Nintendo fans knew that Mario Kart was going to be revealed at E3 2013 this year, but that didn't make the news any less exciting. Developed exclusively for Wii U, the franchise's eighth entry is set to bolster a console with lackluster sales but an exciting schedule for the year to come. Mario and his companions raced onto the scene with both a debut trailer and a playable demonstration, and each available map was thoroughly tested by us here at Game Rant, twice - because Mario Kart 8 was that much fun.
Nintendo has vastly changed the map design of how race courses play out in Mario Kart 8, mostly thanks to the all anti-gravity sections which allow for maps to twist and warp above and below the racers in ways players hadn't previously imagined. Though it sounds hectic, this leads to some creative map design that both feels like classic Mario Kart and introduces plenty of brand new gameplay elements. Classic course themes like Boo's Haunted Mansion and Mario Circuit will return into the mix, though at their core they're very different from their original, flatter iterations.
Up to 12 players will be able to play online in Mario Kart 8, immediately making it one of the most prominent Wii U multiplayer titles. The online scene for Wii U is in dire need of a star boost, and combined with the recently announced Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart may be just the title to deliver it. Though online wasn't playable at E3, the local multiplayer allowed for both GamePad and controller-based gameplay. Motion-based driving makes its return, and feels more stable than it did on the Wii. For those interested in how the new controller works with the game, the GamePad feels very natural, and a quick tap on the screen can switch between motion-based and analog stick racing modes.
The game has always been famous for the amount of alternative routes available to the player, but the Wii U edition seems to be massively upping the ante. All of the tracks shown at E3 featured secret paths and shortcuts at one point or another, but the shining grace here was the urban 'San Francisco-esque' city map which was stuffed full of different roads and side paths. It's intelligent design like that which makes the title shine, and will likely make Mario Kart 8 one of the best party games on any console once again.
The game also boasts some of the features that were first introduced in Mario Kart 7, such as vehicles changing when they go underwater and gliders for those massive air boosts. Combined with even older elements like the ability to choose motorcycle over kart and different cart classes, Mario Kart 8 brings plenty of options to those looking to customize their kart-centric experience. These features integrate well with the new track designs which seem to defy gravity, and coming into a glider section as your vehicle is completely upside after a twisting anti-gravity section introduces some great new challenges to the gameplay.
It's been a long time since I've been this excited for a Mario Kart title. To be sure, each announcement always brings with it plenty of anticipation, but the changes to gameplay from the gravity-driven sections and the return of gliding and underwater scenery position this Mario Kart potentially as the best one yet.
Mario Kart 8 will race to shelves in Spring 2014 exclusively for Wii U.
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