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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mario Kart Series

John Marine | 8:30 PM | |
(UPDATED: October 8, 2014)

The Mario franchise is one of the finest in gaming history, and part of the reason was because of the Mario Kart series. Super Mario Kart in 1992 began what would be a tried-and-true concept regarding kart racing and the frenzied action associated with it. So many different developers came along with their own kart racing titles even with the very first Super Mario Kart. As of the release date of this initial blog post, the latest offering is Mario Kart 8 for the Nintendo Wii U. This blog post takes a look at one of the most successful racing game franchises in history- let alone one of the finest franchises of any game.

About the Label: "Mario Kart"

Any and all posts regarding the Mario Kart series will be under this label. This is Nintendo's premier (and really only) racing game series.


OCT 8 2014 - added "Mario Kart" label

--- Mario Kart Series at a Glance ---

Here's a random sort of image I've found to set the mood for this post...

I wish I had a picture here to set the mood. Unfortunately, I am unable to. Whatever picture or media I WOULD find would fill this space.
^ from: ??? - Mario Kart- fueling your racing fantasies since 1992.

From the moment Super Mario Kart gained all sorts of popularity, this game essentially began its own segment of racing games. Countless racing games on consoles and computers have offered their own kart racing thrills. I have personally done kart racing before. To a lot of people, karts are slow and boring. The formula the Mario Kart series started made karting fun as gamers traversed across a vast variety of tracks ranging from proper race tracks to any number of unusual locales. In addition to going fast, there were elements of combat that kept things interesting. Throwing items like koopa shells, banana peels, fake item boxes, and more helped add elements of combat in addition to racing. In the end, the action is all in great fun in trying to win the races and championships.

Introduction to Mario Kart.

If you don't know anything about this series, let me offer you my own personal introduction to this franchise.

The Mario Kart series began life back in 1992- some two years after "Super Mario World" blew the minds of Nintendo lovers. The series has been famous for fun and frenzied racing action. Racing action takes place with item boxes littered all over the road. All of the racers are characters from Nintendo titles. Rather than technical racing, the Mario Kart series puts an emphasis on anything-goes racing. You have mushrooms which provide speed, and you have various Koopa shells to attack the other racers... including the dreaded blue shell meant to pursue the leader of the race. Other powerups include the banana peel (induces racers into spins when touched), the lightning bolt (temporarily shrinks all racers on track and slows their speeds to half) and the star (temporarily invincible to all attacks and offers a speed boost). In addition to racing, there are also battle modes, which allow you to drive around a certain venue where the emphasis is on eliminating your opponents.

The tracks that comprise the usual lineup of tracks in Mario Kart games usually consist of permanent race circuits, certain off-road locales, snowy/icy locations, and of course (to anyone who is a Mario Kart veteran)- Rainbow Road.

Players can select from different engine options to choose between some lower-displacement engines for easy racing, or run with higher-displacement engines for the fastest speeds and the toughest racing. Usually, the goal is to finish in the top half of the field to advance. The first few Mario Kart games required you to finish 4th or better out of eight entrants to advance to the next stage. Future titles, like "Mario Kart: Double Dash!!" let you advance regardless of where you finish.

One thing to consider when racing is the weight of certain characters. Lighter characters go faster and turn better. However, they can be thrown around by heavier drivers. Conversely, heavier characters are slower, but they can easily muscle around the lighter characters. The middle ground between lighter and heavier characters would be either with Mario or Luigi. So pick either Mario or Luigi for the best balance weight-wise.

Mario Kart Impact to the Racing Gaming Industry.

So how much has the Mario Kart series influenced most of the gaming industry? There have been many racing games that have tried to capitalize upon and expand upon the concept of cartoon-like kart racing. Some elements of Mario Kart Among others: Wacky Wheels, Skunny Kart, Motor Toon Grand Prix, F1 Race Stars, World Rally Fever: Born on the Road, SEGA Racing All-Stars, and games like these. Many of them have kart-style machines where you can attack other racers with items.

--- Mario Kart Series: A Brief Look ---

This part of the blog post is a look at some (or maybe all) of the games in the Mario Kart series. This is where I offer you a look at the Mario Kart series. You may see any of these games mentioned in individual blog posts in the future.

