Mario Kart 8 Preview
Mario Kart 8

The Wii U is in a dire situation. The console is pricey, is in a severe game drought, has lost pretty much all Third-Party support and is significantly weaker than the upcoming PS4 and Xbox One. Nintendo has a plan though and that is to release two Mario games; Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8. However, Mario Kart 8 doesn’t come out until Spring 2014, which is long after the crucial holiday buying period. Is Mario Kart 8 enough to keep the Wii U relevant?

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Mario Kart 8, out of all the games Nintendo showed me, I found the most entertaining, and for good reason. This is a pure Mario Kart game with few additions to the formula, but it is a formula that still works and works well. I got to play on three brand new tracks with the obvious characters (Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Donkey Kong, etc.) with the Wii U Gamepad and I am delighted to say that Mario Kart 8 is a pure joy.

The new mechanic found in Mario Kart 8 is the new Anti-Gravity sections where Mario and friends can drive on walls or underneath tracks. Just like Gliding or Submarine mechanics introduced in Mario Kart 7, Anti-Gravity does little to change up the gameplay, but it is a neat thing to look at and I’m sure little kids will find it insanely cool to be driving on the wall or upside down. Also, Gliding and Submarine sections are making a return.

Playing Mario Kart 8 is as simple as playing any previous game in the franchise. Nintendo has confirmed that gamers can use the Wii U Gamepad, Wii-Remote and Nunchuck or the Wii Wheel to race, though they would not confirm or deny whether gamers could use the Wii U Pro Controller. Players can also opt to use the Wii U Gamepad’s gyroscope functionality to drive, though this makes the information on the second screen very difficult to read. Controls are pretty much taken straight from Mario Kart 7, but feel a lot better with proper sticks. The Gamepad is used just like a 3DS/DS screen from Mario Kart 7/DS. The second screen displays important information regarding where other racers are, what items they currently have and items that have been placed on the track.

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The new maps were also quite a delight. My favorite one felt like it was modeled after San Francisco with a large hill with multiple trams driving up and down. Nintendo’s track designers have always been good at creating memorable new tracks and they’re already off to a great start with Mario Kart 8. Like with previous Mario Kart games, a large array of other tracks from previous titles will be incorporated, but Nintendo wouldn’t tell me what tracks will be making a comeback. However, you can expect the more popular tracks to appear in the final roster.

It wouldn’t be a Mario Kart game without a large array of Mario and Nintendo characters, and Mario Kart 8 is chocked full of classic Mario Kart characters. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, Toad, Princess Daisy, Koopa Troopa, Toadette, Waluigi, Wario and Yoshi are all confirmed for the game. No other characters have been announced, but considering the large rosters of previous games it is easy to assume that Mario Kart 8 will also have a large roster when it launches.

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The Wii U is the first HD console from Nintendo thus making Mario Kart 8 the first HD Mario Kart game ever made. The verdict? The game looks very good without sacrificing the classic Mario look. Everything looks very clean, very polished and with minimal jagged edges all while running at a smooth framerate. Does it look better than a PS3/Xbox 360 game? That remains to be seen with the final product, but Mario Kart 8 is truly one of the first games to truly show off what the Wii U is capable of.

Mario Kart 8 was truly one of the few Wii U titles that Nintendo showed me that actually left me impressed. The franchise has always been fun and Mario Kart 8 is truly looking to deliver on that fun. Those looking to buy a Wii U will surely get a kick out of Mario Kart 8.

Mario Kart 8 is out Spring 2014 exclusively on the Wii U.

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