Mario Monday - Super Mario Kart

Monday, June 22, 2009

With the launch of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Mario was bound to expand on his empire and game library. After spending years stomping on Goombas and kicking Koopa shells, Mario had a desire to hit the race tracks. Taking a page from the success of F-Zero, Super Mario Kart took the racing genre to a whole new dimension.

Super Mario Kart for the SNES is still one of the most successful games on the system and launched a franchise of its own. Before the days of online multi-player races and the Wii Wheel, Super Mario Kart was simple, yet addictive with its four cups, time trial mode and the exciting battle mode.

Released in the United States in September of 1992, Super Mario Kart quickly became a must-own game for every SNES owner. Obviously the fact that the Mario cast and worlds were featured in the game many fans picked up a copy just to have another Mario game. Had this game not been branded with Mario though the game would still be a great game due to its smooth game play and re-playability with battle mode.

Super Mario Kart features eight racers with four unique styles of play. Mario and Luigi were the average kart drivers. Yoshi and Princess Peach were quick accelerators while Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr. were slow starters but could reach the highest speeds. Toad and Koopa Troopa (my kart racer of choice) provided the best control but lacked the highest speed.

Competition consisted of three cups; Mushroom, Flower and Star. Conquering these three standard cups would unlock the Special Cup.

Super Mario World plays a heavy influence on the course layout in this game. Ghost Valley courses are designed with the ghost houses introduced in SMW, as are the Choco Island courses and Donut Plains tracks.

The Special Cup introduced the legendary Rainbow Road, a course that would be adapted in each of the future editions in the Super Mario Kart series. Mastering Rainbow Road took patience, and to this day it will still give kart racers fits as there are no borders to keep the driver from falling off. This frustration would be somewhat fixed in the future, but Rainbow Road generally represents the toughest stage in all of the Mario Kart games.

Perhaps the greatest part of Super Mario Kart is the vast array of items that the drivers can use. The items that can be picked up ranger from coins (which help increase speed), mushrooms (giving the driver a speed boost), and banana peels (which cause opposing drivers to spin out). Of course the most coveted items are the lightning bolt (which zaps all opposing racers and shrinks them), the starman (giving the racer temporary invincibility) and the red Koopa shell (which acts as a homing missile on the racer in front of the driver).

The red Koopa shell was probably the most useful item in Super Mario Kart, but it came in handy the most in the battle mode. In battle mode two players drove their karts around a specially designed course, picking up various items with the goal of popping the opposing player's balloons. The first driver to have their three balloons popped would suffer defeat. Red Koopa shells all but guaranteed a popped balloon but the more experienced kart drivers could find ways to defeat the red shell.

Super Mario Kart took advantage of the Mode 7 graphics processing on the SNES> Mode 7 was "a form of texture mapping available on the SNES which allows a plane to be rotated and scaled freely, achieving a pseudo three-dimensional appearance." (Source) Mode 7 gave game son the SNES a unique visual appearance that set it above the level of the Sega Genesis. Today it looks primitive but the ability to have a camera spin around a character and rotate the playing field the way it does was ground breaking at the time and visually stunning.

Super Mario Kart also utilized the, at the time not so common, split screen view. The top of the screen was used to show you the driver and the course. Meanwhile on the bottom the player could get a view of the entire course map as well as where the other drivers were located. The map screen could also be used as a rear view mirror by pressing the right button.

In two player mode though the bottom screen would remove any maps and rear mirror functions and act as the playing screen for player two.

The original Super Mario Kart has yet to be released on the Nintendo Virtual Console (although Mario Kart 64 has been released). The only way to play the game today is by hooking up your old SNES and plugging in your controller of choice. Grab a friend to play along and relive the memories of 1992 all over again.

Just watch out for those red Koopa shells!

Blog Archive

Statistics Tracked By

  © Blogger template On The Road by 2009, modified by Kevin McGuire.

Back to TOP