Worth the Double Dip?

The popular mascot kart racer returns for the Nintendo Switch, but this time it’s an updated port of an older game. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes the original 2014 Wii U title and spruces it up, including all the DLC characters and tracks while adding an improved Battle Mode on top of it. The question is if these new bells and whistles are enough to warrant a double dip.

Here is the video review for your viewing pleasure!

For this review, I will be focusing on what’s new in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. A large percentage is identical to its predecessor. You still participate in kart races of up to 12 participants, trying to earn the gold in a variety of beautiful tracks, made more remarkable due to logic-defying antigravity mechanics that send you twisting upside-down and on the walls. As in the original, you can customize your karts or bikes to most effectively burn rubber, dive underwater, and take to the skies. And in typical Mario Kart fashion, you can easily lose a race simply because everyone decided to bludgeon you with hard-hitting items moments before the finish line. All the fixings are in place, and if you’re new to Mario Kart 8, then the Deluxe version has everything and more.

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Everything is included in one beautiful package.

For anyone else acquainted with the original, this is a tougher sell. On the one hand, this full package includes all of the predecessor’s DLC packs. On top of that, MK8DX introduces five exclusive playable characters: Bowser Jr., Dry Bones, King Boo, and the Inkling kids (or are they squids) from Splatoon. Unfortunately, there aren’t any exclusive new racetracks. At least the ones from the DLC are among the most fun in recent history, coupling captivating settings with well-suited antigravity twists and turns. Truly interesting are the crossover tracks and characters, introducing assets from Nintendo’s other popular series, like The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing, into the once-exclusive Mushroom Kingdom kart races. Futuristic racer F-Zero even gets some tracks. In all, the game has a mouth-watering 42 playable characters and 48 racetracks.

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Because why not kart race as Link through Hyrule?

Everything is already unlocked, except for the customizable car parts, so you can play with anyone and do whatever you want from the get-go. You could even start with 200cc, the fastest engine class to date, if you wanted.

Beyond that, there are small but nice mechanic changes. Most notably, you can now hold two items at once à la Mario Kart: Double Dash. This makes it easier to reach and retain first place, though it also means an increase in red shells, lightning bolts, and everyone’s favorite, blue shells. The new “ultra turbo boost” helps veteran racers who have the need for speed. By holding a drift for an elongated period, you can now achieve a third level of turbo boost, denoted by purple sparks. Though this doesn’t drastically change the game, well-timed boosts can decide races or, at least, net you better records in Time Trials.

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Smart Steering can even the playing field in multiplayer.

The more meaningful mechanic changes actually make the game easier for players. The optional Smart Steering prevents players from falling off the course, automatically guiding you away from the edges if you get too close. Coupled with the Auto-Accelerate option that moves the kart for you, these accessibility features work wonders for less experienced racers, younger gamers, or players who benefit from special accommodations. This creates a more equal playing field, allowing more fun for everyone. Though these options can be used online, players need not fret since Smart Steering also removes the ability to take shortcuts or use the new ultra turbo boost, keeping it fair for more experienced gamers.

That’s it for the racing alterations, and that alone may not attract most Wii U adopters. Your purchase decision will likely depend on the biggest addition to MK8DX, its revamped Battle Mode. This classic playstyle pits racers against each other in a no-holds barred showdown where items are your weapons. You may recall the Wii U version’s Battle Mode, which limited you to duking it out on established racetracks. This made no sense since you were essentially running laps hoping you’d find someone else to attack.

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Somehow, I don’t feel right attacking Baby Peach as regular Peach.

MK8DX seeks to amend that mess with its eight new arenas, large battlefields stylized after existing tracks. One of my favorites is a stage based on the ink shooter, Splatoon. The other arenas are also well-designed, with multilayer levels and copious use of antigravity. You even get some items exclusive to the update such as Boo, which lets you steal items as you turn invisible, and the Feather, letting you jump over opponents or obstacles.

There are five genuinely different battle rules that range from fair to fantastic. The most recognizable is Balloon Battle, in which you gain points from hitting others’ balloons while keeping your own intact. If you’re nostalgic for old-school survival battle modes as seen in Mario Kart 64, you’ll be disappointed to know that there’s no such “stock” mode here. Instead, it’s a time-based points affair, which is understandable considering online play would drag in a 12-player survival battle. I would have loved to see that classic style return in local multiplayer, but having 12 players frantically attacking each other over a three minute timespan is an acceptable substitute. There’s also a ruleset where only explosive Bob-ombs are allowed. Though this sounds chaotic, it isn’t as fun unless combatants are bundled together.