Super Mario Kart (1992).

The game that started the franchise was Super Mario Kart in 1992 for the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom. You could race on the proper racing tracks, or the venues can consist of various off-road courses as well as trips around Bowser's/Koopa's Castle. If you felt more like engaging in battle, you can race in the Battle Mode using any of the game's dedicated battle venues.

Mario Kart 64 (1996).

Mario Kart 64 was the first 3D Mario Kart game. Everything is 3D about Mario Kart 64- except the characters, which are all pre-rendered. This game offers an enhanced experience from the flat lands of Super Mario Kart. You race on tracks with many more hazards. You can even engage in Battle Mode for up to four players. The action will be intense. Personally, my cousin and I have had a long rivalry back when we played this game. That, more than anything is my personal biggest memory of Mario Kart 64.

Mario Kart: Super Circuit (2001).

Making its Game Boy Advance debut, "Mario Kart: Super Circuit" gave Game Boy Advance players the chance to enjoy the Mario world. This game even features tracks from the original "Super Mario Kart." But, you have to unlock those. The game featured re-mastered versions of the classic tracks.

Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (2003).

In an attempt to try something new, "Mario Kart: Double Dash!!" for the Nintendo Gamecube was all about tandem racing. This was the first Mario Kart where you could choose between different karts. You pick two characters to use one kart. What two characters you use help determine what karts you can choose from. Mix and match and race to your heart's delight!

Mario Kart DS (2005).

Mario Kart debuted for the Nintendo DS in 2005 with Mario Kart DS. This was the first Mario Kart game that allowed for online multiplayer action, since the Nintendo DS has WiFi capabilities. You can also play against bot opponents in Battle Mode, so you don't need to have all human opponents to play Battle Mode. For the first time in series history, you can race on Mario Kart tracks from past Mario Kart titles without needing to unlock them. Winning events relies entirely on your utilization of the double-screen Nintendo DS and its features.

Mario Kart Wii (2008).

Mario Kart Wii lets you race either karts or motorcycles- a first for the series. As many as 12 characters can be on the track at once. You use your Wiimote to race the various tracks along with using the included Wii Wheel accessory. You can use a vast variety of characters from a number of Mario series characters. With your progress through the game, you can unlock more characters and more vehicles. And... you can even unlock the ability to your Mii to race against the Mario Kart Wii characters! You can race the new tracks along with re-made classic courses. These re-made tracks even come complete with music from the original games as they were played. You can even take your Mario Kart Wii action online with a handful of events.

Mario Kart 7 (2011).

The latest installment of the Mario Kart franchise is Mario Kart 7. It is an insane game as the racing involves action in the air and underwater as part of the experience. You'll find yourself using a new glider feature as well as driving underwater as part of the insanity. There are surprisingly only 17 characters in this game compared to Mario Kart Wii's 25 or so characters. Coins return to the game for max speed. Not liking the opposition you're up against around you? Take the racing fight online!

Mario Kart 8 (2014).

Mario Kart's debut on the Nintendo Wii U is with "Mario Kart 8." There are many different vehicles and vehicle parts to unlock to become the ultimate racer. The tracks are all utterly insane with a handful of zero-gravity style tracks. Frenzied action and intense gameplay are to be expected with this title. Take the battle online if you don't wish to play against friends locally. If you are any veteran of the Mario Kart series like I am, "Mario Kart 8" will blow your mind as far as how far the series has come since its humble beginnings in 1992.

And there is your brief look at the franchise.

--- Mario Kart Series: Final Thoughts ---

The Mario Kart franchise is not only one of the biggest racing game franchises on the market today, but it is really a success of the Mario series itself. It seems inconceivable that an off-shoot franchise from the main franchise can be every bit as successful as its main franchise. Many gaming franchises and game series could only wish they could make individual series that are just as successful as the original franchise or series. Mario and Mario Kart did just that. Hard to believe that the Mario Kart franchise has been around since 1992- some 22 years as of 2014. It is still every bit as exciting then as it is now. So go play a Mario Kart game and be happy!

This concludes the blog post on the Mario Kart series.

Are you a fan of the Mario Kart series? What are some of your favorite moments or memories?

I hope you enjoyed my blog post here as much as I enjoyed making it. Thank you for reading!

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