Monday, December 5, 2011

Best of... Mario Kart

Mario Kart 7 raced its way onto store shelves in North America yesterday, so now racers from 'round the world can duke it out and jock for position. To celebrate I believe it is time we take a glance at the best the Mario Kart series has to offer in various different categories. From the entry with the best tracks to the best characters to the best items to the best game overall, your good buddy SuperPhillip will decide all. Note: Mario Kart 7 will not be considered for any awards. Let's get started, shall we?

[Best Characters]

Runner-Up: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)

The addition of two racers per vehicle allowed for an exhaustive list of characters to choose from. You could mix and match as much as you wanted. Pair up a lightweight with a heavyweight or have two middleweights share a kart. This was the first game that brought Waluigi, Daisy, Diddy Kong, King Boo, Petey Piranha, Paratroopa, Baby Mario and Baby Luigi, Bowser Jr., Birdo, and Toadette into the racing spotlight, so any game that does that is worthy of being the runner-up, don't you think?

Winner: Mario Kart Wii (Wii)

Not just quantity (which Mario Kart Wii has the most racers in any Mario Kart) but quality as well, Mario Kart Wii succeeds in offering the most bang for one's buck character-wise. New challengers approached such as the for some reason heavyweight Rosalina, Baby Peach, Baby Daisy, Funky Kong, Dry Bowser, and even one's Mii. There were three classes of weight, and each class had the same amount of characters but different karts and bikes for each class. It is for the aforementioned reasons that Mario Kart Wii is victorious when it comes to characters.

[Best Kart Variety]

Runner-up: Mario Kart DS (DS)

Besides having seven karts available for each character such as a bulldozer, a terrific off-road tank, the Egg-1, a kart shaped like the Donkey Kong Country helper Rambi, and even a Koopa clown car, players could unlock the ability to have all of the karts available for each character regardless of which racer they chose. Of course, online you'd only see one of two or three different karts (usually the tank and the Egg-1), but that still does not deny the excellent amount of karts available for players in Mario Kart DS.

Winner: Mario Kart Wii (Wii)

Was there any doubt? Whether you're speeding on a mach bike shaped like Bowser to jetting along Rainbow Road in the Blue Falcon from F-Zero fame, there's a kart or bike for you. Each weight class has its own designated set of vehicles to hop on or hop in. Choose from unlockables like the Dolphin Dasher, the Magikoopa-like Magikruiser, the duck-shaped Quacker, the Cheep Charger, the Piranha Prowler, and the Turbo Blooper, to name a handful. Each kart or bike controls differently than the last, so choose wisely and tear up the track.

[Best Items]

Runner-up: Mario Kart Wii (Wii)

Offering an abundant selection of items, oftentimes obliterating everybody in mass chaos, Mario Kart Wii's items may not have been balanced, but they were pretty cool to use. From the from-worst-to-near-first Bullet Bill, to the Bob-omb, to the cloud which shrank whoever was unfortunate to be the loser of a game of hot potato, to the Blooper which obscured the screen with its black ink, to the Mega Mushroom, the items in Mario Kart Wii could certainly not be considered boring. For that reason alone, the Wii installment takes the runner-up spot.

Winner: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)

Not only were there two Mushroom Kingdom denizens per kart, but each individual racer had his or her own unique item to use on the competition. Bowser and his son had a giant spiked shell that bounced off walls, annihilating all who dared to drive by it, Peach and Daisy had a protective heart shield that grabbed items used against them, Mario and Luigi had fireballs, the duo of koopas had a trio of shells to utilize, Wario and Waluigi had Bob-ombs, and Yoshi and Birdo had homing eggs that when cracked open, revealed three items on the track. There are so many more items in addition to the specialized ones that Double Dash!! winning this category is a no-brainer.

[Best Music]

Runner-up: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)

The carefree tunes of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! are insanely infectious. Whether listening to the marimba on Peach Beach, the charming tune of the circuit tracks, or hearing the riff from Mario Kart 64 in the GameCube's version of Rainbow Road, the music presented in this pleasant package is fantastic. Take a listen to these samples to know what I mean:

Winner: Mario Kart 64 (N64)

Chalk it up to nostalgia if you like, but Kenta Nagata hit it out of the park when he composed the music for the Nintendo 64 multiplayer classic, Mario Kart 64. The songs get ingrained into your subconscious as you continuously listen to them. The credits music especially is one of the best of all time, and you, too, can hear it along with these other fine examples:

[Best Tracks]

Runner-up: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)

With sixteen glorious new tracks ranging from races on frozen lakes infested with skating Shy Guys, deserts full of prancing Pokeys, a Delfino-inspired beach owned by Princess Peach, a luxury cruise liner just off the coast of Peach Beach, and one of the better versions of Bowser's Castle, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! has a ton of interesting tracks. Even the circuits like Mario Circuit which wraps around Peach's Castle and has one ornery Chain-Chomp, a brigade of Goombas, and an array of Piranha Plants along the side of the road as well as Yoshi Circuit which is in the shape of Mario's dinosaur companion.

Winner: Mario Kart DS (DS)

Mario Kart DS possesses some of my favorite tracks in series history such as a romp through Luigi's Mansion where after driving through the haunted halls of the mansion, players drive through a graveyard and then the back stretch which is covered in mud and walking trees, planted to block one's path. Delfino Square is one of my all-time faves featuring a leisurely stroll through the city blocks of a Delfino town. Other incredible tracks include Airship Fortress, Mario Circuit, Waluigi Pinball, and Shroom Ridge. I don't even have to include the sixteen retro tracks, a then new addition to the franchise, to make a convincing case that the DS iteration has the greatest set of tracks in franchise history.

[Overall Best]

Runner-up: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)

It was a simpler time-- even with the introduction of two Mushroom Kingdom citizens in one kart and character-specific items. The blue shell wasn't overused to death like in future Mario Karts, and the tracks and characters were colorful and creative. My favorite pairing would always have to be Waluigi and Bowser Jr. so I'd have Bob-ombs and big Bowser shells at my disposal. Nothing like sharing a kart with another player, or hooking up the GameCubes up for an 8-player LAN party. This was an age where Nintendo did not know what the Internet was. Is it a type of cake?

Winner: Mario Kart DS (DS)

The reigning champ is Mario Kart DS-- the ultimate kart racer in the series. From having thirty-two tracks to choose from (as stated before the new ones being the best in the series), twelve characters, multiple karts of varying stats, and for the first time ever on a Nintendo system, online play. Yes, it was rudimentary, and half of the tracks were not available to race online, and yes, there were hackers and snakers, but play with a decent group of friends, and fun times were had (that concludes this run-on sentence). The item balance was there unlike Mario Kart Wii, and the visuals were impressive for the time and for the system. For the greatest in Mario Kart action, Mario Kart DS should be in your collection.


That concludes this award ceremony. Would your results look somewhat similar or completely different? Let me know in the comments section along with whether or not you enjoyed this celebration of all things Mario Kart.


Matt Sainsbury said...

Nice piece.

Personally though I would have said Super Mario Kart for just about everything there. That's my favorite retro game, let alone favorite MK :D

Unknown said...

I can't get behind that at all. The rubberbanding and cheap AI make it an awful racing game.