Considering how popular kart racing games became, especially the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch, it’s interesting to see just how little they have actually changed over the years. There have been loads of different karting games throughout the past 2 decades, but they all featured very similar gameplay without really changing the formula up that much.
That formula was pretty much set in stone by Super Mario Kart for the SNES, which came out in 1992. See what I mean? It’s interesting that a gameplay style developed and released to the world 26 years ago remains largely untouched and unchanged today. So, I thought I would go back and see why that is, and whether Super Mario Kart for the SNES is still as good and enjoyable today as it was back then!
Okay, so you can’t really judge a kart racing game on its storyline, can you? Although, if you think about it, most racing games at least feature a campaign mode of sorts. There typical chronicle your adventures as you go up the ranks of the championship, from rookie to expert. Super Mario Kart does feature a championship system, but this doesn’t include a career mode or anything of the sort.
Instead, Super Mario Kart is very much an arcade racer that relies on its gameplay rather than any meaningful story… Or any story at all, for that matter. Whilst it would be nice to have some real backstory or event that brought everyone together for the kart racing (Bowser included), it isn’t actually necessary to enjoy the game. As such, I won’t actually be scoring Super Mario Kart on its storyline. That would just be entirely unfair to the game. So, let’s move on to the gameplay.
Super Mario Kart is entirely focused on gameplay. Because of this, the developers were able to put all of their time and effort into the way that the game feels and plays. You get to choose a racer from all of the current major characters at the time, before jumping into a game mode. Super Mario Kart has two game modes in total; Mario Kart GP and Time Trial. Both of these are very typical game modes for racing games in general. Time Trial is a fun way to practice the levels and improve your overall skills, but honestly, you don’t really need it.
Playing through Mario Kart GP again on the SNES Mini Classic, I was quite surprised to see how easy the game was. I went through the entire Mario Kart GP in one evening, finishing in first place each time. And I’m not talking finishing in first place by a hair… I was often lapping the other racers.
It was very fun, but it was strange since I remember finding Super Mario Kart really quite hard as a child… So that lack of challenge was a bit of a shock to the system. I was a little disappointed, but honestly, it was still so much fun to drift around the insane 90-degree corners and various obstacles. So, whilst it may not be a challenging game anymore, it is still really enjoyable to play. On top of that, there is a lot of replay value as you can replay Mario Kart GP with each of the characters.
Graphically, I am still amazed by Super Mario Kart. Now, obviously, the SNES is famous for its Mode 7 graphical setting, where the 2D plane is shifted into a pseudo-3D view. Games like Final Fantasy VI are well known for their use of Mode 7 on the World Maps. However, what amazes me about Super Mario Kart is that the entire game is built using Mode 7.
You would assume this would be incredibly taxing on the SNES console because, let’s face it, the SNES isn’t the most powerful machine around. However, Super Mario Kart doesn’t suffer any graphical glitches or gameplay issues, despite using this far more resource intensive graphical setup.
Considering the fact that Super Mario Kart came out in 1992, it still manages to create a 3D view without looking ugly or out of place, despite the fact that it still uses 16-bit pixel graphics. Interestingly, it still looks good today, without really ageing that badly. So, all in all, Super Mario Kart really does have some great graphics. The developers and visual artists did an amazing job!
And That’s All Folks
The fact that we now have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and that the series is still going strong 26 years after the release of the first game, goes to show just how popular the series has become. On top of this, the constant levels of popularity also help to explain why the gameplay hasn’t changed after all of this time. Super Mario Kart on the SNES started it all off, and to this day, it remains a great game to play.
Now that the SNES Mini Classic is available again (at the time of writing) and it comes with Super Mario Kart, you can also play it on modern TVs now as well. So there really is no excuse not to play this brilliant work of gaming art!
Have you played the original Super Mario Kart? Let me know what you think about it in the comments below!