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Squid Life

My favorite battle ruleset, Shine Thief, is a game of keep away where the goal is to hold a Shine Sprite for 20 seconds while everyone barrages the “thief” for the chance to steal. It’s a hilarious case of one vs. the world, and effectively keeps everyone close together for added chaos. Similarly exciting is Coin Runners, a challenge to amass the most coins and arguably a better executed version of the standard time-based balloon battle. It’s fun to steal coins from other players while showing off the gigantic coin stack on your head.

The final battle style, Renegade Roundup, new to the series, is a decent team game based on cops and robbers. The cops use their installed Piranha Plants to eat the renegades and trap them in cages. Meanwhile, renegades must evade the law and push switches to free their captured teammates. Though the mode can get exciting, renegades can’t do anything while captured and the game too easily becomes one-sided against the cops. Thus, the mode isn’t particularly fun for either side, and a lack of voice chat prevents any kind of team discussion.

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Wii U Wii U!

Online play is smooth, and matchmaking is effective, whether worldwide or regional. As in the original, you can set up or join custom tournaments with any rulesets. I’ve occasionally had errors online, such as not finding other players in a tournament room or randomly disconnecting from a race. This only happens about one out of every 20 races, and online is otherwise solid with very few hiccups. You can even bring a second local player online. There isn’t any voice chat, which is to be expected, but overall makes no real difference outside its potential uses in Renegade Roundup.

Visually, the deluxe version looks amazing, displaying a crisp 1080p resolution at 60fps. I thought the original looked beautiful, but I am floored by how stunning these graphics look in such fast motion. The only time the frame rate even comes close to stuttering is when it drops to 30fps in 3-4 player split-screen. Though it’s noticeable at fast speeds, it still runs pretty well. Even more impressive is how sharp the visuals are on the Switch screen in portable mode. At 720p, the game is mind-blowingly gorgeous while still running smoothly; it’s definitely miles ahead of the Wii U GamePad’s off-TV play. Playing a race or even a grand prix while on-the-go is perfect for this game, especially if you’re looking to play against other Switch owners via local wireless or even LAN play. Finally, the music is phenomenal, with orchestrated and catchy tunes blazing as you speed down the track. As a bonus, remixes of other series’ themes appear in their respective crossover stages as well.

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Taste the Rainbow Road.

Conclusion

So what’s the verdict? Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is certainly an excellent upgrade to the original, not to mention a great game in its own right. That said, mileage will still vary depending on if you owned the original and how much you want the small, albeit effective, additions. If you have the original game plus its DLC, there isn’t much new in this port, especially considering its lack of new tracks. The racing adjustments are insignificant. Thus, it’s not worth it for racing alone unless you want the newest online-capable Mario Kart game in a portable form. The Battle Mode’s five rulesets and its accompanying arenas are excellent, but if you’re itching for the classic MK64-esque survival mode, you won’t find it here. But if you’ve never played the eighth installment or if you crave more of the original, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive version of the Wii U game and a strong contender for one of the best entries in the entire series.

Score: 9/10

What are your thoughts on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe? What do you think of the new and improved Battle Mode? What would you like to see in Mario Kart 9? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments section below!

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51 thoughts on “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch) Review

  1. Excellent review! I like how you highlighted what’s different about this version compared to the original. Any Mario Kart fan likely has the Wii U version already, so you address a very relevant question about what makes the Switch rendition worthwhile. That being said, I had a lot of fun playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It was better than expected for a re-launch of an existing game. It’s nice of have all the DLC in one place. What I like best are the new features, especially smart steering! You could say I’m a bit directionally challenged when it comes to racing games. Half the battle for me is staying on the course (*cough* Rainbow Road *cough*). Battle mode is fun too and I like the different battle arenas. I can’t wait to play more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! And thanks for all your help in getting it together! I’m having a lot of fun playing it, and I’m glad that the Smart Steering makes a difference. I can only imagine how it would have helped so many people before if it had been implemented in earlier versions. It reminds me of the barriers they put up in bowling for kids. And no shame in falling off Rainbow Road. I still do that too! Especially in 200cc, haha. We need to play more Battle Mode! I loved it so much in N64, and though it’s not the same, I do like what they did here, especially with Shine Thief and Coin Runners. We can even do two-player online! 😀

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  2. This is a well-written review as always! I found myself not playing Mario Kart 8 on Wii U a lot because of how luck based online feels and a lack of friends who play it but I do think it is a great game and I’m glad that Nintendo has found ways to improve this game for those who want more or who are checking it out for the first time!

