As mentioned at the end of my previous post, I really enjoy Mario Kart. More than anything, the characters, vehicles, and tracks tend to stand out for me. Here are some of my favorites.

Now you're driving with power!

Characters: Mario Kart has seen a lot of characters over the years. I remember gravitating towards Yoshi in the first game, and Donkey Kong in Mario Kart 64, but since then, I’ve gone with Mario as my main– even when replaying the old ones (though I’ll occasionally use Yoshi and DK for old times’ sake). At least I don’t have to worry about him going anywhere or becoming an unlockable!

As noted before, playing as R.O.B. was one of my favorite parts of Mario Kart DS, and Rosalina was fun in Mario Kart Wii. In Mario Kart 7, I tend to use my Mii a lot, just as I often use my Avatar when I’m not using Shadow in ASR. Just don’t think I’d rather play a racing game with all Miis or Avatars; playing as myself among these casts of great characters is part of the fun, and it just wouldn’t be the same without them.

Oh, and I also like using Waluigi on occasion. I don’t care what the haters think, he’s fun! Especially when you play “in-character” and ham it up during your wins and losses. Yes, I speak from experience.

In Double Dash!!, I’d love to be able to use Funky Kong, Dry Bones, and Dry Bowser, while in Mario Kart 7, I’d love to use Rosalina again, as well as Metal Mario, Shy Guy, and Lakitu. In either case, I don’t think that’s going to happen soon. Ironically, I’d pay for DLC in these games to unlock them all, but it’s not there; meanwhile, it is available in Sonic & All-Stars Racing, yet I never needed it. What a world.

Courses: Oh, there have been so many of these over the years… I’ll try to keep this relatively brief, though.

Missed it by that much!

Nothing in particular stands out above the rest among the Super Mario Kart courses; they’re all great, though a few are redundant. Forgivable, seeing as it was the first one. Mario Kart 64, however, has Toad’s Turnpike, Moo Moo Farm, and DK’s Jungle Raceway.

Most of all, I enjoy Kalimari Desert, which made its long-awaited return in Mario Kart 7. I’m just disappointed it will probably be gone by the next one, but more on that soon. Overall, I like most of the courses.

In Double Dash!!, Baby Park is surprisingly fun for its simplicity, and the Daisy Cruiser is neat. Yoshi Circuit is fun, and I love Mushroom City– but then, I’m a sucker for city courses, especially at night. In Mario Kart DS, I enjoyed Luigi’s Mansion, Delfino Plaza, Waluigi Pinball, and most of all, the Airship Fortress.

Mario Kart Wii had a number of fun courses, including the Mario Circuit through scenic Toad Town, Moo Moo Meadows, Toad’s Factory, Coconut Mall, Daisy Circuit, Maple Treeway, Bowser’s Castle, and of course, Moonview Highway. Koopa Cape was fun, too, most notably for the part where you drive into a pipe.

Finally, we have Mario Kart 7, which is rich with great courses. As noted before, they brought back one of my favorite and more unique courses from Mario Kart 64, Kalimari Desert (I really enjoy the Western theme over the Egyptian one; if only they’d apply that to the other games). Luigi’s Mansion, Coconut Mall, Waluigi Pinball, Daisy Cruiser, Maple Treeway, Koopa Cape, and the Airship Fortress help make the Retro Cup a veritable who’s who of my favorite courses, while several others are quite enjoyable as well.

Not to be confused with Dinohattan.

As for the game’s new courses, they’re all great in some way or another. Some don’t like the inclusion of Wuhu Loop and Maka Wuhu, but I’ve grown to like Wuhu Island overall, and enjoy seeing it whenever it pops up. However, it does tend to fly in the face of Nintendo’s statements that they aren’t interested in incorporating other Nintendo franchises into the series. I’m cool either way, but really: Pick a stance and stick with it (or maybe consider a separate Nintendo all-star racing game).

Wario Shipyard is a bit different, though it may allude to his encounters with pirates in his own series of games (with the music even coming from Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3). Neo Bowser City is a cool twist on the city environment, especially with the rain falling throughout the race. The rest are solid as well, while the game has my favorite rendition of the Rainbow Road ever. But two others really stand out to me.

I thought this was a go-kart, not a DeLorean!

I believe there’s an expression which goes “you guys, holy crap, you guys,” or something to that effect. And that was my reaction with two courses: Piranha Plant Slide and Shy Guy Bazaar.

Don’t let the name of the first fool you: While there is a bit of focus on Piranha Plants, this is a true Super Mario Bros. course, feeling very much like the underground levels in the original game. When you approach the goal, you come up above ground, and the scenery is like a 3D representation of the original game, and it is glorious.

Whoever came up with this stage deserves a promotion, and should make more stages like this.

How bazaar, how bazaar.

