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Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) Review

/ Jun 4th, 2014 1 Comment

mario kart 8 review

Mario Kart 8 has finally pulled up to the starting line. Exclusively on the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 builds on the features of previous Mario Kart games and adds a new anti-gravity racing mechanic. New and retro courses can be found in the latest addition to the Mario Kart franchise. While the series isn’t known for its realism, the boosted graphical capabilities of the Wii U make the vivid environments and colorful characters shine through in this go-kart showdown.

Catch My Drift?

Controls are standard for racers familiar with the Wii version of Mario Kart, but the Gamepad possesses the distinct advantage of an analog stick. Players can also choose to use the Wiimote, which handles well on the track. Both the Gamepad and Wiimote offer the choice to use buttons or motion controls for steering.

This is the road, it's called Rainbow Road, it's the place that you go, when you die.

This is the road, it’s called Rainbow Road, it’s the place that you go, when you die.

There is an added emphasis on drifting (which has been a more prevelant theme as the series has progressed) in Mario Kart 8. Racers can drift in order to stay ahead of the pack and make tight turns to catch up. But players who do not enjoy drifting will be satisfied with the selection of customizable karts. Players of all skill levels will be able to fit a vehicle to their racing needs.

No Love For a Koopa Breaking Hearts

Blue shells still reign supreme on the track as the great friendship ruiner, but new items like the piranha plant spice up the old song and dance. One particular tweak–no longer being able to “hold” two items at once by dragging one behind the kart–changes gameplay significantly.

Luigi death stare

Get used to that Luigi death stare.

While no longer being able to hold off the abuse of multiple attacks with ease, it means the inverse is also true. Three red shells can change the tide of a race rather quickly. Overall, gameplay has been fine-tuned to create new racing strategies while maintaining the wacky aspect that has made the franchise so popular.

Waluigi And Others, But Mostly Waluigi

The selection of racers and tracks is nothing to be sneezed at in Mario Kart 8. Cult favorites like Waluigi are ready to rev their engines. The addition of the Koopa Kids is a bizarre, yet enjoyable option on the roster. Character choice affects certain stats (i.e. Wario adds weight; Yoshi adds speed), but most of that can be augmented through kart customization.

Never forget Waluigi Wednesday, the highest of holy days.

Never forget Waluigi Wednesday, the highest of holy days.

Where Mario Kart 8 excels is in track selection. While some of the new tracks feel less interactive with fewer environmental hazards, the flow of races has been greatly improved by combining the anti-gravity feature with underwater driving. Many tracks have pitfalls in which the player can fall into water. In past games, players could not recover from that. Now, it simply means an alternate route. The ability to drive along the wall to avoid hazards is a great feature and is a very funny mechanic to take advantage of. The new Bowser’s Castle track is a challenging course with plenty of alternate routes, while the new Rainbow Road serves as Mario Kart 8’s tour-de-force, as it has in past games.

Beautiful, Beautiful Carnage

Mario Kart 8 looks great. Lush environments showcase the diversity of courses and give a new perspective to retro tracks. The only problem with the graphics is that players will get the feeling they aren’t able to appreciate even half of the landscape while focusing on the race. Little touches such as a Statue of Liberty-style Peach monument can be easily missed in the heat of racing. However, large open shots at the start of each race put Nintendo’s stylized graphics on display.

The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm.

None of the courses’ songs will grab players’ attention immediately, but the catchy tunes will grow on players with time–some may even become classic Nintendo melodies. Revived tracks from previous Mario Kart entries bring the nostalgia factor to the maximum with refashioned tunes.

Drivers, Start Your Engines

Mario Kart has become a console seller for Nintendo. Mario Kart 8 is no exception to that rule. While the game has grown to offer little in terms of difficulty, the fun has not dwindled. New racing mechanics, improved track selection and quality multiplayer support give Nintendo’s latest karting entry plenty of replay value.

Unfortunately, the game’s Battle Mode simply uses existing race tracks, giving off a lazy, lackluster vibe. Regardless, the game is packed with fun, and vibrant worlds will keep players coming back for more.


Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson

Associate Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Greg is a Nintendo fanboy who would cry if they ever went third party. He writes news, previews and reviews at Gaming Illustrated.
Greg Johnson

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Gaming Illustrated RATING



Overall, a fun and rewarding experience. Quick to learn controls, wacky weapons and anti gravity/under water driving make Mario Kart 8 a distinct and engaging experience.


Every single track has its own flavor and a lot can be missed by players when simply focused on the race. With the continuation of vehicle customization, even the vehicles have their own unique appeal.


The soundtracks are all interesting and add variety to the tracks, but new songs fail to leave a lasting impression. Remixes of the retro songs are a delight and keep the older tracks fresh.


Mario Kart has always dominated in multiplayer and Mario Kart 8 continues this tradition. Great local and online support make for many days ahead of banana peels and red shells. The only downside to multiplayer is a lackluster show on the battle end.

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