|Genres||Racing video game|
Intelligent Systems (Super Circuit)
Retro Studios (Mario Kart 7)
Namco/Namco Bandai (Arcade GP series)
|First release||Super Mario Kart
August 27, 1992
|Latest release||Mario Kart Arcade GP DX
Mario Kart (マリオカート Mario Kāto?) is a series of go-kart-style racing video games developed and published by Nintendo as spin-offs from its trademark Super Mario series. The first in the series, Super Mario Kart, was launched in 1992 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to critical and commercial success.
To date, there have been four Mario Kart games released for home consoles, three portable games, and three Namco co-developed arcade games, for a total of ten. Additionally, Mario Kart 8, for the Wii U console, is currently in development. The most recently released game of the Mario Kart series is Mario Kart Arcade GP DX.
The first title in the Mario Kart series is Super Mario Kart and was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992. The development of the first game was overseen by Shigeru Miyamoto, the Japanese video game designer who helped create the original Super Mario Bros., as well as many other successful games for Nintendo. Darran Jones of NowGamer suggests that the original success of Super Mario Kart was the result of including characters previously seen in Mario Bros. games, while also being a new type of racing game.
In the Mario Kart series, players compete in go-kart races, controlling one of a selection of characters from the Mario franchise. Up to eight characters can compete in each race (six in the Arcade GP series, and twelve in Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 8).
One of the features of the series is the use of various power-up items obtained by driving into item boxes laid out on the course. These power-ups include mushrooms to give players a speed boost, Koopa Shells to be thrown at opponents, and banana peels that can be laid on the track as hazards. The type of weapon received from an item box is often random, though sometimes influenced by the player's current position in the race. For example, players lagging far behind may receive more powerful items while the leader will only receive small defensive items. Called rubber banding, this gameplay mechanism allows other players or computers a realistic chance to catch up to the leading player.
As the series has progressed, each new game has introduced new elements in order to keep the gameplay fresh such as new courses and items. These changes include:
- Mario Kart 64 introduced 4-player racing and 3D graphics
- Mario Kart: Double Dash!! features co-operative LAN play and two-player karts
- Mario Kart DS features dual-screen play and introduces online multiplayer (via Wi-Fi)
- Mario Kart Wii features motion controls, 12-player racing, and introduces motorbikes. 
- Mario Kart 7 features stereo graphics, introduces hang gliding and submersible karts, and features an alternate first-person perspective and kart customization
- Mario Kart 8 features anti-gravity and is the first in the series to boast HD graphics.
Many courses, or course themes, recur throughout the series. Most of these tracks are based on an existing area in the Mario series (Bowser's castle being among the most prominent), but there are a number of courses that have not appeared in other games but still belong in the Mushroom Kingdom, such as Rainbow Road. Each game in the series includes at least sixteen original courses and up to six original battle arenas. Each game's tracks are divided into four "cups", or groups that the player has to have the highest overall placing to win. Most courses in the series can be completed in three laps. Thus far, the eight games include 136 unique courses and 30 unique battle arenas. The first game to feature courses which had appeared in a previous game was Mario Kart: Super Circuit, which contained all the tracks from the original Super Nintendo game.
Recurring items and weapons
- Banana peel: Available individually or in a bunch of three or five. The owner throws this item in front or behind their current position. After being thrown, it becomes an immobile hazard. Any kart which strikes the peel will spin out. In Double Dash!!, a variant known as the Giant Banana can be obtained by Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, King Boo or Petey Piranha.
- Blooper: Squirts ink on all karts ahead of the user. Human players have an obscured screen, while computer opponents temporarily drive erratically. This effect disappears by using a track or mushroom boost.
- Bob-omb: A bomb which explodes after a set amount of time—or upon contact with another player—affecting all karts within its proximity; Can be thrown behind or forward of player's position
- Boo: Makes player temporarily invisible to opponents, invincible to items, and additionally steals a random opponent's held item if available.
- Bullet Bill: Temporarily transforms the player's kart into a high-speed automated Bullet Bill, spinning out opponents in its path.
- Coin: Used on the racetracks in Super, Super Circuit, 7 and more recently 8. Incrementally raises top speed of player's kart when collected.
- Fake Item Box: Immobile hazard which appears similar to a real item box (except for one or more differences), but causes players who strike it to spin out.
- Fire Flower: Allows the player to throw fireballs that cause other karts to spin out of control on impact.
- Koopa shells: Projectile fired at other players: green shells follow an initially-straight trajectory and bounce off walls upon contact; unless in first place, red shells target the closest leading character; Both can be fired forward or backwards. Available individually or in packs of three. In the latter case, the shells also defend the kart from other racers and items, at the cost of one shell per successful defence. Double Dash!!, however, omits this defence mechanism.
- Spiny shell: An indestructible and completely-accurate projectile that specifically targets the player in first place, and may also strike other opponents as it approaches the lead player. It explodes on contact with the leading kart, spinning out the leading kart and all nearby karts. Only invincibility and some other glitches can avert Spiny shells. Also known as a Blue Shell.
- Lightning Bolt: Temporarily shrinks all opponents, which then slow down and may be squished by regular-sized opponents; The higher the position of the opponent, the longer they stay shrunken
- Mushroom: Gives player a momentary speed boost. Available individually, as a pack of three or as a Golden Mushroom. In the latter case, unlimited speed boost may be used for a short period of time.
