Mario Kartthe well-known Nintendo racing saga, has turned 30. Despite not making as much media noise as other titles, this is possibly the most successful saga in its segment on consoles, a success that the Japanese company has been able to maintain over time thanks to the fact that it has taken care of what is its great virtue: the gameplay.
One of the main characteristics of Mario Kart compared to other veteran classics such as OutRun and Top Gear is that it has always been a “three-dimensional” game. Obviously, the three-dimensional thing must be put in quotation marks because the first installment of the saga, Super Mario Kartis not really a video game in three dimensions.
The premise of the original title is very simple. Races with 8 participants disputed on circuits set in the Super Mario saga (World at the time) and in which everything is allowed. In the circuits there are scattered boxes that supply weapons and power-ups that are assigned as a casino, to which they add some coins that serve to increase speed a little while penalizing the player if he is hit when he has zero.
In Super Mario Kart, which originally appeared on the Super Nintendo, what was done was employ a technique called mode 7 or mode 7, a graphic processing system developed by Nintendo itself with which a texture is manipulated to be rotated and scaled and thus create a depth perspective on a 2D surface. Consequently, the player has a three-dimensional perception, even if it really wasn’t.
Thanks to mode 7 it is possible to turn 180 degrees and go through the circuits in reverse, but the downside is that they were all flat, there were no slopes. This limitation was also dragged by Mario Kart Super Circuit, the installment for Game Boy Advance, since it also used mode 7 despite the great graphical improvement compared to the installment released for the 16-bit console. As a curiosity, Mario Kart Super Circuit includes all the Super Mario Kart circuits as unlockable content.
The second installment of the saga was mario kart 64, which to this day remains one of the great classics of the saga. Here the circuits were indeed three-dimensional, which opened up new possibilities, greater spectacularity and certain additional challenges. But the best was being able to play with four people on a split screen in some piques that on many occasions got out of hand, and I tell this as personal experience.
Over the years, the saga has been introducing online play, more variety of vehicles and, above all, more characters, including one as solemn as Link, the protagonist of The Legend of Zelda. Possibly seeing Link in Mario Kart would be unimaginable today had Smash Bros not existed, another spin-off of the Nintendo mascot that has established itself as an institution within its segment.
Mario Kart is one of the Nintendo sagas that have been lavished outside the company’s consoles with Mario Kart Tour, which appeared in 2019 for Android and iOS and received strong criticism for abuse with micropayments, and with various deliveries that have appeared on arcade machines in collaboration with Namco. For Nintendo Switch, the latest console of the Big N, there is an improved port of the already veteran Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, a curiosity that is based on augmented reality.
Is Mario Kart really a successful video game? If we say that the standard (Wii U) and Deluxe (Switch) versions of Mario Kart 8 have collectively sold more than 55 million copies (the vast majority on Switch), it is undeniable that we are facing one of the most successful racing games in history.