Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review for Nintendo Switch

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Medium: Switch Card/Digital
Players: 1-12
Online: Yes

Way back in the summers of my youth, our family would take road trips to the coast for a week or two off. At some point, we purchased a newer van with a little CRT television in a raised roof, making those trips much more bearable. Granted, modern-day minivans seem to come equipped with mandatory screens for each and every passenger these days, but at the time, that single screen was like magic, an escape from the 15-hour drive and dull scenery. Not only could we watch VHS tapes, but the obvious idea of hooking up game consoles actually made the whole ordeal kind of fun.

Sure, we had things like the Gameboy Advance, but this was a console in motion for regular people like you and me. As it happened, the Gamecube was a perfect companion at the time, and for some reason it was Crazy Taxi that was most-played. Played to the point of nausea at times, depending on the geography or which parent was behind the wheel.

I’m not sure I’d recommend it now, but at the time, it was a perfect fix. Crazy Taxi’s short and energetic arcade gameplay kept us glued to the screen, unaware of the otherwise monotonous drive. I can’t explain why this is such a prominent memory, but playing games in that minivan is locked into my nostalgia bank.

So here we are in 2017 with the Nintendo Switch, with this detour down memory lane brought to you by the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. With its short and energetic arcade gameplay sprung from a home console.

Nostalgia for Mario Kart 8 may be in short supply, considering that it’s only been a year or so since its release on Wii U, but in my case, we’ve reached much further back to a time where a console like the Switch was just a dream. There’s a good reason for that, since when it comes to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it’s hard to say anything particularly negative about the game.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch is exactly what childhood “us” always wanted, in instances like a family road trip or long flight. It’s the complete version of what could be considered the best Mario Kart to date, now with some under-the-hood modifications such as a revamped Battle Mode and small visual and gameplay touches. Players are treated to all the bells and whistles that a “Deluxe” title might suggest, with all previous DLC from the Wii U version packed in, along with some extras such as the Splatoon Inklings joining the fray.

The game of course looks and sounds gorgeous, but now with the Switch hardware, can be appreciated with a screen that doesn’t wash out and reduce fidelity to a point of blandness.

In fact, any and all praise lauded on the original Mario Kart 8 release applies to the Switch version. The most major difference between the two (besides the inclusion of DLC and other content) is the Switch hardware itself, which we’ve written words about, and as you can probably imagine, is perfectly suited to a Mario Kart game.

Probably the most noteworthy component to drive home is the ability to pop off each Joy-Con for local split screen multiplayer at any point. Players are also able to connect online or locally via wireless connection for multiplayer, but in a true first for the series, Mario Kart brings a home experience outside with local multiplayer. It works exactly as you hope, and again, is possible due completely to the Switch hardware. And of course, split screen still goes up to 4 players in TV mode.

It’s for this reason that it can at times feel like we’re in the future, or are tempted to think back to road trips where local multiplayer in a racing game took place on a tiny screen mounted several feet away in the roof of a van. As the lines blur between what gameplay modes are possible in traditional or new settings, a console like the Switch easily phases between past and present for the best of both worlds. It doesn’t matter if kids today are spoiled with technology, because we can spoil ourselves, too. Heck, anyone who remembers the yesteryears of gaming have the luxury of being able to appreciate how far we’ve come in the first place.

Much of this will seem like a given to Switch owners, but it’s still completely relevant in terms of what validates picking up this version of Mario Kart 8. It’s not only the “complete” and current experience, but one transformed by its hardware. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive version as we’re likely to know it from now on, and thanks to the nature of the Switch, it’s worth every penny.

Grade: A