Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart is a true anomaly in the games industry. While they may not have always made the best design choices for the series there has never been a bad Mario Kart game and that is a fact.
That is why Nintendo's president Satoru Iwata can stand up in front of the company's investors and say with complete confidence that Mario Kart 8 will help turn around the Wii U's fortunes. And, y'know what? He's right.
Mario Kart 8 is just about everything you could ever want from a Mario Kart game in this day and age and possibly a little bit more. Nintendo has take every ounce of creativity they could find in their Japanese studios and poured it lovingly into creating what is without doubt one of the finest racing games around, and a definite reason to make sure that Nintendo's latest home console can take up a welcome place underneath your TV.
It could have been a very different situation though. Nintendo could have just given the beloved arcade racing series a HD spit-polish and thrown it out the door in the hope that the mere name would be enough. This isn't their style.
Load up Mario Kart 8 and you're greeted by Mario's chirpy tones and you immediately know that this is more than a mere visual update. The track designers have been hard at work creating 16 brand new tracks that literally turn the racin experience on its head. They've also spruced up some of the more memorable tracks from previous games giving a whopping 32 tracks in total. And, yes, Rainbow Road is back.
The new tracks are where Mario Kart 8 truly shines though. Mario Karts karts and motorbikes have been tooled up with some brand new anti-grav abilities allowing freeing up the track designers to take you racing up walls and over ceilings creating some truly mad experiences.
This has been done without sacrificing Mario Kart's wonderfully simple gameplay mechanics. It even adds more depth as you try to bank that green shell carefully off an obstacle to hit a rival racing at 90 degrees to you.
Multiplayer is equally joyous. No matter whether you race online or split screen the racing retains that addictive wakiness that will keep you wanting just one more race before you realise that the sun has come up again and you've been racing all night.
Battle mode is there too for those more adversarial moments and it really is at its best when you have four players screaming at the screen as they try and take each other down.
Visually, it's crisp and clean and proves that the Wii U is still more than capable of providing an experience that looks as good as it plays.
There's a host of control options there too from motion-enabled Wii U Gamepad and WiiMote and Nintendo Racing Wheel to the more classic option of the Wii U Pro Controller or the Wii Classic Controller.
There's really only one downside to Mario Kart 8 and it's not that significant. Nintendo made the bizarre choice to place the track map on the Wii U Gamepad screen and only on the Wii U Gamepad screen. This is a bit of unnecessary faf that makes it just that little bit more awkward to see who's about to nip up behind you and nail you with a red shell but it's not enough to really spoil the overall experience.
Nintendo has managed to keep up with the times with the introduction of the new MKTV feature. This allows players to replay, edit and even post highlight reels to Youtube to share their finest moments or even their most bitter defeats.
The editor, while not being a true video editor, like the Xbox One's DVR or the PS4's ShareFactory allows players to easily select the focus, duration and even the number of racers to include in the reels before uploading. Uploading can be a slow process but that is as much down to your own internet connection as it is the Nintendo Network's infrastructure.
Mario Kart 8 is a true marvel to play whether you just want that quick high of winning the Mushroom Cup or something to play with a few mates before you hit the pub on a Saturday night.
Mario Kart 8 is out now on the Wii U.
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