Nintendo Nostalgic: Ranking Every Mario Kart Game
King of the track, settler of scores, destroyer of friendships. Call it whatever you want, but there’s no denying that Mario Kart is the undisputed champion of multiplayer race action on any Nintendo console. But whether you got all those sweet victories through actual skill or being that asshole with the lightning power-up on the last lap, one question still stands: which Mario Kart is truly the best of all time? It’s no easy question, but in this Nintendo Nostalgic, we’re ranking them all to finally decide who gets that magical mushroom cup. (No, not that kind.)
Also ranked: Every Character From Mario Kart 8
9. 'Mario Kart Wii' (Nintendo Wii, 2008)
Last on this list is Mario Kart Wii. There’s nothing bad about this Wii outing. In fact, there’s nothing bad about any Mario Kart game. It’s just that for all the hype surrounding its release, it didn’t really bring a whole lot new to the series. Except online play -- but who ever really played online with the Wii, anyway?
8. 'Mario Kart 7' (Nintendo 3DS, 2011)
Mario Kart 7 was a solid release for the 3DS in 2011, making use of the handheld’s visual capabilities and throwing in a bunch of new tracks to duke it out on. Trouble was, none of them were all that memorable. As for the rest of it? It was still a good racing game, but again, Nintendo didn’t do much to revamp the series, and fans were starting to get a little bit burned out.
7. 'Mario Kart: Super Circuit' (Game Boy Advance, 2001)
Who remembers the Game Boy Advance? Such an amazing little handheld for its time, and it got its own Mario Kart game, too. Some fans complained about its controls, while others saw it as a fun entry that combined plenty of ideas from the past with a crazy amount of tracks and characters.
6. 'Mario Kart Arcade GP / GP 2' (Arcade, 2005 / 2007)
If you thought karting games were only worth playing on console, then Mario Kart’s arcade outings would prove you to be an idiot. Players could duke it out head-to-head on real cabinets with real steering wheels, and the controls felt fantastic. There was just one tiny problem: if you already had a Nintendo console with Mario Kart on it, why would you bother wasting those precious points on your Dave and Busters’ Power Card, when you could go home and play it for free?
Photo: Nintendo Life
5. 'Mario Kart DS' (Nintendo DS, 2005)
Mario Kart was just tailor-made for the DS. As the first Nintendo handheld to have dual screens, it meant you could race on one screen, while watching the track map on the other to see who was coming up behind you. Genius! No, really -- it added a whole new element of stress to the gameplay. Battle Mode in this game was also a riot, especially if you had three other friends to play with. Which of course you did. How could you play Mario Kart and not be popular?
4. 'Mario Kart: Double Dash' (Gamecube, 2003)
A controversial decision, we know. You could listen to Mario Kart fans debate on Double Dash’s place in the series for longer than the average infomercial, and it’d still be as boring. But we think it deserves some serious kudos just for reinventing the wheel at a time the series needed it. Instead of having one character per kart, characters instead teamed up, one for the driving and one for using items. Some may have complained that both the tracks and single player mode were dull, but the game nailed the drifting aspect and also allowed you to force opponents to lose weapons, adding to the deviousness.
3. 'Super Mario Kart' (Super Nintendo, 1992)
Third-place on the podium goes to the game that started it all. Super Mario Kart may have been technically surpassed by its successors. But there’s something about those sweet Mode 7 graphics that keep us coming back for more. It defined the kart racing genre, gave us classic tracks like Ghost Valley 1 and Bowser’s Castle, and still remains a whole lot of fun to play with friends. Pick it up again and give it a go -- you’d be surprised at how well it still plays.
2. 'Mario Kart 64' (Nintendo 64, 1996)
We really wanted to put one of the old classics on top of this list, but the overall winner deserves its place. Still, Mario Kart 64 is a damn fine runner-up. Besides heralding the series debut for “I’m-a gonna win” Wario, the game brought in many of the items that became staples for later entries -- fake item boxes, triple boost mushrooms and those horrible spiny blue shells. Not to mention it also introduced four-player racing to the series. It was a bona fide landmark. Plus, Rainbow Road is still an awesome track.
1. 'Mario Kart 8 / 8 Deluxe' (Wii U / Switch, 2014 / 2017)
No matter how much we loved the oldies, the winner has to be the series’ current-day masterpiece. Whether it’s the handling, the return of some much-loved courses or the insane amount of characters to pick from, Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U just nailed the Mario Kart experience. Then Deluxe just came along and somehow made it even better. The original modes run great, but it’s the battle modes that really make this game what it is. And you can play them all on the ultra-portable Switch -- meaning you no longer have to torment your friends by beating them at your place. You can go to theirs, and ensure they never escape defeat.