We still don’t know about the details. The producer of this series is good and understands the genius of the original Super Mario Kart. Koopa Troopa and coins (what do they do?) are all good signs.
But there is something very wrong with Mario Kart lately. It has really affected my enjoyment of the game.
When Super Mario Kart came out, racing games came in two flavors. (“Arcade and realistic!” says the reader. No.) They either had a ‘cool car theme’, somewhat realism. Rad Racer had a cool car. There was nothing outrageous going on in the game. No space aliens. Just other cars. Pole Position had ‘cool cars’ (typical race cars) where they raced around the track.
The other theme was outrageous racing. In this type of racing, the cars had weapons, there were space aliens, ridiculous environments, you name it. Rock and Roll Racing is a good example of this. F-Zero is also a really good example of this.
Super Mario Kart changed racing games forever. “Because it was an arcade racer! Not a realistic racer!” Oh shut up. There were many arcade racers that were ‘realistic’. Super Mario Kart was incredible on its scale of craftsmanship compared to almost every other racing game prior to it. But the other noticeable thing that set it apart was that Super Mario Kart was neither ‘cool car’ or ‘outrageous’. It was unique.
This uniqueness caught my attention when I saw the game in previews. I bought Super Mario Kart the day it came out and was mocked by all my friends. “The game looks so stupid,” they said. “You just drive in go-karts.” Yeah, well, that was the point.
Go-karts are not cool. Not like a sports car. And they are a very ‘primitive’ type of vehicle.
And what is also very important is that there was no outrageous-ness in Super Mario Kart. I’m serious. It was go-kart racing within the Mushroom Kingdom. The rules of the game conformed to the Mario Universe. A Thwomp was not new and was part of the Mario Universe. It smashing your go-kart was logical in this universe. All the environments in Mario Kart made sense. Even Rainbow Track which appeared to be based on Star Road.
I really, really liked racing with go-karts. There is a great innocence about it. Hopping around on Koopa Beach is very memorable as you try to get traction of the wheels onto the sand and not on the water.
It feels Mario Kart is going further and further away from its roots. Not the roots of the gameplay (which the producer wisely got back to with Mario Kart DS), I mean of the general game.
Somewhere along the way, people have begun to think that Mario Kart means ‘ridiculous racing’ and this is wrong, wrong, wrong. This means ‘outrageous-ness’. “You do know you are talking about Mario Kart.” Yes, I know.
The series is slouching away from its go-kart roots. It is common to see karts with ‘big wheel’ towers. And what the hell is with that kite? Seeing a go-kart FLY AROUND and then SWIM LIKE A SUBMARINE is completely wrong. Even Spy Hunter made more sense than this. This makes me very uncomfortable and makes me unable to get into the game.
“But it’s Mario Kart,” says the nasal voice. “It is supposed to be outrageous.” No, it isn’t. It is supposed to be racing go-karts in the Mushroom Kingdom. Go-karts that act like submarines or fly in the air like planes feels completely wrong. If these things were a power-up, it could be overlooked. But these are constants in the race.
When one looks back at classic Super Mario Kart, one would be struck by that starkness of it. The game doesn’t come off as ‘outrageous’. It is go-karts bouncing around on tracks in the Mushroom Kingdom. But the point is that this starkness has nothing to do with the age of the game. Other racing games were far more colorful and exaggerated. Mario Kart was about the combination of Mario and Karts. Some idiot at Nintendo thinks adding propellers and wings to the go-karts is a GOOD thing. It isn’t. It is a BAD thing. It very much hurts the game.
Mario Kart has had many, many competitors in the past. One of the reasons why they failed is because they mis-analyzed Mario Kart and believed that ‘outrageous racing’ was what fueled it. It wasn’t. Mushroom Kingdom was never seen as ‘outrageous’ to people. After all, there are countless Mario sports games, Mario RPGs, and more. Mushroom Kingdom is a universe, it is not outrageous for the sake of being outrageous. It is logical in its own bizarre set of rules. It makes perfect sense that a turtle shell would be used as a missile (because it was used as such in 2d Mario).
I know people will doubt this line of thought about Mario Kart, so I am prepared to prove it with two examples of other games. These two games are also not ‘realistic cool cars’ and are not ‘outrageous’ racing.
This is Micro Machines which is an amazing game. You never hear about it because it was an unlicensed game (which Nintendo will never mention). The game spawned various sequels into the 16-bit generation.
Micro Machines was about racing… micro machines (those little toys). So you don’t get to race a cool car. And you don’t get outrageous for the sake of outrageous. What you got was the micro machine as your racer and the track was in an environment appropriate for the micro machine. The tracks include racing on the kitchen table or on a side walk. Hazards include Cheerios, screw drivers, things appropriate to that environment. The variety you see in that video alone is proof of how interesting the game was without being ‘cool sports cars’ and without being ‘outrageous’. What a wonderful game.
This game is Re-Volt which appeared on many systems. You race RC cars. And the environment is the world of the RC car. They have some weapons like firework missiles. But even that makes sense with the context of RC cars.
Mario Kart is losing its context (karts racing in Mushroom Land). While trying to gain bigger ‘surprise’ with putting wings and propellers on the go-karts, Nintendo is harming the game.
Mario Kart is not a ‘do anything you want’ outrageous type of game. The rules are identical to the Mushroom Kingdom and to go-karts. Having go-karts fly and swim goes against the spirit of the game.