Mario Kart: Ranking the Games

With Mario Kart 8 on the way, we rank its predecessors. Which Mario Kart is the best of all-time?

A few weeks ago we decided to rank all of Mario’s greatest platforming adventures that took the iconic Nintendo plumber to all ends of the Mushroom Kingdom. But our red-hatted, princess-saving, Goomba-stomping hero has appeared in so many games over the years that we soon realized that one list just wouldn’t be enough. So now we’re going to be ranking the many games of the Mario spin-off series, and first up is Mario Kart! So get your engines ready, and watch out for any stray blue shells, because here we go!

7. Mario Kart Super Circuit (Platform: Game Boy Advance)

Mario Kart Super Circuit was the very first Mario Kart game to burn tire tracks on a handheld system when the game was released on Game Boy Advance back in 2001. And admittedly, it wasn’t really a very good one. A lot of the new tracks felt a bit uninspired for a Mario Kart game, and those weird and annoying multi-colored block bumpers didn’t exactly mesh well with the increased emphasis on drifting in the game. Probably the best thing about the entire thing was that you could also play through the original set of tracks from Super Mario Kart on the go at no additional cost. And really, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to do that?!

6. Mario Kart Double Dash!! (Platform: GameCube)

In all fairness, Mario Kart Double Dash!! had some pretty big shoes to fill in having to follow the glory that was Mario Kart 64. The game tried to do some really big things in its efforts to stand out, but I actually think this caused it to suffer as a result. A lot of the new tracks just weren’t all that fun to play, and felt like they were trying to recapture the same magic of specific tracks from Mario Kart 64: Mushroom City, Yoshi Circuit, and the horribly-boring Baby Park. The double driver twist also seemed to fall flat on its face, thanks to some really weird pair-offs: who wants to race as Baby Mario and Baby Luigi, Koopa Troopa and Paratroopa, or Petey Piranha and King Boo?

5. Mario Kart DS (Platform: DS)

As far as Mario Kart games are concerned, Mario Kart DS gave us gamers everything we could have wanted from the lighthearted racing series, and all in a nice portable package with some seriously impressive graphics for the time. But beyond everything else, Mario Kart DS was pretty awesome for its unexpected “Mission Mode,” which pitted you and your kart against a number of fun and exciting challenges with different ranking scores. Some of the missions were simple, like smashing a designated number of crates, while others asked you to take down massive bosses under tight time limits. I’m STILL trying to get a three-star rating on some of these missions eight years later!

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4. Mario Kart 7 (Platform: 3DS)

If you thought Mario Kart DS was the pinnacle of what Nintendo could do with their beloved karting series on a handheld platform, then you obviously haven’t be introduced to Mario Kart 7 yet: the latest and greatest installment in the franchise, thanks in no small part to the powerful 3DS hardware and gorgeous visuals. Introducing more kart customization features and even a neat hang-gliding component, Mario Kart 7 came jam-packed with tons of playable characters and even more tracks to race them on, both new and old (there’s 32 of them in total!). I think the only left thing to say now is this: let’s see what you’ve got, Mario Kart 8!

3. Mario Kart Wii (Platform: Wii)

I’ve just got two words for you: the introduction of these Wii Remote steering wheels. Okay, that was way more than two words but you get the idea: Mario Kart Wii was just as much innovative as it was awesome and fun to play. This installment of the classic karting series also had some of the most inventive and original track designs that we’ve seen from the development team in years (shout out to Coconut Mall!), and ones that I’m sure we’ll see keep popping up in future Mario Kart titles down the road. Also: racing bikes!

2. Super Mario Kart (Platform: Super Nintendo)

The original Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo is a great game: after all, if it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t have spawned so many sequels and an industry-wide legacy that is unmatched by many other franchises today. The game still manages to stand the test of time even after all these years, and to many, it is the perfect representation of quintessential Mario Kart. What’s also interesting about the game is that the on-screen display almost seems to foreshadow the format of the Nintendo DS: with the screen split directly across its horizontal center, and a 2D real-time map taking up the bottom portion.

1. Mario Kart 64 (Platform: N64)

Ask anyone what their favorite level from Mario Kart 64 is, and there’s no question that they’re going to give you an answer almost immediately. And that’s because this crowning achievement in the N64 timeline includes some of the most iconic tracks and locations to be found in the entire Mario Kart universe, from Moo Moo Farm and Toad’s Turnpike (you damn trucks!), to Wario Stadium and Yoshi Valley: all classics in their own right. And oh yeah, it was the first Mario Kart game to use 3D graphics, and the race tracks in the Mushroom Kingdom have never been the same since!

And Mario Kart 8 is on its way this year. How will it compare?

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