Super Mario Kart: SNES Racing That's Still Fun

Super Mario Kart: SNES Racing That's Still Fun

Mario's first kart racer

Alex Legard

Written by for Retrospectives on

Super Mario Kart was the first Mario Kart game which is a series that still sells millions of copies so let's see how it holds up today.

Super Mario Kart screenshot 1
The start of each race is always the most stressful part

Racing is a crowded genre on the NES and SNES but sadly, I haven't played most of them. Super Mario Kart is the only one to feature the Mario crew and one of the very few made by Nintendo. I've also tried F-Zero but unfortunately, I don't find it to be as fun as Super Mario Kart. There are no items in F-Zero but at least you can make the Blue Falcon explode if you like exploding things. Anyway, Super Mario Kart is simple to pick up and play which is part of the appeal of most Mario games. You accelerate with B, steer with the D-pad, and you're ready to go. Also, Super Mario Kart stands out from the crowd because of enhancements like power-ups and power slides. I definitely enjoyed the chaotic gameplay but at times, it can be more frustrating than fun, especially when you're going for gold medals.

There are 8 characters and each one has special properties when you play as them. Mario and Luigi are middleweight, Peach and Yoshi have fast acceleration, Bowser and DK Junior have slow acceleration but high max speed, and Koopa and Toad have the best steering. Each character does certain things when controlled by the computer, too. For instance, Toad tries to hit you with poison mushrooms while Bowser tries to hit you with fireballs. There are 4 cups to master and each one has 5 courses for a total of 20 but some courses share the same theme. For example, there are 4 Mario circuits and 3 Bowser castles. Some courses are more slippery than others as Mario circuit, Bowser castle, and Ghost valley have the highest traction while Vanilla Lake is the most slippery. You definitely need to be careful on the more slippery courses because you might end up heading in the wrong direction or into a pool of water.

Super Mario Kart screenshot 2
Bowser's Castle is always hectic but I'm not losing this time!

In GP (the main single player mode), there are 8 items that you can find in item blocks: green shell, red shell, banana, feather, mushroom, star, lightning, and coin. If you ever played a Mario Kart game, you probably know what these do already. You can also pick up coins off the ground by driving over them and they grant a small speed boost for each one that you're carrying with 10 being the maximum.

On the downside, the controls are not as well polished as the rest of the Mario Kart series. I found myself sliding for way too long after power slides and sometimes, I would fly to the right when I tried to hop left. Bumping a wall or hitting Bowser for the fourth time only to be knocked back into sixth place made me want to punch the TV sometimes but that's just typical Mario Kart, I suppose. By the way, it's possible to gain a speed boost at the start of each race but I never managed to do it even once. Seriously?!

Super Mario Kart screenshot 3
Woohoo, all 4 golds in 100cc are mine!

Before writing this retrospective, I tried to complete all 4 cups on 100cc thus unlocking 150cc. Along the way, I tried all 8 characters to get a feel for which one was best for me. First, I went with Toad because he had great manoeuvrability and decent acceleration. While he did just fine in most of the cups, I just couldn't beat that annoying Special cup. Later, I tried DK Junior and I had the best results with him. He has the best max speed but really struggles to get moving if he gets hit. Although I got hit a lot at first, I slowly got better at avoiding hazards. Eventually, I crossed the finish line in 4th place at Star Road. I only racked up 31 points but somehow wound up ahead of Toad and Bowser and finally had the last gold medal in my pocket!

After that, I tried out 150cc and it was merciless. In the first race, I placed 8th and could barely make it past that before being eliminated. If you made it through all of the cups in 150cc, please make yourselves known in the comments below because I want to offer my personal congratulations. I don't know who could ever make it through 150cc; it seems even harder than Contra III!

Super Mario Kart is an awesome game to play with a buddy and find out who's the better racer. Who hasn't played Mario Kart with a friend before? In 2 player mode, you can play time trial, Match race (the same as GP but for 2 players), or battle mode where you and your opponent fight to see who can hit the other player 3 times. Battle mode may be even more fun than GP so give it a try!

Super Mario Kart screenshot 4
This feels better than the "You Are A Super Player!!" level in Super Mario World

Super Mario Kart is a very cool racing game that can get rather crazy at times. The only bad thing I can say about it is that the steering isn't as refined as the rest of the series and I constantly found myself hitting things as a result. That's a big downer in a game where all you do is drive around while trying to avoid hitting things. Anyway, it's a shame that kart racers aren't as common today as they were in the '90s but we'll be getting a comeback this year with games such as Team Sonic Racing and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled.

Gameplay video for Super Mario Kart 11:53
Super Mario Bros. 3 Trivia

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