The other, Shy Guy Bazaar, is based on Subcon, the land from Super Mario Bros. 2. Of course, that game was itself a sort of remake of Yume K?j?: Doki Doki Panic, which had more of an Arabian flavor, right down to its main characters.

And I don’t have to tell you how big a fan I am of Super Mario Bros. 2, right?

Shy Guys ride around on magic carpets decorated with Phantos, Pansers, and Cobrats (plus Super Mario Bros. 3‘s Angry Suns), and there are other hints of the game, too, such as the designs on the pottery. It isn’t as strongly referential as Piranha Plant Slide (one could argue if all the vegetables in the marketplace are meant to be a reference to the items in that game, for example, but the giant turnips growing out of the ground leave little room for doubt), but still helps expand the world seen in Super Mario Bros. 2 while providing a fresh new course for Mario Kart, and absolutely begs for Nintendo to return and further explore this world in a future game.

Oh, and it takes place at night– always a plus in my book.

Vehicles: I’m not too particular about what I drive in these games, but there are a few vehicles I enjoy more than others, particularly since they introduced new styles in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!.

King of the Road.

In that game, I like DK’s Barrel Train because– well, you’re driving around a racetrack in an old-fashioned train. How cool is that?

The Koopa Dasher is a neat one, because it looks sort of like something the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would drive if they were in something like this. And I also like Mario and Luigi’s Red and Green Fire karts for some reason, though I can’t put my finger on why. I think it has something to do with Red Fire being a Wendy’s Kids Meal toy I got once.

My absolute favorites of the lot? The Wario Car, because it’s one of Wario’s iconic vehicles put to good use, and the Waluigi Racer is pretty sleek looking– almost like a purple jet. But above all others? It’s gotta be the monstrous, six-wheeled Koopa King.

Stacking the deck in his favor.

In Mario Kart DS, I find I do well with the B Dasher and Shooting Star, though I kind of like the standard kart a little more, at least when I’m using Mario.

But the karts which looks like other vehicles are really great. I love the tractor-like Dragonfly, the excavator-like Gold Mantis, and the Jeep-like Wildlife. But above all of those? The tank-like Dry Bomber. Plus, there’s the Brute, another take on the Wario Car.

Incidentally, I think the Rambi Rider is perfect for DK; arguably his best kart.

Of course, with R.O.B. being one of my favorites this time out, I think I have to give the overall nod to his ROB-BLS, based on the game Stack-Up, and the ROB-LGS, based on giving R.O.B. legs.

As an aside, it’s a shame that the only karts with actual art are the standard ones.

From Mario Kart Wii‘s karts, I love the Wild Wing, and would love to see Mario bring that with him if he ever does appear in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (with the necessary modifications, of course). It’s got that sleek look that says “sports car” more than “go-kart,” and how can you not love that?

Though I’ve not been able to unlock it, the Blue Falcon is cool for obvious reasons– specifically the ones pertaining to F-Zero. The Flame Flyer is a nifty hot rod, while the Offroader is just one mean-looking machine. And rounding out the four-wheeled rides, the Jetsetter and Sprinter look pretty sick, though I’ve used neither one.

From the motorcycles, the Wario Bike is as iconic as the Wario Car, and the Mach Bike is a favorite for being a tribute to Mach Rider.

It’s really a shame that seeing all these homages is so tough to do (for me, anyway); I wonder how many people have gotten to use all of them among those who have played? Not to mention that you can’t swap drivers and vehicles around as in the handheld games. I like using Rosalina, but there are other bikes I’d rather be using than those available to her.

Anyway, I also like the Sugarscoot for some reason. Perhaps because it looks like something Mega Man might ride, name aside.

Trukk AND munky!

In Mario Kart 7, it’s tougher to say, since everything is in different parts and I’ve yet to get a lot of them. Here’s what I like so far.

I tend to favor the Monster wheels, though I’ll switch it up on occasion, such as to Sponge Wheels, if it might help (I’ve yet to get the Red Monster wheels). Aside from the standard Super Glider, the only other one I have/use is the Swooper, though the Beast Glider looks like it lives up to its name.

For frames, I have and like to use the Standard, Barrel Train, Bolt Buggy, and Blue Seven. Of the ones I don’t have, the Koopa Clown looks cool, though I can’t imagine using it with anyone but Bowser.

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And there we have it! My choice picks for everything Mario Kart… well, save for items. To be honest, I’m not too particular about any of them, so long as they aren’t overused in clusters, ruining your day. As mentioned in the last article, I do love Mario Kart: Double Dash!!‘s Special Items, particularly the fireballs and Bowser Shells… if only they’d bring those back. Strangely enough, the ones they kept as regular items were mostly the ones that weren’t very good.

Next time, I look at the changes I’d like to see Nintendo make to Mario Kart in the hopes of allowing it to become even better, more accessible, and more enduring.

All images courtesy of the Super Mario Wiki.

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