Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best selling game on the Switch, with over 40 million units sold since its release in 2017. Its popularity will likely continue to soar well into 2023 with the gradual release of new tracks via the Booster Course Pass.
Now, producer (and director of the Wii U release of Mario Kart 8) Kosuke Yabuki has spoken to Nikkei to discuss the game's popularity and how accessibility plays into this. Thanks to our friends over at NintendoEverything, you can check out some key points from the interview below:
Did you expect the game to be such a historical hit that it would sell over 40 million copies?
We didn’t, but in hindsight, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a good match for the Switch. You can play the console anywhere and even split the controller in two, so it’s easy to pick up and play with a nearby sibling or friend. 5 years after the game’s release, that appeal hasn’t faded.
What do you think makes the Mario Kart series popular?
Generally speaking, you’re not trying to hinder your opponent in racing games, but in Mario Kart, you spend races throwing shells at them and trying to make them slip on banana peels. Those unique tactics are the core of Mario Kart’s appeal.
It’s both an accessible and deep game. There are people who only play the game on Christmas or New Year’s, while others work to improve their skills every day. We’re always mindful of balancing the experience for both types of players.
How did you keep accessibility in mind while developing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe?
We wanted the game to be a fun experience for everyone. It can be frustrating to lose, but there’s plenty that happens during races to make players crack a smile or want to play another round. The hope for players to experience emotions beyond the outcome of race. We designed the game in such a way where unthinkable things like slipping on a banana just before the finish line happen one after the other.
On [March] 18th, more downloadable retro tracks were made available for players.
The word ‘remaster’ might sound cheap, but we’re confident that it will create new and unique experiences that are different to how tracks were originally. We had to make all sorts of adjustments, as it wasn’t enough to simply leave the tracks as they were. The Game Boy Advance track ‘Sky Garden’ (released in 2001) was originally a flat plain, but we added some verticality to the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe version.
Players are going to have their own memories with each course, so we were careful not to change them too much. The discussion of intellectual property often happens around characters, but courses also belong in that conversation. We want to honor players’ memories while also polishing the allure of each course as IP.
How to plan to develop the Mario Kart series in future?
Former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata often mentioned the phrase ‘from 5 to 95 years old’. The ultimate goal is something that anyone can enjoy. ‘Steering assist’ and other systems that make it easier to bring in new players get us closer to that goal one step at a time. Former developers often told us that “Mario Kart is a competitive communication tool” – we’ll always cherish the meaning behind that phrase.
It's clear that Iwata's influence continues to be felt within Nintendo and will likely shape future projects across the company. When and where we see the next main entry to the Mario Kart series is anyone's guess, but we can at least be safe in the knowledge that new content will be making its way to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe over the coming months, and we can't wait to see which tracks make the cut.
What do you make of Yabuki's comments on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's popularity? Have you bought the Booster Course Pass for the game, or would you rather Nintendo bring out a full sequel? Let us know!
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