Mario Kart

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Mario Kart
Mario Kart logo.png
Logo since Mario Kart DS
Developer(s)Nintendo EAD (1992-2014)
Nintendo EPD (2017-present)
Intelligent Systems (Super Circuit)
Retro Studios (Mario Kart 7)
Namco/Bandai Namco (Mario Kart Arcade GP
Velan Studios (Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit)
Creator(s)Shigeru Miyamoto
First releaseSuper Mario Kart
August 27, 1992; 29 years ago (1992-08-27)
Latest releaseMario Kart Live: Home Circuit
October 16, 2020 (2020-10-16)

Mario Kart[a] is a series of go-kart racing video games developed and published by Nintendo, as a spin-off from its flagship Super Mario series. Its characters include those from the Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Splatoon series, competing in races while using various items to gain advantage.

The series was launched in 1992 with Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, to critical and commercial success.[1]

The Mario Kart series totals fourteen games, with six on home consoles, three on handheld consoles, four arcade games co-developed with Namco, and one for mobile phones. The latest game in the main series, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, was released on the Nintendo Switch in October 2020. To date, more than 150 million copies in the series have been sold worldwide.


The series logo until Mario Kart Arcade GP 2

The first game in the Mario Kart series is Super Mario Kart for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992. Its development was overseen by Shigeru Miyamoto, the Japanese designer of many successful Nintendo games including Super Mario Bros. Darran Jones of NowGamer suggests that the success of Super Mario Kart resulted from the Super Mario characters, and being a new type of racing game.[2]


In the Mario Kart series, players compete in go-kart races, controlling one of a selection of characters, mainly from the Mario franchise. Up to sixteen characters can compete in each race (the exact number varies between games).

Gameplay is enhanced by 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, Shells to be thrown at opponents, Banana peels, and Fake Item Boxes as hazards. The game chooses an item based on the player's current position in the race. For example, players lagging far behind may receive more powerful items, such as Bullet Bills which give the player a bigger speed boost depending on the place of the player, while the leader may only receive small defensive items, such as Shells or Bananas. Called rubber banding, this gameplay mechanism allows other racers a realistic chance to catch up to the leading racer. They can perform driving techniques during the race such as rocket starts, slipstreaming, and mini-turbos.

Each new game has introduced new gameplay elements, such as new circuits, items, modes, and playable characters.


Mario Kart mainly features characters from the Mario franchise, such as Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Bowser, and Donkey Kong. The Mario Kart Arcade GP series features Bandai Namco characters from the Pac-Man and Tamagotchi series.[5] Mario Kart: Double Dash!! introduced a number of characters to the series that are partners to the more common characters, such as Waluigi and Diddy Kong. Some of these would appear in future instalments. The DLC for Mario Kart 8 added Link from The Legend of Zelda, and Villager (male and female) and Isabelle from Animal Crossing.[6] Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has 42 playable characters, including the Inklings from Splatoon.[7] Mario Kart Tour features 128 characters, the most of any Mario game, and is the first Mario Kart to include Peachette, Pauline, Hammer Bro (and their boomerang, fire, and ice versions), Monty Mole, Dixie Kong, Kamek, Nabbit, and King Bob-omb.


