There’s no denying the fact that Mario Kart 8 is a fantastic game: probably the Wii U’s best release so far. And even though the game has only been out for a few short weeks, we’ve been playing it nonstop to try and earn the last of those gold cups on 150cc. So naturally, after spending this much time with the game, we thought it’d only be fitting to make a list of our five favorite Mario Kart 8 tracks.
It certainly wasn’t an easy task to narrow down our top picks, as there are so many courses in the game that deserve special recognition in their own right. So we ultimately decided to keep our list reserved for the tracks that are new and exclusive to Mario Kart 8, although some of those retro tracks could have easily made the cut, like that absolutely shining new version of Yoshi’s Valley from the good old N64 days.
Of course, we’re constantly finding new things to love about Mario Kart 8 each and every day, and so our favorite tracks could completely change after another week of life-changing Luigi death stares. So if you’ve got some spare time in between cups, then head on down to the comments and let us know your own favorite tracks from Mario Kart 8!
The first track on our list was a close call between the topsy-turvy Twisted Mansion and the newly reimagined Bowser’s Castle, both of which get our adrenaline pumping and our heads spinning around those intense perspective changes. But we decided to give it to Bowser’s Castle in the end, thanks in no small part to that giant lava-infused statue of the King Koopa himself that slams its mighty fists down right on the track in front of you. The Bowser’s Castle track in past Mario Kart games has always been notorious for being insanely difficult, and the Wii U version of the fiery fortress inferno is certainly no exception. After all, it contains the same dark and ominous visuals that have made Bowser’s Castle such an iconic part of the Mario universe, from menacing flame wheels to swinging spike pendulums.
In a few years from now, we have a feeling that Sunshine Airport will become a defining track that’s synonymous with Mario Kart 8. Not only was the quick and breezy track featured in a bunch of the game’s promotional artwork before its May release, but speeding through Sunshine Airport is just downright fun: as players are forced to weave through luggage conveyor belts, maneuver around a giant plane as it rolls down the runway, and even soar high into the sky just like the planes themselves. Couple all of that with the nifty shortcut that has you racing through the interior of an actual airplane, and Sunshine Airport quickly becomes one of Mario Kart 8’s most welcome surprises (although we’re not exactly sure how Metal Mario made it through security!).
We’re not really sure why, but the Sky Worlds have always been among our very favorites from the Mario platforming games, all the way back to Super Mario Bros. 3. Special Cup track opener Cloudtop Cruise takes everything that makes the Mario Sky Worlds so great and perfectly translates it into racing form, with a winding course that’s made out of the clouds themselves. During your quick run through the sky, you’ll travel up a beanstalk, burst onto a flying airship (another big staple of the Mario franchise), and literally fly through the air, only to find yourself trapped in a tunnel of menacing storm clouds. This course really allows the new HD visuals in the game to shine, and forms the perfect groundwork for Mario Kart 8’s winning hang-glider and hover-kart combo.
Shy Guy Falls
Shy Guy Falls is an awesome Mario Kart track because it has you racing UP a magnificent waterfall, not to mention down another one as well. At least I think that’s what’s happening here, because Shy Guy Falls features so many winding curves and changes in perspective that it’s hard to tell which way is up sometimes! But that’s exactly why we love this one so much: it serves as a wonderful example of the newfound verticality that Mario Kart 8 employs. It’s also nice to see the Shy Guys finally get the respect they deserve in their very own track, as the little guys toil away in the glittering mines that stand in the background of those beautiful falls.
And now for our current favorite track in Mario Kart 8, the sprawling and breathtaking Mount Wario that closes out the Star Cup. Taking a page from the Maka Wuhu track in Mario Kart 7, this snow-themed track is unique in that it features a different starting point and end point, rather than three short laps of a singular area. You begin the race by launching yourself out of an airplane, and then spiral down the precipice of an elaborate snowy mountain. Along the way, you’ll encounter everything from snowy peaks and icy curves, to underground caverns and a roaring dam, to a downhill conclusion through a vibrant ski lodge. It doesn’t get much better than this, my friends: Mount Wario is Mario Kart at its finest.