PAX East 2017: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is More Than Just a Shiny Coat of Paint [Preview]
Given the Wii U’s sad lifetime sales, odds are good that you missed out on 2014’s Mario Kart 8. And that’s a shame, really, because it’s one of the best titles in the kart racing series’ long history. That’s okay though—less than two weeks after release, Nintendo’s latest console, the Switch, is off to a promising start, and next month Mario Kart 8 will get a rebirth of sorts, this time in Deluxe form.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe covers some familiar ground that we’ve come to expect from next-gen game upgrades. On the TV screen, resolution is bumped to a crisp 1080p (though that doesn’t apply to four-player split-screen). You could argue that full HD resolution has been the standard in gaming for years already, and that Nintendo is once again late to the party, but honestly, Mario Kart 8 was already a gorgeous game. The graphical bump is nice, but far from the main selling feature here. All of the DLC from the Wii U version is included with the core Switch game, which means you’ll have access to the excellent Legend of Zelda-themed content, among others. There are even a few more tracks, characters, and vehicles to choose from off the bat, including colorful Splatoon racers decorated with splats of paint.
Even if you did buy Mario Kart 8 three years ago, the redesigned Battle Mode makes a strong case for jumping in again. On top of classic Balloon Battle and Bob-omb Blast, a twist on the regular mode with only bombs, there are three other ways to go head-to-head: Shine Thief, Coin Runners, and Renegade Roundup. Shine Thief challenges racers to hold onto a Shine Sprite the longest, and Coin Thief is fairly straightforward: most coins wins. While those modes were fun, Renegade Roundup was the standout. It’s a modified version of cops and robbers, with the “good guys” chasing after renegades to put them behind bars. Meanwhile, the outlaws need to not only stay out of jail for the entire match, they can also break out their friends as needed. The whole lineup of items is available for all of these (save Bob-omb Blast for obvious reasons), so it doesn’t take long for the arenas to become a frenzied medley of whizzing green shells, banana peels, and stray ’shrooms.
Longtime Battle Mode fans will also be happy to hear that Deluxe brings back actual arena courses, as opposed to just fighting on the racetracks. There are both new and classic arenas to choose from, and they make great stomping grounds for the new and improved battle gameplay.
As with most Switch games, a variety of controller schemes are available, and after trying several of them, we can say that they’re all solid. The racing wheel is surprisingly comfortable and offers a good grip for one of the Joy-Cons to rest inside—moving the wheel manually isn’t necessary, as that’s all handled by thumbstick.
Nintendo just announced that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will have LAN support (with an adapter), so hooking up a few Switch consoles to a local network while playing on different TV screens shouldn’t be a problem. It worked seamlessly during our PAX East demo.
With only a month or so until release, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is looking like a must-have for Switch owners. Paying full retail price for a game you already own can be a bitter pill to swallow, but personally, we can’t wait to tear up those courses all over again—and master a few new ones.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe launches exclusively on Nintendo Switch on April 24, 2017.