Many recurring course themes are based on the Mario franchise, such as Bowser's Castle. Unique courses inspired by the Mushroom Kingdom include Rainbow Road, above a city or in space. Each game after Super Mario Kart includes at least 16 original courses and up to 6 original battle arenas. Each game's tracks are divided into four "cups" (except Mario Kart: Super Circuit, which has five), or groups in which the player has to have the highest overall ranking to win. They are the Mushroom Cup, the Flower Cup, the Star Cup, and the Special Cup (and the lightning cup in Mario Kart: Super Circuit). Most courses can be done in three laps, except in the original game where all circuits required five laps to finish, the unlockable tracks in Mario Kart: Super Circuit, seven in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! when racing on Baby Park, and two in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! when racing on Wario Colosseum, 5 laps in Mario Kart DS when racing on GCN Baby Park, 1 lap split into 3 parts in Mario Kart 7 when racing on Maka Wuhu (Wuhu Mountain Loop in PAL regions), Wuhu Loop (Wuhu Island Loop in PAL regions), and Rainbow Road, 1 lap split into 3 parts in Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe when racing on Mount Wario, N64 Rainbow Road, and Big Blue, 7 laps in Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe when racing on GCN Baby Park, and in Mario Kart Tour, where all tracks are two laps. The first game to feature courses from previous games was Mario Kart: Super Circuit, which contained all of the tracks from the original SNES game. Starting with Mario Kart DS, each entry in the series has featured sixteen "nitro" (brand new courses introduced for said game) and sixteen "retro" tracks (reappearing courses from previous Mario Kart games) (not including DLC tracks and games from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe), spread across four cups each with four races. The four Retro Grand Prix cups are the Shell Cup, the Banana Cup, the Leaf Cup, and the Lightning Cup. In Mario Kart 8, sixteen 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 divided into four additional cups; the Egg Cup, the Triforce Cup, the Crossing Cup, and the Bell Cup.[4] Mario Kart Tour introduced courses themed from places around the world including New York City, Tokyo, Paris, London, Los Angeles, Berlin, Vancouver and Sydney, and variant courses raced in reverse, with additional ramps and elevation, and a combination of the two.


Each game has a variety of modes. The following five modes recur most often in the series:

  • Grand Prix – Players compete in various "cups," of four courses each (five in Super Mario Kart) with difficulty levels based on the size of the engine, larger engines meaning faster speeds. Before Mario Kart 8 there were four difficulties: 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and Mirror Mode (courses that see their tracks flipped horizontally; played on 100cc in Mario Kart 64, but 150cc in all other games with Mirror Mode). Mario Kart 8 added a fifth difficulty level: 200cc. Players earn points according to their finishing position in each race and the placement order gets carried over to the next race as the starting grid. At the end of the cup, the top three players with the most points overall will receive a trophy in bronze, silver, and gold. This was renamed to Mario GP in Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Super Circuit and then to Grand Prix from Mario Kart: Double Dash!! onwards.
  • Time Trials – 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 race against in later trials. Mario Kart: Double Dash!! introduced Staff Ghosts, which are ghosts set by members of the Nintendo development team. This was renamed to T.Trials in Mario Kart 64 and then back to Time Trials from Mario Kart: Super Circuit onwards.
  • Match Race – Multiple human players race on any course with customized rules such as team racing and item frequency. Mario Kart: Super Circuit has a similar Quick Run mode for only one player. This was renamed to VS in Mario Kart 64, then to VS. in Mario Kart: Super Circuit, then to Versus in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, then back to VS from Mario Kart DS to Mario Kart Wii, and then to VS Race from Mario Kart 8 onwards.
  • Battle – Multiple human players use in-game offensive items (shells, etc.) to battle each other in a closed arena. In the most used battle type, balloon battle, each player starts with three balloons and loses one per hit; the last player with at least one balloon wins. Various battle types have been added to the series, and single-player battles with CPU controlled players. Since Mario Kart Wii, there is a time limit for each battle. For Mario Kart 8, the battles take place on race courses. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe reintroduces dedicated arenas.
  • Online Multiplayer – Players compete in races and battles through online services, such as Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, Nintendo Network, and Nintendo Switch Online. Players can share Time Trial ghosts, and participate in tournaments. In races and battles, players are matched by VR (VS Rating) and BR (Battle Rating) respectively, which is a number between 0 and 99,999 (9,999 in Mario Kart Wii). Players gain or lose points based on performance in a race or battle. The game attempts to match players with a similar rating.


