The beloved kart racing series made its debut in 1992. Super Mario Kart is one title that I didn’t play on its original release. This left me in rather a unique situation. Often, retro games rely on the nostalgia factor to keep players interested today. The idea that I quite liked this back in the day can elevate even the most virulent turdfest of a game. Without any fond memories to cloud my judgement, I got stuck into a rare objective experience.
The first thing any new Super Mario Karter will see is how little has changed. That timeless, nigh-perfect track design (there’s a reason retro tracks have featured in every Mario Kart since, and it’s not developer laziness. Not solely that, at least) is present and correct. The same goes with the item selection, which is almost untouched. And rightly so, you can’t beat the joy of nailing a freakish mushroom-headed manchild with the legendary red shell or a perfectly aimed banana. I will take a moment to lament the feather, which is particularly awesome and enabled some stupidly ambitious shortcuts. It was never seen again, presumably because it was decided that this much greatness could actually melt the eyes of anyone fortunate enough to witness it.
Let’s not forget, too, that it’s the only game in the series to feature Donkey Kong Jr. Not the usual hairy-assed wearing a tie for some unfathomable reason monkey, mind you. We’re talking about the original, Die Hard Vest-donning dude. The only selling point you need, right there.
I was besotted almost instantly by the charming presentation. I saw how each of the elements of the game slotted seamlessly together, like the ingredients for delicious cake. My game-breaking gripe, sadly, was that I couldn’t control the damn karts for shit. The Mode 7 system and the handling made my stomach lurch like a seasick sailor. Who’s also completely pissed. I attribute this failure mostly to the difficulty of adjusting from the more recent Mario Karts. The alternative is that I suck mightily, and I’m sure that can’t be the case.
Not to mention I was up against some diabolically fiendish A.I. These guys are like terrifying ninja automatons, whose only objective is to crush you into dust. Pathetic, broken, sobbing dust. Each opponent has their own unique weapon, used only when you’re right up their ass. They’ll slow down, shatter you with it, then speed off, cackling at how woefully inadequate you are. Should it hit any of the other computer players, they’ll simply bounce off, completely unharmed. All that’s missing from this blatant cruelty is Mario exclaiming “And my penis is bigger than yours.”
He’ll back up, continue, “That’s in addition to your awfulness, in case that wasn’t clear,” then roar off into the distance.
So, in summary, my experience with Super Mario Kart wasn’t a pleasant one. It’s damn hard, and the handling can be disorientating. I’m a little scarred, all in all. It’s only by playing, though, that you see what a perfect concept Nintendo created here. The kart racing genre has been aped since by everyone from Crash Bandicoot to the Crazy Frog, but none have touched the quality of Mario Kart. Especially not that bastard Frog, that game was a barrel of balls.
Take a look at this for more about the game, a true classic despite the soul-destroying difficulty:
Article by Chris Littlechild