Thursday, July 14, 2016

Super Mario Kart (Super NES, 1992)

Before I finally cover Mario Kart 8, I'm taking a trip back in time to look at some of the earlier games in the series by reposting my earlier playthroughs.

In 1992, Nintendo decided to put a bunch of beloved Mario characters (and Toad) into a kart-racing game. The result was one of the highest recorded awesome levels of the past thirty years.

First off, you get to choose difficulties. 50cc is considerably easier, but you can only get to the later stages on 100cc.

BEHOLD the wonder that is Super Mario Kart. It might not look like much in 2016, but it brought tremendous joy to kids in the 90's. And to readers from the year 2200 who are looking at this in their holodeck and really scoffing... yes, the Bush years were as bad as the digital direct-to-your-brain textbooks say.

The eight selectable characters. Mario and Luigi are average in all respects, with Luigi having a slightly bigger penis. The Princess and Yoshi both have high acceleration, so they recover quickly from things that slow you down (like gawking at Luigi's penis).

Bowser and Donkey Kong have the highest speed, but the slowest acceleration. They're for the pros; they can gain the most ground on enemies, but if you crash or otherwise lose control they take the most time to recover. Donkey Kong is rumored to be slightly faster, which makes little sense since most people will probably choose the way-cooler Bowser. Donkey Kong is also known for flinging his poo at foes, and as a result isn't a very popular competitor among the other fighters.

Lastly, we have Koopa-Troopa and Toad. They have the tightest controls and good acceleration, making them ideal for beginners. I used to play as Koopa-Troopa all the time as a kid. Choosing Toad isn't recommended, because after a play-session he expects a blood tithe.

The three tiers of races. Each one features slightly harder tracks than the one before it. Getting a gold in all three tiers of 100cc will unlock a Special Cup with a new set of races, and getting a gold there unlocks the nearly-impossible 150cc. Well, nearly impossible for me, anyway.

I'm just going to play on 50cc and chill for a bit.

Who am I? Bowser, of course. Since I played as Koopa-Troopa as a kid, it figures that I'd graduate to the bigger koopa later. For those unfamiliar with the wonders of this game, you race around a track while collecting powerups to use on your opponents (or buff your own character, in some cases). It's simple and effective.

Winning a race causes Bowser to roar a lot. He's such an appealing character. When I first played Super Mario RPG, I found myself enthused over the chance to finally play as him in a game.

Winning a race puts you in the standings. Since there are five races in any given cup, you can do relatively poorly in one and still come back to take 1st at the end of the level set.

Luigi sideswipes Bowser as the fight for the very soul of the Mushroom Kingdom continues.

You can see the malevolence in his eyes.

One of the particularly cool level themes is the Ghost House. It can be difficult, though... these levels love to give you corners where you can fall off the track. It's also worth noting that a remix of the Super Mario World Ghost House music plays for this stage.

 While Mario Kart 64 uses a lot of visual and audio themes from Super Mario 64, this game uses a lot of themes from Super Mario World.

Bowser Castle is a level type that I particularly like a lot. It's got an intense look and great music. The music in question is a remix of the final battle theme of Super Mario World. Unfortunately it's one of the more difficult area types to negotiate since the track is walled and full of corners and edges.

Bowser takes first place in his own castle. Of course he does.

Final level of Mushroom Cup features an awesome super-jump in the center of the level. Always liked this one as a kid.

Mushroom Cup is done. When you finish a cup (as long as you place in the top three) you end up on this screen. The 1st place winner gets drunk while the other two cheer him on. Meanwhile, a giant fish flies by overhead. It's quite a scene.

 Bowser fires off the cork and it pops the flying fish, sending it spiraling into the background as it deflates. AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, HE KILLED IT!

The Chocolate Island stage theme is easily my least favorite of the lot. Not only is it a fugly brown, it's full of rough dirt and difficult to traverse.

Damn, got my first non-win so far. I should have kept playing as Bowser... he was owning everyone.

Donut Plains levels are home to the nefarious Monty Moles, little buggers who leap out of holes in the ground. They're troublesome and should be avoided.

 If one catches you, it latches onto your face doing God-knows-what and you need to jump a lot to shake it off and regain your full speed.

Spoiler Alert! In the final lap, another monty mole bursts out of your chest.

Uh oh. Another non-win and I fall behind in the standings for the first time all game. I'll need a big win to get back into first...

...and the next level gives me that win. Whew. That didn't last long. Mario triumphs in Bowser's Castle yet again.

Flower Cup is done. Mario is even happier than usual! Meanwhile, Donkey Kong screeches and throws his poo. Why is he allowed to drive?

The first level of the Star Cup might be my favorite level overall. The beach is a lot of fun to navigate, splashing through the shallow water and avoiding the deep water.

Vanilla Lake is a level theme we don't see enough of. It only appears twice, and the second time has a huge lake in the middle. As a kid I always wondered if there was something hidden in that lake. ...there isn't. I think I was hoping for a Loch Ness monster or something along those lines. Well, I'd get that in Mario 64...

For the most part, these 50cc races pose zero challenge for me now. When I was a kid, they were pretty much all I could reliably play and I still had trouble with them. Back then I BARELY finished Mushroom Cup in 100cc, but that was about it. Would have never gotten to check out the Special Cup races in Time Trial if I hadn't bought the game used with everything unlocked already.

Star Cup done. In celebration Princess Toadstool gets drunk on champagne and flashes her boobs at the poor, sexually-frustrated Bowser. Meanwhile, Toad looks on in approval at this bout of sin and slowly eats an actual toad.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the one-on-one Battle Mode, where two players drive around in a maze and try to snipe each other with shells. Once all three of your balloons get popped, the game is over. When I was a kid I was super-into this mode, but most of the people I played with just wanted to race when we'd co-op so this mode didn't get much play.

Here's Nintendo Power's awesome rendition of Battle Mode, because Nintendo Power Makes Everything Better.

I mentioned Special Cup earlier. It's the culmination of the game, with several difficult stages. The last is an all-new theme, Rainbow Road. It's an extremely difficult track because you can fall off all of the edges, but it's vibrant and the music is excellent. Once you get good at this track, it's pretty exhilarating. That pretty much applies for the whole game, actually.


  1. MARIO KART, hallowed be thy name
    I always wondered what was up with the tic-tac-toe on the title screen.
    That battle mode art is spectacular.

  2. That Luigi line really got me. This whole post just made me so happy; reading it was one of the greatest things about this day. Your love for the game really shines through and it's a great work that deserves it.
    You're right, these round stages were really well-done, like the Koopa Beach and Vanilla Ice..I mean Vanilla Lake levels.
    The characters here are better-balanced than in 64, I'm sure of it.
    They'd get rid of the coin system in later games. It was interesting as a way to mandate what way you drove and reminded me of Sonic the Hedgehog. Later they were taken out to encourage better time trial driving I would guess.
    The TV-like character select screen is interesting too. And the giant fish in the awards podium...yessss.