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E3 2013: Hands-On With Mario Kart 8


Note: The majority of the article (black text) was written by me, Leah. The blue text is written by Marcus Estrada, who added his own thoughts on the game's demo as well.


Of the many Mario spin-offs, the Mario Kart series is probably one of the most popular ones. It“s a pretty old one, too, with over 20 years under its belt. With the latest iteration, Mario Kart 8, making its way onto Wii U, friendships will continue to be broken as Blue Shells fly. Even though the demo featured at Nintendo“s booth didn“t allow multiplayer, I still decided to give Mario Kart 8 a shot.


I never got a chance to play Mario Kart 7 even though I really would like to. That means I haven“t played a Mario Kart game since the Wii version came out. After figuring out how the controls on the Wii U GamePad worked, I chose Bowser as my character and got ready to race.




I'm worse off than Leah, having not played a home version of Mario Kart since the one on Nintendo 64. Without much of that baggage on me I found the new game quite a bit of fun. Perhaps it isn't that different from previous games but unfortunately I can't offer that knowledge. Hardcore Mario Kart fans should be able to tell easily though, so that's what matters.


On the subject of controls, Mario Kart 8 obviously makes use of the GamePad“s gyroscope, which means that the GamePad can act as a steering wheel. It sounds fun, but I found it too difficult to control. Thankfully, the option to steer using the analog sticks still exists. Simply tap the appropriate icon on the touch screen whenever you want to switch between the two control schemes!


Anyway, back to how Mario Kart 8 plays. From what I experienced in the demo, it“s still classic Mario Kart. Items still work the same, drifting still works the same, and so forth. Gliders and underwater driving from Mario Kart 7 also make their return, as do motorcycles from Mario Kart Wii. On top of these returning features, Mario Kart 8 also introduces some new elements, of course.



Mario Kart 8 looks great. Again, it may not be the best visuals that the Wii U will ever offer, but it still looks lovely! The worlds are absolutely bursting with color, the characters all look perfect, and tracks also look nicely detailed. Despite not having "realistic" graphics, it manages to show off its great visuals.


One of the new features that Mario Kart 8 is focusing on is anti-gravity. This attempt at keeping the series “fresh†allows players to experience tracks in a new light. At first, it“s pretty cool driving upside-down and sideways throughout the game. You“ll soon realize how gimmicky and pointless it is, though. Hopefully I“m proven wrong once the full game releases.


Maybe driving on walls and the ceiling is gimmicky but it's also really cool. To me it seemed to extend the track in a way that could lead to far more interesting races. I did not recall seeing the NPCs drive on the walls when it was unnecessary, but surely real players will. It makes me wonder if that will be a way to escape various items or if they will follow the player despite shifting from floor to wall or ceiling.




Despite that, I had fun playing the Mario Kart 8 demo. I“m not sure that I“ll get the game right at launch, but I“m still interested in how it will fare critically and what characters will be added in as racers.

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