Look how far you've come, Mario Kart
Mario Kart made its debut on August 27, 1992, with a game known as Super Mario Kart. This game featured eight characters from the Mario world that you could race as: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Bowser, DK Jr., Koopa Troopa, and Toad. These races took place on 20 different tracks, all of which were 5 laps long. During races you could pick up one of twelve different items to help you. Whether you got a speed boost or a shell to take out an opponent, items were always a big help.
Super Mario Kart had a couple of different modes to play, the first of which being Mario GP. In this mode, you race against seven other racers throughout different cups/tournaments. There are three different difficulties for the CPUs: 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc. Each cup consists of five different tracks. Depending on their place, players are awarded a certain amount of points at the end of each race. If you finish after fourth place, you will lose one of the three lives that were given to you at the start of the cup. The next mode is VS. Mode which is, as you would guess, for two players. In this mode, you are free to choose any of the 20 stages, there are no CPUs, and the game keeps track of the wins and losses. Time Trial is the next mode and this is for one-player only. The point of this mode is to attempt to get the fastest time around a track. The game records fastest lap time, fastest course time, and which character you were playing as. The last mode is Battle Mode which is a two-player mode as well. In this mode, both of the players have 3 balloons. The goal is to pop the other players’ balloons by causing damage to their character through using items, and usually leads to a good time.
December 14, 1996 marked the release date of Mario Kart 64. This game has eight playable characters again, although Koopa Troopa was replaced by Wario and DK Jr. was replaced by Donkey Kong. There are now 14 total items, six of which are recycled from the previous game and eight of which are new. In this installment, up to four people can play together at once. 16 new race tracks were introduced, and again, the tracks were broken up into cups. Unlike Super Mario Kart, the cups had four tracks, and due to the size of the tracks the races are only three laps as opposed to five.
On July 21, 2001, Mario Kart: Super Circuit was released. The only real difference between this game and the others was that it was only for the Game Boy, as well as having some different tracks. All the characters and modes carried over from the last game. This was the first game to bring stages back from the old games, as this game featured all of the tracks from Super Mario Kart.
On November 7, 2003, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! came out and introduced many new things to the series. The most notable thing is that all karts could hold two people. They also introduced some new characters: Daisy, Birdo, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Koopa Paratroopa, Diddy Kong, Bowser Jr., Waluigi, Toadette, Petey Piranha, and King Boo. Koopa Troopa was also brought back, which brought the total playable characters up to 20. In this game you also have the option to pick different karts, adding to the flexibility of your teams. In this game each character has item specials, meaning that there are items specific to characters. The special items were the only new items introduced in this game. There were also some new battle modes added, which are Shine Thief and Bob-omb Blast. In Shine Thief, players fight over a Shine Sprite and win by having it in their possession when the clock reaches zero. Players lose the Shine when they are hit by an item. In Bob-omb Blast players collect Bob-ombs from item boxes and gain points by hitting other players. These points are taken by other players if they hit you with one of their bombs, and the first one to reach the score limit wins the game. Both of these new modes are for two to four players. A few small things were added that are worth mentioning: boosted starts and drifting turns. There are 16 tracks to race on in this game and, again, there are four cups made up of four races.
Mario Kart DS was the next game to come out, and it was released on November 14, 2005. This game removed the two person carts, special items, and Bob-omb Blast. It did slim down on characters, but also introduced Dry Bones and R.o.B as playable characters. Some of the special items from the previous game were brought back and made for everyone to use. Mario Kart DS did have a Mission Mode where you were required to do certain tasks as you go through races; other than that the modes remained the same. There were 16 new tracks divided in four different cups, but in this game they added Retro Grand Prix, which was a combination of tracks from old games.
Mario Kart Wii came out on April 10, 2008. Five new drivers came with this game: Baby Peach, Baby Daisy, Rosalina, Funky Kong, and Dry Bowser. Two new items were also added in this game, along with one new battle mode called Coin Runner. In Coin Runner, players collect coins in an attempt to be the player with the most when time runs out. Coins are lost when players are hit by items or drive off of the edge of the courses. This game’s racetracks are a mixture of old courses and new courses, with a total of 32 tracks to race on. This is the first game to have tricks that can be performed as you race, and these tricks can give you a little speed boost when you go off jumps. Motorcycles were also added, which acted as karts with slightly different stats.
Mario Kart 7 hit the market on December 1, 2011. Mario Kart 7 brought Metal Mario, Shy Guy, Honey Queen, Wiggler, and Lakitu to the races. Again there are 32 stages in this game, being a mixture of new stages and old stages for racers to enjoy. All of the race modes are the same for this title, and there were no new battle modes added. A small change made was the addition of two new items to the game. There is one notable difference in this game, though, which is the ability to build your karts. You get to pick your kart, the tires, and a glider for when you fly.
Mario Kart 8 is the most recent installment of the series and was released on May 29, 2014. This game has nine new characters that were added, which were Baby Rosalina, Pink Gold Peach, Iggy, Roy, Lemmy, Larry, Wendy, Ludwig, and Morton. Much like the old games, there are 32 stages with a mix of old and new stages. Mario Kart 8 also kept the kart customization and added ATVs to the kart list. This game was also the first game to have DLC, meaning you could buy additional characters and stages, adding versatility to the game.
Mario Kart has been around for a long time and the designers keep introducing new stages and characters, keeping the games fresh. The fun of these games comes from being able to race the Mario characters we all love so much against each other. It’s fun to play with your friends and is good for friendly competition, making it a fun choice every time.