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind words Kuribo! 😀 I get how you feel. I actually didn’t play much Mario Kart 8 on Wii U either though I liked it a lot. I even got the DLC, but only played with it for the first few weeks. I’m finding a lot more life with Deluxe because it’s portable and the battle mode is already inherently luck-based, so it’s all for fun. I wish I had more people to play it with locally, but at least the online is pretty solid. And since it’s technically new, there are a lot of people playing it online, which is great. I definitely agree with you that it’s awesome that Nintendo improved this game for newcomers. It won me over!

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      1. That is good to hear and I think adding Battle Modes with the online play was really smart by Nintendo and does add something extra to this game too. I could see myself playing that online and I generally don’t play many games online even if I prefer Nintendo’s games because you don’t have to deal with harassment and all of that. I will definitely keep in mind your enjoyment of this game when I get a Switch and who knows, maybe I’ll give it a second try too.

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      2. I think something to keep in mind with Nintendo’s online infrastructure is that it will be subscription based starting around Fall. I’m definitely trying to fit online into all my Switch games by then. Either way, I’d definitely play with you if you do get the game! 🙂

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      3. That would be a blast! It will be interesting to see if I’m interested enough to pay for online. Generally speaking, that is something I wouldn’t do since I play online so little. I haven’t exactly decided when I will get a Switch either. I’m working my way through some PS3 games I missed out on and once I get done with Yakuza and Ni No Kuni, I may decide to get a Switch or a PS4. I needed a little break from Nintendo after playing their systems primarily from the Wii and DS era all the way through Wii and 3DS. I know I will end up appreciating their aesthetics and design choices after my brief sabbatical! 🙂

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      4. Sounds fun! I don’t play online much either, but I’d like to, which is why I’m hoping to play as often as possible now. I have Ni No Kuni, but I still haven’t played it so that’s definitely on my to-play list. PS4 is a fun choice that you can’t go wrong with. You have some great games ahead of you no matter which system you get next! 😉

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      5. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who avoids playing online! Haha, I really do plenty of fun games to play. I still prefer Nintendo but it is hard to not play Playstation for other great action oriented games. I worry a bit about not being at the cutting edge of Nintendo games for creating good content on the site but I will figure out what to do one way or the other 🙂

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      6. I know you’ll do great stuff regardless of what you’re playing! 🙂 Sony has a lot of action games on its consoles, which is why it’s easily my second choice after Nintendo’s.

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  3. Nice rundown. Honestly, this one wasn’t on my radar at all because I have it, and the DLC on the Wii U already. But this does look like a worthy recommendation for those without a Wii U.

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    1. Thanks a lot! It’s a great choice for anyone without a Wii U, which is a surprisingly large amount of people. Or should that be unsurprisingly. Either way, the Switch version gives more people a chance to play it, and I’ll for that. I can understand not getting it because you have the original though. If they at least added, say, 16 new tracks, it would have made a huge difference. As it is, with just the Battle Mode, you really have to want that to get the most out of this version.

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  4. I played a ton of Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U and bought the DLC, but the Battle Mode and especially the portability of the Switch was more than enough to justify buying it again. That’s actually kind of a scary thing to admit though. It would be very easy for Nintendo to get a lot of money off of me by just putting out the same games they put before, but now I can take them on the go!

    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! It is kind of scary since I’m also willing to rebuy some of Nintendo’s ports. But in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s case, I think it had enough of what I really wanted, a new battle mode and a way to play it portably. So I don’t think there’s any shame in wanting that. Other companies have done less, and people still repurchased their remasters and the like. At least now, we can get it on the shiny Switch!

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  5. great review, I didn’t know about the new purple sparks, everyone has just been talking about battle mode, but even there it’s good to know there are many sub modes within it, even if they all aren’t perfect.

    Myself, I have the Wii U one, so that alone makes this very low on my list to get whenever i get a switch. Unless i can find it at a great price. Having invested in the Wii U version and purchased all the DLC makes this a hard pill to swallow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! The purple sparks are a nice addition, and one that goes overlooked. Battle mode is the true star, and it’s much better in comparison to the Wii U’s “battle mode.” I can definitely understand not needing this game after the Wii U one. It really boils down to how much you want to play this. While it’s a great game, it’s also a full-priced port. What this game needed was a fresh batch of extra tracks. As much as it hurts to say this, DLC tracks for the Deluxe version might actually do it good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m guessing it’s just not doing as well as other franchises. They did put out a bunch of GBA games to coincide with the TV anime back in the day, but at least one of them didn’t even come out in the west, suggesting a drop in popularity for the series around that point. They haven’t really come back to it since, it seems, which is unfortunate. Mario Kart 8’s antigravity seems like it would have been perfect for the F-Zero series too!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I didn’t like it that much, but at least it had Captain Falcon. It aired around the same time as the Kirby and Sonic anime. Hard to believe these series had anime!

