The current logo, used since Mario Kart DS.
Intelligent Systems (Super Circuit)
Retro Studios (Mario Kart 7)
Namco/Namco Bandai (Arcade GP series, Mario Kart 8)
|First release||Super Mario Kart
August 27, 1992
|Latest release||Mario Kart 8
May 29, 2014
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.
There have been five Mario Kart games released for home consoles, three portable games, and three Namco co-developed arcade games, for a total of eleven. The latest title in the series, Mario Kart 8, was released on Wii U in May 2014. The series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide to date.
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 twelve characters can compete in each race.
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 installment has introduced new elements in order to keep the gameplay fresh, such as new courses, box items and playable characters. These changes include:
- Mario Kart 64 introduces 4-player racing and 3D graphics. This game also introduced Wario and Donkey Kong as playable characters, as well as the blue shell as an item.
- Mario Kart: Super Circuit introduces the ability to unlock all of the Super Mario Kart tracks.
- Mario Kart: Double Dash features co-operative LAN play and two-player karts. Also introduces eleven new playable characters (Princess Daisy, Birdo, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Paratroopa, Diddy Kong, Bowser Jr., Waluigi, Toadette, Petey Piranha, and King Boo). Finally, this game introduced unlockable characters to the series.
- Mario Kart DS features dual-screen play and introduces online multiplayer (via Wi-Fi) & retro battle courses. Introduces Shy Guy (exclusive to DS Download Play), Dry Bones, and R.O.B. as playable characters. DS was also the first Mario Kart game to feature retro tracks from all previous versions of the game.
- Mario Kart Wii features motion controls, performing tricks, 12-player racing, and introduces motorbikes. Six new playable characters were introduced, being Baby Peach, Baby Daisy, Rosalina, Funky Kong, Dry Bowser, and two outfits for Mii characters.
- Mario Kart 7 features stereoscopic 3D graphics, introduces hang gliding and submersible karts, and features an alternate first-person perspective and kart customization. Introduces Metal Mario, Lakitu, Wiggler, and Honey Queen as new playable characters.
- Mario Kart 8 features anti-gravity racing, introduces ATVs, uploading highlights to YouTube via Mario Kart TV, up to four local players in Grand Prix races, downloadable content, and is the first in the series to boast HD graphics. Introduces the Koopalings, Baby Rosalina, Pink Gold Peach as new playable characters, and Tanooki Mario, Cat Peach, Villager, Isabelle and Link as new downloadable playable characters.
Many course themes recur throughout the series. Most 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 elsewhere, but still belong in the Mushroom Kingdom, such as Rainbow Road. Each game in the series includes at least 16 original courses and up to 6 original battle arenas. Each game's tracks are divided into four "cups", or groups in which the player has to have the highest overall placing to win. Most courses can be done in three laps. The first game to feature courses from previous games was Mario Kart: Super Circuit, which contained all of the tracks from the original Super NES game. Starting with Mario Kart DS, each entry in the series has featured 16 "nitro" original courses and 16 "retro" tracks drawn from previous titles, spread across four cups each. In Mario Kart 8, 16 additional tracks are available across two downloadable packages, eight for each package downloaded, including seven retro courses, four original courses, and five courses based on other Nintendo franchises, including Excitebike, F-Zero, The Legend of Zelda, and Animal Crossing.
Modes of play
Each installment 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: 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and Mirror (150cc). As the level increases, the vehicles will go faster. There are eight cups in all, divided into two types: Nitro and Retro. Players earn points according to their finishing position in each race and the top three players with the most points overall will receive a trophy. Mario Kart 8 is the first to feature a fifth difficulty level in the form of 200cc.
- Time Trial – The player races alone in order to finish any course in the fastest time possible. 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 team racing and item frequency. The mode also includes single-player VS races and CPU controlled players to compete in VS races as well since Mario Kart DS (except for Mario Kart 7). Super Circuit, however, features a Quick Run mode, which shares similarities with VS mode.
- Battle – Multiple human players use racing 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. Different battle types were added as the series progressed, as well as single-player battles. Starting with Mario Kart Wii, there is a time limit for each battle. For Mario Kart 8, the battles take place on race courses.
List of Mario Kart games
At one point, there was also a game in the series planned for the Virtual Boy in 1995. Tentatively entitled VB Mario Kart, 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, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS featuring a Rainbow Road stage based on its appearance in Mario Kart 7, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U featuring a Mario Circuit stage based on its appearance in Mario Kart 8, along with the returning Mario Circuit stage from Brawl.
Certain courses from the series have also appeared in F-Zero X, Fortune Street, and the Mario & Sonic series. Various items from the series can also be seen in games such as Nintendogs and Animal Crossing.
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.
K'Nex released Mario Kart Wii sets, with Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and Bowser in karts and bikes, as well as tracks from the game. Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart 8 K'Nex sets have also been released.
Nintendo's own customer rewards program Club Nintendo released merchandise from the series as well. These include a Mario Kart 8 original soundtrack, 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.
|This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2008)|
|Super Mario Kart||-||94%|
|Mario Kart 64||83/100||87%|
|Mario Kart DS||91/100||91%|
|Mario Kart Wii||82/100||82%|
|Mario Kart 7||85/100||85%|
|Mario Kart 8||88/100||88%|
The Mario Kart series has received acclaim from both critics and fans. Nintendo Power listed the series as being one of the greatest multi-player experiences, citing the diversity in game modes as well as the entertainment value found.
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.
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- Dan. "Mario Kart Franchise Retrospective". WatchMojo.com. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
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- "Virtual Console バーチャルコンソール" (in Japanese). Nintendo. Retrieved July 14, 2008.
- "Download New BIT.TRIP Kicks, Speeding Karts, Magic Castles and More". Nintendo of America. November 23, 2009. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
- Arcade Heroes Namco Formally Announces Mario Kart Arcade Grand Prix DX - Arcade Heroes
- "VB Mario Kart". Big N. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
- "Smash Bros. DOJO!!". Smashbros.com. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- "K'NEX Mario Kart Wii Building Sets". Knex.com. October 20, 2011. Archived from the original on September 2, 2012. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
- Nintendo Power 250th issue!. South San Francisco, California: Future US. 2010. p. 47.
- Ivan, Tom (February 28, 2009). "Guinness ranks top 50 games of all time". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved March 14, 2009.
- Futter, Mike (June 2, 2014). "Mario Kart 8 Speeds To Over 1.2 Million Sales In Opening Weekend". Game Informer. GameStop. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
- "Financial Results Briefing for the Fiscal Year Ended March 2014: Supplementary Information" (PDF). Financial Results Briefing for the 74th Fiscal Term Ended March 2014. Nintendo. May 8, 2014. p. 4. Retrieved July 2, 2014.