Mario Kart 7 – 3DS

8 Overall Score

3DS Standard setting graphics | Excellent audio | Great tracks | Perfect driving dynamics

Doesn't do enough new

It’s Mario Kart.  It’s on the 3DS.

To many of  you, that’s really all I needed to say for you to be convinced that you should buy the game.  I shall now attempt to explain my feelings on the game, which are conflicted, but are coloured at all times by the fact that I’m playing Mario Kart, on my 3DS.

For me, Mario Kart has been a near life-long pleasure, having played the first game in the series Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo when I was 8 years old.  I am now a couple decades older and hopefully wiser, as is Nintendo.  Like most Nintendo properties being reviewed by lifelong gamers, they are coloured by nostalgia.  This is something that Nintendo does better than anyone else, Super Mario 3D Land was a master class in how to innovate while still stuffing a game so full of fan service that it was almost embarrassing to talk about the game with someone who hadn’t played every Mario platformer, as they missed every reference you were trying to make.  I thought 3D Land was absolutely fantastic, and a near-perfect balance of old and new while really showing what the 3D on the 3DS was there for.  So where does that leave us with MarioKart 7?

Well, it’s fantastic.  The graphics continue what 3D Land started, and if anything improve upon it.  You’ve got 60 frames-per-second of silky smooth 3D, and 3D that needs to be on.  So often with early 3DS games I found myself turning down the 3D, or even keeping it off completely.  I felt really let down by this, in that one of the majour benefits of this new system was completely negated.  Thankfully I’ve become a believer again, and this release has certainly helped.  It is the equal to what we saw in MarioKart Wii, and in that it has excellent 3D as well, it’s the best looking Mario Kart that exists. There are nice touches when coming out of the water, or boosting, or really doing anything.  The stages are alive both new and old, and the art direction is excellent.  Some stages were done by an American team and some by a Japanese team, and all are excellent.

They ramp up in difficulty nicely through the first four ‘Cups’ (Groups of four tracks) from wide swooping tracks to the always challenging Rainbow Road.  Even the four stages of classic tracks from past Mario Kart titles have been improved graphically, along with other improvements.  The underwater sections and flying dynamics have been added to the older tracks, and although they don’t change the tracks too drastically, they never felt forced in.  They did a great job picking old tracks, and a great job updating them

The sound design, as we have come to expect with Nintendo, has been shown a special care.  When  you drop underwater sounds become muffled and as you take off in flight you can hear the wind wooshing past your ears.  Every sound effect is spot on, even the dreaded warning tones of incoming shells.  It’s spot on, not innovative in any way, but perfectly balanced.  Which is pretty much what this game is.

When it comes down to it, the most important part of any driving game is the feel of the… vehicle.  MarioKart 7 has decided, rightfully so, that MarioKart DS is the title that the driving dynamics should most closely resemble, and for that I am grateful.  I personally consider DS to be the best Mario Kart title, and I was glad to see the handling back.  Thankfully the one thing that I did not like has been taken out: snaking.

To the non-hardcore among us, when you hit the shoulder button your kart ‘hops’ and you can then turn into a skid, which will produce blue, then orange sparks.  Let go of the shoulder button and you get a boost.  In DS, you were able to do it on a straight-away, provided you could mash your thumb in the correct way and were using the right driver.  It completely ruined the online play, as you either snaked (snuck? snake-ed?) or you lost, that was it.  Your sparks are now dependant on the angle of your skid, so snaking SHOULD be a thing of the past.  I haven’t experienced it yet in the online matches I have played, but that doesn’t mean someone hasn’t figured it out.

So you’ve got your 16 new courses, your 16 updated old courses, 3 difficulty levels (With an added mirror 150cc mode if you gold all of the cups in 150cc), 3 new battle maps and 3 classic battle maps, all with a robust online multiplayer.

The battle maps are standard MarioKart fare, where you use weapons to break others balloons or collect coins.  A nice break from racing, as they always are.  The online is probably the best that Nintendo has put out, with SpotPass  ghost-kart downloads for you to set times against, the creation of ‘communities’ that you can race and battle against and leaderboards.

So with everything done so well, with a game polished so hard you can see your face in it, with a game that is $40 of fun, why do I not feel the need to pop it back in right now and race again?

I think the simple answer is Mario Kart fatigue.  I’ve played too much Mario Kart over the last 20 years, and tackling it by myself just doesn’t have the draw to it.  I’m enjoying the ability to unlock kart pieces to construct the kart I want, but I’m just not motivated to jump back in and play, unless I’ve got friends around.  Where Super Mario 3D Land was able to push the envelope while still looking back, Mario Kart 7 just forgot to look forward enough.  I realize that there is less room to innovate in a kart racing title, but Shigeru Miyamoto didn’t even want to put in the kart customization initially, which I think says a lot about why he is stepping down from the larger products.  This is a game that should be a 10, I should be able to recommend it to everyone, which is what a 10 means to me.

But I can’t. If you’ve been playing Mario Kart for as long as I have, and to the amount that I have, you’ll enjoy this game.  You might even love it, and you might say it’s the best Mario Kart yet, and I’d agree with you.  But I just don’t think that when you’re looking at your games for something to play, that it’s going to be what you reach for.  And that’s sad.


Want to know what our review scores mean? Read about it here.


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Author: Micah View all posts by
Micah has been playing games since his first pong machine, and has been writing for as long as he could grip a pencil and not drool on the paper. So, for about a week.

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