We know it well. The feel of the tarmac. The stench of tyres. The roar of the engines. The woosh of shells. That’s right, Mario Kart is back! One of gaming’s all-time best racing franchises, the spin-off that began all spin-offs and quite arguably the best multi-player experience ever designed. Are we excited? Are you not?! Mario Kart is one of the most important games any Nintendo console will have – always exemplary of the company at a specific time and always, ALWAYS a guaranteed system seller. A new instalment is just what the WiiU needs, and WHAT?! That’s what it’s getting? You don’t say! Well, we should go hands-on with it then. We DID?! Well, we should tell you all about it then. That’s what we’re doing NOW?! Well gosh! That is exciting. Let’s get on with it!

You see, Mario Kart on the WiiU finally has a name, and although it might not look like it at first, it’s an interesting one: Mario Kart 8. So, what – it’s the 8th Mario Kart game, the latest one since Mario Kart 7 – that’s not interesting at all, right Wrong. Because that 8 is also symbolic of Mario Kart’s new direction – anti-gravity racing. The figure 8 is a stand-in for a Mobius Strip, a looped track that only has one side; the sort of thing you’d be more likely to find in an F-Zero game than in Mario Kart. That means Mario, Donkey Kong, Peach and all the rest will be racing up walls, along ceilings, around cylinders and through mind-bending loops and forks. It’s by far the most dramatic direction Nintendo have ever taken the franchise, allowing for more imaginative track designs and more interesting shortcuts and secrets.

 

Along for the ride are almost all of the series trademarks and later innovations. Remember coins in Super Mario Kart? They’re right here. Motorcycles from Mario Kart Wii? It’s got them. Gliding and scuba sections from Mario Kart 7? All over the place. This last part is the most exciting, as although we loved the feature in Mario Kart 7, it ended up being a pretty basic addition. In our time with Mario Kart 8 at E3, we were already coming out of a corkscrew loop and deploying the glider to reach a better path – the sort of dynamic switch up of gameplay and mechanics we’ve been looking to Mario Kart for for years.

Another feature that’s made it over Mario Kart Wii is a flexibility of controls. The WiiMote and WiiMote Wheel are still supported, and motion controls will work just like they did on the Wii. Obviously GameCube controllers won’t be supported, but Classic and Pro controllers will, and the Pro controller especially feels great. Thanks to their internal gyroscopes, the WiiU GamePad gives you’re the control and support of a real controller AND the option to turn it like a wheel. As the pad is bigger and heavier than a WiiMote, we thought it was by far the best way to play.

It’s obvious that Nintendo mean to bring all Mario Kart fans together, no matter their preferred style, and they mean to do it online, over MiiVerse. The place to capture and sharing race clips, photos and messages, MiiVerse will be the hub of the Mario Kart 8 experience, and it’s also the place to go to set up and customise multiplayer tournaments for up to 12 racers. Sure, it’s nothing revolutionary for an online racer, but for Mario Kart it’s been a long-time coming.

Bringing together all the elements we love about Mario Kart history, then enhancing them with better options and jaw dropping track designs; Mario Kart 8 is set to become the new high watermark for the series. We may know it well, but we’re still unbelievably excited, and cannot wait to play it more in 2014…

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  • Developer: Nintendo
    Publisher: Nintendo