeable when playing on flat screens; they're set up in a perimeter around a venue hall. The event lasts 4-5 days where a mode of the game is played each day and scores are recorded on an automated database, and there's then a ceremony at the end of the event to announce the overall ranking of the Championship.
The 2013 event was held in the town of La Suze-sur-Sarthe near Le Mans, in France, and for the first time it was featured on twitch.tv so people around the World could watch the action. Florent Lecoanet of France has been a multiple Champion over many years and was the overall winner of the 2013 edition, followed by runner up Sami Cetin of the UK and Julien Holmiere of France in 3rd.
The 2013 and previous editions have had competitors from all over Europe, USA, and even players from Brazil and Japan attending. You can see some snapshot photos of memories from last year’s event in this video made by one of the players:
In the past editions, such as 2009 when there was a major uplift in the number of competitors from around the World taking part, a media crew made a short documentary for a French channel:
The 2014 edition of the World Championship is shaping up to be a large event, and the good news is that the same venue from 2013 will be used, and again be featured on twitch at www.twitch.tv/ffsmk for viewers at home. The event is to be held from Tuesday 12th August until Sunday 17th August; let's take a look at some key details of the Championship.
What is the format of the event?
Tuesday 12th August: Arrival, and opening ceremony, followed by a Time Trial one try competition. All of the tracks are played in a random order and it eventually leads to a ‘last person standing’. The Top 3 players lasting to the final one tries stages are awarded medals.
Wednesday 13th August: Traditionally two player Match Race is played on this day, although it may be 150cc Grand Prix, and the other mode will be played on Friday (TBC). All of the competitors are split into evenly balanced groups and leagues take place in the afternoon where you will race on x number of races vs each opponent in your group and points are awarded based on wins, losses and draws. Those that qualify will enter the Top 16 playoff bracket in the evening. The top 3 winners of the Final stages later in the evening are awarded medals.
Thursday 14th August: Two player Battle Mode in which the objective is to burst the opponent's balloons. This is considered by some to be one of the most fun Mario Kart modes and the original version’s is certainly addictive. This contest follows the same format as the racing modes, with medals awarded at the end of the evening.
Friday 15th August: The other racing mode not played on the 13th is played on this day, either 2 player Match Race or 150cc Grand Prix (TBC).
Saturday 16th August: Total scores are calculated combining the four modes, and Trophies awarded to the Top 3, with console prizes from Nintendo of France awarded to the Top 4-5, and more games for the 6th to 10th places. Several other Nintendo related prizes are available for the remainder of competitors, provided by the other sponsors of the Championship. Some freeplay gaming commences for the rest of the day.
Sunday 17th August: The competitors return home and the championship has ended.
Can anyone take part?
Certainly; the organisers are encouraging more players of any skill levels to get involved. The top players from around the World attend but every year there are a wide range of skills levels present ranging from champion, professional, intermediate / casual level and some beginner level players. Tournament organisers comment that it's great to see a mix of regular and new faces, plus watching the casual players pick up skills, and grow in the competition, returning the year after at a much higher level. It's likely there are players out there who were very active in Super Mario Kart back in the '90s and would be superb contenders. Those interested in reviving their SNES’s and copies of Super Mario Kart again could make the competition even greater; there are always competitions between groups of players at a certain rank level who try to beat each other on the overall scoreboard at the end. This can include long time rivalries between two players that have lasted for years, no matter whether they are very highly ranked, or two of the casual competitors. Just to note also, a disclaimer form is required to be signed for anyone under the age of 18 who is attending without a parent or guardian (information and forms are on the registration website).
What about accommodation / food etc?
There is a small venue fee which covers use of the venue / tournament entries for 5 days, plus breakfast and evening meals are provided. The local town has shops a few minutes walking distance from the venue if anyone needs anything extra. This has traditionally been a camping trip and there is a campsite nearby where the majority stay, however if some prefer to stay in a hotel in the local town they may book if they wish.
