While some argue that the Karts and characters are what make Mario Kart special, most can agree that the tracks are really what stick in player’s minds over the years. From the calm stretches of Yoshi Falls and Cheep Cheep Beach to the treachery of Rainbow Road and the sheer havoc of Waluigi Pinball, Mario Kart tracks are some of the best courses in any racing game. With Mario Kart 8 arriving on the Wii U, we decided to take a look back at the most challenging and fun tracks the series had to offer. Here are the Best Mario Kart Courses Ever.
Neo Bowser City
Mario Kart 7
A twist on the classic Bowser’s Castle tracks, Neo Bowser City is a much more sleek and futuristic setting, complete with skyscrapers, flashing neon lights and bleak rainy atmosphere. The tight twists and turns offer more of a challenge than just dodging Thwomps and fireballs since this track tests your turning and drifting abilities right off the bat. Neo Bowser City is a modern take on an old favorite, and its technical turns and stunning speedway sights make it one of the Best Mario Kart Courses Ever.
Mario Kart DS
Delfino Square is a very unique track in that it has a lot of tight corners in cramped spaces as well a couple of flat stretches of road in wide open space. This makes for an interesting ebb and flow of drifting between other racers and more relaxed racing. It also makes the track feel like it progresses more naturally and is part of the world itself, rather than a series of obstacles and turns thrown together in the theme of a Mario game. The natural and lifelike feeling the track has is what makes it so memorable.
Mario Kart 7
Everyone has a favorite iteration of this iconic Mario Kart track. Hailed as many to be the most difficult track in whatever Mario Kart game it’s in, Rainbow Road is usually the last race in a grand prix full of challenging races. The greatest balance of frustration and fun comes from the Mario Kart 7 version of the track, mainly due to it foregoing the traditional 3 lap system. This Rainbow is a Point-A to Point-B track that mixes the typical rainbow curves and dips with some new interstellar sections, such as racing on a nearby moon. The lack of repetition, in combination with creative design and challenge earns this Rainbow Road a spot on the Best Mario Kart Courses Ever.
Mario Kart Wii
Maple Treeway is one of the best looking tracks in the entire franchise, and the calm and serene nature of the course makes this one of the most memorable tracks in the game. With giant maple trees, literally long, branching pathways, and a lack of overly-technical turns, this track is perfect for racers who just want to enjoy the view. The relaxed feel of this track might turn off fast-paced players, but there’s plenty here for them, too. Wiggler stage hazards still require some timely maneuvering, and some shortcuts and track sections are built for experienced drifters.
Mario Kart 64
Some would say that Banshee Boardwalk is one of the worst tracks in Mario Kart 64, and in a game full of bad tracks like Yoshi Valley and Toad’s Turnpike, that’s saying a lot. Banshee Boardwalk has its charm however, and what it lacks in visuals it makes up for in challenge. With multiple stage hazards, including bats, flying Cheeps, pitfalls and the threat of falling off of a track without rails, this stage throws a lot at the player in a very short amount of time. Not to mention the hard 90 degree turns and lack of curves on the entire course. This stage demands proficiency from the player and skillfully dodging bats, drifting through a tight corner and narrowly missing a fall feel that much more satisfying when you pull it off.
Mario Kart Wii
This stage is also on people’s blacklist for some of the same reasons as Banshee Boardwalk (and especially Toad’s Turnpike). However, Moonview Highway trumps Toad’s Turnpike in that it has much more open space in which to dodge a fewer number of cars, and it’s a gorgeous track to boot. The track goes from bustling cityscape to hillside highway with a great view of, you guessed it, the moon and every bit of detail is beautiful to look at. The abundant traffic might seem like an unfair stage hazard, but at times you won’t even notice other cars are even there. Moonview Highway is one of the most visually stunning tracks in all of Mario Kart, and the tough-but-fun challenge cements its place among the best courses.
Shy Guy Beach
Mario Kart Wii
Shy Guy Beach is a perfect example of fun coming from the simplicity of a stage, rather than complex level design or a hazard at every corner. Originally a track from the Game Boy Advanced iteration, this course doesn’t change much in the Wii version. In fact, besides the graphical update and removal of coins the stage is identical to the original. The real fun in the course comes from the lack of any dips or ramps or hills and a focus on pure Kart racing. The only stage hazard is a Shy Guy pirate ship that drops bombs periodically on the stage. A welcome addition to a course as simplistic as this that adds just the right level of unpredictability. It’s hard not to have a good time on Shy Guy Beach.
Mario Kart Double Dash
Not only is this track shaped like a Yoshi, but it’s also one of the most curvy tracks in the history of Mario Kart. This track will test your ability to drift like no other, and a couple of Piranha Plant hazards keep you on your toes just when you think you’ve got the stage down. This stage is great not only for the novelty of it being shaped like a Yoshi, but for testing the player’s reflexes and knowledge of the game, even if the stage feels much simpler than something like Banshee Boardwalk or Moonview Highway. It’s hard to ever forget the stage shaped like a Yoshi.
Mario Kart DS
Probably the most fun course in Mario Kart DS, Waluigi Pinball puts the player in a giant pinball machine, complete with giant pinballs and all. This is a very colorful and visually appealing stage (it’s almost distracting at times), but it all adds to the fast-paced pinball feel that much more. The most fun part of this stage is expertly dodging and outrunning the giant pinball through the first half of the course and weaving through the bumpers and flippers at the final stretch. The stage hazards are very annoying since they set you back quite a bit, but this is one of the most satisfying stages to earn a victory.
Mario Kart 64
Besides Rainbow Road, Bowser’s Castle is a staple in all Mario Kart games. Similar to Rainbow Road this track is usually placed towards the end where it’s truly a challenge for even advanced players. The Nintendo 64 version is easily the most memorable since it’s the first to feature all of the stage hazards in a 3D environment and really brought Bowser’s castle to life. The design of the stage felt like an entire obstacle to be overcome, and the simple final stretch really brings home the point that you’ve made it through this treacherous castle. Bowser’s Castle is a stage fit for the King of Koopas, and that’s why it’s cemented its spot on the Best Mario Kart Courses Ever.
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