Super Mario Kart

Suck it, DK.

Along with the (often) previously mentioned Super Mario All-Stars, my cousin's SNES was home to another Mario classic - one that was probably played more than All-Stars - Super Mario Kart.

There is no point in reading any further.

You know how good Super Mario Kart is. You want to play it right now. Go on. You should.

If you want a little bit more to read, though, do continue.

Fun Times

Super Mario Kart starts simply by asking you how many people are playing, what mode you want to play, and what Cup you want to compete in. After selecting a driver, that's it. You're off, committed to finishing first, fastest, or with the most intact balloons.

Races are simple, with five laps separating you from your victory, which can be as little as a minute or two away from the moment you're first able to accelerate, even at the slower difficulty class. Tracks are short and simple but full of tricky turns and stage hazards that'll keep you on your toes.

In single player, you'll have a mini-map at the bottom of the screen to show you where everyone is, but in the heat of the moment, you'll have little chance to look at it, battling with the other drivers with shells, mushrooms and banana skins.

Banana skins. Bloody banana skins.


Each AI driver has their own behaviour relating to their character. Yoshi drops eggs in the middle of the track, for example. Donkey Kong Jr. drops - or throws - banana skins. Lots of them. And as my main rival, always there or thereabouts in terms of position, he was throwing a lot of banana skins my way. A distractingly large amount, in some races.

Banana skins, walloping into the walls, driving very slowly offroad, falling into water or lava... there are plenty of hazards to be wary of in Super Mario Kart, including ones of your own making, be it pick-up based or not. How many times have you caught yourself with your own offence, or attempted to sneak up the inside, only to clip the corner and lose five places while you wiggle yourself free?

With races lasting just a few minutes, they can be won or lost with a single mistake, which makes it all the sweeter when I saw the time for this race.

Further Fun Times

Persist with the game and you can unlock new Cups and difficulty levels, though the less said about my first attempt at the Special Cup, the better. My only defence was 'I haven't been here since I was a kid'. I'm very much out of practice.

If you don't finish high enough, races are rerun at the cost of losing a life, so there's always a chance to try again, and fairly quickly enough for you to still be in the zone, should that be necessary to you.

The only way to get good is to keep trying. Eventually, you'll know the track layouts, you'll get the perfect slide, you'll know when to hop out of danger and when a race is in need of a miracle, and two minutes later, you'll be doing it all over again on another track, to more iconic music.

Further Frustrations

There are occasions where, for all the technical wizardry of Mode 7 graphics, Super Mario Kart looks a bit... eyurgh...

I suspect it's mostly because I'm emulating it here, and that in my memories it looked positively phenomenal in my childhood, but not a race goes by where I think, actually, yeah, that's not too good a look, is it?

Sprites, be they those of the drivers or the track hazards, scale pretty badly, looking fine up close but rather horrible at distance. In fairness, a lot of stuff is getting crammed onto a single screen, and to stress the point, emulation is going to do that from time to time.

At least the banana skins stick out like a sore thumb...

Final Word

There's plenty that I've not talked about here - the other modes and that it's much more entertaining with two players, notably - but that's because I don't want to be writing about Super Mario Kart, I want to be playing it.

My fondness for it will likely warp its actual objective greatness, but when the hell has that ever mattered in this list? Go play it, and expect nostalgia to rank this highly at the next awards.

Fun Facts

The game didn't start life out as a Mario title, but I think we can all agree it's probably a good thing that it was made into one. Video gaming wouldn't be the same without Mario Kart in some form.

Super Mario Kart, developed by Nintendo EAD, first released in 1992.
Version played: SNES, 1992, via emulation and childhood memories.