Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass: thoughts and impressions

I’ve got to be honest with you right at the start: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass disappointed me before I’d raced a single lap… or even downloaded it. That’s because I was really hoping to see Mario Kart 9 this year; a brand-new game with new features rather than just an expansion pack for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. The original version of Mario Kart 8 released for the Wii U back in 2014 (though I played a preview build at a press event in 2013; lucky me!) so I’ve been waiting to see what Nintendo would do next for a long time. This Booster Course Pass just felt underwhelming when it was announced compared to what I’d been hoping for.

With 2022 being the thirtieth anniversary of the Mario Kart series (Super Mario Kart was released for the SNES all the way back in 1992), and with Nintendo’s love of celebrating big milestones and anniversaries, again the timing for a new game felt right. But I guess Nintendo is sticking to the “one Mario Kart game per console” thing, and the Booster Course Pass is intended to throw players a bone and give the game a bit of a refresh as the Switch enters what must be the latter part of its life. I have no doubt that there’ll be a Mario Kart 9… but now it seems like it’ll be on whatever console Nintendo makes in the years ahead rather than coming to the Switch.

Pink Gold Peach in a promo image for the Booster Course Pass.

But the Booster Course Pass makes Mario Kart 8 Deluxe “feel like a new game,” right? That seems to be the cliché that a lot of folks have trotted out to describe the expansion pack. I’d answer that question with a firm “no.” An expansion pack like this refreshes the game, gives it a new lick of paint and shuffles things around, but the same Mario Kart 8 gameplay and visual style is still front-and-centre, even as new racetracks are added. For players who’d been getting bored of that, or who had drifted away from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in search of new experiences, this will be at best a shot in the arm; a temporary boost to bring them back for a while. But the novelty of the new courses will fade faster than it would had there been a brand-new game this year.

But is it fair to judge the Booster Course Pass by that standard? No expansion pack is really intended to be a wholly new game, and there are undoubtedly some fun tracks that have been added to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe this time around. Not only that, but the format that Nintendo has used here is a fun one; tracks will be added in “waves” of eight at a time until the end of 2023. The total number of tracks added by the time the Booster Course Pass is complete will be forty-eight – doubling the number of racetracks in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

The Booster Course Pass includes tracks from past Mario Kart titles.

I quite like the “wave” approach to the expansion pack. Building up the Booster Course Pass slowly over the span of a couple of years keeps the game feeling fresh for longer compared with dumping all of the racetracks at once in a single event. Your mileage on that may vary, though, and there’s nothing wrong with holding off on picking up the Booster Course Pass until late 2023 when the final wave of racetracks has been added. At a cost of £20 ($25 in the United States) it felt a bit steep at first for only eight additional racetracks; the value of the Booster Course Pass will feel a lot better when all forty-eight are playable!

So who is this expansion pack really for? I don’t think it’s necessarily the natural next step for the Mario Kart series in general, rather the Booster Course Pass is for people who’ve started to get bored of what Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has to offer. Once you’ve played Rainbow Road, Toad Harbour, and GBA Cheese Land a hundred times apiece, this expansion pack shakes things up and provides some new layouts, new scenery, and a bit of a new challenge. For someone new to the Nintendo Switch and/or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, I’d say you don’t have as much to gain by picking up the Booster Course Pass at this stage, but it could be worth it later on. It just depends on how repetitive you begin to find the forty-eight courses that come with the base game!

The Booster Course Pass may feel like better value in a year’s time.

I’ve made a couple of lists here on the website of racetracks that I’d want to see in a future Mario Kart title, and two of my favourites have appeared already in the first couple of waves of the Booster Course Pass. As with racetracks across the rest of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, older tracks have seen more changes to both mix things up and to fit with the game’s anti-gravity, flying, and underwater mechanics that weren’t present in earlier titles.

Both Coconut Mall and Mushroom Gorge, which were tracks that debuted on the Wii, feel more or less unchanged in the Booster Course Pass. Both tracks were fantastic in Mario Kart Wii and make wonderful additions here. Their musical accompaniments are likewise neat, and both feel like a nostalgia blast! I have fond memories of playing these racetracks with friends during the Wii days, and replaying them in HD on the Switch has been a blast.

Coconut Mall is back!

Kalimari Desert and Choco Mountain have returned from the Nintendo 64, and the former in particular is one of my all-time favourite Mario Kart racetracks. Choco Mountain is a fun course, although I would say that its all-brown colour palette makes it feel a little bland, and that’s something that could’ve been worked on or adapted for this new version.

Kalimari Desert, though, is absolutely fantastic in the Booster Course Pass. It’s more linear this time around – each of the three laps follows a definite route, meaning players don’t have as much choice when it comes to taking risky shortcuts through the tunnel or over the train tracks. But the adaptations that have been made are fantastic and really showcase the course at its best. There’s something about the “American Southwest” aesthetic that I’ve always loved about Kalimari Desert, and seeing it brought into the modern day thanks to a visual and gameplay overhaul has been wonderful. Although the track also appeared on the 3DS back in 2011, this new version feels like the definitive take on Kalimari Desert.

Kalimari Desert is one of my favourite Mario Kart tracks… ever.

Mario Kart Tour is a crappy mobile game that is bedevilled by many of the pay-to-play and pay-to-win microtransactions that blight the mobile gaming scene. As a result I’m not familiar with most of its racetracks, so the inclusion of several in the Booster Course Pass has given me my first real opportunity to play them. At time of writing (wave two) there have been four racetracks from Mario Kart Tour added; there may be six more to come for a total of ten.

I’ve been lucky enough earlier in my life to have visited both Paris and New York – the settings for two of the Mario Kart Tour tracks included in the Booster Course Pass – and I have to say that New York Minute in particular really hit me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. There were some genuinely recognisable locations in Central Park and the downtown area that I vividly remember travelling to with friends years ago, and again I wasn’t expecting this brand-new track to give me the nostalgic feels in the way that it did! The music for New York Minute is one of the best in the game; the perfect jazz accompaniment to a beautiful racetrack.

New York City comes to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe!

The Mario Kart Tour tracks also have fun and varied layouts, with each of the three laps taking different routes. I think this keeps things interesting and makes it a lot harder to just drive on “autopilot” even after playing each of the tracks a dozen times. The three other Mario Kart Tour tracks – Paris Promenade, Tokyo Blur, and Sydney Sprint – all hit a number of tourist attractions and key locations in their real-world settings, and it’s something both fun and a little different to race through a Mario Kart track based on a real-life locale.

Having first played Super Mario Kart in the early 1990s, not too long after it was released here in the UK, I’m a dab hand at practically all of the SNES courses that have been included in Mario Kart 8! The sole SNES inclusion in the Booster Course Pass (again, at time of writing after wave two) is Mario Circuit 3, and it’s perhaps the least-interesting from my perspective. Not much has been done to the course’s layout, and with Donut Plains 3 as part of the base game I guess it just wouldn’t have been my first choice. There are better SNES courses, like one of the Vanilla Lake tracks or possibly a Bowser Castle or Koopa Beach that might’ve offered a bit more diversity. That isn’t to say Mario Circuit 3 is bad, just that as an addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe it doesn’t offer as much originality as some of the other SNES courses could’ve.

Though there’s nothing wrong with SNES Mario Circuit 3 per se, there are other SNES tracks that might’ve been more fun.

Rounding out the retro courses we have Toad Circuit from the 3DS, which is fine, Snow Land from the Game Boy Advance, which is a cute winter-themed track with an icy road, Waluigi Pinball from the DS, which is one of the most unique concepts on show in the Booster Course Pack so far, Sky Garden from the Game Boy Advance, which reminded me a lot of Cloudtop Cruise from the base game in terms of the way it’s been adapted, and finally Shroom Ridge from the DS – a racetrack with traffic.

There are two brand-new tracks, too: Sky High Sundae and Ninja Hideaway. I like food-themed tracks, so Sky High Sundae was a visual treat! It’s also one of the rare tracks to fully take advantage of Mario Kart 8′s anti-gravity racing feature, which is neat. Ninja Hideaway is a Japanese-themed track with a couple of flying sections that break up what is otherwise a pretty basic layout – albeit one with a fun aesthetic.

Sky High Sundae.

So that’s the Booster Course Pass for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. I’ve tried to judge the additional racetracks on their own merits as much as possible, and there are definitely some fun inclusions that make Mario Kart 8 Deluxe worth returning to for lapsed players and those who’d been getting bored of the same lineup over and over again.

However, I can’t shake the feeling that it would’ve been better for Nintendo to include these tracks as part of a new game: Mario Kart 9. There could’ve been transformational gameplay changes, perhaps some new drivers from both Nintendo titles and from games and series that have found success on the Switch in recent years, and while the visuals wouldn’t be significantly improved due to the limitations of the Switch’s hardware, changing things up from a gameplay perspective would’ve been worth doing. The Booster Course Pass adds a lot of content and a lot of value to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but a new game this ain’t.

For what it is, though, and for the price, the Booster Course Pass has plenty to offer. There are some fun tracks that I hadn’t played before as well as several blasts from the past that really hit the right nostalgic notes. I daresay the Booster Course Pass will keep Mario Kart 8 Deluxe at the top of the Switch charts now that we’re well into the second half of the console’s life – though whether it’s worth picking up now and trying out each wave of tracks as they arrive or whether it would be better to wait and pick it up in the latter part of next year is going to be up to you.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is out now for Nintendo Switch. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass is available as an expansion pack for an additional fee. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass, and all other titles and properties discussed above are the copyright of Nintendo. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten racetrack theme ideas for Mario Kart 9

With Nintendo planning a digital presentation for next month’s Electronic Entertainment Expo – more commonly known as E3 – rumours abound as to what they could talk about. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2? A new 3D Mario game? A new Donkey Kong title? Those are all contenders, and I would posit that Nintendo would be unlikely to put out a major E3 broadcast unless they had something big to say! But there’s still the prospect of a new Mario Kart game – something I’ve discussed on a couple of occasions already.

Super Mario Kart was released for the SNES in 1992, which means that next year will be the Mario Kart series’ 30th anniversary. In recent years we’ve seen a number of anniversary-themed events from Nintendo, and I can’t help but feel that they’ll do something to acknowledge Mario Kart. E3 would be the ideal time to announce Mario Kart 9, then, in time for the title to be released in the first half of next year!

Super Mario Kart turns 30 next year!

Maybe I’m wrong about that, though – and as I always like to say, I have no “insider information!” But regardless, it’s always fun to talk about the Mario Kart series and the prospects for a new title. Having already talked about a number of older racetracks I’d like to see come back, a roster of Nintendo characters who could be drivers, and even a handful of non-Nintendo characters who could join the fun, this time I want to talk about the possibilities for new racetracks – specifically, what theming Nintendo could use.