Release timeline
1992Super Mario Kart
1995VB Mario Kart (Cancelled)
1996Mario Kart 64
2001Mario Kart: Super Circuit
2003Mario Kart: Double Dash
2005Mario Kart Arcade GP
Mario Kart DS
2007Mario Kart Arcade GP 2
2008Mario Kart Wii
2011Mario Kart 7
2013Mario Kart Arcade GP DX
2014Mario Kart 8
2017Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart Arcade GP VR
2019Mario Kart Tour
2020Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit


Year Game Platform Virtual Console/
Nintendo Switch Online re-release
Wii Wii U 3DS New 3DS Switch
1992 Super Mario Kart SNES Yes Yes Does not appear Yes Yes
1996 Mario Kart 64 Nintendo 64 Yes Yes Does not appear Does not appear Yes
2001 Mario Kart: Super Circuit Game Boy Advance Does not appear Yes [nb 1] [nb 1] Does not appear
2003 Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Nintendo Gamecube dagger Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear
2005 Mario Kart DS Nintendo DS Does not appear Yes dagger dagger Does not appear
2008 Mario Kart Wii Wii double-dagger dagger Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear
2011 Mario Kart 7 Nintendo 3DS Does not appear Does not appear double-dagger double-dagger Does not appear
2014 Mario Kart 8 Wii U Does not appear double-dagger Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear
2017 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Nintendo Switch Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear double-dagger
2020 Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear double-dagger
Green check.svg Available on Virtual Console or Nintendo Switch Online
dagger Available by using backwards compatibility
double-dagger Available natively on the console
  1. ^ a b Mario Kart: Super Circuit can be played on Nintendo 3DS systems with the Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors program.



Canceled games[edit]

  • VB Mario Kart was scheduled for the Virtual Boy in 1995. It was revealed in a 2000 issue of German gaming magazine The Big N, but was canceled early in development prior to its official announcement due to the Virtual Boy's commercial failure.[11][12]


The Mario Kart series has had a range of merchandise. This includes a slot car racer series based on Mario Kart DS, which comes with Mario and Donkey Kong figures and Wario and Luigi are separate. A line of radio-controlled karts are controlled by Game Boy Advance-shaped controllers, and feature Mario, Donkey Kong, and Yoshi. There are additional, larger karts which are radio-controlled by a GameCube-shape controller.

Many racer figurines have been made. Sound Drops were inspired by Mario Kart Wii with eight sounds including the Spiny shell and the Item Box. A land-line telephone features Mario holding a lightning bolt while seated in his kart.

K'Nex released Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart 7, and Mario Kart 8 sets.

LINE has released an animated sticker set with 24 stickers based on Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Nintendo's own customer rewards program Club Nintendo released a Mario Kart 8 soundtrack, a Mario Kart Wii-themed stopwatch, and three gold trophies modeled after those in Mario Kart 7. Before Club Nintendo, a Mario Kart 64 soundtrack was offered by mail.

In 2014, McDonald's released Mario Kart 8 toys with Happy Meals.

In 2018, Monopoly Gamer features a Mario Kart themed board game with courses from Mario Kart 8 serving as properties, ten playable characters as tokens, (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Donkey Kong, Shy Guy, Metal Mario, Rosalina, Bowser, and Yoshi) and a special die with power-ups.

In 2019, Hot Wheels released Mario Kart sets of cars and tracks.

In 2020, for the Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary, Cold Stone Creamery released Mario themed desserts including a Rainbow Road themed ice cream cake, from September 30 to December 15.[13]


Sales and aggregate review scores
As of March 31, 2020.
Game Year Units sold
(in millions)
GameRankings Metacritic
Super Mario Kart 1992 8.76[14] 94% 94/100
Mario Kart 64 1996 9.87[14] 87% 83/100
Mario Kart: Super Circuit 2001 5.90[14] 92% 93/100
Mario Kart: Double Dash 2003 6.96[14] 87% 87/100
Mario Kart DS 2005 23.60[15] 91% 91/100
Mario Kart Wii 2008 37.38[16] 82% 82/100
Mario Kart 7 2011 18.94[17] 85% 85/100
Mario Kart 8 2014 8.45[18] 88% 88/100
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe 2017 35.39[19] 92% 92/100

