N64 Review: Mario Kart 64
Review by: Namek (namek@sm128c.com)

Game Info

 System: N64
 ESRB: Everyone
 Genre: Racing
 # of Players: 1-4
 Size: 96 Megabits
 Developer: Nintendo
 Publisher: Nintendo

 Controller Pak: Yes
 Rumble Pak: No
 Transfer Pak: No

 Release Date:
 US: Feb 12, 1997
 EU: Jun 12, 1997
 JP: Dec 14, 1996

Screenshots:

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Final Score:
8.8/10

The original Super Mario Kart is a classic. Shigeru Miyamoto's whimsical (but intense) racing game provided countless hours of 16-bit Super NES fun. Despite the lack of dangerously high speeds, fiery explosions, rocket launchers, and bloody crashes--Super Mario Kart was simply too much fun for hardcore gamers to resist. Now Mario Kart has returned in 64-bit glory; the result is a compelling racing game which promises to deliver hours of the same trademark fun. Mario Kart 64 is probably the best multiplayer console game ever created.

Overall, Mario Kart 64 offers the basic play elements of its predecessor, simply delivered in 64-bit style. There is no radical departure here, but with gameplay this good, arguably a departure was not needed.

Players may choose to play as one of eight characters (Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, Toad, Yoshi, Wario, Donkey Kong, and Bowser), each of which have their own strengths and weaknesses. Lighter karts like Toad and Yoshi have great acceleration, while heavier karts like Bowser have faster top speeds. The kart variety adds a great deal of depth to gameplay.

The characters in Mario Kart 64 bear the magical touch of Shigeru Miyamoto. While not necessary to gameplay, they add a great deal of fun to this title. Miyamoto has an uncanny knack for creating characters that are accessible to many different age groups and cultures.

While Mario Kart 64 definitely flexes some N64 muscle, even advanced graphical effects are executed with apparent ease. Some of the nicer touches that influence game play are the large polygon-based vehicles (trains, school buses, etc.) which populate the various courses and interact with the racers. And these effects are fast; even in four-player mode, Mario Kart 64 maintains a nice frame rate.

The one-player mode of Mario Kart 64 does not deliver particularly outstanding racing excitement. The tracks are perhaps too wide, and the competing racers drive too amiably. The game just does not feel like an intense race.

For many, the essence of the original Super Mario Kart was its Battle Mode. In this mode of play, the object was not to win a race, but to destroy the opponent (or at least his balloons). Via a split-screen display, two players bolted about Battle Courses seeking various weaponry, and unleashing it against their foes.

Mario Kart 64 offers four Battle Courses to choose from. Unfortunately, gamers may find these courses too large and confusing for effective excitement. The 3-D effects (hills, platform, and the like) unfortunately seem to hinder smooth Battle Mode action. Too much space and complexity in a Battle Course, and you spend most of your time seeking the opposition, instead of pounding it into submission.

But the real advancement in Mario Kart 64...the one that makes it all worthwhile...is three and four-player split screen play. It is in multiplay Mario GP (racing) mode that Mario Kart 64 really shines. Take one large-screen television, add four friends, and you may just have the multiplayer videogaming experience of your life. While Internet Quake is outstanding, there is nothing that compares to unleashing a lightning bolt upon your helpless friends to pull off a last-second come-from-behind Mario Kart victory.

Make no mistake, Mario Kart 64 is a polished title that will deliver hours of serious multiplayer fun. But if you are in the market for a Nintendo 64 racer, we also suggest you check out Wave Race 64 (which includes a cool two-player mode). Ultimately, Mario Kart 64 achieves greatness via its multiplay Mario GP racing mode; that experience alone makes this game a great ride.

-- Namek (namek@sm128c.com)

Bottom Line: Mario Kart 64 is a good investment for many people who want a little excitment while driving down a race track not to mention whooping your friends butt in battle royal with a go kart.