Super Mario Kart Review - Throwback Thursday
To do an article solely on the original Super Mario Kart almost feels like a disservice to the game. since initial release some 25 years ago, the title Mario Kart carries with it a wealth of wonderful memory and, in some instances, intense baggage. I recall in college when the Nintendo 64 was all the hype, and 4-way battle mode with the three balloons was the only way to play the game. Then GameCube came on the scene and enabled players to not only select multiple characters for their cart, each character had very specific valuable tools, but also the cart itself. One could create a duo, recognize the strengths and weaknesses of that duo, and dominate thereafter. Plus, the GameCube version Offered a wealth of hidden characters and earned characters which made the game constantly evolving. Then of course came Mario Kart for the Wii, which also had its fair share of joys, including the wheel Wiimote, which only of the most daring and skilled players would utilize (Yes, I was THAT guy who always called wheeled. And yes, I was pretty good).
So when I got out my Super NES Classic and started playing the original, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to think. After all, It lacked the novelty of the wheel, the dual characters, and the beloved battle mode. How in the world could this original title still hold up?
The answer is simple, it’s still a great game. The controls are solid, the characters and sprites are fun, and the courses are manageable with their own fair amount of challenges. Plus, as an added bonus, my son loves watching the game, and pretty much any time I open the drawer where i keep the SNES controllers, he asks “Race? Race?” I’m sentimental, so seeing him invested in the game that much better.
Once I began to play the game again, I tried to reflect back on my original experiences with it. Super Mario Kart was one of the few classic Nintendo cartridges I never owned, which is surprising to me because it seems like the type of game that would be my wheelhouse. It’s not overly violent, the characters are colorful, and the overall gameplay allows for multiple levels of fun. But I don’t remember having it or playing it all that much. To be honest, I really don’t recall much of the cultural attitude towards Super Mario Kart at the time, either. The console wars of that day were escalating so quickly, and it seems like most games came and went in a given season. I’ve already written about how Star Fox and Street Fighter were console game changers, but I don’t remember Super Mario Kart in that way. I remember people just thinking it was really good, and that was enough. It didn’t need to redefine gaming as we knew it, it didn’t have to go head to head with some Sega offering of the same type, Super Mario Kart didn’t even really need to have a narrative through line, or all sorts of hidden bells and whistle’s to make it the talk of the given year and season when it was released. It was just a simple and fun gaming experience. And that was enough for a time.
Perhaps it’s this simplicity and it’ excellence at the basics of functionality and design that allow it to hold up so many years later. In what seems like a sea of countless options, Super Mario Kart still stands as a very fun vintage console game. And that is a wonderful legacy to have no matter how much a title evolves.