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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: Mario Kart 7

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

You probably already know whether or not you want Mario Kart 7. Mario Kart, as a series, is still about the same as it was when it launched back in 1993. You pick a Mario character, race around a track, and get occasionally raped by the computer players. It's an enduring template.

Mario Kart 7 is a refinement of the principles set down by Mario Kart Wii. While the marketing copy may tout things like racing underwater, the major refinements have really been placed in online multiplayer, where Mario Kart 7 really shines.


However, there really isn't a way to review this game aside from "it's Mario Kart, but on the 3DS." You either know if you want it or not, like we said before. Therefore, the best way to review it is by saying how it stacks up against other Mario Kart games. Here's how the games prior to Mario Kart 7 rank:

6) Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA): The absolute worst of Mario Kart games. I have no idea how this game got out the door. It's ugly, the tracks are boring, the controls are awful, and it's the only Mario Kart game that can be legitimately called bad. Anyone who disagrees is wrong.

5) Double Dash!! (Gamecube): Rule of thumb: The more exclamation points you see, the less sincere they are. Double Dash is exact opposite of exciting. The character-switching mechanic was odd, multiplayer required you to link up several systems and TVs at a time when XBox Live was taking off, and the tracks, once again, are dull.

4) Super Mario Kart (SNES): Not bad, per se, just primitive compared to some of the other great entries in the series.

3) Mario Kart DS (DS): Had a lot of the great features of the better entries, like drifting, drafting, deep courses, and lots of unlockables. Gets demerits for lackluster multiplayer, especially online.

2) Mario Kart 64 (N64): Multiplayer made Mario Kart 64 one of the better entries. To this day, it remains the gold standard for Mario Kart multiplayer.

1) Mario Kart Wii (Wii): Great multiplayer, awesome online multiplayer, fantastic courses, easier drifting, and the computer violates you less than some of the other previous entries.

So where does Mario Kart 7 rank? Somewhere between Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart Wii, in that squishy area. I'd probably put it right below Mario Kart 64, to be honest. Multiplayer is better than Mario Kart 64, with lots of options and the ability to turn off things like shells if you race against your friends. The new courses aren't amazing, but still pretty decent.

I haven't touched single-player in weeks, oddly enough. I have no desire to race against a computer player who's going to resort to trickery or cheating in order to win, and Mario Kart 7 carries on the series' proud tradition of bending the rules for computer opponents.

However, in an online multiplayer match, it's a lot more fair. You can usually aim for 3rd place and still gain points toward your reputation, and if you manage to get 1st place, so much the better! It's not an all-or-nothing proposition like the single-player game is.

So Mario Kart 7 is pretty decent. The new tracks are good, the new tweaks to the formula are good without being super-intrusive and the multiplayer is excellent.

You know, it's Mario Kart.

Final Grade: B