Review: Super Mario Kart (SNES)

In this review, we check out the first of a game series that is well known to this day: Mario Kart. Today, we check out the very first in the series, Super Mario Kart as released on the SNES.

This game was released in 1992 and would kick off a very successful series.

There were plenty of racing games available on consoles already at this point, but very few were as ambitious or complex, technically speaking, as Super Mario Kart. In fact, some reviewers have considered this game to be perfect for the technical limitations at the time. I wouldn’t say that this game is necessarily perfect, but it was certainly a very good game.

When you start,you have a choice of whether there is one, two, three, or four players (possible to have more than two players with the right hardware add-on of course). If you choose 1 player, you can choose either Grand Prix mode or time trial. Time trials allow you to get a feel for the tracks as well as allow you to try and post particularly good times.

While time trial is an interesting and useful mode, the grand prix mode is where it is at. You can choose either 50cc, 100cc, or 150cc mode. 50cc mode is the easiest mode while 150cc is the fastest and hardest mode to play. From there, you can select which Super Mario related character you want to drive as and which cup you want to play (Mushroom, flower, star, or special).

The tracks themselves were rather short, so you didn’t have the three lap standard that was set in Mario Kart 64. Instead, you had a much more sizable 5 laps. Depending on the track, each lap can take anywhere between 20 to 40 seconds roughly speaking. Still, in spite of the added laps, you better hope that any major mistake you have is made towards the beginning. Unless you are in the 50cc class, catching up can be particularly difficult if it happens somewhere in lap 4 or 5 on a lot of courses. Knowing this, there is pressure for the player to perform as flawlessly as possible.

Along the way, players can pick up items by running over question mark squares that are basically embedded on the racetrack. Running over one will allow you to basically net a somewhat randomly selected item. There’s a variety of items one can get that will help you along in the race. You can get a mushroom which is simply a boost in speed. A banana peel can spin out an opponent if they drive over it. The further behind one is, the better the items tend to be. One can collect a star which is basically both temporary invulnerability and an enhancement of the karts performance. A lightening bolt will strike all opponents and force them to shrink for a short amount of time. During that time, these opponents will not only slow down, but also make them vulnerable to any players not shrunken (namely, they are run over and forced to stop for a short period of time as they normalize).

One curious element about this game is the fact that enemies have their own weapon system. Each opponent has their own special weapon that they seem to just randomly get and use. They can’t get their items on the yellow question mark squares in the road like you. If an opponent is Bowser, for instance, then Bowser will fling fireballs at you. Luigi randomly uses stars (which does seem a bit unfair at times). Peach will use shrinking mushrooms which temporarily shrink you (like the lightening bolt, only it affects you and you only). The one great thing about this is that other opponents can be affected by this. So, if Donkey Kongs banana peel gets run over by another opponent, then that opponent spins out.

After each race in the Grand Prix mode, you’ll possibly get championship points based on how you rank. If you rank in the top four, you’ll get points and move on to the next race. If you rank 5th and below, you’ll be ranked out and be forced to choose between using one of your free lives or quitting altogether. If you win the championship, you’ll be awarded a trophy in a short video sequence. For some reason, a flying fish gives you the trophy before being either attacked or destroyed by your character of choice.

Playing this game again is certainly an interesting experience. I played as far as I could, but once I just kept losing in the harder difficulties, there wasn’t a whole lot about this game that I could enjoy. So, your enjoyment really only lasts as long as you keep playing the Grand Prix mode if you play single player mode.

Graphically, this game is certainly impressive for being released in 1992 on a console. There were only a small handful of third person perspective racing games released at around this time, though mostly by 1993 and beyond. I’d say this game has very well done graphics.

The audio was also quite well done given the hardware limitations. The sound effects of someone spinning out or getting hit by a shell was nicely done. The music was pretty good as well. I don’t really have anything to complain about on that front.

Overall, this was a great SNES game to play again. I thought it was awkward that CPU opponents had their own weapon system that, at times, were a little unfair for the human player, but beyond that, it’s pretty difficult to find things to complain about in this game. Overall, it was certainly worth playing this game again.


Furthest point in game: Lost at the special cup in the 150cc class.

General gameplay: 21/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 10/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 86%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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