Ah, Super Mario Kart 64. This beloved pillar of Nintendo’s success dating back all the way to 1992. Where bright colours, special abilities and family-friendly racing bought everyone together around their Super Nintendo. Even to this day, this spin-off of Super Mario Bros. delights fans everywhere with it’s impressive visuals, fun characters, and a mixture of both new and classic circuits. It’s no wonder that the latest home console version, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, is the current best-selling Switch title. Every version of the game has added something new over the last three decades and the second game in the Mario Kart series (Mario Kart 64) is no different.
Mario Kart Release
Released in Japan in 1996, then in Europe and North America the following year, Mario Kart 64 divided critics. While some said it was a vast improvement over the original, others decided it was a huge disappointment.
I personally enjoy this game. Although I like the first title in the series, Super Mario Kart, I’ve always felt that it was Super Mario Kart 64 that paved the way towards enormous success. Inserting the cartridge into my Nintendo 64 feels like a blast from the past, and (after attempting several times to make it work because the cartridge is slightly temperamental) I am greeted with the iconic opening screen of some of Nintendo’s most beloved characters. There are eight characters to choose from, with 16 tracks available to race round. That may not seem like much compared to today’s version, and indeed it wasn’t anything more than the first game, but it was the way that these tracks were executed that I thoroughly enjoy.
Graphics and Gameplay
With technology ever increasing, this was the first Mario Kart to use real 3D-rendered techniques to bring the visuals to life. It adds a depth to the game, with elevations, pits, and even walls. I can imagine that this game’s release might be the only time anybody ever got excited about a wall. It is much better than colliding with a 2D object that you can’t even see because it’s lying on the floor.
Overall the gameplay feels a lot nicer too. Racing around Sherbet Land feels smooth, with accelerating and cornering feeling crisper and slightly less juddering. Different classes of racer allows you to balance out acceleration and top speed (Toad is my main). I’ve always enjoyed how each track is designed differently to give a unique feel, with secret shortcuts mixed in throughout. Overall it comes together to create a fun and immersive game.
The real shining point of this game though is the multiplayer. This was the first Mario Kart game to introduce 4-player co-op, with the inclusion of both Versus Mode (racing of circuits), and Battle Mode (each player has three balloons and must eliminate the other players’ balloons. It paved the way for a more competitive game, while also keeping the overall feel light-hearted and fun. It is definitely up there with Goldeneye as one of the best multiplayer games on the Nintendo 64.
Slips and Slides
There are, however, a few problems. While I like the Nintendo 64, I am not a fan of the controller. I believe it might possibly be the worst design for a controller that Nintendo have thought up. It shows with this game. I do not like the button layout nor the dodgy joystick. I do not like the overall feel that this controller brings and as a result I feel like it affects gameplay to a point where it doesn’t ruin the experience but does just enough to slightly get under my skin. It’s a real shame, because it would otherwise be such an enjoyable experience. This is one of those rare times where I would recommend to anybody playing this to use a third party controller; it won’t improve the game overall but it will just tweak the gameplay enough to actually feel really enjoyable.
And while I feel like Toad’s Turnpike and Rainbow Road are unforgiving, the rest of the tracks feel tamer and slightly easier. I wouldn’t mind a few more difficult tracks to make it a bit more satisfying once the player beats all the other racers.
Mario Kart 64 Conclusion
Overall thoughts of Super Mario Kart 64. I have always enjoyed the game, and will most likely never stop enjoying this game. While I think that the controls for this game are let down by the design of the controller, it builds upon the already-solid Super Mario Kart while also cementing that multiplayer action that we all know and love. It will be interesting to see where this game series will be taken after the Nintendo Switch. Knowing their track record of Mario Kart games I am super excited to see what fun and innovative things they will do within this series.
What were your views on Mario Kart 64? Any good memories? Let us know below
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Thanks to the excellent www.mobygames.com for pictures once again