Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review

Neilson Barnard  Getty

Neilson Barnard Getty

I didn't notice much of a difference, but the original Mario Kart 8 was one of the Wii U's prettiest games so I wasn't necessarily expecting a big graphical bump in its arrival on Switch (which, by most reports, is only marginally more powerful than Nintendo's previous console).

The Nintendo Switch covers a lot of bases: handheld, game console, and - someday, hopefully - a central hub for all Nintendo games present, future and past.

If you owned/played Mario Kart 8 before, the Deluxe version has enough new features to warrant another buy. There's a good argument to be made that Mario Kart 8 is already the best karting game out there, but Nintendo saw room for improvement and a little bit of tinkering with the formula. And, at the very least, it's proof that the Switch can be everything the Wii U was and more. Indeed, it's the next must-own title for Nintendo's latest console.

Repackaged for Switch as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it contains all of the tracks, karts, and characters found in the original, plus all of the subsequent downloadable content. Its biggest addition is "Battle Mode", which is far improved from what was included in the original 2014 release.

But again, the controls are easy to grasp for anyone jumping into Mario Kart for the first time, and veteran players will appreciate having the controls remain the same while certain aspects of racing in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (like the ability to carry two items) have changed.

To be sure, Battle mode isn't as polished as the normal racing, and I can't really disagree with its detractors - it really is kind of dopey, mindless fun, mostly devoid of strategy.

Essentially what I'm saying is, whether you enjoyed the original game or have yet to play it, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is already worth a look based exclusively on the virtue of the original's qualities made portable.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe releases April 28.

And the game looks better than ever, too.

Balloon Battle has been tweaked so that instead of being a case of last player with a balloon left wins, you're apportioned points according to how many balloons you have at the end of each round. The hectic Bob-omb Blast is all about tossing Bob-ombs at adversaries, and Renegade Roundup involves capturing and jailing the opposing team.

Overall, the Battle mode games constitute great post-pub party-game fare, which is utterly in keeping with the Switch's return to Wii-style party-games. I remember when we only had eight characters to choose from in the original Super Mario Kart for the Super Nintendo.

Online play worked flawlessly prior to release, which shouldn't be a surprise as it's functionally identical to the Wii U version. Hopefully the success of the Switch won't lead to undue strain on its server infrastructure.

Mario Kart 8 has online play, but come on - this is Mario Kart.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe supports up to four-player split screen on a TV or even the Switch's tiny 6-inch screen. No other game offers such a delicious mix of whimsy, skill and sheer brutality - the pain of being hit by a blue or red shell yards before the finish line while leading, and then being hit by a fusillade of items as the rest of the field catches and passes will live with you forever.

As for the new additions in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, each one elevates what was already an excellent gameplay experience. They even include a take on the NES version of Rainbow Road, bringing the number of Rainbow Road versions in the game to three. To be fair, that Game Boy Advance classic is 16 years old, but I can remember thinking at the time that the developers at Nintendo had a long way to go before they'd accurately be able to bring fun Karting action to a portable system (I wasn't exactly a fan, as you might have guessed).

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