Mario Kart 64 — 1Q2016 issue

Mario Kart’s grow­ing pains

Mario Kart has always been an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence. Com­bin­ing go-karting and Mario has and is a recipe for suc­cess for Nin­tendo, quite hon­estly. And, by the time Nin­tendo got around to mak­ing the sequel to the smash hit Super Mario Kart, they knew they had a sure­fire mas­sive hit on their hands.
Mario Kart 64 takes every­thing you loved about the first game and immea­sur­ably increases it. The Mario char­ac­ters, the tracks, the secrets; every­thing about Mario Kart 64 is bet­ter than the orig­i­nal in every respect. Dri­ving has improved with bet­ter steer­ing qual­i­ties for all char­ac­ters includ­ing the bonafied intro­duc­tion of pow­er­s­lid­ing. Mas­ter­ing pow­er­s­lid­ing means a world of dif­fer­ence in race times, espe­cially when you have brag­ging rights at stake. Old mechan­ics, such as the weight class con­cept, are still present but it seems every­one has a bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion with respect to how a class really con­trols. The light­weights feel like, well, light­weights. The heavy­weights actu­ally feel like they’re heavy to han­dle.
While I’m an admit­ted long-term Mario Kart afi­cionado, I have to admit that if you’re going to get into Mario Kart, this is the title to do so with. It’s not hard to pick up MK64 and grasp the mechan­ics. It’s also easy to play with friends who under­stand the nuances of Mario Kart so that you’re not left behind for very long. And it’s the play­ing with oth­ers that makes this one of the best party games ever cre­ated. MK64 has Bat­tle Mode as its ace in the hole and it makes it one of the first quin­tes­sen­tial party games, along­side Gold­en­eye, Super Smash Bros. and Mario Party.
With all that it has going for it, how­ever, there a few minor draw­backs. First, if rub­ber band AI both­ers you, this is not the game for you. MK64’s AI is one of the worst offend­ers of the rub­ber band­ing prac­tice and it gets worse as you go through the sin­gle player race cam­paign. Com­bine that with the pun­ish­ing dif­fi­culty of 100cc and 150cc races and you have a frus­trat­ing, controller-throwing mess. Sec­ond, this is the sec­ond game after Mario 64 where Mario char­ac­ters are vocal­ized. I promise you will get tired of hear­ing char­ac­ters say their favorite phrase long before you fin­ish any of the modes. It gets old quickly and makes one wish they could turn the sound off, except that you’ll real­ize quickly that the sound­track is actu­ally great. This, how­ever, is the game that turned me against Mario char­ac­ters talk­ing.
Mario Kart 64 is polar­iz­ing to some play­ers: Some think it’s one of the great­est kart rac­ing games ever made while oth­ers hate it. I tend to be in the mid­dle; it’s a great entry in the kart rac­ing genre, but there are some fairly major quirks with how it plays to throw a wrench into things. I like to think that the fun and the qual­ity asso­ci­ated with Mario Kart boosts it out of the mid­dle of the pack.