Past Mario Kart games had a number of Nintendo-themed tracks – such as Royal Raceway, based around Princess Peach’s castle, DK Mountain, which obviously pays homage to the jungle home of Donkey Kong, and of course the Bowser Castle tracks. But many Mario Kart titles also had more generic or non-Nintendo tracks too – things like Vanilla Lake, Choco Island, Sweet Sweet Canyon, and even Rainbow Road are all based less on specific Nintendo properties than just generic theming. My list will include a mix of both kinds of racetrack!

So let’s take a look, shall we?

Number 1: The museum from Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The upgraded museum as it appears in New Horizons.

A racetrack based around Animal Crossing: New Horizons seems like a given considering how popular the game has been since it launched! But rather than a generic island – or perhaps as well as one – I think a racetrack themed around New Horizons’ museum could be neat. I do still check in with my New Horizons island from time to time, partly because I still haven’t collected every last bug, fish, fossil and work of art! The museum is one of the game’s most interesting locations, and would make a fun setting for a racetrack.

Starting in the lobby, players would race through four areas: the bug room, fossil exhibit, art gallery, and aquarium. The aquarium offers the potential for underwater racing – if that feature is coming back in Mario Kart 9 – so there’d be at least two terrains as well as a variety of scenery! The higher levels of the museum would also offer space for jumps and tricks. But above all, it would be a different take on the expected “Animal Crossing island” track that I think would take a lot of folks by surprise.

Number 2: The Last Resort hotel from Luigi’s Mansion 3

The Last Resort hotel is the setting for Luigi’s Mansion 3.

I know, I know. My playthrough of Luigi’s Mansion 3, which I commenced in the run-up to last Halloween, still needs to be finished. And I will get around to it eventually! But for now, let’s consider how The Last Resort hotel could make for an amazing racetrack! The Mario Kart series has never shied away from spooky, ghostly racetracks, and given the popularity of Luigi’s Mansion 3 on Switch, incorporating it into Mario Kart 9 makes a lot of sense.

Players could start in the basement garage and race to the top in a one-way route broken into three segments. That would put a twist on several of the similar one-way downhill tracks in Mario Kart 8! Ghostly apparitions could make for interesting moving obstacles, and above all, the track would have the potential to be a lot of fun. There could certainly be jumps or aerial sections, though I’m not sure about racing underwater.

Number 3: A track based on the world of Minecraft

Promo screenshot for Minecraft.

This kind of ties into my idea of having Minecraft Steve as a playable racer! Minecraft has been popular on the Nintendo Switch – just as it has been on practically every other console – and considering that Nintendo and Microsoft have happily worked together to bring Minecraft Steve into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, why not go one step further and have a Minecraft-themed racetrack?

The open worlds of Minecraft have a multitude of biomes and terrains, and there’s scope for anti-gravity racing up cliffs or down deep caverns, underwater sections through seas and rivers, aerial sections jumping off mountains or into the sky – and that’s before we even get to the Nether or the End! There could even be a Minecraft cup with four racetracks based around this game – though maybe that’s a bit much!

Number 4: Bubblaine from Super Mario Odyssey

Remember when the internet went wild for Mario’s nipples? We live in strange times…

There’s bound to be at least one racetrack based on a location from Super Mario Odyssey in the next Mario Kart title, so I’d like to propose Bubblaine! The Mario Kart series has previously featured a number of beach-themed tracks, but this would be the first to be based on an actual level from a mainline game. There’s even the possibility for a track based on Bubblaine – or the other water level from Odyssey, Lake Lamode – to be fully underwater, with no above-water sections at all. That could make for an interesting twist!

I like beach-themed racetracks in Mario Kart. They’re relaxing and often have great music, and though Bubblaine wouldn’t necessarily be unique in the Mario Kart series, it could pick up the baton for beach racetracks.

Number 5: New Donk City from Super Mario Odyssey

New Donk City is home to Mayor Pauline!

New Donk City played a big role in the marketing campaign for Odyssey, and it seems at least possible that Nintendo would want to capitalise on the name and imagery for Mario Kart 9 as well. There have been urban racetracks in the Mario Kart series before but none quite like New Donk City.

Just like how street circuits like Monaco or Singapore are popular in Formula 1, the closed-in nature of New Donk City’s network of roads could make for a fun racetrack. With tall buildings to potentially jump from, and Mayor Pauline’s iconic song forming the basis for the soundtrack, this one has a lot of potential to be a fun – if slightly tricky – racetrack!

Number 6: The Galar Region from Pokémon Sword & Shield

A promo screenshot of a city in the Galar Region.

I’ve never played a Pokémon game. Make of that what you will! But Pokémon Sword & Shield have been successful on the Nintendo Switch – despite the so-called “Dexit” controversy the games generated! Although Pokémon has always been a franchise strongly associated with Nintendo, no Pokémon characters or locales have appeared in the Mario Kart series – at least, not yet.

I don’t know too much about the Galar Region other than it’s based on my native United Kingdom, but that in itself could make for a fun concept for British Nintendo fans! There have been some Pokémon characters included in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, so it’s not impossible to think that a crossover between two of Nintendo’s biggest exclusive properties is on the cards.

Number 7: The city of Kyoto, Japan

A dark street in the city of Kyoto.

Now we’re leaving the realm of video games behind to look at some racetrack themes from the real world. Kyoto – which was the capital city of Japan for more than 1,000 years before it moved to Tokyo – is where Nintendo is headquartered. Many of the company’s developers live and work in the city, and know it intimately. It could be a lot of fun for them – and for us as players – to bring the city to life as the basis of a racetrack.

A Japanese-themed racetrack is a win-win for any Mario Kart title in many ways. The game’s Japanese audience would be pleased to see a representation of their home, and there are many in the west who love all things Japanese and would be equally thrilled. Kyoto makes a lot of sense because of its connection to Nintendo, and we could see recreations of famous landmarks like the Imperial Palace, To-Ji Temple, Kyoto Tower, and Teramachi Street.

Number 8: A food-themed racetrack

Looks yummy!

Choco Island and Choco Mountain, which appeared in Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 respectively, kicked off a trend of Nintendo including at least one racetrack with a food theme in most mainline Mario Kart games. In addition to chocolate we’ve had the likes of Cheese Land and Sweet Sweet Canyon. It would be great to keep this trend going with another foody track, perhaps one based around Japanese cuisine?

A restaurant could make for a fun setting, and would allow shrunk-down racers to drive through the kitchen, into the dining room, across tabletops, past plates of food, and so on. Mario Kart has always been a series which is happy to set logic aside when it comes to theming, so why not?

Number 9: Ice or a glacier

Ice and snow have appeared a lot in Mario Kart.

There have been plenty of snow- and ice-themed tracks in past Mario Kart games, and I’m sure the next entry in the series will bring at least one to the table. There’s scope for a track set on a glacier to have an environmental theme, especially if the glacier were melting! Perhaps each lap could see more and more of the glacier melt away, until the final lap has players racing through a track that’s more water than ice.

Regardless, snow and ice are tricky surfaces to race on, and can be made to feel extra slippery under the wheels of players’ karts. This alone makes them fun and challenging in equal measure, and I hope there’ll be at least one track with this kind of icy, wintry theme in Mario Kart 9.

Number 10: An alpine or mountain stage

A picture-perfect Alpine village and lake.

The famous cycling races Tour de France and Giro d’Italia both run stages through the Alps, and it’s something along those lines that I’m thinking of here. Mountainous racetracks in Mario Kart tend to either be snowy or have some other theming, but I quite like the idea of racing along past a mountain village, pine trees, and the like, in a track with an alpine setting.

The Alps border several countries, including France, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria, so elements from those cultures could be incorporated into the theming of the track. This could also be a one-way track divided into segments instead of a loop to run laps around.

So that’s it. Ten theme ideas for Mario Kart 9 racetracks!

Still the best version of Rainbow Road… change my mind!

Because Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just a port of a Wii U game, there hasn’t been an original Mario Kart title released for the Nintendo Switch yet. I know that’s kind of splitting hairs, but it provides a small amount of hope that we’ll see another title in the fun kart racing series before this generation is over. The Switch should still have several years’ of life left, so if we don’t get Mario Kart 9 this generation it could be a while before we see it.

I’m hopeful, then, of a new Mario Kart game sometime soon. Whether it will be announced at E3, or whether it will be connected to the 30th anniversary of the series are just guesses on my part – but I think both are educated guesses. It makes sense to me, at any rate!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is out now on Nintendo Switch. All other titles and properties mentioned above are copyright of Nintendo or their respective studio, developer, publisher, and/or owner. Some screenshots and promo artwork courtesy of the Mario Wiki. Some stock images courtesy of Pixabay. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten non-Nintendo characters who (probably won’t) appear in Mario Kart 9!

A few days ago I had a lot of fun putting together a short list of (mostly) Nintendo characters who I think should appear in Mario Kart 9 – whenever that game may come! As a follow-up, I thought it could be interesting to consider a few characters from outside of Nintendo’s walled garden who could also join the fun. If you’d like to check out the original list, you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Mario Kart 8 and later Mario Kart 8 Deluxe pushed the boat out as far as the roster of drivers is concerned, including characters from outside of the Super Mario series for the first time, including Link from The Legend of Zelda series, Isabelle from Animal Crossing, and two characters from the Splatoon games. However, it would be a first for the series to include non-Nintendo characters!

Isabelle, from the Animal Crossing series, is a driver in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Although the Mario Kart games haven’t done so yet, Nintendo has proved itself willing to open up to other companies’ franchises and characters in recent years. We’ve seen Minecraft Steve, for example, as well as characters from the Castlevania, Persona, and Dragon Quest series appear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Switch, so I think that demonstrates a willingness on Nintendo’s part to think outside the box when it comes to characters in popular titles.

Whether it will happen, though, is completely unknown! And to reiterate what I always say: this is pure guesswork and a wishlist from a fan, nothing more. I’m not claiming to know for a fact that any characters listed below will appear in Mario Kart 9 – or even if such a game is currently in development. With the 30th anniversary of the Mario Kart series coming up in 2022 I think it’s possible that we might see a new game, but even that’s just a guess on my part!

With that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!

Number 1: Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega)

Sonic as he appears in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020.

Of all the characters on this list, Sonic is arguably the most likely to crop up in Mario Kart 9. Not only is he a character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but there have been a number of Nintendo games over the last decade or more in which he’s been prominently featured. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games in 2007 marked his debut alongside Mario, and since then the duo have appeared together in five more Olympic-themed titles.

It would’ve seemed unthinkable in the ’90s for Mario and Sonic to appear together; they were the mascots of competing companies! It was only when Sega retired from manufacturing their own consoles shortly after the millennium that Sonic appearing on Nintendo hardware was even a possibility, but he’s since become a mainstay. He’d make for a fantastic character, and having already featured in his own kart racer, he definitely knows a thing or two about driving!

Number 2: Pac-Man (Bandai Namco)

A 3D rendering of Pac-Man from 1999’s Pac-Man World.

