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Super Mario Kart (SNES) artwork

Super Mario Kart (SNES) review

"I dislike racing games, most of the time. They seem to be bland and repetitive, going around a track, lap after lap until you finish, then after that it feels like ''Oh wow! That was fun!!'' (Sarcastic tone). Going around in circles repeatedly isn't really my cup of tea but after an invite to a pals house many years ago, my interest was rekindled by his SNES and his copy of Super Mario Kart. Who would have thought it? Nintendo plucked eight characters from the immensely popular Mario se..."

I dislike racing games, most of the time. They seem to be bland and repetitive, going around a track, lap after lap until you finish, then after that it feels like ''Oh wow! That was fun!!'' (Sarcastic tone). Going around in circles repeatedly isn't really my cup of tea but after an invite to a pals house many years ago, my interest was rekindled by his SNES and his copy of Super Mario Kart. Who would have thought it? Nintendo plucked eight characters from the immensely popular Mario series and dropped them in a chaotic racing game, complete with themed tracks, crazy power ups and a small amount of fun modes and games.

Eight characters are here for you to choose and at first play the majority seem to play the same but as you get stuck you will notice the differences between the characters and how they play. In truth there are four groups of characters, ranging from featherweights to heavyweights and as you play you'll notice a trend in characters and how to use them. Yoshi and Princess Peach sit at the top of the ladder followed by the Koopa and Toad. These guys seem to be perfect for beginners as they have smooth control and decent speed. Surprisingly the Mario brothers, who seem to be of equal speed and control, are next. Mario isn't really as good as what he was cracked up to be. His control is bit off, he sucks at corners and his speed is average, Luigi seems to be identical as his brother and has a lot of corner issues. At the bottom are Bowser and Donkey Kong jr. who are slow starters but can get a lot of speed in if they flow without being interrupted. These great goofs are for the pros. only and beginners will be wiped across the floor if they play these without any experience.

At first you can select from two modes, Grand Prix and Time Trial. Time trial entails you going around a certain track with your character trying to break the fastest record available. This mode is reasonably fun but gets pretty dull after the first few tries unless you really enjoy playing alone. Of course, as a single player mode it is fairly entertaining to practice in and get used to the controls but other than that it's not the most interesting thing to do. The controls themselves are easy to master, B is your acceleration, A is to use a power up that you have collected, the Y button is to brake and pressing X will allow you to see what it is behind you. The L and R buttons allow you to bounce, which help you swerve around corners without skidding.

Grand Prix comes in first place for the mode choice and is divided into four cups. Obviously the cups start off easy and progress with difficulty as you continue up. In order to win a Grand Prix you must come in first place on all four races. The mushroom cup is ideal for beginners and allows them to have a fairly easy and fun race to give them an idea of the way of play. After that however, the game gets challenging, with a lot of tricky tracks, improved intelligence in rival racers and obstacles that will throw any remnants of sanity out of the window. Moles jump in front of you randomly, you will be thrown in the air by boosters and ramps. You may even be knocked into bottomless pits, boiling lava or freezing pools of ice.

The tracks follow themes from other Mario games which work nicely in the racing environment. The mushroom kingdom levels are really smooth but are stacked with obstacles such as the famous green pipes, those mole guys from Super Mario World and oil slicks sending your racer to skid all over the place. The ghost based levels are full of collapsing edges which easily cause the racer to plummet into darkness, a grumpy Lakitu will swoop down and pick you up, throwing you back in the race, although youíll be in the thrown a few places back. Bowser castle is Cruiser Boulevard, filled with a ton of boosters and jumps, which will send you forward in maximum speed, thwomps, those rocks from Mario three will also be lurking around ready to crush you if you go underneath them at the wrong time. Other levels will be special ones like the desert stage, which is sluggish and packed with obstacles. The ice level has blocks scattered all over the place which smash is you hit them twice and will double time your corners and send you sliding all over the track.

You can assimilate a selection of power ups, which will cause havoc (hopefully) for other racers. Obviously the types of weapons are themed from Mario games, really helping the Mario theme. A collection of yellow boxes will lie on certain areas of the track, when you run over one youíll get an item selected at random. Red and green turtle shells are ideal for throwing at drivers in front of you, the green ones will fire forward and ricochet of walls, bouncing around until they collide with another driver, or you if youíre not careful. Red shells will do the same job but will aim towards the nearest driver and will break if they come in contact with a wall. You can lay banana peels on the ground or throw them in front of other driver. Feathers will make you jump higher, stars will give you limited invincibility, mushrooms will give you a brief spurt of speed and coins will protect you from bumps and collisions.

If you get lightning then every other racer will shrink, allowing you to run over them with ease, almost handing you first place on a silver platter. Certain CPU characters will have their own individual power ups which they are free to use at anytime. Mario and Luigi can go invincible at any time; Yoshi will lay eggs, which make you skid, as will Bowserís fireball. Peach and Toad will throw mushrooms at you that make you shrink, like the lightning. When you are tiny other racers will squash you if they hit you. Donkey Kong will lay bananas and Koopa will shoot shells. Knowing who uses what will let you know what to expect while playing the game.

Battle mode is a two-player game where you and a friend will go head to head in a duel. You have three bubbles rotating around your character. Basically, youíll be in a large square map with a range of power up boxes, all you have to do is to collect an offensive weapon like a shell and hit your opponent with it. After hitting him, three times he will die and youíll be sitting as the victor. This mini game is really great for harnessing controls and also great fun to batter the life out of your friend. Battle mode really increases the gameís replay and is incredibly addictive when you play the game with a group of people. The arenas are huge and give you a lot of space to duke it out, giving you hours of extra fun.

The graphics are smooth but nothing spectacular, for the SNES they seem to be nice enough with nice colors and animation on the characters. The tracks of well detailed backgrounds, with Mario styled levels, the green Mushroom Kingdom is bright and cheery, the dark contrasting colours of the Haunted House create a different theme . Everything else is the nicely done as well and is also animated just like a cartoon. The tunes are also great; really getting the player into the fast paced gameplay and setting the theme for certain levels. Ones that are addictive are the ghost and Bowser stages along with the Mushroom Kingdom levels, which will remain in your memory for a long time at the moment.

SMK is an amazingly fun game even if you play it alone or with a friend. The modes are fun to play though and the controls are fun. Playing it by yourself is as fun as hell and two player can barely be beaten for any 16-bit racer. Itís a change from the platforming routine that made Mario the icon he is today and started the Mario Kart craze that is still alive. Mario Kart could well be the most fun two player game on the SNES (next to Street Fighter 2) and even today it still surpasses itís sequels and is easily a SNES classic that all gamers should be enjoying.

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Community review by goldenvortex (August 21, 2004)

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