The Mario Kart series is critically acclaimed. Nintendo Power named it one of the greatest multiplayer experiences, citing the diversity in game modes and the entertainment value.[20]

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 Super Mario Kart number 1 of the top 50 console games of all time based on initial impact and lasting legacy.[21] Super Mario Kart was inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame in 2019.[22]


Like the Super Mario series, the Mario Kart series is a commercial success with more than 150 million copies sold in total.[23] It is currently the most successful racing game franchise of all time. Super Mario Kart is the fourth best-selling Super Nintendo Entertainment System game with 8.76 million copies sold.[14] Mario Kart 64 is the second best-selling game for the Nintendo 64 (behind Super Mario 64), at 9.87 million copies.[14] Mario Kart: Double Dash is the second best-selling GameCube game (next to Super Smash Bros. Melee) with 6.96 million copies sold.[14] Mario Kart Wii is the best-selling in the series and is the second best-selling Wii game (next to Wii Sports) at 37.38 million copies.[16] Mario Kart 8 is the best-selling Wii U game at 8.45 million total copies sold.[18] It was the fastest-selling Wii U game with 1.2 million copies shipped in North America and Europe combined on its first few days since launch, until Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.[24][25] The enhanced port for the Nintendo Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, is the fastest-selling game in the series with 459,000 units sold in the United States in one day of its launch.[26] It is the highest-selling Nintendo Switch game[27] with a total of 35.39 million copies worldwide, outperforming the Wii U version. Both versions have a combined total of 43.79 million copies sold, making it the second best-selling game in the series.

The handheld games are commercial successes. Mario Kart: Super Circuit is the fourth best-selling Game Boy Advance game at 5.9 million copies.[14] The second portable game, Mario Kart DS, is the third best-selling Nintendo DS game and the best-selling portable game in the series with a total of 23.60 million copies.[15] Mario Kart 7 is the best-selling Nintendo 3DS game as of September 2020 at 18.92 million copies.[17]


Mario Kart elements are a staple of the Super Smash Bros. series, such as the Figure-8 Circuit based on Mario Kart DS, a Rainbow Road stage based on Mario Kart 7, a Mario Circuit stage based on Mario Kart 8, Spirits, and songs.

Mario Kart courses are in F-Zero X, Fortune Street, the Mario & Sonic series, Paper Mario: Color Splash, Paper Mario: The Origami King, and the WarioWare series. Items are in Nintendogs and Animal Crossing.

Rental go-kart dispute[edit]

Go-karters dressed as Nintendo characters in Harajuku, Tokyo

In September 2016, Nintendo filed an objection against the Japanese company MariCar, which rents go-karts modified for use on public roads in Tokyo along with costumes resembling Nintendo characters.[28] MariCar's English website warned customers not to throw "banana peels" or "red turtle shells".[29] The service is popular with tourists.[28]

Nintendo argued that the MariCar name was "intended to be mistaken for or confused with" Mario Kart, citing games commonly known by abbreviations in Japan, such as Pokémon (for Pocket Monsters) and Sumabura (Super Smash Bros.). In January 2017, the Japan Patent Office dismissed the objection, ruling that MariCar was not widely recognized as an abbreviation of Mario Kart.[28]

In February 2017, Nintendo sued MariCar over copyright infringement for renting unauthorized costumes of Nintendo characters and using their pictures to promote its business.[28] In September 2018, MariCar was ordered to stop using the characters and pay Nintendo ¥10 million in damages.[29]

Theme park[edit]

Universal Parks & Resorts and Nintendo have a Mario Kart themed ride within Super Nintendo World at the Universal Studios Japan theme park. This is also to be installed at the Universal parks in Singapore, Orlando, and California.[30] Mario Kart: Koopa's Challenge is at Universal's Epic Universe in Florida.[31]


  1. ^ Japanese: マリオカート, Hepburn: Mario Kāto


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