Sunday, September 02, 2012

Happy 20 to Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart released September 1, 1992 in North America

If asked what my favourite games are, I would quickly list off Mario (series), Zelda (series), 16-bit Square RPGs and the Civilization (series).   No racing games are on my list, let alone Kart racing, nor do I consider myself a fan of such games.   The last racing game I really enjoyed and played impulsively was Top Gear on the SuperNES.

Yet, in reconsidering Mario Kart’s influence, it is hard to shake off the game's long shadow.  It was late spring or summer of 1993 that I first played Super Mario Kart.   I had moved to a new city to be closer to my relatives .  I was still gaming on my 8-bit NES back then, but my cousins had a Super Nintendo and they had Super Mario Kart.  Aside from being my first introduction to A Link to the Past, that summer was also my introduction to Mario Kart.  I recall playing several rounds the now classic Mario Circuit and being amused by the flat texture mapped coins on the mode 7 track and being blown away by the lighting and transparency effects in the original Bowser’s Castle and Ghost House (Ghost Valley) level.

Years later,  I eagerly snatched up Mario Kart 64 after saving up for it with my summer job.  I still remember the great deal I got out of it, because my sister decided to throw in some money and buy a 2nd N64 controller to go along with my purchase.  So I got a controller plus a game with that.    Mario Kart 64 was at the leading edge of the multiplayer revolution back in the mid to late 90s.  My friends would all come over and we’d play 4-player Star Fox 64 and Mario Kart 64.

Despite not being on my list of favorite games, Mario Kart games have became a staple purchase for me, with the exception of the GameBoyAdvance version, I’ve bought the last three Mario Kart releases because I just had to have my fix.  Mario Kart 7 is by far my favourite.  Beating ghost times from people I’ve streetpassed or from strangers online and tracking my best times on a normalized curve of the world’s track times is an addictive experience that keeps me coming back.   I’m no hardcore MK7 player, and for all the hoopla about the extensive on-line communities in MK7, it is the feeling of mastering a track and having a few relaxing laps around an old favourite that I prefer out of my Mario Kart experience.

The enduring popularity of Mario Kart games on Nintendo platforms is a testament to the simple yetaddictive game design first introduced in Super Mario Kart.  Happy 20th Birthday.

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