Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Mario Kart Retrospective: Super Mario Kart

On every console since the Super NES, or SNES, one franchise has dominated the multiplayer scene for every Nintendo console. Since you clicked on the title of this article, you know that I have to be talking about Mario Kart. Mario Kart has almost always been a successful franchise that is one of the few franchises that you can make a legitimate case for not having a single bad game in its history. And for the next month leading up to the release of Mario Kart 8, I'm going to be looking at EVERY Mario Kart since 1992. This is going to be a much more personal outlook on each game, so there's not going to be a score at the end of each game. Instead, it's just going to be me ranting and raving about each game. So without further adieu, here is the Mario Kart Retrospective!
Our first entry is Super Mario Kart, released in 1992 as a somewhat expanded version of F-Zero. F-Zero was released at the beginning of the SNES to show what Mode 7, a processing power, was capable of, specifically with racing games. I've never played a single F-Zero game, but from what I've heard they've been pretty good games. However, the biggest problem with the original F-Zero was that it didn't have multiplayer. Enter Super Mario Kart, released a year later and improved upon the groundwork of F-Zero. That being said, man does the game have some issues to it.

There's a reason why some elements of Super Mario Kart didn't carry over to other entries in the franchise. Specifically, it has two rather odd elements to that that make it much different from the other games. There are collectible coins, which increase your max speed the more you collect, and a second screen that displays the map (The second screen and the racing screen being on the same TV). While that probably does sound pretty cool, it's cumbersome to look at the maps all crunched together, and the coin system makes trying to win overall difficult. To win, you're going to NEED to pick up a lot of coins just to have a shot at winning, let alone get in the Top 3.

Speaking of the races, the maps are pretty underwhelming too while we're at it. More often than naught, there are several versions of the same course, just with a different layout. There's a lot of desert courses, lava courses, plain courses, and just plainly designed courses. It's not that intuitive or fun to play when all of the maps look the same. At least the game looks pretty decent for an early SNES game, with clear sprites and good scaling for the racers.

But as the first in the series, it set up a lot of good features that make Mario Kart feel like it's Mario Kart. The item system is a joy to use, which has players get a huge variety of items to use against opponents to try and gain an advantage in the race. There's a multiplayer mode that has two players compete in races on the courses, and a battle mode where two players can duel each other in closed racing arenas to see who's the better racer. It's simple and fun stuff that makes Super Mario Kart stand out from the other kart racing games, and even made it stand out as being one of the first kart racing games.

But really. Super Mario Kart was one of the first kart racing games, and it shows. It has good ideas, but not enough to really make it stand out. Hell, it was one of the latest games I played in the series, just because I became really adapted to the other games first. This just seemed out of place and a step back from what I was used to, understandably so. It's not a bad game, but it's probably one of the lowest ranking in the series for me personally. Still, it sold a hell of a lot of copies, prompting Nintendo to begin plans for a sequel, a sequel that would expand the series into a realm that so few series were starting to get into to; 3D. Come back in a few days for one of the most loved multiplayer experiences in the history of video games, Mario Kart 64.

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