Another character who appeared in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Pac-Man is a gaming icon from the medium’s early days. Originally an arcade game created in 1980, Pac-Man spawned a whole host of titles in a series that continues to this day. Though the games have no real story or plot, Pac-Man was arguably one of the first video game characters, and was, for a time, symbolic of the games industry as a whole. His simple design became iconic, and even today Pac-Man is instantly recognisable.

As with Sonic above, even a few years ago the idea of a collaboration between Nintendo and Pac-Man (short of licensing one of the games to their consoles) wouldn’t have seemed possible. But as companies continue to pool their resources and work together, it could make a lot of sense for both Nintendo and Bandai Namco (or should that be Bando Namcai?) to bring Pac-Man to Mario Kart 9.

Number 3: Fall Guy (Epic Games/Mediatonic)

Three Fall Guys seen in a recent Nintendo Direct.

If I’d been in charge of the development of cute obstacle course/battle royale title Fall Guys, I would have prioritised a Nintendo Switch release. Regardless, the title is finally going to be released on Nintendo’s console, months after it’s PC and PlayStation 4 debut. The Fall Guys themselves are adorable little jelly bean characters with a huge variety of costumes, and their cartoon aesthetic would fit perfectly with Nintendo’s long-running kart racing series.

The recent Epic Games buyout may complicate matters, but with Fall Guys coming to Switch I really feel it has a shot at being successful on that platform – especially if Mediatonic can get cross-platform play up and running. If the game is a hit, bringing a Fall Guy to Mario Kart 9 would be fantastic, and something Nintendo could absolutely consider doing. It would arguably benefit Fall Guys more, with the character’s inclusion serving almost as advertising, but that should just be an incentive for Epic Games to allow this crossover to go ahead!

Number 4: Master Chief (Microsoft)

The Master Chief in Halo: The Master Chief Collection concept art.

The inclusion of Minecraft Steve in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate shows that Microsoft is quite happy to work with Nintendo, and a number of their recent moves – like their partnership with EA – have opened up the possibility of further collaborations and crossovers with big games companies. With that in mind, could the Halo series’ iconic protagonist end up as a racer?

Halo games, as first-person shooters, are quite violent, so perhaps Nintendo would opt not to include such characters for the sake of keeping the game family-friendly. But Master Chief’s design isn’t aggressive or scary, and I think he could be made to fit. It would be a fun collaboration between two of modern gaming’s big powerhouses.

Number 5: Doom Guy (Bethesda/Microsoft)

Doom Eternal promotional artwork featuring the character known as Doom Guy.

Though visually similar in some respects to the Master Chief, Doom Guy has a surprising history with Nintendo. Not only was Doom 64 a Nintendo 64 exclusive in 1997, but last year saw a bizarre yet strangely wholesome internet-inspired team-up with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. In short, Doom Eternal shared a release date with New Horizons, and because of the polar opposite nature of the games, fans began ironically pairing up Doom Guy with Animal Crossing characters – notably Isabelle.

Nintendo could take advantage of the memes and jokes by bringing Doom Guy into Mario Kart 9. On the surface, maybe he isn’t a great fit for the series. But there’s nothing offensive about his character design, and if last year’s fan art showed us one thing, it’s that Doom Guy can be made to look adorable and cartoonified!

Number 6: Two Point Hospital Doctor or Nurse (Sega)

Two doctors and a nurse.

Two Point Hospital is a spiritual successor to 1997’s Theme Hospital, a classic of the “tycoon” genre. It was ported to the Nintendo Switch last year after releasing for PC in 2018, and has gone on to be a surprising success on the platform. As with many tycoon games there isn’t really one principal character to pick out, but a generic doctor and/or nurse could be a fun addition to Mario Kart 9.

One of the great things about Two Point Hospital is its cartoon aesthetic; a deliberate choice that mimics the title’s origins in tycoon games of the 1990s. That look just happens to be perfect for the Mario Kart series, which means a Two Point Hospital character would be a natural fit.

Number 7: A Palico (Capcom)

A Palico as seen in the trailer for Monster Hunter Rise.

I’ll let you in on a secret: the Monster Hunter series has never seemed like my thing. The latest title in the series, Monster Hunter Rise, is available for Nintendo Switch, but despite loving the visual style, the core gameplay of hunting and killing so-called “monsters” – which seem to be docile animals living their own lives not troubling anybody – holds absolutely no appeal to me!

Regardless, the latest title is a big hit on Switch, and Palicoes are cute little felines or cat-like characters that accompany the player character during the game. It seems like this kind of cute critter would be a perfect fit for Mario Kart 9 – even if I don’t personally care for the game they originate from!

Number 8: Zagreus (Supergiant Games)

Promotional art for Hades featuring Zagreus.

Hades has to be one of the best indie games I’ve played in recent years, and was recently featured in a Nintendo Direct presentation as the game is getting a full physical release (i.e. on a game cartridge) for Switch. It’s an absolute blast, and if you haven’t tried it I can’t recommend it enough – if you’re okay with a game in which you die over and over again!

Zagreus, son of Hades, is the game’s protagonist, adapted from the character present in Ancient Greek mythology. His anime-inspired style is… well let’s just say I’m not an anime fan. But as a character he’s interesting and fun to root for in Hades, and with some minor adaptations I’m sure he could fit in with the rest of the racers!

Number 9: Ori and Sein (Microsoft/Moon Studios)

Ori and Sein in Ori and the Blind Forest.

I’d almost forgotten that both Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps had been ported to the Nintendo Switch, but both games were a good fit for Nintendo’s platform and seem to have sold reasonably well. This entry is technically two characters, but they could be rolled into a single racer as Sein’s design might not lend itself to being an independent driver!

The Ori games are surprisingly sweet but also challenging in places, and Ori would certainly fit right in with the Mario Kart series from an aesthetic point of view. It would be great to see the Ori series, which already has a Switch presence, join up with Nintendo for an additional collaboration!

Number 10: Geralt of Rivia (CD Projekt Red)

Geralt as he appears on the box art of The Witcher 3.

Though I still haven’t played The Witcher 3 – or the prior two entries in the series, come to that – it’s held up as one of the best games of the last ten years, and protagonist Geralt of Rivia has since cropped up in a couple of unexpected places! Perhaps his next adventure could be joining Mario and friends for a go-kart race?

The Witcher 3 was one of the most ambitious titles to bring to the Nintendo Switch, considering the size and complexity of the game, but by all accounts it’s a solid port. A lot of folks have been enjoying taking Geralt with them to play on the go, and his recent appearance in Soul Calibur VI shows that CD Projekt Red are clearly amenable to collaborating with other companies. He would be a strange choice, perhaps, but a lot of fun nevertheless!

Bonus: Battle-Cars (Epic Games)

Promotional art for Rocket League showing two Battle-Cars.

One of the most surprising things in Mario Kart 8 was the inclusion of Mercedes-Benz car parts, as part of a deal Nintendo struck with the famous car manufacturer! We could absolutely consider other manufacturers or vehicles that would be cute to see in the next Mario Kart game, but for now I thought it could be fun if Nintendo could team up with one of the other top car games out there – Rocket League!

I’m atrocious at Rocket League and have been since the first time I played, but the game is a lot of fun. A buyout by Epic Games saw the title move to a free-to-play model, which has been good in some ways. There are a number of different vehicle styles, and any could be adapted to make a fun kart in Mario Kart 9. Perhaps three or four different styles would be enough so as not to overwhelm the title!

So that’s it. Ten characters – and one bonus set of vehicles – that Mario Kart 9 should – but most likely won’t – include!

Is a new Mario Kart title in the works?

If I’m right that Nintendo plans to do something next year to mark the series’ 30th anniversary, a new game would be top of the list. And in the spirit of celebration, bringing a whole roster of characters from across gaming to join one big Mario Kart party would be a great thing for Nintendo to do. Some characters that Nintendo has worked with in the past, like Sonic the Hedgehog, seem far more likely than others, but it would benefit practically every company involved in the games industry to allow Nintendo to license one or two of their characters. After all, it’s a fantastic advertisement for the game they’re originally from!

I’ve been a huge Mario Kart fan since I first sat down to play Super Mario Kart in 1993 or 1994, back when I owned a SNES. That title only had eight racers to choose from, and the series has come a long way since then – while managing to retain the fun. As games got better and I played the likes of Shenmue and Knights of the Old Republic I began to favour titles with a strong focus on story; there are few titles I considered fun for their gameplay alone. The Mario Kart series has always been one of them! Whatever happens next year, and whenever Mario Kart 9 may come, I hope Nintendo try to bring in some new and different faces.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is out now for Nintendo Switch, and is the copyright of Nintendo. All characters mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promo art courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Fifteen Nintendo characters who NEED to be part of Mario Kart 9

A while ago I took a look at some racetracks from past Mario Kart games that I’d love to see return in Mario Kart 9 – whether that game ends up coming to the Nintendo Switch or whether it’s not made until a new console is out. This time I want to look at some characters from other Nintendo games (and a couple of non-Nintendo games) who would be amazing to add to the roster of drivers in Mario Kart 9. There are so many fun characters that have been created over the years, and with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe expanding the list, why not go all-in and add these ones too?

For the purposes of this list I’m assuming that all of the characters from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will be returning. After all, why wouldn’t they? So I’m not including anyone on my list who was part of the most recent entry in the series! Instead I want to focus on characters who’ve never been playable in Mario Kart.

Mario Kart 64′s Rainbow Road is one of my all-time favourite tracks!

In 1993 or 1994 I first played Super Mario Kart on the SNES. From almost the first moment I was hooked, and had great fun with the cute, silly kart racer. It even prompted me to try go-karting for myself, which was a fun experience! I’ve been fortunate enough to play every Mario Kart game to date – some more than others – on their original hardware, and while it would be unprecedented for Nintendo to launch a second Mario Kart game on the same console, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just a port of the Wii U title. Maybe that means Mario Kart 9 is closer than we think!

Next year will be the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Kart’s 1992 release, and thus the 30th anniversary of the entire Mario Kart series. Given Nintendo’s love (bordering on a fetish, really!) of anniversaries and anniversary events, perhaps some kind of celebration is on the cards. Maybe they’re even working on releasing Mario Kart 9 in time for the 30th anniversary!

Nintendo recently launched the (underwhelming) Super Mario 3D All-Stars for Mario’s 35th anniversary. Might a new game be planned for Mario Kart’s 30th?

Who’s your favourite Mario Kart racer? Ever since their first appearance in Mario Kart Wii, mine has been Dry Bones – the skeleton koopa troopa. He’s just so cute! I even have a figure and a plush toy of him somewhere in my collection! But there are many wonderful characters in the various Mario Kart games, and several different versions of some of the big ones. Mario, for example, has a baby version, a metal version, a gold version, and even a tanooki version! While there are some great characters to play with already, I can still think of more!

My usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” I don’t know if or when Mario Kart 9 will be released, whether it will come out on the Switch, or which characters may or may not be included. This is simply a wishlist from a fan of the series – nothing more!

With that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!