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  6. Battle Mode sounds absolutely awesome, but it is not enough to warrant a purchase on my part. So I will wait for the next Mario Kart so that I can get into the online multiplayer battling madness.

    With that being said, awesome review! =)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot for your kind words Matt! I can totally see Mario Kart 8 Deluxe not warranting a purchase. But Mario Kart 9. If that also comes out on the Switch with a good battle mode (they wouldn’t screw it up twice, would they?), I would be ecstatic. And I’d love to play the future Mario Kart 9 with you whenever it comes out! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I would love Nintendo Kart or even Super Smash Kart! I’m happy they went in the direction of including Link and the others and want to see more! I’d love tracks from Metroid and Star Fox, and of course, more from Zelda. They’re running out of Mario characters to use anyway, which is why we get duds like Pink Gold Peach…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m having a blast with Mario Kart 8, and I haven’t gotten into a true console MK game since Double Dash! I love the huge collection of tracks, although I do wish there were more things in the way of unlockables. Unlocking stuff is my motivation to 3 star everything, after all! At least we can still unlock kart features, and I LOVE the addition of all these sick motorcycles (again, I haven’t played a Mario Kart game since 7 on the 3DS, but before that, GameCube, so MCs are new to me) especially as a dude who rides motorcycles 😀

    Overall the polish for this game is insane, it just looks and runs so well. Definitely going to be investing in a Pro Controller so my fiancée can play without hand cramps. The JoyCons are a little too tiny for a game where you end up squeezing the controller so hard. Generally in frustration 😉

    Great review Panda!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Geddy! Your kind words mean a lot to me! I totally get you with the unlocking mindset. I also love to earn rewards in single player mode. I can see why they left everyone unlocked though. After all, many people had the original and just want the upgrades. Mario Kart 8 on Wii U required you to unlock every character, and it’s not as much fun as it sounds. It’s based on coins just like this one so you can only get 10 maximum coins towards characters per race. Additionally, the characters were unlocked at random so I couldn’t just get the characters I wanted.

      It’s awesome you’re into all the new upgrades. I think Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is both the definitive version and perhaps the definitive entry in the series. Bikes came from the Wii version and flying/underwater came from 7. With DX now having double items, we now have nods to Double Dash, and Battle mode takes me back to the good old N64 days. I didn’t even mention the feather’s first appearance since the Mode 7 era. This is truly a Mario Kart that has been inspired by its ancestors.

      The Pro Controller is magnificent for this game. I don’t always do well when playing with Joy-Cons, but I always feel comfortable with the Pro. Really wish the Joy-Cons weren’t so small and uncomfortable on their own…

      By the way, it’s awesome that you ride motorcycles! So cool!

      Thanks again for your detailed comments! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great review (video and written)! Maybe it’s in the works, but they should make Captain Falcon a playable character already! If he can have a course, and a Miii, why not let the man ride?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much my funny friend! Captain Falcon should be in the game indeed! But he shouldn’t be a racer. He should just run around and randomly Falcon Punch people off the racetrack. Burn the wound more.

      Like

    1. Great question! Yea I would go with Hyrule Warriors as well. Dragon Quest Heroes 1&2 came out in Japan for Switch, and I think Hyrule Warriors Legends could follow. I would have said Mario Maker, but probably not without touch screen support in docked mode, plus a gimped 3DS version already out.

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      1. The combat is fun, though the game is lacking in features and modes. If they spruced it up somehow for a Deluxe version, I might double dip!

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    1. Thank you very much! Mario Kart has remained consistently good, both in quality and sales, so it’s no surprise Nintendo returns to if often. It’s really fun so maybe if you ever get the chance to at least try it out at a demo station sometime!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you as always for your comments here and on the video! It means the world to me! It really does! 😀 The balanced accessibility features are perfect! I played it with my wife and two other friends who aren’t big Mario Kart players and they appreciated the Smart Steering and Auto-Acceleration. It even helped one of the non gamers get first place!

      Liked by 1 person

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