Despite the fact that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch is among one of the most polished, gorgeous, and fun games ever created, it’s hard to shake that feeling that you’ve done it all before.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive version of Mario Kart 8 which graced the Wii U with its tight arcadey racing, funky jazz soundtrack, and face-melting visuals back in 2014. Deluxe comes pre-loaded with all the characters and tracks from the original, including the DLC. Additionally, Deluxe throws in a few extra racers like King Boo and the Inklings from Splatoon, bringing the total number of unique characters to 42. That number is only outmatched in impressiveness by the 48 tracks included in the game.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has a native resolution of 1080p on the Switch, a noticeable jump in fidelity from the Wii U version which locked at 720p. Whether you’re playing on a TV or the Switch itself, the vibrant colors and art direction make each level easy to get lost in. While the levels themselves remain unchanged, I’ve noticed so many additional details in Deluxe that were previously muddy on the Wii U making Replay Mode worth revisiting.
The racing is as polished as ever. It’s hard to say whether Nintendo made some balance and control changes or if the original was already rock solid. Either way, controlling each racer feels nothing short of perfect. The inclusion of a third drift-enabled boost (see: purple sparks), a second item slot, and the return of classic powerups like the infamous Boo, which steals another racer’s item and makes you impervious, somehow adds just enough variance to the gameplay to differentiate Deluxe from its predecessor.
However, the true unsung hero of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the inclusion of helper controls including Steer Assist and Acceleration Assist. These control toggles are designed to keep younger or more inexperienced players in the race by helping them to avoid falling off the map. I’ve seen more kids rage quit Mario Kart in frustration than any other game. Trust me, parents, Nintendo just did you a solid.
For all of Mario Kart 8’s praises, not a single person on this planet was impressed by the tacked-on Battle Mode back in 2012. Deluxe’s biggest upgrade is undoubtedly stripping away the Battle Mode from the original and giving us a proper Kart vs. Kart experience. With 5 game types and 8 unique tracks, Battle Mode is the most fun it’s been since Mario Kart 64. The new game types like Shine Thief and the cops-and-robbers-like Renegade Roundup look great on paper but are a bit too chaotic in practice. Stick to the classics. Those balloons aren’t going to pop themselves, after all.
While the improvements in Deluxe are welcome additions, they hardly justify paying full price for the game many people already own on Wii U. For double dippers like myself, the real reason to buy the game again is the ability to play with friends on the go. This feature adds another dimension that allows Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to overshadow the Wii U version. The ability to take the Switch with you means that you have one of the greatest and most accessible multiplayer games at your disposal no matter where life takes you. I brought it to a picnic during a sunny day and played a few rounds of it with my co-workers during our lunch. Nobody seemed to mind using the small joy-con or playing in Tabletop Mode. For most, they were just nostalgic and happy to throw some red shells around.
If you did not own Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, picking it up on the Switch is a no brainer. However, for those of you who are intimately familiar with the game already, Deluxe has few surprises for you. Fortunately, that’s not a bad thing. If not only for it’s portability, Deluxe is a must-have game for any Nintendo Switch owner. Beyond that, it’s more of the same.