Number 1: Tom Nook

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is second only to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the all-time bestseller list for the Switch, and with the huge popularity of the game, it makes a lot of sense to include more Animal Crossing critters in Mario Kart 9. Isabelle and a generic Villager are already present, but it would be amazing to see Animal Crossing mainstay – and everyone’s tanooki best friend – Tom Nook join the lineup.

As with all Animal Crossing characters, Tom Nook has a unique, cartoonish look that’s perfect for Mario Kart. No changes would be needed to the way he looks, and it would be possible to have several different outfits for him, including seasonal variants and even holiday-themed ones, based on his different outfits in New Horizons.

Number 2: K.K. Slider

Sticking with Animal Crossing, while there are plenty of characters who could join Tom Nook, few are more emblematic of the series than musician K.K. Slider. A regular visitor to players’ islands in New Horizons, the laid-back dog could take a break from jammin’ and join a kart race! I didn’t know this until recently, because I always felt K.K. Slider’s “songs” were a bit of a joke, but he has a real-world following. People actually enjoy listening to his music. Funny old world, eh?

There’s scope to add other Animal Crossing critters too, but most of the remaining mainstays – Timmy and Tommy, Sable and Mabel, etc. – come as part of a set, and it would be hard to include one but not others.

Number 3: Fox McCloud (a.k.a. Star Fox)

Back in the SNES days I adored Star Fox, Nintendo’s animal-themed space shooter! It was one of the first games I picked up for the console, drawn in simply by the box art as I was a huge fan of anything to do with space and sci-fi. Fox has recently appeared alongside Mario in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but has never made an appearance in Mario Kart. As a pilot, surely he’d be a good driver!

The Star Fox franchise has felt underappreciated by Nintendo, with no new entry since 2016’s Star Fox Zero. Bringing back the series’ protagonist in a sure-fire hit like Mario Kart 9 could lead to a resurgence in popularity, with perhaps a new Star Fox game in the offing.

Number 4: A Goomba

The Mario Kart games have included many of Mario’s iconic adversaries as playable characters, going all the way back to the inclusion of Bowser and Koopa Troopa in Super Mario Kart. But Goombas have only ever appeared as obstacles on racetracks, never as a playable character. That wrong needs to be righted, and players should be able to finally give Goombas a break!

With so many other iconic Mario villains having had a turn in the spotlight, it would be really sweet to see a Goomba in the driver’s seat for once.

Number 5: Samus Aran

The only Metroid game I’ve ever played was Super Metroid on the SNES – though I did briefly toy with Metroid Prime on a friend’s GameCube. But there’s no denying that Samus, the series’ protagonist, is an iconic Nintendo character in her own right. Samus was actually one of the first female playable characters in all of gaming, with the reveal at the end of the first Metroid game in 1986 being a truly stunning moment for players!

Samus has been a regular fighter alongside Mario in the Super Smash Bros. games, but has yet to appear in Mario Kart. With characters beaming in from other franchises already, perhaps it’s time to fix that!

Number 6: The Animal Friends

This is a total cheat since it’s really a few separate characters, but I love them all so I couldn’t just choose one! Beginning in 1993’s Donkey Kong Country, DK has been able to call on various animals to aid him in his quest. Among my favourites are Expresso the Ostrich, Enguarde the Swordfish, and of course the iconic Rambi the Rhino!

Obviously the Mario Kart series would have a hard time including all of them, but it would be great to see at least a couple of these fan-favourites join the roster of drivers. Plus I think we’d all like to see how a swordfish could possibly drive a go-kart, and I think it’s worth doing for that reason alone!

Number 7: Chunky Kong

Sticking with the Donkey Kong series, DK’s cousin Chunky was introduced in Donkey Kong 64 but has only made minor cameo appearances since. He would obviously be one of the heavyweight drivers, alongside his cousin and the likes of Bowser, and that could be neat. Despite its lesser status among Nintendo titles, I really enjoyed what Donkey Kong 64 brought to the table, and it would be great to welcome back a character who hasn’t been seen since.

Chunky, despite his stature, had a very timid, almost cowardly personality, and that could be incorporated into his persona in Mario Kart 9 as well.

Number 8: A Thwomp

Another iconic Mario villain that has only appeared in Mario Kart as an obstacle, it would be really fun to see one of these sentient boulders get a turn behind the wheel! Thwomps have been part of Mario Kart going back to the SNES, and they make for difficult obstacles, especially for new players.

In recent years we’ve seen Thwomps included in many Mario titles, and they’ve become emblematic of the kind of opponents Mario faces on his adventures, along with Bowser, Koopas, and Goombas.

Number 9: Professor E. Gadd

Later in the year I hope to get back to writing up my playthrough of Luigi’s Mansion 3 – something I aimed to do last Halloween but never finished! Professor E. Gadd is Luigi’s ally in the Luigi’s Mansion games, setting up players with ghost-busting equipment and helping out as Luigi battles spooky spirits.

Despite the popularity of Luigi’s Mansion 3, we’ve only ever seen a couple of minor cameos outside of the main series. Bringing the professor into Mario Kart 9 would finally give him a major role!

Number 10: Hellen Gravely

Sticking with Luigi’s Mansion 3, bringing in the character who I assume is one of the game’s big bosses would be fantastic as well! Hellen Gravely worked with King Boo to kidnap Mario along with Luigi’s other friends at the start of Luigi’s Mansion 3, and she would make for an interesting racer! There aren’t that many female drivers in the Mario Kart series, and someone like Hellen Gravely would be a contrast to the likes of Princess Peach and Rosalina.

Just don’t tell me how Luigi’s Mansion 3 ends… I still need to finish it!

Number 11: Dorrie (a.k.a. the “Swimming Beast”)

Dorrie first appeared in Super Mario 64 as a friendly “Loch Ness Monster” type of critter, and has recently been seen in Super Mario Odyssey as well. Though Dorrie is far larger than the other racers, perhaps they could be scaled down to fit in a standard kart! Ever since Mario 64 I’ve liked the cute, Nessie-inspired design, and bringing Dorrie into Mario Kart 9 could be a ton of fun.

If racers with no hands like King Boo or Wiggler can drive karts, who says Dorrie can’t?

Number 12: Minecraft Steve

I know, I know. Minecraft isn’t strictly a Nintendo game (it’s owned by Microsoft) but it’s one of the most popular titles on the Switch, and retains a huge playerbase even as it approaches its tenth anniversary. Steve – the game’s silent protagonist – has appeared in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, so clearly Microsoft are happy to collaborate with Nintendo in these cases!

Bringing an “outsider” like Minecraft Steve into Mario Kart 9 would really expand what the game is all about, and if it’s going to be connected to the 30th anniversary, that kind of celebration vibe could be perfect.

Number 13: Among Us Crewmate

Another non-Nintendo character from a hugely popular title, if Mario Kart 9 pushes the boat out and brings in a lot of drivers from different franchises, taking advantage of the current popularity of Among Us could be worthwhile. An Among Us costume is available in Fall Guys – which is itself coming to Switch this summer – so publisher InnerSloth are clearly willing to collaborate!

Among Us has proven itself to have staying power; it wasn’t just a fad that burned out quickly. If Mario Kart 9 is coming up any time in the next couple of years, it stands to reason Among Us will still be around, so a collaboration could make a lot of sense.

Number 14: Mayor Pauline

In the run-up to the launch of the Switch and Super Mario Odyssey, Pauline’s song Jump Up Superstar! was a huge part of Nintendo’s marketing push. Pauline also appears in the game itself as the mayor of New Donk City, one of the worlds Mario traverses. Pauline is based on the original “damsel in distress” seen in 1981’s Donkey Kong.

Pauline has recently been a playable character in Mario Tennis Aces, so clearly Nintendo have her in mind as a character to use in future. Bringing her into Mario Kart 9 just feels like a natural fit!

Number 15: Cappy

Speaking of Super Mario Odyssey, how could we possibly exclude Cappy? Mario’s ally – and hat – in Odyssey is a perfect character to include in Mario Kart 9! Most Mario Kart titles have drawn on the latest Super Mario games for inspiration, and including Cappy feels like an absolute no-brainer.

Cappy was a new character created for Odyssey, and thus hasn’t had an opportunity to make any major appearances outside of that game… at least, not yet!

So that’s it. Fifteen characters I’d love to see included in Mario Kart 9.

Mario Kart 7 was a huge hit on the Nintendo 3DS.

Even with the 30th anniversary coming up next year, Mario Kart 9 could still be a long way off – we simply don’t know at this stage what Nintendo’s plans are for the next few years. There have been rumours of a wholly new console, despite the Switch being barely four years old at this point, and while I think that would be a mistake, it’s possible Nintendo plans to go down that route.

The Switch has been Nintendo’s roaring comeback after the failure of the Wii U, and that’s been great to see. Even though their paid online model is pretty crappy, and cut off a previously-free online mode for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the Switch overall has been a resounding success. Mario Kart 9 would just be the icing on the cake.

The Mario Kart series – including all games mentioned above, as well as all individual racetracks, characters, and other properties – is the copyright of Nintendo. Some screenshots courtesy of the Super Mario Wiki. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Fifteen games worthy of a second look in Spring 2021

Spoiler Warning: Though there are no major spoilers, minor spoilers may still be present for a few of the titles on this list.

Anthem is gone, Cyberpunk 2077 is still a stinking mess, and there are delays aplenty across the games industry as the pandemic rolls on. What’s a gamer to do? Well, I might have the answer for you! Tomorrow will be the first day of March, and to me March has always meant the beginning of Spring. There are small snowdrops beginning to bloom in my garden, and the nights are getting shorter. A few times this past week I’ve even managed without the heating on in my house – much to the dismay of the cats!

There are still plenty of great games that – all being well – will be released this year. If you missed it, I put together a list just after New Year of ten of the most interesting titles! But considering the delays and that this time of year is typically fairly quiet in terms of releases, I thought it would be a great moment to consider a few games that deserve a second look. I’ve limited the list to titles that are readily available to buy on current-gen platforms and PC, so no out-of-print games this time.

Without any further ado, let’s jump into the list, which is in no particular order.

Number 1: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch, 2017)

Nintendo’s most recent karting game is a ton of fun. It’s the kind of arcade racer that has a very low bar for entry – anyone can pick up and play this fun title. But mastering Mario Kart 8 – especially if you choose to head online – is no small task, and there’s a surprising amount of skill involved to be truly competitive with the best players! I’ve adored the Mario Kart series since its inception on the SNES, and this version is the definitive Mario Kart experience… at least until they make Mario Kart 9!

Number 2: Fall Guys (PC and PlayStation 4, 2020, coming to Xbox and Nintendo Switch this summer)

Among Us gained a lot of attention not long after Fall Guys was released last summer and stole at least some of the cute game’s attention! The fact that Fall Guys isn’t on mobile probably counts against it as far as finding a broader audience goes, but despite what some have claimed, the game is by no means dead. Season 4 – which promises to bring a new set of futuristic rounds – is being released soon, and for less than £15 (at least on PC) I honestly can’t fault Fall Guys. It’s an adorable, wholly unique experience in which your cute little jelly bean character runs a series of obstacle courses in a video game homage to the likes of Total Wipeout. Each round lasts only a couple of minutes, and it really is way more fun than words can do justice to! I’ve recently got back into playing after taking a break, and there’s plenty of fun still to be had.

