My sixth favorite multiplayer video game of all time:
Super Mario Kart (SNES)
Mario has always been Nintendo’s bread and butter. What better way to capitalize on the Italian plumber we know and love than by letting him race go karts?
OK, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But do any of Mario’s adventures, when you really think about it? Just go with the flow.
Super Mario Kart is a joy to play. Each of the many selectable racers have their own stats. Bowser has slow acceleration but can knock anybody out of his way, for example. Picking the right driver can make all the difference in a given race.
SMK is not simply a racing game. Here Nintendo created a unique blend of racing and combat. Stuck in last place? Unleash a turtle shell that homes in on its helpless target and knocks them out for a few crucial seconds.
Taking full advantage of this battle element, the game has an entirely separate combat mode. Racers drive around in an enclosed arena, picking up shells, banana peels, feathers, and more in an effort to do in their opponent. My brother and I spent more time in this mode than the rest of the game combined.
The beauty of Super Mario Kart is in its simplicity. There’s no manual shifting, no overly complicated tracks, no complicated targeting system – anybody can pick it up and play.
Mario Kart made the move to the Nintendo 64, Gamecube, and full 3D, and for some reason it didn’t capture the same magic again. Many would disagree with me, but I still prefer the SNES version. Next month the newest incarnation debuts on the Nintendo DS handheld, and this time I have high hopes. The addition of online play will add to the game substantially.