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Mario Kart DS (DS) artwork

Mario Kart DS (DS) review


"With so many great tracks, it’s hard to pick a favorite. If you’re missing some of the good times of old, a lot of those are back, too. You can race through re-imagined versions of the tracks from each of the past games in the series. They’re just as much fun as they were before. In fact, that’s true of the whole game."



I like Mario Kart DS for a lot of reasons. They range from the responsive play control to the astounding visual quality I wasn’t sure the little handheld could manage. Ultimately, though, it all comes down to one thing: I’m a Nintendo nerd and this game is a feast of nostalgia that leaves me feeling giddy.

The Desert Hills course is one of my favorites. As you sit at the starting line and stare out at the distance, you’ll see the block pyramids and frowning sun that you likely remember from Super Mario Bros. 3. The starting light ticks down through the colors, and just like that you fly forward. Desert hills roll around you as you slide into a corner, hop, then mash the buttons right, left, then right again. You pull out of the corner with a burst of red exhaust that launches you directly toward a cactus in the middle of the road. You dodge it, then some of its friends, and soon you’ve made it around the first lap. As you negotiate the turns on your second lap, fire sprouts from the track in a graceful arc and you pass underneath it. You veer sharply into the next corner while overhead, the scowling sun’s ominous frown somehow makes you smile.

This is Mario Kart DS, and it feels perfect.

To me, it seems like the whole game is a gift from Nintendo, a gesture of good will. The company can still make great games, titles that reach back to the good times you remember while at the same time stomping all over the tepid ‘hits’ that crowd store shelves in the present. All the nostalgia in the world wouldn’t save this game in the end, but it doesn’t just stop there.

Sure, the game has the Airship Fortress stage, rife with Bullet Bill shots and those moles that like to peep out from underneath manholes. You might call those gimmicks and I might agree, but then there are other areas like the Tick-Tock Clock zone, where you’re racing along the gears of a clock and the road is turning beneath you. Maybe you’ll prefer the pinball course instead, where you race through a giant pinball machine and bounce from bumpers while avoiding huge iron orbs that roll your way.

With so many great tracks, it’s hard to pick a favorite. If you’re missing some of the good times of old, a lot of those are back, too. You can race through re-imagined versions of the tracks from each of the past games in the series. They’re just as much fun as they were before. In fact, that’s true of the whole game.

Not since the Super Nintendo have I had this much fun driving the portly plumber and his friends around the tracks that apparently litter the Mushroom Kingdom. If the GameCube title left you feeling disheartened, this is the game that will make you believe all over again. It’s about time.

Rating: 10/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (December 27, 2005)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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