Hey there everyone and welcome to the inaugural Friendship Enders, a series where we’ll go back into the halls of video game history and dust-off games and memories from days past playing with our mates. Yes, I know it's only been about half a year since we've been able to get together with our mates (at the time of writing) but it feels like another era entirely.
For our first trip down memory lane, I'm having a look at the classic game that started countless fights and could possibly even cause an international incident or two if the United Nations ever decided to host a tournament – Mario Kart.
Kicking off the journey, we look at the first game in the Mario Kart franchise I ever played – Mario Kart 64. Booting it back up after being spoiled by the graphics of later series games leads to an eyeball hemorrhaging (especially the mesh on Skyscraper). But, oh boy, did the great memories come flooding back. You can play it solo, but the real fun is getting mates together for an all-nighter and letting the good times and insults roll. Now, controlling your racer in this game is like steering a greased pig through a lightning storm using a blunt spork, so it's best not to focus on the races and go straight to the meat of this game: the Battle Mode!
With four maps, it's quality over quantity. There's Big Donut (which, thinking about it now, is just a circle), Block Fort and Double Deck (the lands of squares), and Skyscraper (which I can only look at for thirty seconds before my eyes start bleeding again). All the Mario Kart staple items are here: shells, bananas, and fake item boxes as far as the eye can see.
Yes, the Battle Mode has given me some good memories, from winning the final round with a lucky throw of the banana peel to absolutely dominating round after round for an entire day. However, my favorite moment comes from the Grand Prix on Toad’s Turnpike where I came from last place and took first place right before the finish line on the final lap with the classic three-mushroom boost.
Moving on to the land of "Wii-motes" and waggling, we have the only Mario Kart game that’s easier to control drunk than sober, Mario Kart Wii. Releasing in 2008 for the Nintendo Wii, this became the franchise's first foray into motion controls. You can also use a Wii-mote nunchuck combo, which is probably what you’ll gravitate to once the novelty of twisting the controller around wears off. Or your arms get tired, whichever comes first. Again, there's solo and multiplayer, so you can share the frustration of tilting your controller and your character turning the wrong way with your mates. The controls are improved from 64's, so races are a much more viable option for multiplayer now, especially with the sweet new rides you can drive instead of the standard kart.
The map selection for races is a lot more varied and exciting, with each new track bringing something different to the table. The offerings for the Battle Mode, however… that leave a lot to be desired. Only one N64 battle map makes the jump across and it's Skyscraper? The rest of the maps wouldn’t hold our group’s interest for long before we’d switch back to the racing.
Being able to race as my Mii for the first time and flinging red shells at likenesses of my mates is something that no Mario Kart game past or since has been able to capture in the same way, and that’s easily what I enjoyed most with this game. A close second, though, is beating my super competitive friend for the first time with a clutch green shell on the final corner.
With the release of the Nintendo Switch came Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a high definition repackaging of Isaac Newton's worst nightmare on the go. It contains all the DLC from the original game, which is a big tick in the positive column. You can control the game using the Joy-Con motion controls, or you can give yourself a slap, switch to classic controls, and come join us insensible land. The racecourses and battle courses are the largest in the series, with massive variety between the cups and the races within the cups. Battle Mode is retooled with extra modes besides the classics, with Renegade Roundup a new favorite of mine.
Mii characters return, and this time you can dress them up in cool racing suits if you have any amiibos lying around. I dress my character in the Yoshi costume most of the time because if I can’t play as Yoshi, this is the closest I can get. The customizable kart types return too and are better than ever with a lot of options for personalization. This is all fine and dandy but the best part is… Toad’s Turnpike is back and I never need another Mario Kart game.
As for the gameplay, Nintendo’s sanded down most of the rough edges, delivering a smooth experience in both solo and multiplayer. This game is the best type of sequel where it doesn’t make it worth going back and playing previous titles.
It’s the granddaddy of them all – Super Mario on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), and wow this game has not aged well. There's always a split-screen format, even when you're playing solo, and the drifting and control scheme are archaic. Also, the rubber banding is so weighted against you that the scales have tipped off the table. There are some interesting things in the game but it feels like the rough draft that following games in the franchise built upon. On the plus side, no blue shells!
I've only played this game once with a mate for about five minutes and we only played that long because we waited until the race was over to quit.
What's your favourite Mario Kart game? Got some memorable moments you want to share? Make sure to leave a comment down below!
Also, if any of you guys play as Yoshi, I'm gonna give you an internet high five because Yoshi is the best racer… don't @ me.