In case you haven't heard, Mario Kart has recently become the best-selling racing game franchise in history. The most recent entry in the series, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, has become the fastest-selling game in the franchise as well. Despite the fact that Nintendo seems to be rehashing "the same content," they're doing incredibly well with their classic racing game.
Because of this, Mario Kart has been around for a very long time. Each time a new game is introduced, many new tracks are brought into the fold. While there are a lot of tracks that are simply given a visual overhaul, Nintendo is constantly coming up with new ideas and templates for Mario and his friends to race around the Mushroom Kingdom and even other worlds in Nintendo lore.
There are a ridiculous amount of courses in Mario Kart these days, and since it's now the highest-selling racing game franchise, it's time to test who the real racers are in the crowd. Whether you've been playing the series for years or have just come into it recently, your Mario Kart love is about to be put to the test.
Can you name these Mario Kart tracks?
Don't Blink Or You'll Miss It
It's sort of an unspoken rule that every Mario Kart game will have a track that deals with spooky beings in the Mushroom Kingdom like Boos and Dry Bones. For some reason, this course features a giant Cheep Cheep flying through the air and then disappearing. Still, it's quite an enjoyable course, featuring some of the sharpest turns ever put into a Mario Kart game. Players will race across a series of bridges before passing through a building before going on the bridges again.
Your Friends Will Hate You
There are a few courses that reappear in each Mario Kart game. They keep the same names but have different structures. One such course is Rainbow Road. Each new Mario Kart has a different Rainbow Road to race on. Some of them are so massive that they're only one lap. Others are short yet incredibly difficult courses to race on. This particular track features thwomps that shake up the racetrack while you're struggling not to fall off the road. It's not easy.
Something Doesn't Quite Belong
Mario Kart 8 shook up a lot of the established Mario Kart formula not in mechanics, but how many of its courses were designed. The anti-gravity style allowed them to get really creative with how they crafted levels, and that remains true with this one. Seldom has Nintendo placed a medieval course in their games, and this one fits so well. It also features different variants for Rupees, Piranha Plants, and Bats. You won't be driving on the walls, but the track is memorable.
Here We Go!
In the Mario Kart series, Nintendo likes to have a few "poster boy" tracks as I like to call them. These tracks serve to show off many of the new visuals and mechanics that you can expect from the rest of the game going forward. They're not difficult, but fascinating enough to keep people coming back every now and again. They're the perfect courses for those who are still learning the game, and the track pictured above is no exception.
Rain rain, go away
This course originated in Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS. It features a lot of close corners and winding paths. Because of this, it's one of the more difficult courses to master and requires excellent racers in order to beat effectively. The course later saw a reappearance in Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U. On top of a visual overhaul, it was awarded some rain effects and anti-grav boosts. Unfortunately, that only makes the course more difficult in the long run.
No Thank You!
Along with Mario Circuit and Rainbow Road, there is one more track that reappears in every Mario Kart game. Like the others, this one is designed differently each time, featuring a new and challenging obstacle to drive past. In this instance, racers are tasked with avoiding a giant stone and lava Bowser who will punch the splitting paths that travel around him. It forces players to think about which direction is best. Make one wrong decision and you're going to get flattened.
It's all Downhill from Here
Mario Kart Double Dash allowed for some new design choices in terms of how the circuits were structured. The perfect example of this is the course pictured. It introduced a cannon that launched racers to the top of a mountain. From there, they simply had to drive down the rest of the way, avoiding massive boulders and pitfalls. Then it was a straight shot to the finish as everyone drove along a rickety bridge. The course reappeared on Mario Kart Wii.
A giant oval with waterfalls
This track is much more simplistic when placed with other Mario Kart tracks. Instead of complicated paths and obstacles, this course is basically a giant oval. There are some complications in the form of waterfalls that you can't pass without Mushrooms, but as long as you know where to go, you won't have many problems. This course originated on Mario Kart DS and was later placed into Mario Kart Wii. Despite its simplicity, it's easy to mess up on this course.
Ice Physics and Tricky Shortcuts
Ice physics are among the least desired features in any video game, but it can be used to great effect. In the case of this track, it adds an extra dimension of skill in order to place first. While the course begins on a fairly simple road, you're quickly in the midst of frosted toad houses before getting into a cave where you can find a dangerously narrow shortcut. All the while, pleasant and whimsical music is playing in the background.
While you may not recognize this track, it has appeared in another Mario Kart game. The current screenshot and its origin are from Mario Kart Super Circuit for the GameBoy Advance. This particular track features some sharp turns and difficult obstacles, but it's nothing that skilled players won't be able to handle. The overall aesthetic is also quite childlike, featuring many bright colors and presents, giving the appearance that you're racing through your childhood. Have you figured it out yet?
Soaring through the Clouds
Mario Kart 8 has a lot of courses that take the anti-gravity idea and run with it. This course is a perfect example of Nintendo not being afraid to go all out with the premise of the game. Racers will drive along the clouds and bounce off of beanstalks before hopping onto a pirate ship (that likely belongs to Bowser). From there, they will be shot out of a cannon into a storm, where lightning continuously strikes boost pads. Only proper timing will ensure your victory.
