Mario Kart 8 released in 2014 at the end of May for the Wii U. Within two months of the launch of the Switch, it was remastered for the new console. The Deluxe version has all the content from the original version, all DLC included with purchase. This gives you all 12 cups (48 courses) available from the start of the game. All characters are unlocked as well, with the addition of Bowser Jr., Dry Bones, the Inkling Boy and Girl, and King Boo.
Along with the new characters and included DLC, the deluxe version includes battle mode. There are five different types of battles: Shine Thief, which is essentially capture the flag; Balloon Battle; Renegade Roundup, a cops and robbers type game; Coin Runners, and Bob-omb blast. You have eight arenas to play in: three retro courses, a splatoon themed battlefield, three standard Mario stages, and one that’s entirely anti-gravity.
Online play is very well done. Everyone starts with 1,000 points for race mode and battle mode. The better you place, the more points you get. If you do poorly, you’ll lose a few points. You’re matched with people who have roughly the same amount of points as you, so as you get better, you’ll be racing better and better people. It can be rough when one of your opponents is incredibly good at the game and is only at 1,000 because they’re just getting started, but that’s only a problem at the start and doesn’t cause many issues as you’ll get some points regardless.
Of course, the biggest change between the two versions isn’t programmed into the game. With the Nintendo Switch, you can get an extra pair of controllers, pack the tablet into your backpack, and set up a lunchroom tournament with your friends at school. If you’re on a road trip or in a plane, whip out your Switch and play a few tracks. This game’s multiplayer nature is a shining example of what Nintendo wanted to do with the Switch: play with your friends anywhere you desire.
Considering it’s a remake of a game released less than three years earlier, most of the presentation section is redundant. The game still looks beautiful and the soundtrack has Nintendo goodness baked right in. There is, however, one major problem. Unfortunately, there’s no possible way around this. The Switch is a portable console. It needs to be small enough to comfortably carry. And as much as I was just lauding the game’s portable mode, there’s a frustrating issue with it.
A small screen divided into small parts makes an even smaller screen. Four kids propping the tablet up against the wall are all going to have a hard time seeing what’s going on, and while the game is by no means impossible like this, it’s a frustrating struggle when you’re having trouble making out sharp turns.
If you played older versions of the game with a gamecube or N64 controller, you have to hold the controller in your lap or closer to you with your elbows bent. While the Wiimote and nunchuck configuration allowed a bit more freedom, they were still connected by a wire. The Wiimote would also get uncomfortable to hold after a while.
The Joy-Con however, allows you to sit in whatever posture you want. This may not make much sense, but it’s oddly freeing to sit splayed out on the couch with the two tiny controllers. Looking at the controllers, you’d think “there’s no way holding that could be comfortable”, but it feels so much better than clutching a wiimote. Playing it in sideways mode gets a bit cramped, but it’s by no means unmanageable.
The game also allows plenty of customization in how you play. Not only does each car, wheel, and glider have their own stats to allow for any play style, but there are other functions you can turn on and off. One of these is smart steering, which will stop you from falling of the track if you come too close. The other is motion controls. You can play Mario Kart Wii style, where the controller turns into a steering wheel, or you can play standard style, where the analog stick controls where you go.
Mario Kart 8 was a great game, and the “Deluxe” is well earned in this version. Between new characters, a proper battle mode, and the almighty on-the-go functionality, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a powerful addition to the Switch’s lineup, and a must-have if you own the console.
Final Score: 9.5/10