Don't smile too soon, Mario

Mario Kart 8 launches at the end of this month, and as you'll know if you've consulted our review, it's well worth looking forward to. It would seem that most of the gaming press agrees with us; the game has scored very highly across the board. However, opinions are like belly buttons — everybody has one — and unsurprisingly, we've seen some rather conflicting reactions from some sectors.

Polygon put on its best games journalism hat and delivered a remarkable piece of reportage, claiming that Mario Kart 8 would be the worst selling entry in the whole franchise. The site presented a series of important-looking pie-charts and graphs to back up this amazing discovery, which has surely done more than enough to comfortably scoop the 2014 "Stating the Bloomin' Obvious" award. We'll conveniently avoid mentioning the fact that it's perhaps not the best idea to compare the commercial performance — and software sales — of a console which is less than two years old with other systems that have already enjoyed their entire lifespans.

Elsewhere on the web, Wired has posted a somewhat downbeat report — amusingly entitled "Why Can't Nintendo Stop Ruining Mario Kart?" — which focuses its ire on the revised Battle Mode. Arenas are gone, and instead players must fight to the death on a selection of courses lifted directly from the main game. To be honest, we didn't think this was actually too much of an issue — the courses introduce a stronger racing focus to the battles, neatly avoiding the "FPS on wheels" effect that was present in some of the earlier Mario Kart entries. It's clearly not to everyone's taste, but we're not entirely sure it "ruins" the game.

However, the by far and away the best criticism of the game comes from Paste Magazine's Casey Malone, who thinks that the Mushroom Kingdom lacks cultural diversity:

The other notable omission is in the cast of characters’ diversity. After 30 years there are still zero Mario characters of color, a problem that Mario Kart 8 highlights by lining up all the characters on a single screen. When it comes to human characters, Mario Kart 8 is overwhelmingly white. Of the 29 drivers, 14 are human (including Toad and Toadette), and every single one of them is white. While it’d be atypical of Nintendo to introduce new characters into a Mario Kart game, it’s also where the deficit is the most obvious, and during play I found myself disappointed that Nintendo’s stable of characters so painfully fails to reflect the diversity of its audience.

What do you make of these stories, and do you think this kind of criticism should be levelled at a game like Mario Kart 8? Throw a red shell into the comments section below.