I would like to attend… how do I register?
The new website launched at the start of the year is the place to go, and you can register on http://www.ffsmk.org/. There is a form to fill in your details and information on methods of payment for the venue fees. Once registered, you will be on the list of Participants; then you just need to plan your travel to France / the venue. An important note for anyone from the UK, if you are keen to attend you may wish to speak to Sami Cetin as he is organising a group travel via the Eurostar and other internal trains. He and the rest of Team UK are planning to book this early (by the end of April) so do get in touch with him before the end of April if so. The rest of the National teams are most likely going to be organising something earlier on too.
The deadline for all international submissions is 30th June.
What would be the best method to train for this event?
If you are planning to attend with another friend who is also competing, then doing all of the multiplayer modes with a sparring partner is a great way to hone your multiplayer tactics skills. Otherwise check out some of the videos from the championships and various races to get an idea. For driving techniques, the best way to raise the bar is also to join the Super Mario Kart Time Trial World Rankings — http://www.mariokartplayers.com/smk/ (which has been active every week since 1998) — where mostly all of the competitors are ranked. Definitely speak to some of the top players there for advice and tips, record some video replays of your current driving level and you can ask one of the Pros to help point you in the right direction with cornering strategies.
Who are some of the top players from each country right now?
The French team have a strong list and more are rising; Florent Lecoanet, Julien Holmiere, Geoffrey Label, Harold Christensen, Guillaume Leviach are some of the top names and they each excel at different modes, with Florent having earned many trophies from racing mode success. Julien, Geoffrey and Harold running the show on Battle Mode and Guillaume Leviach is the front runner on Time Trial one tries. From the Netherlands, Dutch Champion and Multiple World Record holder Karel van Duijvenboden is a regular attendee and will be joined by the 2nd fastest in the Netherlands, Aron Langerak, who is also the 6th fastest Mario Kart Double Dash player in the World. In 2012 the Championship included the Mario Kart Double Dash World Champions from Sweden, Richard Karlsson and Andreas Rudmarker, who also compete on SMK and are ranked very highly. From the UK, Mario Circuit 1 and multi-track World Record holder, Sami Cetin will be attending with his team of Time Trialers and battlers; this also includes his niece, the World’s fastest female player Leyla Hasso, currently his primary training partner in Super Mario Kart. From USA there'll be Drew Blumfield of California, who is one of the most skilled Battle Mode players, and America’s best racer flies to Europe every year to compete. Last year Takashi Ogasawara of Japan travelled to the Championships and showed his skills as Japan’s fastest 150cc player. Previous editions have also hosted National Champions from Switzerland, Germany, Algeria, Belgium and Brazil. The organisers hope to see a number of these guys returning again this year.
Overall, the competition is fierce, but the best part aside from enjoying a classic Nintendo racing game is meeting some great people from around the globe and taking some fun memories home.
Can I see a bit more of the event in action?
Below are some more videos from last year:
Time Trial one try Final between Florent Lecoanet (France) and Guillaume Leviach (France); a special set up was used on the main screen so both videos could be blended into one screen, so viewers could see how close the one try was:
This is the 2nd Part of the 150cc Grand Prix Final between Sami Cetin (UK) vs Florent Lecoanet (France):
Here's the Battle Mode Final between Harold Christensen (France) and Julien Holmiere (France):
This is the Match Race Final between Julien Holmiere (France) vs Florent Lecoanet (France):
After the ceremony on the final day last year, the players did some exhibition races and Time Trial attempts. Here is the female World Champion Leyla Hasso doing one of the most technically difficult tracks, Vanilla Lake 2, live on twitch tv where she landed a 52 second run. After several close attempts, at around 9:40 on the video she successfully reaches her goal!
We hope you enjoyed this glimpse at the Super Mario Kart World Championships of past years and the 2014 event that's coming up. Is this an event you'd like to attend this year or in the future?
We'd like to offer a special thanks to Sami Cetin for his assistance with this article.