- Star: Temporarily grants invincibility, increases the kart's speed, and allows the player to spin out opponents by making contact with them. While invincible to other items and projectiles, players can still fall off the course
Additionally, character-specific items are available in Double Dash!!, though most are exclusive to the game. 7 has an additional item called Lucky Seven, which surrounds and protects the player with seven different common items, and, when fired, activates whichever of the remaining items is directly in front of the player.
Modes of play
Each game features a variety of different modes. The following four modes recur most often in the series:
- Grand Prix – Players compete in various "cups," groups of four courses each (five in Super Mario Kart) with four difficulty levels: 50 cc, 100 cc, 150 cc and Mirror. As the level increases, the karts will go faster. There are eight cups in the series and they are divided into two types: Nitro and Retro. Players earn points according to their finishing position at the end of each race and the top three players with the most points overall will receive a trophy. All games prior to Mario Kart DS let a second player play in this mode, though the ability was reintroduced in Mario Kart 7.
- Time Trial – The player races alone in order to finish any course in the fastest time possible with up to three mushrooms (except for Super Mario Kart) to be used at anytime. The best time is then saved as a ghost, which the player can compete against in later trials.
- VS – Multiple human players race against each other on any course with customized rules such as lap changes and item frequency. Mario Kart DS and later games allow single-player VS races and CPU controlled players to race in VS races as well.
- Battle – Multiple human players use race items to battle each other in a closed arena. Each player starts with three balloons and loses a balloon with every hit sustained; the last player possessing at least one balloon wins the match. Different battle types were added as the series progressed, as well as single-player battles.
List of Mario Kart games
At one point, there was also a game in the series planned for the Virtual Boy in 1995. Entitled Super Mario Kart: Virtual Cup, it was likely to be the first sequel to Super Mario Kart. The game was cancelled due to the Virtual Boy's failure, but was revealed in a 2000 issue of German gaming magazine The Big N.
Several Mario Kart-related items appear in the Super Smash Bros. series, with Super Smash Bros. Brawl in particular featuring a Mario Circuit stage based on Figure-8 Circuit from Mario Kart DS. Certain courses from the series have also appeared in F-Zero X, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, Fortune Street, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games and Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Various items from the series can also be seen in games such as Nintendogs and Animal Crossing.
|Driver||Super||64||Super Circuit||Double Dash!!||DS||Wii||7||8|
|Donkey Kong Jr.||?|
|Shy Guy||[note 2]|
- Miis are selectable as two different characters in Wii: Mii Outfit A and Mii Outfit B.
- Shy Guy is only available in DS as a playable character during Single-Card Download Play races.
|Driver||Series||Arcade GP||Arcade GP 2||Arcade GP DX|
|Don||Taiko no Tatsujin|
|Donkey Kong||Mario/Donkey Kong|
|Total||4 (7 including sub-series)||11||13||13|
The Mario Kart series has had a range of merchandise released.
Among them are a slot car racer series based on Mario Kart DS, which comes with Mario and Donkey Kong figures, while Wario and Luigi are available separately. A line of radio-controlled karts have also been marketed, with are controlled by Game Boy Advance-shaped controllers, and feature Mario, Donkey Kong, and Yoshi. There are additional, larger karts that depict the same trio and are radio-controlled by a GameCube-shape controller.
Japanese figurines of Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Wario, Donkey Kong, and Bowser are also available for purchase as well as for Mario Kart 64, figures of Mario, Luigi, Wario, Bowser, Donkey Kong, and Yoshi were made by Toybiz. There are also Sound Drops inspired by Mario Kart Wii with eight sounds from the game. A land-line telephone featuring Mario holding a lightning bolt while seated in his kart, has also been marketed.
Nintendo's own customer rewards program Club Nintendo released merchandise from the series including a Mario Kart Wii platinum soundtrack, which features 43 songs from the game, a Mario Kart Wii-themed stopwatch, and gold trophies modeled after those in Mario Kart 7. Before Club Nintendo, a Mario Kart 64 soundtrack was offered by mail.
Guinness World Records listed six records set by the Mario Kart series, including "First Console Kart Racing Game", "Best Selling Racing Game" and "Longest Running Kart Racing Franchise." Guinness World Records ranked the original Super Mario Kart number 1 on the list of top 50 console games of all time based on initial impact and lasting legacy.
- Crecente, Brian (2009-26-2). "Super Mario Kart: Most Influential Video Game in History." Kotaku. Retrieved 2012-1-27.
- Jones, Darran (2011-11-28). "Super Mario Kart: The Complete History of Nintendo's Kart Racer". NowGamer. Imagine Publishing Ltd. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
- Dan. "Mario Kart Franchise Retrospective". WatchMojo.com. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- Sato, Yoshi (2008-02-06). "Mario Kart Wii Detailed". 1up.com. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
- "Virtual Console バーチャルコンソール" (in Japanese). Nintendo. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
- "Download New BIT.TRIP Kicks, Speeding Karts, Magic Castles and More". Nintendo of America. November 23, 2009. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
- Mario Kart Wii U Driving Into E3 This Year - Wii U News @ Nintendo Life
- Arcade Heroes Namco Formally Announces Mario Kart Arcade Grand Prix DX - Arcade Heroes
- "VB Mario Kart". Big N. Retrieved 2013-11-03.
- "Smash Bros. DOJO!!". Smashbros.com. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
- "K'NEX Mario Kart Wii Building Sets". Knex.com. 2011-10-20. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
- Nintendo Power 250th issue!. South San Francisco, California: Future US. 2010. p. 47.
- Ivan, Tom (2009-02-28). "Guinness ranks top 50 games of all time". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
- Official Nintendo sites:
- Mario Kart at the Super Mario Wiki