Super Mario Kart is the best non-serious racing game for Super Nintendo! Rich colors, fun gameplay, fantastic music, items that can be used to get to the checkered flag ahead of everyone and two players can play simultaneous either in the circuit or battle mode. You start by selecting from eight racers. There’s Mario, Luigi, Toad, Bowser, Koopa, Donkey Kong Jr, Yoshi and the Princess. Each racer has variations to their weight, speed and acceleration. Toad and Koopa are pretty quick, while Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr handle better at the cost of slow acceleration.
Then pick your difficulty or speed in 50cc or 100cc and an unlockable 150cc. You’ll be sent to select a championship cup to compete in. Each cup has five closed circuit racetracks. Each track is bright and beautiful with its own flair, even if they’re all flat.
Across the game’s twenty tracks you’ll find a few themes, typical pavement tracks for the Mario Circuits, dirt tracks in the Donut Plains, ice themed lakes with water hazards, a beautiful beach that has you driving over shallow water. Dangerous Ghost Houses have the track up on stilts, so you can fall off the track’s edge, unless you’re lucky enough to bump into a tile at the edge of the lane. These tiles disappear, so the next time you’ll fall off. Bowser’s castle full of crushing Thromps that come down from the ceiling and lava you’ll need to use jump pads to safely leap over. There are a few mud bogs as well that let the player test the diversity of the racers. Heavy racers like Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr. will be less affected from driving on rough terrain or shallow water. Lighter racers like Toad and Koopa will come to a crawl if they don’t stay on the main routes. These tracks are all a lot of fun.
To make things interesting if not balanced for unskilled players, you can pick up items along the way. When you run over question mark blocks, you’ll get a random item. Things like mushrooms that give you a huge boost of speed and green shells that you fire at the other racers! Red shells are the most dangerous, because they’ll seek out the nearest cart ahead of you. Star men will grant you invincibility and full speed for a brief amount of time even over rough terrain. The rare lightning cloud will shrink other players. There is even a feather that will let you high jump and cross gaps to make shortcuts for yourself by leaping over walls. When a racer gets hit by a shell or run over a banana peel, the racer will spin out and lose two coins.
The coins are speed modifiers. The more coins you have, the faster you’ll go. Its also your health, because when you run out of coins you’ll spin out even when you get bumped into by other racers. Coins are pretty easy to pick up throughout each course but once they’re gone, they’re gone.
While players have all these weapons at your disposal, the computer controlled players don’t have much. They can launch mushrooms, bananas and fireballs and they all work similar to the banana. These projectiles sit on the track until someone hits them. The other characters can drop them or throw them like bananas. Hitting a mushroom from Princess Peach or Toad will shrink your character. Driving next to Mario or Luigi might spook them into using a star man, which grants them invincibility.
There’s also a battle mode for more than one player that equips each cart with three balloons. Every hit that you take pops a balloon. When you’re out of balloons, you’ve lost and its time to play again. These tracks aren’t as diverse as those in the standard circuit mode, but the selection still makes for a lot of action. There’s even a track that resembles the old Dodgem game for the Atari 2600.
In the battle mode, skilled players can time their jumps to leap over shells so its a nice system. If your kid brother is always behind and uses shells, you better be good enough to jump them or he’ll take the lead! The game is two player simultaneous, which might not sound like much by today’s standards, but it was awesome being able to play with a friend in split screen mode. In fact the game was really designed with split screen in mind. Even playing single player, the lower half of the screen is the map where you’ll see all the racers in position. I would have preferred to have full screen, but then that might be too much for the Super Nintendo to bare or people would get it confused for F-Zero.
Once you get through the first three championship cups, you can unlock a new circuit with cool racetracks like Star Road. There are other difficulties to unlock and even at the hardest difficulty its still a pretty easy, fun game that anyone can play. The controls are simple, pick up and play. You’ve got a button to accelerate, one to brake. You can use the L and R buttons to not only jump, but make sharper turns. Like the brake, its there, but I never seem to use it that much.
After each race, the game takes your place and gives you points that go into your total for the circuit. Its a step over F-Zero that forced you to come in the top three and didn’t really care about your overall score so much as it cared about your time. If you manage to come in lower than fourth place, you’ll need to retry the track with limited continues.
The music and sound effects are really enjoyable and enhance the experience a lot. Some of the songs stand out as being not only some of the best on the system, but the best in video game history. The music keeps a fast pace and quirky feel to them. They evoke a sort of silly whimsical fun to them that adds to the charm of the game. Just like F-Zero there’s some good cool down music between the races to get your pulse down.
The only downfall is that the game is quite dated, because it is for SNES and Game Boy Advance’s Super Mario Kart Super Circuit has this entire game as an unlockable content. Super Mario Kart is still an amazing classic that is still fun to this day like most games from Nintendo of this era.