Developed by: Nintendo EAD
Published by: Nintendo
Feeling Like: Backseat Driver
Everybody knows about Mario Kart. It’s nearly as recognizable to the mainstream as the Italian Plumber himself for some very good reasons; they’re incredibly easy to play, accessible to all skill types, colorful, hilarious, creative, they always have a local multiplayer option and they become competitive enough to warrant any kind of party you want, alcohol fueled or not.
It’s had a long history of quality – no single title in the series has ever come close to being “bad”, although IGN infamously gave the game a 7.9/10 spawning a meme and backlash to this very day. Despite Mario Kart: Double Dash being the worst in the series (arguable) and a minor upgrade from Mario Kart 64 (arguable, but less so), it’s still a better experience than 151 other games on the 500. I only barely played it at Dave V’s for a few hours. I couldn’t tell you much about it off the top of my head. I can tell you it’s still zany, incredible Kart and that’s enough to warrant spot #348.
The biggest change, naturally, is the “Double” part of Double Dash. You control not just one, but two characters. One drives, one shoots items. Every character has their own special talent for driving but, just as crucially, each has their own special item. Some Nintendo mascots are better for catching up in the race, others have more defensive abilities that will help maintain a lead. The choosing of wacky combinations is one of the best parts of Double Dash and ensures far more replay-ability than previous Mario Kart games. It also meant that items were more important than ever, and going out of your way to grab an item or double item box may be worth a second added to your lap time. The inherent risk of this added another layer of strategy that I greatly appreciated.
The graphics are a massive upgrade compared to Mario Kart 64 with blocky shapes being replaced by smooth curves, and the framerate now ensures a new sense of speed. Even the menus seem to be alive, with dynamic backgrounds and huge text dominating the screen. Choosing a track never felt as exciting.
The tracks themselves, on the other hand, felt muted to me. Usually there’s a sense of wonder and unpredictability in previous tracks; with Double Dash, it seems like a ton of work went into how to make two racers work instead of incredibly designed levels that made me want to replay them over and over. I doubt it’s just my preference, since they have never gone back to the Double Dash model of having two racers.
If you’ve never played a Mario Kart (and I seriously doubt that), this isn’t the entry to get into the fundamentals of the series. It’s neither the first game, nor the best. I can’t even begin to describe the rage of getting hit by a blue shell, or careening around a corner while you lay down a banana to stymie your opponents, or beating your colleagues at Neverblue over, and over again in the break room. Almost nothing beats it. We’ll have to save those details for another entry.
With such a storied franchise, even a “bad” Mario Kart is still a good, fun game. I don’t have any reverence for it, but to spot 348 it goes. I don’t need 1,000 words to tell you that it’s fun, but eclipsed by its past, and future, (Mario) brothers.