Mario Kart 8 was an amazing game on Wii U and it was made even better thanks to some very nice DLC additions that enhanced the game in a number of ways. Still, Nintendo somehow found a way to make it even better for Nintendo Switch. During a hands-on session at PAX East 2017 I got to try out the brand new and revamped Battle Mode, which not only brings things back to the classic styling, but also adds a bunch of things that fans hadn’t even anticipated. The end product, as the Nintendo Treehouse representative said, was the “Ultimate Mario Kart 8 experience.”
Before I get to the new Battle Mode though, it’s important to talk about the racing itself. We did try out regular old Mario Kart 8 racing, and even here there were changes. Playing in 200cc, which was added to the Wii U version via DLC, the race was blisteringly fast, yet the game never dropped from its solid 1080p, 60 FPS presentation. Playing on separate Switch consoles, we each had our own TV screen to ourselves, though we were told that two players would also hold at 1080p and 60 FPS. The big changes for MArio Kart 8 racing are the double items and a new chaperone mode of sorts.
Dozens of racing maps, tons of racers and karts, and a bigger and better battle mode
Yes, Nintendo has fixed one of the issues that series veterans had with Mario Kart 8, bringing back the second item slot. You can’t freely switch between them, but firing off that green shell you got will allow you to pull up the red one you just had drop from an item box. There are also double item boxes now to fill up both spots at once, making for a bit of competition when multiple racers come upon a line of item blocks.
As far as the chaperone, this toggle ability will be a huge benefit for parents who play with their children. Or those who play against adults who don’t want to lose. By strapping an antenna on the back of your kart players will never be able to go outside the track, being kept on by a guiding force that keeps them away from walls and hazards. As a decent Mario Kart 8 player, this was more of a hindrance than a benefit, but I’m not the one who’ll be using it, so that’s not too surprising. If you’re tired of hearing your child or poorly skilled friend crying about falling off the track, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has you covered.
But now onto the biggest addition for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: the new battle mode. In the original Wii U release all battles took place on regluar racing tracks, causing combatants to lose each other across the long stretch of road. There were also extremely limited options to choose from in terms of goals and settings. That is no more with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe tossing in everything it could pull from older games and adding a little of its own.
The track selection isn’t massive, offering five brand new maps and three classics, but they each give you something new to the experience, and more would likely just become cumbersome. And with this many game modes available, you likely won’t be in need of much more variety.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe adds back the classic balloon popping/stealing battle mode on battle specific maps, and then goes above and beyond with even more. Renegade Roundup is the new addition, putting players into two teams that do battle. Instead of just popping balloons though, one team will be the “police” with piranha plants on the front of their kart that will gobble up anyone on the enemy team. Doing so will place them in jail. Get all the enemies in jail and the police win, but there is a button that will break everyone out, setting the police back to the beginning. If the renegades have just one player out of jail when the timer runs out then they win, making for a very tense match throughout.
Returning to the series are fan-favorites like Coin Runners, Bob-Bomb Blast, and Shine Thief. If you’ve played these before then you know exactly what you’re in for. If not then Coin Runners has you collecting as many coins as you can, with any hit from a weapon causing you to drop half your collected coins. Bob-Bomb Blast is normal combat but with only Bob-Bombs as weapons. And Shine Thief is a keepaway mode where players vie over a single Shine on the map, hitting each other with weapons to cause them to drop it.
The new and much more expanded Battle Mode adds to the base game, with all of its DLC carried over, to create what is easily the Ultimate Mario Kart 8 experience. There seems to be no plans for further expansion of the game too, so no worries about future releases making you miss out on any content. With dozens of racing maps, tons of racers and karts, and a bigger and better battle mode, you’ll probably not be asking for any more content any time soon.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe hits Nintendo Switch on April 28th.