Number 3: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC and Xbox, 2002)

You can find Morrowind on PC, and despite being an older title it’s compatible with Windows 10. There has been an active modding scene for almost twenty years at this point, so even if you’ve already played the base game it may still be worth going back for more. In my subjective opinion, Morrowind is the high-water mark of the Elder Scrolls series. It certainly offers players more to do than its predecessors or sequels – more NPCs to interact with, more factions to join, more types of weapons to wield and spells to cast, and so on. Especially if you hit Morrowind with some of the visual/graphics mods that are available, it can feel almost like a new game!

Number 4: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, 2002)

Another older title that you can find on PC, as well as on iOS and Android, Vice City was one of three Grand Theft Auto titles released between 2001 and 2005. Remember when Rockstar was able to put out more than one game per decade?! If you’ve had your fill of Grand Theft Auto V by now – and it’s been out for eight years, so I wouldn’t blame you if you were ready to play something else – maybe going back to one of the older games will be a nostalgic blast. Many fans of the series consider Vice City to be the best entry, and while I don’t think I’d go quite that far, I had a ton of fun with it back on the original Xbox.

Number 5: Banished (PC, 2014)

There are some great city-builders out there, but one of my favourites from the last few years is Banished. The game was built entirely by one person, which never fails to amaze me! It would still be a fantastic title if it had been made by a full studio, but the fact that the game and all its complex systems were programmed by a single developer is an astonishing achievement. Banished isn’t easy, even on lower difficulty settings, and it will take a little time to get into the swing of how to plan your town and manage your resources. But if you’re up for a challenge it’s a wonderful way to lose track of time!

Number 6: Skully (PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One, 2020)

Skully is a game that I’ve been meaning to write a proper review of since I picked it up last year, but it keeps slipping down my writing pile. From the moment I saw the trailer and heard the game’s premise – a 3D platformer in which you play as a disembodied skull – I was in love, and the game did not disappoint! The environments are beautiful and the game is plenty of fun. It manages to feel at points like an old-school 3D platformer of the Nintendo 64 era, and at others like a wholly modern experience. It’s also an indie title, and it’s great to be able to support indie developers wherever we can!

Number 7: Jade Empire (PC and Xbox, 2005)

If the demise of Anthem has got you missing the “golden age” of BioWare’s role-playing games, make sure you didn’t skip Jade Empire. The Xbox exclusive was overlooked by players in the mid-2000s, and while other BioWare games from that decade, like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age Origins are all held in high esteem, the Chinese-inspired Jade Empire is all but forgotten. When Steam has it on sale you can pick up Jade Empire for less than the price of a coffee, and for that you’ll get what is honestly one of the best and most interesting role-playing games of all time.

Number 8: Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (PC, 1997)

Starfleet Academy is unique among Star Trek games because it features the cast of The Original Series in video clips recorded especially for the game. These aren’t scenes from films or episodes of the show; you literally will not see them anywhere else. Starfleet Academy is a starship simulator, and while its visuals obviously don’t look as good in 2021 when compared to other titles, the overall experience is fantastic. You won’t find another game quite like it – especially because ViacomCBS has all but given up on making Star Trek games since the release of Star Trek Online!

Number 9: Forza Horizon 4 (PC and Xbox One, 2018)

I signed up for Game Pass in order to be able to play racing game Forza Horizon 4 – and it was totally worth it! The Forza Horizon series attempts to find a middle ground between true racing sims and arcade-style titles, and generally manages to do so quite well. Forza Horizon 4 has a map which represents parts of Great Britain, and that’s something unusual! I didn’t see my house, but it’s always nice when a game uses a familiar setting. There are plenty of fun cars to race in, and different kinds of races too, including going off-road.

Number 10: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Multiplatform, 2013)

Is it just me, or has every subsequent game in the Assassin’s Creed series struggled to hit the highs of Black Flag? Origins and Odyssey were decent, but even in 2021, I think that Black Flag is the definitive title in the franchise! There’s something about its pirate setting and the wonderful crop of NPCs that make Black Flag a truly enjoyable experience from start to finish. For a game that’s approaching its eighth birthday it still looks fantastic, too!

Number 11: The Last Of Us (PlayStation 3, 2013)

Despite its severely disappointing sequel, The Last Of Us is fantastic. If you’re looking for a game with amazing characters and a deep, engaging story, it simply can’t be bettered. I put The Last Of Us on my list of games of the decade as the 2010s drew to a close, and for good reason. Joel and Ellie’s trek across a hauntingly beautiful post-apocalyptic United States was absolutely one of the gaming highlights of the last few years. The characters are so well-crafted that they feel real, and every twist and turn in the intense storyline carries emotional weight. The game is being adapted for television, and I’m interested – cautiously so in the wake of The Last Of Us Part II – to see what will happen when it makes the leap to the small screen.

Number 12: Age of Empires: Definitive Edition (PC, 2018)

Though I know Age of Empires II is the title most folks prefer, I’ve always appreciated what the original Age of Empires did for the real-time strategy genre. If you’ve been enjoying the recent remake of the second game, it could be a great time to give the original a try as well. Age of Empires didn’t invent real-time strategy, but it was one of the first such titles I played after its 1998 release – and I sunk hours and hours into it in the late ’90s! There’s something about building up an army of Bronze Age warriors to smash an opponent’s town that’s just… satisfying!

Number 13: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2019)

I played through Jedi: Fallen Order last summer and documented my time with the game here on the website. Suffice to say I had a blast; the linear, story-focused title is exactly what the Star Wars franchise needed after the Battlefront II debacle! Having just seen the dire Rise of Skywalker I was also longing for a Star Wars story that I could actually enjoy for a change, and Jedi: Fallen Order did not let me down! I had a great time swinging my lightsaber across a galaxy far, far away… and I think you will too.

Number 14: No Man’s Sky (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2016)

No Man’s Sky was incredibly controversial at launch. The pre-release hype bubble got wildly out of control, egged on by a marketing push that oversold the game. Remind you of any recent titles? But despite the backlash in 2016, Hello Games has since put in a lot of hard graft, and five years on No Man’s Sky genuinely lives up to its potential. Had it been released in this state I think it would have been hailed as one of the best games of the decade – if not of all time. I understand not wanting to reward a game that was dishonestly sold, and that the “release now, fix later” business model is not one we should support. But there’s no denying that No Man’s Sky is a great game in 2021, and if you haven’t picked it up since its 2016 launch, it could be worth a second look.

Number 15: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2020)

A full remake of the definitive skateboarding game is hard to pass up! In the Dreamcast era, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater launched an entire genre of skating games, and its amazing soundtrack is a nostalgic hit of late ’90s/early ’00s punk rock. The remade version, which you can pick up on Switch and the two new consoles later this year, is great fun, and has managed to do something rare for a remake: genuinely recapture the look and feel of the original title. Obviously the visuals are brought up-to-date, but the feel of the game and the way tricks are performed are fantastic. I was able to slip right back into playing as if I’d never put the Dreamcast controller down!

So that’s it. Fifteen games that I think are worth your time this Spring.

There are plenty of fun titles on the horizon, but some of the ones I was most looking forward to – like Kena: Bridge of Spirits and Hogwarts Legacy – have recently been delayed, prompting me to look at my library and put together this list.

I hope this has inspired you to find something to play over the next few weeks! If not, stay tuned because there will be plenty more gaming-related articles here on the website. Happy gaming!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promo artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct – reaction

Nintendo struck gold with their Nintendo Direct broadcasts a few years ago, advertising their upcoming games straight to their biggest fans. Nintendo Direct broadcasts have become one of the premiere events in games marketing, and the format has been emulated by a number of other companies – especially with the pandemic forcing the cancellation of big events like E3.

Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct was the first major broadcast that the company has done in some time, though. Over the last year or so, Nintendo Directs have focused either on third-party titles being ported to the Switch or on single games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This one promised to be different, showing off Nintendo’s plans for the first half of 2021.

The pre-Direct spiel sounded interesting.

2021 is an interesting year for Nintendo. The company has often used the anniversaries of major releases as the springboard for themed events, and this year marks a number of such anniversaries. The Legend of Zelda was released in 1986, making this year the series’ 35th anniversary. Additionally, it marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Nintendo 64 – along with the 25th anniversaries of such classics as Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Wave Race 64, and even Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. As you may recall, I’ve never been all that interested in the Zelda series, but I was very curious to see if there would be any mention of the Nintendo 64’s anniversary.

2021 is also the 20th anniversary of the launch of the GameCube – and with it such titles as Luigi’s Mansion and Super Smash Bros. Melee. The Wii launched in 2006, making this year the console’s 15th anniversary… so you get the picture. There are potentially a lot of anniversary-themed events coming from Nintendo!

It’s Mario Kart 64′s 25th anniversary later this year.

My most recent experience with a Nintendo game was underwhelming. Super Mario 3D All-Stars was fine… but not great. Nintendo’s approach to only release the game for a limited time meant that I rushed to pre-order it, but on reflection I wish I hadn’t. The version of Super Mario 64 contained in that package is actually worse in some ways than either the original or emulated versions – it has a weird aspect ratio meaning that, whether you play in handheld mode or docked, you’re stuck with thick black bars on all four sides of the screen. It’s really offputting.

But we’ve drifted off-topic! I went into yesterday’s Nintendo Direct with cautious interest but no plans to rush into a purchase or pre-order. However, with Nintendo’s predilection for anniversaries and the rumours of news about Mario and/or Zelda, plus the fifty-minute advertised runtime, I was expecting at least something of note.

Senior Nintendo manager Shinya Takahashi presented yesterday’s Nintendo Direct.

There were a few points of interest, but nothing that blew me away. This kind of “event” broadcast can be a double-edged sword for Nintendo, because on the one hand there was a lot of hype and interest over the last couple of days – but that hype can come crashing down if expectations are not met. And while I would say that, from my point of view, what was shown off was perfectly fine, there was nothing spectacular or that felt like an immediate must-buy. Fans expecting to hear about Breath of the Wild 2 or a big Zelda or Mario event will have certainly come away disappointed.

So let’s get into the announcements that were of interest to me. First, Fall Guys is finally making its way to the Switch! I suggested way back in August when I first played the game that it would be an absolutely perfect fit for the Switch, and I’m so glad to see developers Mediatonic agreed. The Switch has an install base of some 60+ million players, many of whom are interested in this kind of fun, pick-up-and-play title. I’ve recently got back into playing Fall Guys just in the last couple of weeks, and I’m seriously considering getting the Switch version too. The only downside is that Fall Guys will require Nintendo’s paid Switch Online service.

