The downside of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a $60 kart-racer due out April 28 for the Nintendo Switch, is that it’s mostly the game Wii U owners already played in 2014.
But the upsides are noteworthy. It’s still arguably the best Mario Kart Nintendo has yet made. And only 8 million people played it by way of the Wii U (only 14 million people in total bought Nintendo’s last system). Contrast with sales of Mario Kart for the Wii, which reached a whopping 36 million copies. I can’t imagine Mario Kart 8 Deluxe closing on that figure, but I’d wager Nintendo thinks it can reach a broader audience with the Switch, since Mario Kart 8 for Wii U is a quintessential example of a platform holding back a franchise.
It’s also an eminently portable version of the game, though if played on TV, a visual polish lets it run at 1080p and 60 frames per second, versus the Wii U’s native 720p. It incorporates everything the original version had, including all the downloadable stuff, for an imposing tally of just under 50 racetracks. And it does have a few exclusive bells and whistles, which Nintendo just revealed in full.
That includes five new characters (Inkling Girl, Inkling Boy, King Boo, Dry Bones and Bowser Jr.), bumping the total racer count to 42, new karts inspired by Nintendo’s Splatoon (a shooter, only with ink-squirting guns), the option to clutch two items simultaneously, a smart-steering driving option designed to ease in newcomers, and a revamped Battle Mode that’s playable both local or online.
If you opt for local play, the game drops to 30 frames per second, but lets up to four player split the screen. If you link a bunch of Switch systems together, up to 12 players can race at once. Or you can have two players squaring off locally with the Joy-Cons detached and swiveled sideways. (And if you’ve been eyeing Nintendo’s Joy-Con Wheel accessory, the company says that’ll be available on April 28 as well for $15.)
The potential game-changer, though, is everything new in Battle Mode. Here’s Nintendo’s rundown of its additions and changes:
▶︎ Renegade Roundup: Making its debut in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, this new mode has one team trying to capture the other and put them into jail before time runs out. The opposing team must try to escape and can break their own teammates out of prison by pressing a button under the jail cell.
▶︎ Balloon Battle: In this oldie but goodie, players earn points by popping balloons on the back of their opponents’ karts.
▶︎ Bob-omb Blast: Originally seen in the Mario Kart: Double Dash!! game, this mode finds players throwing a barrage of Bob-ombs at opponents.
▶︎ Coin Runners: By racing across the Battle course, players try to collect the most coins as possible in this fast and frenetic mode introduced in Mario Kart Wii.
▶︎ Shine Thief: Steal the coveted Shine Sprite and try to hold onto it for a 20 count in this classic multiplayer Battle mode.
Pre-order now: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, $60, Amazon