Back to the Basics
Back in the days of Super Mario Kart on the SNES, every track looked very similar. Because of the limitations of the hardware, each track was flat and you could essentially see the entire course at any time. The nuances of each track came mostly in the colors and visuals. This particular course is covered in muddy browns and oranges. There are a few tough turns and plenty of mud pits to slow you in your tracks, but it's not hard to come out on top.
From Another Time Period
Every time it seems like Nintendo is running out of ideas for Mario Kart tracks, they come up with something so conceptually original that we no longer worry about it. That's precisely the case with this course from Mario Kart 7. In takes a much different inspiration and visual style from the rest of the Mario Kart series. Yet it's well-integrated with plenty of ramps, racing across rooftops, and a section where your glider pops out and you have to fly to victory.
Chinese Inspiration Much?
This is another course that came from Mario Kart 8. Much like Shy Guy Bazaar, Nintendo took inspiration from an entirely different culture for this track. However, much of the course is based on a dragon. To make things more interesting, the track shakes things up with the use of anti-gravity and some quick turns that require racers to be on their toes (or I suppose the brakes). This is one of the tracks that is extremely difficult on 200cc.
Pixelated Water is the Best
The golden standard of any great game is how good the water looks (100% scientific fact right there). You take a look at this course, and you suddenly remember that games didn't always look great. That said, the track is still quite fun. Nintendo consistently impresses by having water and ocean themed tracks but still giving them their own feel. This one simulates driving along little islands while avoiding cannonballs and crabs while you drive. Palm trees and beautiful sunrises are to be expected.
Boo! Scared Yet?
One thing that makes the Mario Kart series worthy of multiple play sessions is that many previous tracks are remastered. Sometimes it's done to the point that they might as well be different tracks completely. Regardless of your perspective, racing on courses like the one pictured is a pure joy. Another Boo-related course, this track is a simple design but offers enough sharp curves and obstacles to keep things interesting. There's even a shortcut for those that have mushrooms.
Another Tropical Theme?
Like I said, Nintendo is no stranger to using the same theme for multiple courses, but that doesn't make them any less good. This particular track takes a laidback approach. Instead of having something high-stakes get in your way, this track is little more than a simple cruise on the beach, where you can gaze upon the horizon and throw shells at your enemies. Just watch out for the circular ducks. Get hit by one, and you're bound to lose your spot.
One of the Craziest Rides
While many Mario Kart tracks take the approach of packing as many details and tricks to make it excellent, that's not always the case. This particular course takes the "less is more" approach. The entire track is just one oval. While incredibly short, it takes seven laps to beat instead of the normal three. All the while, this task is made more difficult as racers begin throwing shells and bananas all over the track. If you don't get hit by anything in this course, you should play the lottery.
Just Can't Wait To Be King!
Putting the Lion King vibes aside, some Mario Kart courses like to open with a bang. That's something that this course captures excellently. Within the first few moments, you'll find yourself driving under the legs of a large dinosaur. From there, you'll be rocketing yourself through caves and on a bridge that passes the dino's head. Then to finish things off, you'll be faced with a set of geysers that erupt right before you get to the finish line. It's a thrill from start to finish.
What a Mess!
On top of the competitive racing that Mario Kart is known for, the series also features a battle mode. In it, players will drive around nonlinear arenas as opposed to race tracks with a goal. They then grab items to purposely strike each other down. This course doesn't feature much in terms of visual excellence but has a lot of different levels and ramps to keep things interesting. It complements the tense battle mode and has some interesting easter eggs.
Gotta Love Autumn
When the leaves begin changing colors and falling to the ground, it's a pure joy to behold. That's why this track is so memorable. On top of its warm design, the course is also well-designed, forcing players to drive across the tops of trees, get shot out of a cannon, avoid Wigglers, and jump off of a net that's being pushed upward by the wind. What more could you ask for? Thankfully, the course later reappeared in Mario Kart 7.
Didn't Think Cows Actually Had Those
As the sun sets and people are ready to hit the hay, the scenery becomes beautiful for a few hours. That's when the Mario Kart racers head to the track and battle each other. This course is incredibly simple, but that's what makes it so excellent. There is no gimmick or complicated shortcut. You just follow the road, grab some items, and avoid the cows. After each lap, though, the cows get closer and closer to the racetrack itself. Moo.
What's at the End of the River?
What do a sewer drive in the ocean, a waterfall, and high-speed river all have in common? They're all featured in this Mario Kart track. This course was one of the highlights of the game that it first appeared in. Right off the bat, racers would have to survive a long ramp to another section of the course. Then they were met with a fast-flowing river that needed to be followed for max speed. Then they were dropped into a sewer after coming across a waterfall. This course has it all.
Mario Kart Crossed With Back To the Future?
Some of the best tracks in Mario Kart are the ones that aren't designed with three laps in mind. Instead, it's all one extremely long course that presents new challenges to overcome at each turn. Those are just a few of the reasons why this course is a pure treat to play. As if that weren't enough, racers are driving upwards almost the entire way as they reach their goal: a blimp high in the sky. There are few courses that embody such a sense of power and thrill.
In Every Season
Watching all the seasons of our world unfold each year is an amazing gift that we have. It's also something we get to witness with this Mario Kart track. While it's all the same course, each time you race, it will take place during a different season. Each season presents a different aesthetic as well as challenges to face. However, the track isn't elaborate or fast-paced: it's simply a nice cruise through a gorgeous town. You might get hit with the occasional red shell, though.