Super Mario Kart ushered in a new genre of kart racing for generations of video games to come. In 1997, Nintendo and Shigeru Miyamoto were at it again with a follow up on the Nintendo 64. How would the racer fare in 3D? Would it be able to keep up with its predecessor or would Mario Kart 64 get lapped? Gentlemen…start your engines, watch for the blue shell and let’s head into this Mario Kart 64 review!
Mario Kart 64 Plot:
Just good ole’ fashion fun on a go-kart. Beat your opponents in four different cups, no need for a story!
Mario Kart 64 Gameplay:
Like the original Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64 offers eight different racers to play as. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Donkey Kong, Toad, Bowser, Yoshi return but Koopa Trooper is replaced by Wario. Just like the first game, there are racing classes. Mario and Luigi are the most balanced racers, good at everything but great at nothing.
Princess Peach, Toad, and Yoshi accelerate quickly, can veer off the course for a bit without losing much speed and have slightly higher maximum speeds. Turning is an issue as they lose speed if you don’t slide the kart and when they crash into heavier racers they will be thrown around like a rag doll.
Donkey Kong, Bowser, and Wario make up the big boys. They turn well and can crash into other karts to send them into walls. They tend to be slow off the line and it takes a while to get their karts up to maximum speed. If you veer off the course, they will slow down significantly. Like before, I stuck with Mario for my Mario Kart 64 review because I like balance.
The same game modes return with the ability to race in four different cups just like Super Mario Kart except you can race in the Special Cup without having to unlock it this time. When you select a cup, you’ll race on four different courses with the winner being awarded nine points, second place six points, third place three points, and so on. The racer with the most points after the four races wins the cup. You’ll be able to select your difficulty and this is where I have an issue with my Mario Kart 64 review.
I couldn’t tell the difference much between 50 CC and 100 CC. The easiest difficulty is 50 CC and I fully expected to run circles around the opponents except that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t that I crashed or wiped out, it’s just how the racers are programmed. No matter how many boosts or weapons you use, at least one racers but usually two will be right behind you and I mean right behind you! It was annoying to race half the course with another racer clogging up my screen during my Mario Kart 64 review. I’m not bad at Mario Kart 64 like I am with Super Mario Kart, and I was surprised to see my opponents right behind me constantly. It didn’t matter if I hit them with a banana or shell, seconds later they would be right behind me. The same thing happened whenever I got a boost. One time I got the golden mushroom which gave me an infinite boost for a short period. After I using it all, two seconds later the second place racer was right behind me again. Sometimes the items felt useless but the same thing happened whenever I would get behind, I knew no matter what I’d be able to track down first place within a matter of seconds. I wish the difficulty varied between 50 CC and 100 CC more.
Items are back and there are a few new ones including the infamous blue shell that targets first place before exploding. Gone are the coins which you collected in the first one to go faster. I don’t know why they got rid of it, I thought it was a clever layer to the racing and was surprised it disappeared when I completed my Mario Kart 64 review.
Where Mario Kart 64 pulls away from Super Mario Kart is the ability for four players to race against each other on the couch. I mean, come on, when you think of the best couch co-op games that EVERYONE plays you think of Mario Kart 64 first. Almost everyone in college had a Nintendo 64 with Mario Kart in it for veteran and novice players alike at parties. The biggest thing that Mario Kart 64 improves upon is the courses. Super Mario Kart did what it could do on the Super Nintendo, but the 3D courses are a hundred times better. Not only are they longer but they provide an atmosphere that’s fun to drive by while you’re smashing into the opposition.
Let’s take a look at the courses you can select.
Luigi Raceway is the first course and it’s the most basic one for beginners to get a grip on the game.
Koopa Troopa Beach has jagged corners with waves washing up onshore. Be careful not to drive too far into the sand as the water will drown you.
Moo Moo Farm seems like it’s from Harvest Moon. Watch out for the moles who return from Super Mario Kart.
Kalimari Desert is one of my favorites. I always enjoy outracing the train before it crosses.
Toad’s Turnpike, just like racing through traffic on the highway.
Choco Mountain is a curvy course with falling boulders.
Frappe Snowland suffers from the “fog” effect that N64 and Playstation games had as objects don’t appear until you close in on them, watch out for the snowmen because of this!
Mario Raceway is like Luigi Raceway and it’s a little boring.
Wario Stadium reminds me of a dirtbike course. Lots of ramps and jumps to hit.
Royal Raceway is home to Princess Peach. I want to drive off and visit the castle but I don’t dare.
Sherbet Land is home to annoying penguins that slide on their bellies. Don’t hit them!
Bowser’s Castle was the first course that frustrated me with the stupid Thwomps. They are rock faces that come down and slide around on the course like the ones in Super Mario Kart.
DK’s Jungle Parkway has natives that will throw stones at you if you leave the course, thankfully I never did.
Banshee Boardwalk had a few corners that were difficult with the missing railways.
Yoshi Valley was the only course that I didn’t place in the top three at first. It’s a small maze and I completely took the wrong turn during my first time racing on it. Once I knew which path to take it was a piece of cake.
Rainbow Road is the most famous course on all of the Mario Karts but it’s not difficult. It’s just very long but at least it’s pretty to race on with the faces lighting up in the sky.
So many people my age have countless memories of Mario Kart 64 as a kid…however, I don’t! I never had an N64 growing up so the only memories I have of Mario Kart were playing it at college parties. I’ve been to a few barcades where they have Mario Kart 64 hooked up but it’s always the most popular game and usually requires a signup sheet. I did enjoy my time during my Mario Kart 64 review but I’m not nostalgic for it.
Mario Kart 64 Review Score:
Mario Kart 64 improves the courses dramatically from Super Mario Kart and presents a game that anyone can pick up anytime for a fun time. Don’t let your nostalgia for it overshadow the fact that it’s a mediocre racer. It’s better than Super Mario Kart, but it’s not the best in the series, not by a long shot.
Mario Kart 64 scores an 8.2 out of 10.
What would you write in your Mario Kart 64 review? What was your favorite character to race as? What was your favorite course? Is it the best in the series? Let me know your thoughts and memories, I’d love to read them!
If you want to own Mario Kart 64 you can purchase a preowned copy of it for the N64 from eBay for $20.