Fall Guys is coming to the Switch.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is getting a number of Super Mario-themed items. This is something that fans of the game had been expecting; a Mario crossover had been teased as early as last year. But from what we saw in the broadcast the items look like fun, and they’re all very much on theme! Earlier Animal Crossing titles had Nintendo- and Mario-themed items included, so this is one more missing feature that has been re-added rather than something altogether new – but that’s been a pattern with New Horizons since it was launched. My first impression was that the items look very similar to those in Super Mario 3D World – the remaster of which has just been released for Switch. Perhaps that is not a coincidence!

I’ve never tried the Splatoon games, though they’ve always looked like fun. Nintendo opted to use Splatoon 3 as the broadcast’s big finale – I’m not sure how well that worked given that the game isn’t coming until 2022, and that it’s very much a second-tier series in the Nintendo library. But it looks like more of the same – another fun game in what is held up as a fun series.

Splatoon 3 was announced… but it isn’t going to be released for a while yet.

Speaking of 2022, there were several titles discussed or shown off that were coming either much later this year or not till next year. Ordinarily I wouldn’t remark on something like that, but the pre-broadcast statement (which you can see above) said explicitly that what would be shown off were games coming in “the first half of 2021.” Why set that expectation only to break it? If they had said “coming soon,” or something like that, there’d be no reason to comment. It just struck me as a little odd.

A notable port was that of battle royale first-person shooter Apex Legends. I’m not convinced Apex Legends will find a huge Switch audience, but if it allows players to sign in using their existing account then perhaps being able to play on the go will prove popular – as it has with other titles already. Hades, one of the best indie titles of last year, was already available digitally on the Switch but is now getting a physical release too. Hades was already a great fit for the Switch, and Nintendo’s console with its cartridge system is the one remaining place in gaming where physical copies of games are still widely popular!

Indie game Hades is getting a physical release.

Mario Golf: Super Rush is the latest in a long line of Mario sports titles, and looks like fun. Its Wii-like motion controls (using the Joy-con controllers) will surely win it some praise, and these arcade-style sports games are usually well-received, especially on Nintendo hardware. That was the only new Mario title announced. As for the Zelda series, after the director sought to reassure fans that Breath of the Wild 2 is coming along nicely, the Zelda series was treated to a remaster of Skyward Sword – which originally released in 2011. Not sure how well its mapping of the Wii’s motion controls to the Switch’s thumbsticks will work – but the option to retain the motion controls using the Joy-con controllers will still be present.

There was a strange re-release announced of 2005 Xbox/PlayStation 2 game Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse. I vaguely remember that game from the Xbox era – it has a fun premise but, if I recall correctly, was little more than average. So I was surprised to learn it’s being re-released not only for the Switch but also for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One!

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword can be played using motion controls.

And that’s it really. There were some updates and new characters for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Hyrule Warriors, as well as updates announced for a couple of other titles. Nothing in yesterday’s Nintendo Direct was bad, but nothing really leapt out at me as being fantastic or a wonderful surprise. It was just… okay.

Therein lies the danger with hyping up an event like this. Nintendo hadn’t done a proper Direct broadcast in a while, so expectations were high for what may be announced. The pandemic has certainly slowed work in Japan – just as it has everywhere else – so it’s no criticism that they haven’t got more to say. That’s something I feel most people will understand. But given that there really wasn’t that much to say – and that some of what was shown off isn’t coming any time soon – perhaps there was a better way to do it than by hyping up a big broadcast like this one. I have no doubt that some Nintendo fans – especially those invested in Zelda and expecting something big – came away at least a little disappointed.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective developer, publisher, and/or studio. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.


You can watch the full Nintendo Direct broadcast below:

Ten more games I’d remaster (if I could)

A little while ago I looked at ten games from years past that I wish would be remastered and brought up-to-date. That list was fun to put together, but I ended up leaving off a number of titles that I had considered including. This new list will make up for that!

The same methodology applies as last time: more recent titles – which I’m defining as anything from this console generation or the one preceding it – are excluded by default. And the rest are games that I’ve personally played… albeit I haven’t touched most of them in years or even decades. Remember that this isn’t me saying that these games will be remastered. I’m just saying that, if I had unlimited resources, I’d like nothing more than to bring them up to date and give a new generation of players a chance to experience them.

Number 1: Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992) and/or Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64, 1997)

I’d love to replay the classic tracks of the first two Mario Kart titles using the more modern engine used for Mario Kart 8. A few of the tracks from these two titles have reappeared in recent Mario Kart titles, but not all of them and the two games have never been remastered in their entirety complete with all of the tracks and the same roster of characters.

Super Mario Kart was one of the first games I bought for myself in the early ’90s; I think I’d played a demo of it in a shop and desperately wanted my own copy! Mario Kart 64 is probably my personal favourite entry in the series; it had such an amazing set of tracks. If you want to see some of the best racetracks from these titles and others that I think would be great for the next Mario Kart title, I have an article all about that. With 2022 being the 30th anniversary of the series – and with Nintendo’s love of anniversaries – they could certainly take that opportunity to bring one or both of these titles fully up-to-date!

Number 2: Space Harrier (Arcade, 1985)

On my first list I didn’t include any pre-1990 titles. Partly that’s because I haven’t played all that many games from that era, but partly because a lot of older games were rather basic. Space Harrier is undeniably in that category; it’s an on-rails shooter without any real story, the only objective is to shoot at aliens and creatures. But there aren’t many games like that in 2020, and perhaps with a major visual overhaul it could offer something different to players. The other option would be to take its main character, settings, and alien races and expand on them – turning Space Harrier from a run-and-gun shooter into something more like a story-driven action/adventure title in a unique sci-fi setting.

I never had the chance to play Space Harrier in a real arcade. The closest I got to that experience was playing it in Shenmue – that’s where I first encountered the title. But nostalgia is a big deal these days, and perhaps some people would be tempted to see a reworked version of this classic.

Number 3: Spirit of Speed 1937 (Dreamcast and PC, 1999)

Racing games are a lot of fun, and some modern titles do make an attempt to include older vehicles – classic cars from the golden age of motor racing. I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s been another game like Spirit of Speed 1937, though, which was set in that era and exclusively featured pre-war vehicles.

I played the Dreamcast version of this game, and it was a lot of fun. It was also something wholly unique among racing games that were either fun but un-serious kart racers in the vein of the Mario Kart series, or modern-day racers and rally games featuring up-to-date cars. I believe that niche still exists today, and it would be a lot of fun to have a classic racer like this to fill it!

Number 4: Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force

I’ve had an article in the pipeline for a while that I haven’t knocked into shape yet looking at the state of Star Trek video games. To make a long story short, while a number of them have been pretty good, practically none reached out beyond Star Trek’s preexisting fandom. Elite Force was different, and some fans of first-person shooters who didn’t give a hoot about Star Trek played and enjoyed the game when it released in 2000. Its multiplayer mode in particular was something gamers at the time appreciated.

Elite Force had a great single-player campaign too, which included down time in between missions where the player character – Ensign Munro – was able to explore parts of the ship. The story was perfectly Star Trek in its theme, and Voyager would even go on to use a vaguely similar premise for an episode called The Void which aired about six months after the game was released.

Number 5: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (Xbox and PC, 2002)

It would have been hard to imagine in the 2000s, but there hasn’t been a game released in the Elder Scrolls series for almost a decade. Though Bethesda have promised us that The Elder Scrolls VI is in development, it seems years away. The company has remastered Skyrim several times and ported it to every platform under the sun, and while we continue to wait for The Elder Scrolls VI, why not bring Morrowind up to date?

Morrowind is undoubtedly my favourite game in the series. It massively expanded on previous entries, with a huge variety of quests and styles of play. It was possible to be a wizard, sneaky assassin, warrior, and all manner of other things. Beginning with its sequel, Oblivion, Bethesda actually began cutting content, and the most recent Elder Scrolls titles have far fewer NPCs, weapon types, factions, and so on. While we can argue about which game is “better” and get nowhere – such things are subjective, after all – for my money Morrowind offers players the biggest choice of things to do. It’s been eighteen years since I first played it, and I still haven’t completed every quest!

Number 6: Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64, 1996)

I kept this title off my first list because there had been rumours floating around of a remaster being worked on. Sadly, as I noted when I looked at Nintendo’s lineup for Mario’s 35th anniversary, Super Mario 64 was only included in its original form as part of a bundle. But replaying this amazing game in the Super Mario Odyssey engine is something I really want to experience, and with the game’s 25th anniversary coming up next year, perhaps Nintendo will finally bring Super Mario 64 up-to-date.

I first played Super Mario 64 when it was released; it was the first Nintendo 64 game that I owned. I’m not sure if it was the first ever true 3D game I played, but it was certainly one of the earliest titles I got to enjoy that wasn’t 2D. It has a special place in my heart as “my” Mario game – I played the SNES versions of classic Mario titles, but even at the time they were “old” games, and Super Mario 64 was the first that I got to play when it was new.

Number 7: Medieval: Total War (PC, 2002)

Medieval: Total War is almost certainly my most-played game of the early 2000s. It followed on from the also brilliant Shogun: Total War, but took the setting from feudal Japan to the more-familiar western Europe. It was a game that was very easy to mod – I remember opening up the game’s files in Notepad and editing things like the year the game began, which factions controlled which province, and even the names of provinces! I loved the dual gameplay, which was unique among strategy games at the time – both a grand strategy game that required detailed faction management and real-time battles were present in the same title.

The Total War series is still going strong in 2020, and recent titles like Total War: Warhammer and Total War: Three Kingdoms are carrying the flag for the franchise on a massively improved engine. Medieval II: Total War did bring the series back to this setting in 2006, but even that game is rather outdated compared to the latest entries, and it would be amazing to see a remake of Medieval: Total War using the technology at the franchise’s disposal today.

Number 8: TimeSplitters 2 (GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, 2002)

Out of all the games I’ve ever played, TimeSplitters 2 may have the best ever multiplayer mode! It was certainly something that was a huge amount of fun to play on the original Xbox, with its goofy time-travel narrative taking players from Prohibition-era Chicago to futuristic Toyko and beyond. The TimeSplitters games were never going to be on par with other first-person shooter titles like Halo or the Call of Duty series, but the series had heart and did what it did incredibly well.

The recent remake of Destroy All Humans shows that there is a market for early/mid 2000s games with a sense of humour to be remastered, and I’d absolutely love to welcome back TimeSplitters 2 after all this time.

Number 9: The Simpsons: Hit and Run (Multiplatform, 2003)

Talk to anyone who was a gamer in the mid-2000s and I bet they’ll remember The Simpons: Hit and Run with a sense of nostalgia! I didn’t actually own this game for myself at the time (being a broke student) but a friend did and we played it regularly when I was at university. The game is basically a Simpsons-themed Grand Theft Auto-clone, playing on the popularity of that sub-genre in the wake of Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City, and while fans of Grand Theft Auto will find the more extreme violence of that series decidedly toned-down and cartoonish, it’s a solid game nevertheless.

