Nintendo are the company that got most of the staff at Front Towards Gamer into gaming. Particularly an Italian plumber’s adventure on the NES! Of course, Nintendo didn’t stop there with Mario and aside from the many sequels, side games, and spin-offs, they’ve been able to adapt Mario to nearly any situation: golfer, tennis star, and even party host.
But Mario’s biggest, longest running, and most successful side job involves go-karts, various weapons, and lots and lots of drifting. Super Mario Kart appeared on the scene in 1992 for the SNES and was an immediate trendsetter. Mario, along with his various friends and enemies, put aside their differences and instead of throwing fireballs at one another, they chucked bananas and shot lighting. Despite Mario Kart’s simple premise, it was an absolute hit. It would launch a franchise that would go on to sale 90+ million titles globally!
But what is it about Mario Kart that makes it instantly accessible and causes it to be so memorable for most? Well that’s easy. Its simplistic ideas and gameplay make it so that anyone, no matter the age or level of videogame knowledge, can pick it up and just have fun. That’s the core of any videogame, especially from Nintendo- fun. The series has never lost that edge, and if Nintendo can keep the good times rolling, and the turtle shells flying, gamers worldwide will be lining up to rev their engines for the latest game.
Now, when it comes to determining the best game from a series, I’m a bit of a fickle pickle. However, I can state right here and now, Mario Kart’s best version is Mario Kart 64 for the Nintendo 64. Don’t believe me, go play it. Go. Go right now and play it. I’ll wait… You believe me now, right? Good, because I was right. Mario Kart 64 offered some of the series’ innovations that have stuck around to this day; drifting, boosting at the green light, and of course, the accursed blue turtle shell. Okay, maybe that innovation should have made it to the cutting room floor, but the rest of Mario Kart 64 is golden. Go play it!
I’d be delusional if I said there exists a franchise with a near perfect track record, and Mario Kart is no exception. But immediately there’s one title in the series that springs to mind- Mario Kart Wii. And don’t get me wrong, Mario Kart Wii is not a bad game. The problem is it relied too heavily on its gimmick (which you didn’t even have to use). Nor did it push the series forward as much as you would expect after three years without a Mario Kart title. Mario Kart Wii leaves a minor skid mark on an otherwise perfect series.
I’ll never forget the day in middle school, a friend comes over for the weekend and he, my brother, and I spend every hour playing all our videogames. I notice he actually has Super Mario Kart for SNES. We play it the most that weekend, and when it’s time to say goodbye, he offers to trade it to us, for one of our games. Startled but willing, we ended up giving him Uniracers in exchange for Super Mario Kart. I think (aside from losing a game with a rad soundtrack) we came out better in the end…sucker!*
The Mario Kart series has evolved and tried new things over its 20 years and seven iterations covering every major Nintendo console (nine if you count the two arcade titles which can be a bit of a chore to find). It has its imitators- Crash Team Racing, Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing, etc. Hell, if you’re a successful franchise you’ve either had or are considering a kart racer at some point. And all of that consideration is chalked up to the Mario Kart series. While credit isn’t overdue, we at Front Towards Gamer commend Mario Kart and Nintendo for providing too many uncountable hours lost playing it.
*Editors note: We here at Front Towards Gamer don’t condone suckering your “friends” out of a cherished game. For shame, sir.