Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is now here, and whether you're entirely new to the game or an old veteran from the Wii U original, the new title has some tricks to know in order to ensure those podium finishes. Some of them are old methods, but adjusted physics and mechanics in this Deluxe edition also mean that it's worth having a little refresher on key points.
In the coming days we'll have guides on the unlockable karts and how to be a 200cc master, but for now let's stick to the basics.
First of all, one little complaint we have with the user interface in this game is that it sometimes turns on steering assist and/or auto-accelerating by default; it does this mostly in multiplayer when auto-detecting control schemes. You determine which assist options you want (or none) in the vehicle select screen, which comes after you pick a character. On this screen when you hit the + (or -) button you see your vehicle stats, and also visible is a box with icons for steering assist, motion controls and auto-accelerate; toggle them on and off with the indicated buttons. Motion controls, for the record, can be used with any of the control options.
In summary, you can play in the following ways:
- Sideways Joy-Con - This can be done with or without a wheel, the peripheral makes no difference aside from housing the controller and using bumpers for pressing the shoulder buttons. You can either use motion controls and ignore the analogue stick on the left or use button inputs; the latter also works, but can be cramped for grown-up hands.
- Two Joy-Con and the Grip - As you all know the Grip bundled with every Switch turns the Joy-Con into a conventional-ish controller, and so this is a good option for those of you wanting to play with a standard feel of joystick on the left, face buttons on the right and easily accessible shoulder buttons.
- Pro Controller - Pretty self-explanatory, and as the Switch iteration of this pad has the full set of features you can even use it for motion controls.
All standard stuff, the key is remembering to check your settings on assist tools and motion controls, so you don't start a race and wonder why your character isn't quite responding as you expect...
A Good Start, Doubling Up Items and New Tricks
If this is your first time racing Mario-style, here's something to know - hit accelerate just after the '2' appears in the pre-race countdown. Most reading this page already know that, but let's just say it so that it's out there.
Moving on to more telling matters, one addition here in comparison to the Wii U version is a third drift boost. As you drift around corners using the ZR or right shoulder button, depending on your controller of choice, different coloured sparks kick out of the back of the kart or bike - starting with blue and then changing to orange as you get further into the bend or work the virtual wheel to increase the resistance on the tyres. What's different this time around is that the third stage, purple sparks, give you a noticeably bigger boost.
It's quite a big additional boost in with the third stage, but just remember it won't always be possible to use this boost - so don't get greedy. On tracks with long bends or even some sharper turns you can aim for the third boost, but on some occasions it's just not on the cards.
The other major addition is that you can now carry two items at once, which adds a whole new layer of strategy. A key point is that you can't 'manage' them as such, you use the items in order; the one in the bigger bubble on the top left of the screen is available right away. In addition to building up two items, keep an eye out for double item boxes which will give you two at once.
Finally for this section a note on new items - the Boo item allows you to 'steal' a weapon from the racer in front of you. The 'Leaf' is exclusive to Battle Mode and allows you to hop in the air, either to dodge attacks, jump walls or even break a rival's balloon in Balloon Battle.
Work Through the Classes
This section is a short one, but has a recommendation - work through the classes. Experienced players may balk at the idea of playing through in 50cc, but it's definitely recommended for newcomers at least, and every Grand Prix you do (and other modes, for that matter) has you collecting coins in races. Those coins unlock lots of new karts, bikes and gliders, so they're worth getting. Also of note, clearing the 150cc cups will reward you with the equivalent result in 100cc, so you don't need to do both of those.
There's also a bonus character if you place first in every 200cc Grand Prix cup - to be honest Nintendo spilled it in a trailer and most of the internet knows, but we'll save the 'surprise' for a later guide.
Beyond accumulating coins the benefits of playing cups in various speed classes is to give you vital race practice. There are shortcuts that are far more accessible in 150cc or even 200cc than in slower classes, and you should learn which work in what circumstances. This matters because when you race online you don't always have control of the speed class, so you don't want to try a daring shortcut in 100cc that isn't quite as easy to pull off at slower speeds. Practice, get better and accumulate coins.
Don't forget, either, that you can race the ghosts of Nintendo staff and players around the world in Time Trial.
Customisation and the Perfect Kart for You
To start off you have a decent but still relatively small collection of karts, bikes and gliders. You start the game with all cups and characters available, so this is the one loop of unlockables for which you can strive.
Your first instinct will probably be to pick the kart combo that looks the coolest with your character of choice, but there are other important choices to make. On the vehicle select screen hit + or - (as we did when looking at control settings) and you see stats for your kart / bike's performance. These are split into Speed, Acceleration, Weight, Handling and Grip, with six bars in each.
Various factors influence these stats, including your character of choice. Characters are split between light, medium and heavy, and so those with more weight typically have a higher top speed but more difficult handling. At the other end of the scale a small character will likely have terrific handling but low weight and top speed, making them easy to push around.
When playing offline experiment with different setups, looking at the stats in the vehicle select screen to guide you. Where possible try to achieve rounded stats, ie with a certainly number of full bars in each category. Not all bars will be full in this way, but it was the case in the Wii U original that the impact of each category was greater when the relevant stat had a number of full - not partially filled - bars.
Don't always obsess over aesthetics - sometimes silly looking wheels give that favourite kart better stats than those tasty slicks. Be open minded.
Smaller Tricks for a Podium Edge
Here we've pulled together a few extra simple early tricks to help you out - by all means suggest more in the comments!
- Race for the coins - don't forget that the more coins you have in a race the faster you'll be. It's a small difference, but it might matter, and you can hold up to 10 at a time. Even when maxed out at 10 keep collecting them, as they all go into your profile to unlock more karts, bikes, wheels and gliders.
- Reduce the cost of a blue shell - we know blue shells are annoying, but if you happen to have a coin item as one's about to hit you it's possible to only lose one coin as it strikes. As the blue shell hovers above get ready to use your gold coin item; time the button press for the moment the blue shell drops and hits you. With the right timing you character will absorb two coins from the item just as the usual three are knocked away, lessening the loss. Of course it is possible to boost at the same opportune moment to avoid a blue shell, but pulling that off is seriously tricky.
- Stack defensive items - the ability to hold two items shakes up the strategies in races, especially as competitors can target each other even more than before. Of course, you may get lucky and stack defensive items such as shells and bananas. To hold items like these behind you simply hold the left shoulder button; when you do this any shell attacks that hit you in the back will be blocked.
- Turn on the spot in Battle Mode - only available in battles and not races, if you press both accelerate and brake at the same time (A + B on a Pro Controller or Joy-Con + Grip, for example) you can wheelspin and turn around on a dime. In the new arenas this is vital for rapid changes in direction.
Those are our starter tips, in any case. Keep an eye out for our guides on mastering 200cc and what you can unlock in the coming days, and be sure to share your own pearls of wisdom in the comments.