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Memory Leaks: Super MarioKart

🏎️ He's Going the Distance, He's Going For Speed...

Super MarioKart was a 1992 kart-racing game released for the Super Nintendo. It was a spin-off of Nintendo's flagship Mario franchise and would kick off its own series that is among the most popular on the platform--MarioKart 8 Deluxe is the highest-selling game for the Switch. The game was, amongst other things, a showcase for the Super Nintendo's Mode 7 chip that allowed for pseudo-3D rendering of flat maps. It is credited with creating the kart-racing genre of video games and regularly shows up on greatest-videogame-of-all-time lists, frequently taking the top spot.

How I Remember It...

We're now eight games deep in this franchise, and it's funny to look back and see just how much of the enduring core gameplay elements were present from its very first installment. Different-colored shells that behaved differently, question blocks, coins, jumps, shortcuts, unlockables, drifting, the rubber-band AI, the increasing difficulty that accompanied jumps in engine size. It even had a Rainbow Road--which was brutally difficult seeing as how it had no guard rails.

But the real draw here was Battle Mode. Like so many other games of this era, it endured for the way it allowed groups of friends to pummel each other digitally. The Battle Mode in the original game was remarkably stripped-down. Your only mode of battle was a two-player ballon fight to three hits. There were four courses--although you only ever played on Battle Course 2 because it was clearly the best. Of course, we house-ruled it up. A popular iteration was that red shells had to be fired into walls, so you could only attack each other with greens and banana peels. Those games went on a for a while.

The franchise got re-imagined in three dimensions with MarioKart 64 and has continued to make iterative improvements with versions on every console, handheld, and even mobile phones. The roster of racers and track selection have gradually increased, although early tracks are often revamped and re-added to newer games. Rumors of a MarioKart 9 that would be a collection of everything have circled around for years, but it looks like we won't be getting that any time soon, as MarioKart 8 is currently getting a big old pile of DLC.

But the original still has appeal, even while showing its age. Shortly before COVID, my office had a Super MarioKart tournament that I participated in. And did poorly. But it was still fun.

In MEMORY LEAKS, Kurt is going through his favorite video games. See more posts.