Super Mario Kart

A word to the wise: do NOT under any circumstances get your flatmate hooked on Mario Kart. That means DON’T let them play it. At all.

Oh, you might think it’s terrific at first having a Player 2 at the ready, but you’ve got to understand – it’s a ‘bridge title’ in the truest sense of the word – it’s a gateway drug.

Marx was wrong. Mario Kart is the Opiate of the Masses.

It’s like being married to a nymphomaniac – you might think that’s an awesome problem to have, but wait until you’re red, raw, run down, and can’t get a damn thing done*; then let’s see what you have to say about it. Oh yes, you can most definitely have too much of a good thing. Try telling that to my flatmate, though, who’ll happily put “World on a String” (as performed by Michael Bublé) on repeat for the entire duration of the morning commute, simply because he likes it.

I’ve worked long and hard at expanding his horizons, but it seems he can only accommodate latch onto one new thing at a time before culture club is adjourned. Oh well, I suppose listening to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack on repeat instead of Billy Joel is progress. The thing is, if I wasn’t constantly introducing new cultural material, we’d be stuck on the latest obsession FOREVER.  Not even joking.

Thus far, I have failed to replace Super Mario Kart Wii. Can you see how that might be a problem?

I have another friend who’s stuck on Super Mario Kart. Not stuck as in “can’t finish it”, but stuck as in he keeps coming back to it. He uses the Classic Controller on Mario Kart Wii, if only to simulate playing it on a SNES. I’m pretty sure his frustration with the Wii version is parallel with my feelings “going back” to the SNES version. What he may see as impurities introduced to the Wii version, I see as tweaks missing from the SNES version. I’m progressive like that. Nonetheless, Super Mario Kart is an experience enshrined with very good reason.

I’ve seen it referred to as an abstraction of go-karting, but it’s more an abstraction of Super Mario Bros. Your adversaries may as well be the timer, as your driver jumps, hits ‘?’ blocks for powerups, throws shells, and avoids obstacles to reach the finish line [flagpole]. It’s Mario in 3D, essentially, and a testament to the primal strength of the Super Mario Bros. game design.

It’s Wacky Races: The Videogame, where everybody knows your name playing dirty is a virtue, and mischief is encouraged. So many great games revel in the fun of mischief made [see A Link to the Past, GTA, and my current obsession, The Saboteur].

For every time Nintendo has been berated for making “kiddie” games, they should be applauded for their timeless aesthetic choices. What separates Super Mario Kart (and indeed, any Nintendo game) from the rest of the dross is this thing we in the biz like to call “art direction”. This vibrant cast of characters wouldn’t look out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon, and I’m here to tell you that’s a good thing.  Donkey Kong, Luigi, Yoshi, Bowser, and Princess Peach have each become so familiar they can headline their own games and still sell a million copies.

I picked Yoshi because he looks like he has a thermometer in his mouth.

It blew the Mario game wide open – beyond platformers – into racers, sports, RPGs, and fighters. It was just a great idea.

Super Mario Kart deserves every bit of nostalgia lavished on it. Everything about it is memorable. Just don’t show it to your flatmate.

* This review was delayed by at least two days due to Flatmate Mario Kart Addiction.
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