Recent games have steered away from tie-ins with films and television shows, and the days of a big-budget game based on a popular series are all but gone. There was a time when many popular titles got video game adaptations, and while as a whole tie-in games picked up a (not undeserved) reputation for being pretty poor, there are some real gems too. The Simpsons: Hit and Run is absolutely one of them!

Number 10: Operation WinBack (Nintendo 64, 1999)

Despite languishing in relative obscurity in 2020, Operation WinBack – known as WinBack: Covert Operations in the United States – is an incredibly influential title. Doom was the father of the first-person shooter, and similarly Operation WinBack is the instigator of the cover-based third-person shooter genre. Titles like Gears of War and Mass Effect would not exist without Operation WinBack, and while its cover system – which was so unique at the time it debuted – is now a standard feature, there are still plenty of reasons to bring back this fun spy adventure.

Operation WinBack had a good story, one that would be at home in films like the Mission: Impossible or James Bond series. 2016’s Doom has proved that there’s an appetite among gamers for going back to the roots of established genres, so it could be time to return to the world of Operation WinBack.

So that’s it. Ten more titles that are – in my opinion – worthy of a remaster in 2020. Will any of them ever get one? Let’s just say if I were a gambler I wouldn’t put any money on it! Well… maybe one or two? Some of the biggest companies in the games industry have recently put lots of money into remakes and remasters, and some games that I’d never have expected – like Destroy All Humans and Command and Conquer – have been brought up-to-date. So there’s a chance. There’s always a chance!

Though several of these games are undoubtedly out of print, each one is worth playing in its original form if you’re able to track down a copy, and even though it’s been years or decades since I got to play some of them, I recommend every title on this list!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective developers, studios, and/or publishers. Some screenshots courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Some interesting Mario projects for the franchise’s 35th anniversary

The Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary Nintendo Direct.

I don’t usually watch Nintendo Direct presentations, at least not unless I’m eagerly anticipating a title. I only own a handful of Switch games, as they often remain expensive even years after release. When I have a stack of unplayed PC games, spending £50 on a Switch game feels wasteful! This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Mario franchise, as Super Mario Bros. debuted in 1985. Though a 35th anniversary is hardly one of the “big ones”, rumours had been swirling for months that Nintendo would take the opportunity to do something significant in celebration of their most famous character and mascot.

Super Mario All-Stars, which features the original Super Mario Bros. as well as its first three sequels, was one of the first games I owned when I had a SNES in the early 1990s. I enjoyed playing through those games, and while the Mario series has never been my biggest fandom, it’s one that’s usually offered fun and well-made titles. Though I skipped the Mario Galaxy games, I’ve played many of the other mainline entries, including the recent Super Mario Odyssey.

Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985 – 35 years ago.

The main reason why I tuned in, though, was because there had been rumours of a remastered Super Mario 64 – perhaps my favourite entry in the series. I was at least a little disappointed that it hasn’t received an upgrade, as seeing that game with the visual style of Odyssey would have been spectacular in my opinion! But Mario 64 is coming back in its original form, bundled with Mario Sunshine and the first Mario Galaxy game as part of a collection called Super Mario 3D All-Stars.

The collection looks like a lot of fun, and being able to replay Mario 64 will be great. I’ve also only played Mario Sunshine once, in like 2002, so it’ll be fantastic to have a proper look at that game for the first time in a long time too. And as someone who’s never played Galaxy, perhaps now’s the time to give that one a try! But Super Mario 3D All-Stars comes with a stupid and artificial limitation – in true Nintendo style. I criticised Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the arbitrary decision to prohibit players having more than one save file per console, despite there being no reason for such a limitation. And Super Mario 3D All-Stars deserves all the criticism it gets for its forced scarcity business model.

Super Mario 64 might be my favourite Mario title.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars will only be available for six months. At the end of March next year it will be removed from sale – both physically and digitally. I’ve never heard of such nonsense as a digital download game being removed from sale. It’s arbitrary and it’s clearly designed to drum up as much support as possible by playing on gamers’ fears of missing out. Many people, myself included, choose not to buy games at launch because they’re often discounted (or available pre-owned) a few weeks or months later. Super Mario 3D All-Stars, thanks to its unnecessary removal from sale, won’t be in that position, and thus the only way for players to get a copy is to snap it up as quickly as possible. This is a scummy tactic from Nintendo – a company that, despite its family-friendly façade, is no stranger to them. Resellers will be loving this – copies of Super Mario 3D All-Stars will go for big money in six months’ time, and even Switch consoles with the game pre-installed will sell for a packet. Just look at how scalpers have been making money selling iPhones with Fortnite installed since the Epic Games/Apple fight. Something similar will happen in this case too.

It’s one of those difficult situations. I want to like this game, and I’m interested in playing it, but at the same time I don’t want to endorse or support a company that uses such an unfair and anti-consumer business model. Though I felt the same way with Animal Crossing: New Horizons I did ultimately buy the game… and I guess I will be one of the suckers who buys this one too. But I want to register my protest at its business model – which is so incredibly stupid. Nintendo won’t even see most of the benefit, as resellers and scalpers will take the profits. It’ll just screw over ordinary gamers.

It’ll be great to replay Super Mario Sunshine.

As it costs £100, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a bit beyond my budget! But the concept is fun, and I can see this becoming a must-have Christmas toy this year. Augmented reality is a neat idea, but the applications I’ve seen of it have always felt like little more than gimmicks. And usually the nature of augmented reality either necessitates every participant using a single platform or makes the experiences one-person things. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is basically just a remote control car with a camera strapped to it and a few gateways to drive through, but the Mario Kart branding, and being able to race around courses in the real world, hold some appeal.

The only drawback I can see is that it’s very much a one-trick pony. And considering most people don’t have huge homes, there will be limited options for setting up a racetrack. Once those options have been expended, the toy will perhaps be cast aside in favour of others, and while that is the nature of toys, £100 for something that looks like a day’s worth of interest at best from the average child means it feels like poor value. Some of Nintendo’s gimmicks are just there for the sake of it, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the single-use nature of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit feels like it would be offputting except for Mario fanatics and wealthy parents.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit looks gimmicky, but fun.

It’s encouraging to see Nintendo making use of the Mario Kart brand, though. I’m still hopeful we’ll see Mario Kart 9 on the Switch before too long; I even made a list of tracks that could be included a little while ago. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit shows that Nintendo is still making use of the brand, and that raises expectations – at least a little – of a new game perhaps being in development. The original Super Mario Kart was released in 1992; with Nintendo making a big fuss about anniversaries, 2022 will be that series’ 30th so perhaps that could be a good time for a new iteration? I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

The other big announcement was a port of the Wii U game Super Mario 3D World, which will bring with it what looks to be a new expansion pack titled Bowser’s Fury. I played this a few years ago, when I was one of about fourteen people who owned a Wii U, and while it was okay and I enjoyed the cat suits the characters can wear, I’m not in a mad rush to replay it so soon after its launch on that console. Nintendo have released some solid Switch titles since 2017, but they’ve also put a disproportionate amount of time into porting Wii U titles to the new system, and the result is that some franchises haven’t got the attention they deserved. Even Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a port – there are a few extra characters and the DLC included, but nothing about the game is substantially different to the Wii U version. The Bowser’s Fury expansion for Super Mario 3D World may make the game worth a second look, but we didn’t see a lot of it in the direct and while it absolutely could be great, it could also turn out to be insubstantial and a bit of a let-down.

Super Mario 3D World is getting an update and a re-release.

The final game worth mentioning is a very strange one – Super Mario Bros. 35 is a multiplayer competitive version of the classic game, played with 35 players in homage to the title’s 35th anniversary. Defeating an enemy will send it into another player’s game, and it looks like whoever racks up the most points per level wins. Or something. I’m struggling to see how this will be all that fun – Super Mario Bros. simply isn’t designed for something like this, and if the game sticks with the original level design I think players could be overwhelmed with enemies. I know multiplayer isn’t usually my thing to begin with, but even with that caveat this doesn’t seem like a game that will be a lot of fun!

So my dreams of playing Super Mario 64 in the engine used for Odyssey will have to wait for another day! The 3D All-Stars collection is tugging me in both directions right now: it looks like fun, but I’m upset at its crappy anti-consumer sales tactic. Otherwise, despite the pandemic, Nintendo has managed to pull out several fun surprises to celebrate Mario’s 35th anniversary. Not all of them will be to everyone’s taste, but even a casual Mario player should be able to find at least one title that they’re interested in.

The Super Mario franchise, including all titles listed above, is the copyright of Nintendo. Some screenshots courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Some great Mario Kart racetracks (that would be perfect for Mario Kart 9)

I was very fortunate in mid-2013 to attend a press event for the Wii U game Mario Kart 8. Well before the full game would launch in 2014 I got a brief opportunity to get my hands on the latest edition of Nintendo’s genre-defining kart racer, which scored me pretty significant bragging rights at the company I was working with at the time! The game blew me away with its improved visuals while retaining the exact same feel of playing a Mario Kart game that had been present in every iteration since Super Mario Kart on the SNES. Super Mario Kart, by the way, is one of two racing games I owned back in the SNES days – the other being Nigel Mansell’s World Championship Racing. I wonder if anyone besides me (and presumably Nigel Mansell) remembers that one!

So I’ve been a Mario Kart fan since the series debuted, and in that time I think I’ve played every iteration of the series. I didn’t own a GameCube in the early 2000s, but I played Mario Kart: Double Dash with friends when I was at university. I think that’s the only title in the series that I didn’t own at one point.

Box art for Mario Kart Wii.

Nintendo usually releases one Mario Kart game per console, and with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch at the moment – where it’s been one of the console’s best-sellers since it launched – perhaps there won’t be a Mario Kart 9 any time soon. But Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is really just a port of the Wii U game; it isn’t a title unique to the Switch. That provides us a tentative glimmer of hope that Mario Kart 9 may still be coming sometime soon!

Recent Mario Kart games have recreated tracks from older entries, changing and upscaling them to fit the new game’s theme. With that in mind, here are some of my favourite racetracks from past games that would be amazing to see return whenever Mario Kart 9 comes around.

Number 1: Kalimari Desert (Mario Kart 64)

Mario Kart 64 might just be my favourite game in the series. It had an amazing set of tracks, including the definitive version of Rainbow Road. But we’ll come to that in a moment! Kalimari Desert is a western-themed track, and while its skewed oval shape is pretty basic, it features a train constantly going around on its own railroad – which can be used as a shortcut if you’re willing to take a chance!

I like the aesthetic of the American west. The desert, the mesas, the cacti; it’s all here in Kalimari Desert. The track has been recreated twice already: in Mario Kart 7 on the Nintendo 3DS, and again in Mario Kart Tour.

Number 2: Vanilla Lake 2 (Super Mario Kart)

The Mario Kart series has some great snow or ice themed tracks. The first tracks to have this kind of wintry theme were the two Vanilla Lake tracks in Super Mario Kart. Vanilla Lake 2 isn’t an easy track in its original incarnation, with lots of obstacles and no clear racing line. It’s easy to fall into the large central lake with its jagged and uneven edge, and because of its basic square shape, Vanilla Lake 2 can be deceptively simple to new players.

