Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review: A beautiful blend of the old and new

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pass Link Driving With Shell
(Image: © iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bottom line: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings together all the best pieces from previous Mario Kart games while adding enough extra to make it worth the buy. If you enjoy variety, this Mario Kart is the best yet with many character options, kart customizations, battle modes, versus settings, and more.


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    New karts and characters

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    Characters are immediately available

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    Favorite tracks from older games

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    Difficulty is highly variable for different skill levels


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    Remade from the Wii U instead of a totally fresh game for the Switch

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As an avid Nintendo player there are some games I always look forward to on their new consoles, no matter how many other games in the series I've played on older systems. Mario Kart is one of those for me. It's a classic that brings together all the best Nintendo characters in a friendly competition on the track, but still manages to bring something new to the table in each game in the series.

So when Mario Kart 8 Deluxe became available for the Nintendo Switch, I didn't even give buying it a second thought. Seeing as this game seems to continue to get better and better, I'm glad I just bought it.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe — Blending old and new

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TitleMario Kart 8 Deluxe
ConsoleNintendo Switch
Game Size6.7 GB
PlayersSingle-player, Multiplayer

When you have a game that's been going on for so long, it can be easy for it to no longer feel fresh or worth the continued buy. However, with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo did a good job of keeping the things fans love while also bringing in enough new to make it worth the buy, again.

This game was released for the Wii U with some DLC, so when it was released as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch I was concerned that this was a money grab opportunity where all the DLC would come separate again. Luckily that fear was wiped out and it all came included with a few changes just for Deluxe.

Karts and courses

Although they didn't come out with a whole new game for the Switch, they did at least add new karts and courses to choose from. This added content makes it worth buying if Mario Kart 8 was already in your collection. Who doesn't love more courses to play on? Since Battle Mode is my favorite, I was particularly excited about the Luigi's Mansion battle course making a return from GameCube. If you have a favorite course from a previous Mario Kart, it's likely in 8 Deluxe as well.

New features and fixes

If you're playing as an adult with adults I might judge you for using Smart Steering since it's kind of like bowling with bumpers.

A big fix from Mario Kart 8 concerns item capacity. Now characters can hold two items at once again! This might seem small, but it completely changes how many people play the game. I like to strategically plan how and when to use my items. Going between box point to box point only being able to carry one item made me less likely to use them until the very last moment before seeing a new box. Now I don't feel that need to hold on.

I remember the days of constantly falling of the tracks left and right, especially on the old rainbow road. Those are now over thanks to the new Smart Steering feature. If you're playing as an adult with adults I might judge you for using this since it's kind of like bowling with bumpers. However, if you have kids interested in playing it's a great way to get them started with the game!

Grand Prix

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Rainbow Road

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Rainbow Road (Image credit: iMore)

Speaking of difficulty, the Grand Prix mode, which is for many people at the heart of any Mario Kart, has a lot going for it. It has four CC options, plus a Mirror Mode that flips tracks, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to decide if you want a challenge or to learn the track. The 50CC option is the easiest as all karts will be slower and the COM players will not play as hard. As you go up to the 100CC, 150CC, and 200CC the speed you'll scoot around the track at will be noticably faster and you're more likely to get whacked by an enemy shell.

Being able to relive the good ol' days by playing favorites from early Mario Kart titles, like the crushingly difficult N64 Rainbow Road, then move on to new maps that bring in new Nintendo favorites like Animal Crossing, made me excited to play every cup. I also loved that it identifies what system the old maps are from. As for Mirror Mode, you get some fun out of accidentally plowing into the back of cows, shy guys, and other obstacles, so I'm glad they kept the feature in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.


Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Characters

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Characters (Image credit: iMore)

In earlier Mario Kart games, the characters were exclusively Mario characters. Although this isn't just new to Mario Kart 8, I do love that you can play as characters from other Nintendo titles like Inkling from Splatoon, Link from Legend of Zelda, and more. Characters new specifically to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are the Inklings, Dry Bones, King Boo, and my personal favorite, Bowser Jr.

One thing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe tweaked from the regular Mario Kart 8 was the slow addition of new characters. All characters (excluding Gold Mario) are available right from the beginning. This helps the player get used to their character of choice sooner instead of having to wait.

VS Race

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Vs Race

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Vs Race (Image credit: iMore)

The "VS Race" option, which has been in all Mario Kart games, is similar to Grand Prix but it's customizable. You get to choose your settings for teams, items, COM level, COM vehicles, how your courses are chosen, and how many courses you race.

If you're overly competitive (like me when I play anything with my husband) and your relationships may fare better if you were competing together against others, you may want to consider turning on the team option and choosing the same side. This makes it so you can play on the same side against other players or just computers and you win or lose as a team based on the points you earn individually based on place.

Messing with the items setting can make for a fun chaos too. Imagine everyone racing around with Bob-ombs only or getting a shell with every "mystery" box. Although none of this is new, Mario Kart wouldn't be the same without this classic mode.

Battle Mode

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Battle

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Battle (Image credit: iMore)

There are a lot of modes in Mario Kart, but Battle Mode has always been my favorite. You go against the other characters in these various battles in a free reign map with the goal of being the last man standing instead of the traditional race. This is the way to play with others.

Like racing in "VS Race", you can do this either as teams or as individuals and instead of racing you choose your battle type. Battles include Balloon Battle, Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners, and Shine Thief players, which players may recognize from older Mario Kart games and, new to Deluxe, Renegade Roundup. In this new mode, you use a piranha plant to round up the other team and put them all in jail before time is up. You can also pick Random, which will select any one of those for you.

By far my favorite is the Balloon Battle. You start with five balloons and drive freely around the map trying to pop the other players' balloons. I enjoy the opportunity to explore all the items and the chance to roam the maps at will. Trying out different strategies for trying to get other players' balloons is the most fun in this mode because of the variety of items and multiple chances to try again without having to start over or feeling like you have to do a lot of hiding.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe — Not completely new

As someone who has been playing these since childhood, I would have liked to see Nintendo make a whole new game for what I think can be called one of their best systems instead of rebooting Mario Kart 8 from what may be one of their worst systems. Sure the team added a good amount of content from Mario Kart 8 to justify the release of a redone version for the Nintendo Switch, but I feel it would have been just as easy to use this content and the changes that were applied to make a new game. Aside from that it's hard to have too much to complain about when it comes to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe — Worth the buy

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Grand Prix

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Grand Prix (Image credit: iMore)

With each new Mario Kart, Nintendo keeps adding more and more characters, tracks, and new surprises every time. Because Mario Kart 8 Deluxe continued to deliver, I am glad to have this in my collection. If they were to decide to make another Mario Kart exclusively for the Nintendo Switch, I would gladly pick it up, too.

Alex Huebner

Alex has been working with iMore as a Freelance Gaming Writer for three years. You can also find a few articles of hers on Android Central and Windows Central. She regularly covers Nintendo Switch games and accessories as well as iOS game apps. In addition to the Nintendo Switch, you may also find her playing on the PlayStation and PC. When she doesn’t have a controller in hand she likes to spend her time with her husband, son, and dogs, exploring new places, or hiding away with a book (or comic book). A few of her favorite games include the Zelda franchise, Little Nightmares, and Animal Crossing.