by Matthew Thompson
I’m not sure if or when I’ll get around to a Mario Kart 8 review. The short of it would be that it is my new favorite Mario Kart and in the mix for my 2014 Game of the Year. I figured for now I’d run down my five favorite new tracks from the game. I’ve also added some other favorites and things below. Here they are:
5. Rainbow Road
While the top four tracks I chose had sort of rose to the top, I debated a few other courses (most notably Mount Wario) for this last spot. I ultimately chose Rainbow Road. I’ve always enjoyed the Road for its difficulty. These are typically tough courses and that is once again the case with plenty of tricky turns with no borders to keep you from needing a rescue from Lakitu. But this time they added some extra spice to the normal formula with a giant space station centered at the middle. I also love the giant Blooper ship seen in the background. What really sold me on this as my pick here are some of the shortcuts available during the section with two weaving paths. Amazing stuff.
4. Dolphin Shoals
This course features Mario Kart 8’s best use of the underwater sections that became a part of the series in the last iteration. My favorite part is a set of pipes that provide updrafts which eventually take you to a ride atop a giant eel. The former provides multiple routes while the latter provides the kind of silliness that I love in Mario Kart. Both usually lead to quality courses which is the case here.
3. Thwomp Ruins
As I played through each of the courses in order, this is the first one to really wow me with the new anti-gravity feature. The first three courses all use it, but they often just twist the environments around the course where as in Thwomp Ruins you really feel like you are driving on the walls. It also has a great mid-course change as a new route opens up allowing for a big jump and glide where you must avoid one of the level’s giant Thwomps. The theme and look of this level is one of my favorites from the game too.
2. Toad Harbor
Just so many options here. Lots of different routes to choose. Plenty of jumps to hit and trick off of for extra speed. And tons of boosts to weave in and out of. Using your skills to hit just the right path will help you come out on top. The lively city theme complete with trolleys rolling down the street help round out this excellent course.
1. Cloudtop Cruise
I admit this getting the top spot is as much about aesthetics and atmosphere as it is the course’s design. I love the visuals and theme of this track. I am a sucker for airships and overall it just has a lovely look. The music that takes bits from the Galaxy soundtracks is also my favorite song in the game. The part that plays around the time you hit the final stretch of the lap is just wonderful. But there is also plenty to like about the design including a fun part that has you dodging lightning bolts in a storm and a leafy shortcut by the last corner. Everything comes together to create my favorite original course in Mario Kart 8.
Some other Bests and Worsts of Mario Kart 8:
Best Classic Course: Tick-Tock Clock: This is on the short list for best Mario Kart course of all-time, so it is an easy choice here. It plays as good as before and looks better than ever.
Best Remake: N64 Rainbow Road: Back on the Nintendo 64, this was an incredibly boring course. So the fact that they made it interesting is quite a feat. I feel like the one lap hurts it a little as it feels like it ends too soon, but this is still a huge improvement.
Worst Remake: Dry Dry Desert: I remember loving this course on Double Dash and it feels really dull here. Either my memories are playing tricks on me or they went in the wrong direction with this one.
Best Theme: Sunshine Airport: Well Cloudtop is probably my favorite theme, but I really like the Airport too. It reminds me of Coconut Mall. If its track design was as good, it might have taken the number five spot on my list.
Best Cup: Special: I just love all of these courses. Two were in the top five, but Bone Dry Dunes is one of the series best desert courses and Bowser’s Castle is a quality new iteration of that recurring location with plenty of memorable moments like that giant punching Bowser statue.
Favorite Kart Combo: Sports Coupe with Slick Tires and Bowser Kite Glider: I usually prefer using a more traditional kart, but the with all the customization available here, I ended up settling on the Sports Coupe with Slick Tires. The glider doesn’t affect stats too much, so I go with the Bowser Kite which just looks hilarious and kind of fits with my go-to driver Koopa Troopa. I did just unlock the Golden Standard Kart which might be my new kart of choice going forward.
Best New Item: Boomerang Flower: This one is just the most fun to use of the new items. The Piranha Plant is cool to see in action, but a little limited in its effectiveness unless you are still in a crowd. And as great as the Super Horn being a counter to the Blue Shell is, I rarely get to use it for that purpose.
Worst Item: Coin: The idea that I am thrilled to get a Banana Peel in first place tells you everything you need to know about the Coin. I like the coins on the course, but getting one in a Prize Box is terrible and it happens a lot in first and second place. This means you either have no defense for someone behind you throwing an item at you. Or you have no way to try to take out first place. It stinks!
So those are my favorite courses (and other things) from Mario Kart 8. Let me know yours in the comments below or on Twitter. Thanks for reading!