by Matthew Thompson
(I am counting down my 25 favorite games of the last console generation. I explain a little about how I put the list together in this introduction. And you can see a collection of all my articles on the Best of 7th Gen compiled here.)
Before Mario Kart 8 sped onto the scene last year and lapped the rest of the series, my favorite Mario Kart was the Wii entry. This isn’t a particularly popular choice, but Mario Kart Wii was the first game in the franchise to really tick all the boxes for things most important to me in the long-running arcade racing series.
First of all, I prefer the series in 3D. The creativity in course design is much better since it hopped into three dimensions and Mario Kart Wii features an excellent collection of original courses. Bouncing over the deep ravines of Mushroom Gorge, rumbling up escalators in Coconut Mall, and drifting through the twisting waterways of Koopa Cape represent just a few of the joys you’ll discover in the Wii version’s suite of new courses. These are joined by fresh takes on old staples like Bowser’s Castle and Rainbow Road. And for the first time on consoles we got 16 additional classic courses including past favorites like Waluigi Stadium and Peach Gardens. I admit the collection of old tracks isn’t the best, but doubling the total number of raceways added a ton of replay value to the game.
Now the DS and 3DS games also offered 32 tracks, but they lack things I can only get on a home console. For one, being able to steer with a true analog stick. I just prefer the controls that way. Much more important though is playing local multiplayer with friends. That is what Mario Kart is all about for me. Laughing on the couch with your pals as you take them out with a well-aimed green shell coming around the final bend or seeing them spin out because of your perfectly placed banana peel trap. All that is here in Mario Kart Wii with more options than ever to tweak things to your liking including adjusting the much-maligned item balance.
The game is far from perfect (the aforementioned item balance issues, the move to team Battle Mode, the addition of the Thunder Cloud, the sub par graphics), but these problems seem miniscule when weighing them against the hours upon hours of fun it delivered for me and my friends. Tight controls, a slew of memorable course designs and loads of customization options made Mario Kart Wii one of the best local multiplayer experiences of my life and an easy inclusion on my Best of 7th Gen countdown.
A few more things:
- Favorite New Courses: I’ve always said Bowser’s Castle, but I really love Coconut Mall, Koopa Cape, Maple Treeway and Grumble Volcano too.
- Favorite Retro Courses: Probably Peach Beach, Peach Gardens and Delfino Square. Can’t really decide which is my favorite.
- I really liked the addition of tricks off jumps and the tweaks to powersliding/boosting that this game made. Both have payed off as the series continued as well.
- Kind of gave up on clues because each time I look at my list I had been shuffling things. I do feel confident I will finish this before year’s end now. They should start coming faster as I reach the top too. Also I still plan to do the downloadable game post I teased on the Castle Crashers entry, but just haven’t had the chance yet.