When we first reviewed Mario Kart 8 when it launched on the Wii U in 2014, our reviewer gave the title an excellent critique. Jonathan noted that Mario Kart 8 doesn’t reinvent any wheel, but it, like nearly every Mario Kart that came before it, was a wonderful multiplayer kart racer that would be enjoyed by fans for years to come. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still that same gorgeous game filled with great courses, characters, and karts. There are a few new game elements that augment the game slightly, and an awesome battle mode that is instantly addicting, but on the whole, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is almost too similar to the game we fell in love with on the Wii U.
Nintendo doesn’t re-release games often, especially not so soon after their initial launch, but let me take your expectations down a notch if you owned the Wii U version. Devoted fans who put down $75 to pick up Mario Kart 8 and its DLC will fail to find a single new course in Deluxe. This may be disappointing for fans that were supporting Nintendo through its Wii U days because there simply isn’t that much new on the racing side. Yes, there are a few new characters and karts; but really, the kart racing experience on the Nintendo Switch is virtually identical to the Wii U, unless you’re planning to take the game on the go, of course.
The biggest highlight of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and what makes the entire package worth picking up, is the game’s Battle Mode. Battle Mode was missing from Mario Kart 8’s original release, but this Battle Mode accounted for the most fun I’ve had in Mario Kart, ever. There are a total of five modes, with the option to randomize them too if players desire. Some of these modes are very familiar, such as the standard Balloon Battle that we’ve always played in Battle Mode. Other modes, like Shine Thief, we haven’t seen in quite a while. Shine Thief is probably my favorite mode in the game. The goal is to hold onto the Shine for a total of 20 seconds, with all other players attempting to steal it away from you by any means necessary. One of my favorite online matches was recorded by Nintendaan, which shows an insanely hectic match, where yours truly took second place. There’s also a new mode called Renegade Roundup, where two teams are pit against each other as cops and robbers. One team is tasked with catching, while the other team evades for as long as it can.
Though the modes themselves are well-designed, the maps for battle mode really made the experience memorable. Driving through familiar puddles of paint in Urchin Underpass, for example, was a delightful callback to another Nintendo title many fans may have already experienced. Overall, the maps were larger than I expected, allowing for a great amount of maneuverability, but cozy enough to where battles were still quite chaotic.
Unfortunately, in the years since its initial launch, Nintendo has failed to improve its online capabilities. Though there was no noticeable lag or any slowdowns that I experienced online, despite playing with other reviewers across the planet, I still came away heavily disappointed from the network features. There was no voice chat, which is still as unacceptable today as it was in 2014. Moreover, with a team-based battle mode, it seems like voice chat could have not only improved trash-talk, but introduced cooperation in this team-based mode. In a cooperative mode like Renegade Roundup, it felt imperative to communicate with other teammates.
Overall, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an excellent package. The entire DLC and battle mode, in addition to the base game, makes Mario Kart Deluxe well worth its price tag. However, fans who own the original title and are short on change may come away a bit disappointed with Deluxe. $60 is a lot to ask for a game that you already own, and other than battle mode there isn’t much to justify buying the game again. Nevertheless, as a standalone title, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe stands out as an exemplary buy for your new Nintendo Switch console. Deluxe’s gorgeous visuals, a variety of modes, and excellent kart racing gameplay will make it a title you continue to come back to for months.