The track was recreated once, but hasn’t been used since Mario Kart: Super Circuit on the Game Boy Advance.

Number 3: Wuhu Island Loop/Wuhu Loop (Mario Kart 7)

Beginning in Mario Kart 7, a handful of tracks were longer than others, and instead of racing three laps, players race from a start line to a finish line. For the purposes of the game, tracks like Wuhu Island Loop are still split into three sections – the sections replacing laps. Mario Kart 7 is a game I had a ton of fun with, and Wuhu Island Loop is one of its better offerings.

When I worked in a large office in the early 2010s, several colleagues and I would sometimes get together and use the 3DS’ wireless networking function to play Mario Kart 7 during breaks and downtime. It really was a blast!

Number 4: DK’s Snowboard Cross/DK Summit (Mario Kart Wii)

Another snow-themed track here, but this one is based on a winter sports resort. Toward the end of the track is a really fun section based on a snowboard half-pipe, complete with snowboarding characters and patches of deep snow to avoid! It’s brilliantly done, and while it isn’t the easiest track it’s a ton of fun.

DK’s Snowboard Cross (a.k.a. DK Summit in North America; Nintendo seem to love arbitrarily changing names!) has only been seen in Mario Kart Wii, which I think makes it overdue for a return!

Number 5: Rainbow Road (Mario Kart 64)

As I mentioned above, Mario Kart 64 truly has the definitive version of Rainbow Road. Everything about the track is perfect: its complicated layout, the clever placement of obstacles, and the starry, atmospheric background featuring characters from the Mario series lit up as neon signs. The music that accompanies the track is phenomenal too, making the whole experience strangely nostalgic.

Rainbow Road has been recently recreated for Mario Kart 8, but for some reason Nintendo cut it short and players only get to enjoy one lap instead of three. The original Nintendo 64 version remains the best, and I’d love to see it return in its true form!

Number 6: Animal Crossing (Mario Kart 8 DLC/Mario Kart 8 Deluxe)

With Animal Crossing: New Horizons performing so well and becoming one of the Switch’s top-selling titles, I have no doubt that Nintendo will reference it in some way if there is to be a Mario Kart 9 this generation. However, the Animal Crossing track featured on Mario Kart 8 (originally as DLC on the Wii U) was based on Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It’s a very sweet track that really captures the essence of the sleepy Animal Crossing village perfectly.

Like the Animal Crossing village it’s based on, the track has four seasonal variations and looks different in each. It’s random which one will be chosen every time a player selects the course, which adds another small element of fun!

Number 7: Mushroom Bridge (Mario Kart: Double Dash)

Having not been a GameCube owner (I had an Xbox instead in those days) I’m less familiar with Mario Kart: Double Dash than other entries in the series. However, one track I loved to play with friends was Mushroom Bridge. Toad’s Turnpike on the Nintendo 64 introduced traffic as moving obstacles to race around, and Mushroom Bridge is in a similar vein.

Because the other vehicles on the track are moving, it can be difficult to predict where they’re going, adding an element of complexity to the race. And it’s great fun to sabotage an opponent, sending them careening into traffic!

Number 8: Toad Harbour (Mario Kart 8)

At the press event I mentioned at the beginning of the article, Toad Harbour was the track I got to play for myself. I believe there was one other track available, as well as one battle course – but I can’t remember what those were! Toad Harbour was a great choice to show off the Wii U’s greatly-improved graphics – the course is bright and sunlit, and there’s plenty of detail in its San Francisco-esque scenery.

If Mario Kart 9 opts to drop the anti-gravity racing that premiered in Mario Kart 8, Toad Harbour could be a great choice to adapt as its one anti-gravity section is optional.

Number 9: Bowser Castle 3 (Super Mario Kart)

Super Mario Kart had some very fun and interesting tracks, despite the limitations of the SNES. Bowser Castle 3 (which I always thought was called Bowser‘s Castle 3, with an -s) snakes around like a normal racetrack for the most part, but then there comes a point with the track splitting in two. The jumps lead to a number of smaller islands in the lava, and there are several possible routes across, adding an extra element to what was already a fun track.

The music for Super Mario Kart’s Bowser Castle tracks was also great! The track hasn’t been seen since Mario Kart: Super Circuit, so it’s a great candidate to bring back.

Number 10: Lakeside Park (Mario Kart: Super Circuit)

Lakeside Park is a pretty clever track. The first lap is normal, set in a jungle beside a lake. The intimidating-looking volcanoes seem like just a part of the background… until lap 2, when the sky goes dark and the volcanoes erupt! Chunks of lava then rain down the track, peppering it with additional obstacles.

Considering this was a Game Boy Advance title, there are some pretty clever things going on in Lakeside Park. The track would make a wonderful addition to Mario Kart 9.

Number 11: Peach Beach (Mario Kart: Double Dash)

When my friends and I used to play Peach Beach, we rather immaturely called it the “cock-and-balls” track… because c’mon, what else could that giant rock formation possibly look like? It’s even vaguely flesh-coloured. I’ve known many animators and developers having once worked in the games industry, and I guarantee that was done on purpose.

But we’re off-topic! Peach Beach is a fun track with some interesting obstacles and different terrains to get stuck into, and although it reappeared on the Wii I’d love to see it back again.

Number 12: Shroom Ridge (Mario Kart DS)

Another track featuring traffic, similar to Mushroom Bridge above, Shroom Ridge was one of my favourites from Mario Kart DS. Weaving in and out of oncoming traffic is difficult to master, so I think this track would be perfect for a more challenging grand prix.

It’s also one of the few Mario Kart DS tracks that hasn’t been seen since that game debuted in 2005, making it due for a comeback!

Number 13: Maple Treeway (Mario Kart Wii)

Maple Treeway is a beautifully atmospheric track with an autumnal setting. It has a fantastic musical accompaniment too, and a couple of more challenging parts. There’s nothing too tricky, however, and I just adore the setting, the music, and the whole layout of the track. It’s easily one of my favourites from Mario Kart Wii.

Mario Kart 7 brought back Maple Treeway on the 3DS, but I’d still like to see it return one more time – upscaled in full HD!

Number 14: DK’s Jungle Parkway (Mario Kart 64)

DK’s Jungle Parkway was a clever track when it debuted on the Nintendo 64 – straying off its fairly narrow track onto the grass verge would result in being hit with objects from the jungle background, further slowing you down! This feature meant it was a challenge to avoid oversteering and understeering to stay on the track – and meant it could be a lot of fun to push an opponent off!

DK’s Jungle Parkway reappeared on the Wii, but that version made a couple of changes (the objects no longer hit you when not on the track, and the big jump across the river forces you to go straight instead of taking a chance and cutting the corner) which I feel took away its uniqueness. I’d love to see it back with those features included!

Number 15: Daisy Circuit (Mario Kart Wii)

A nice, straightforward track that takes players through a town at sunrise (or sunset), Daisy Circuit is a sweet little track set to another great piece of music. There are no major obstacles to speak of, though there are two sections in the middle where a fountain and statue must be circumnavigated. It’s a nice, easy track that someone brand-new to Mario Kart could pick up and have fun with.

Daisy Circuit hasn’t been reused since it was first seen in Mario Kart Wii, which is a great reason to bring it back for Mario Kart 9!

Number 16: Shy Guy Bazaar (Mario Kart 7)

The Mario Kart series has a few recurring settings for its tracks, so it’s great when we get something genuinely different. Shy Guy Bazaar has a definite Arabian theme – almost like something from Aladdin – which is a great spin on the typical desert-themed tracks of other Mario Kart titles.

There are some unique obstacles, and the track has some narrow and wide sections, allowing for varied race strategies. It was one of my favourites from Mario Kart 7 – but I always felt it was underappreciated!

Number 17: Wild Woods (Mario Kart 8 DLC/Mario Kart 8 Deluxe)

Another track that was initially available as DLC on the Wii U, Wild Woods is a ton of fun. As I mentioned above, many Mario Kart tracks follow one of a limited number of themes; Wild Woods is something altogether different with its “deep, dark woods” setting – which is reminiscent of some old levels from the Donkey Kong Country series.

Tracks from Mario Kart 8 seem like they’d be well-suited to be brought into Mario Kart 9, and I’d love to see Wild Woods back.

Number 18: Mushroom Gorge (Mario Kart Wii)

Mushroom Gorge is a gorge-ous track. See what I did there? With both an outside section and a section in a cave, there was already a lot of fun to be had, but Mushroom Gorge also introduces giant mushrooms to bounce on – getting the speed and angle right for your bounce is incredibly important, lest you fall into a bottomless pit and have to be rescued!

The track did make a reappearance on the 3DS, but its fun and unique bouncy gameplay would be great to bring back for Mario Kart 9 too.

Number 19: Choco Mountain (Mario Kart 64)

Choco Mountain in Mario Kart 64, as well as the earlier Choco Island tracks in Super Mario Kart, always seemed to be ignored by players in favour of other tracks. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fairly bland all-brown colour scheme, but that’s one possibility. It’s a shame, because Choco Mountain in particular is a clever track with some difficult sections and unpredictable obstacles.

Choco Mountain was seen in Mario Kart DS as well, but I think it’s a candidate to get an HD makeover for Mario Kart 9!

Number 20: Sunshine Airport (Mario Kart 8)

One of the tracks used to market Mario Kart 8, Sunshine Airport has a lot to offer. Mario Kart 7 had introduced gliding, allowing players to soar through the air, and Sunshine Airport takes that theme and runs with it. The airport setting has some unique obstacles, and as somewhere completely different to race around, it’s lots of fun.

I particularly like the aircraft that sometimes pass you while racing, even though I’m always worried that they’re going to crash into me!

So that’s it. A handful of Mario Kart tracks from past entries in the series that I feel would be great to see given an overhaul and an update for Mario Kart 9. This article shouldn’t be interpreted as me having any “insider information” from Nintendo that a new game is in the works! Just to be clear: I have no idea if Mario Kart 9 is in development, or if it will be released on the Switch. It’s possible that Nintendo may not release another entry in this fantastic series until they launch their next console – whenever that could be! However, I think there is reason to be hopeful of a new Mario Kart title. As I mentioned, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just a port of the Wii U game, and aside from collating the main game and its two DLC packs, doesn’t really offer anything substantially new. Secondly, Nintendo has seemed more open to changing things up this generation, particularly where sequels to its most successful titles are concerned: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is getting a direct sequel, for example.

As long as Dry Bones – the best character in the whole Mario Kart series – is playable in Mario Kart 9, I’ll be satisfied with whichever tracks Nintendo decides to bring back!

The Mario Kart series – including all games mentioned above, as well as all individual racetracks, characters, and other properties – is the copyright of Nintendo. Screenshots courtesy of the Super Mario Wiki. They are used under the principle of Fair Dealing. For further information, see my copyright policy. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.