Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Nintendo Switch is just fabulous, a much-improved version of an already very good game. It includes all the features from the original game and its DLC, plus a few new racers and a revamped, more traditional and much more satisfying Battle Mode. And, with just a few exceptions, almost all of these features are unlocked from the beginning. Sure, there are plenty of karts, tires and gliders to unlock, but all the big stuff is there. And honestly, this feels like a mistake.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Amazing, But No Sense Of Progression
You can unlock Gold Mario in ‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’
The problem with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe coming with all its big features already unlocked is simple: There’s no sense of progression throughout the game. Mario Kart 8 required you to unlock a lot of drivers over time; here, all but one are available from the get-go. The 200cc mode, added by DLC on Wii U later on, also starts out unlocked.
Mario Kart 8 is amazingly fun, and chasing after three-star gold trophies is truly satisfying. But it’s disappointing that the game has so few unlockables, and those that are there—the car parts—come simply from getting Coins, which takes time rather than skill. None of the unlockables feel like they’re earned through superior racing. The sense of achievement behind victory would be amped up if, for example, you had to unlock Mirror Mode and 200cc by getting gold all through 150cc, and if winning gold trophies gradually unlocked more racers. That was the case in Mario Kart 8, and it felt great.
It’s clear enough why Nintendo made the decision for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to start with everything unlocked: It’s the Deluxe version of a game that already existed, and that many people already played. The game was by far the best-selling title on Wii U, by nearly 3 million units worldwide. A lot of people have already played the heck out of it, and Nintendo is assuming they might not want to unlock everything all over again.
Well, that’s not necessarily true. I unlocked everything in Mario Kart 8, but still wish that I had the chance to unlock everything again—to have a fresh start—in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Alas, I do not have the option. The game starts with nearly everything on the table. Only Gold Mario, the secret racer, remains to unlock, and he’s a hard goal to reach. At least the number of Coins you need to unlock everything has increased, but that’s really just a function of playtime and the number of players you play with more than anything else.
Nintendo’s decision is basically logical, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a great game. But players who didn’t play the Wii U original, and returning players like me who left the original behind years ago, will miss out on one of its great joys: Slowly gaining the sense of accomplishment from unlocking new racers and modes. It’s a smallish loss in a game still very much worth playing.