Mario Kart 7 Review

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Nostalgia often taints our point of view. We remember the past favorably. Gamers are some of the worst offenders, but every now and then, that high level of praise, years down the road, becomes warranted.

I’ve always enjoyed the Mario Kart series, so I expected a high level of quality when I began playing Mario Kart 7. After racing a few, I put down my Nintendo 3DS – not because I was tired of the game, but because I wondered just how drastically different it was from the series’ catalyst, Super Mario Kart, of Super NES fame. Up until this point, I hadn’t played Super Mario Kart in years, but I must admit, I felt a nostalgic sense of excitement as I dusted off my Super Nintendo and joyously crammed the Super Mario Kart cartridge into the slot on top. Anticipation built and memories came over me as I heard the familiar “ting” of the coin as the Nintendo logo flashed across the television and that goofy music began playing at the title screen. I had forgotten how few characters were playable in the game, but being the traditionalist I am, it didn’t matter, because I went with Mario anyway.

And that’s where the fun stopped. While I understand how and why this was fun “back in the day,” it just doesn’t translate 20 years later. I didn’t want to completely destroy my childhood memories, so I cut the power after just a few laps. The controls were poor and the tracks were bland. The one real upside was the music, which was still contagiously catchy, even after all these years. I conducted the same experiment with Mario Kart 64 and yielded similar, albeit slightly more positive results. The main detractor for Mario Kart 64 pertains to the speed of the game. It felt like less of a race and more like a competitive crawl. But the battle mode was really Mario Kart 64’s strong suit anyway.

After spending less than twenty minutes exploring the series’ beginnings, it was apparent that nostalgia had worked its dirty magic, as these games weren’t quite what I’d remembered. So I returned to my 3DS and continued my expedition through Mario Kart 7. What I noticed immediately was the title’s return to the series’ roots. Where Mario Kart: Double Dash experimented with two characters to a kart and character-specific items, Mario Kart Wii introduced motorcycles and motion controls. These are both great games, but they also felt like a departure from the series’ fundamental principles. Mario Kart DS was really the last game in the series that felt like a pure Mario Kart experience — that was, until now.

Mario Kart 7 plays like I remembered Mario Kart 64 playing. The controls are tight, the graphics are great, motorcycles are gone and the player rides solo. This is Mario Kart, my friends. But Mario Kart 7 isn’t just a polishing of the old – it also includes a number of new features, such as hang gliders, underwater track segments and a handful of new items. These are all welcome additions, providing minor variance to a game that stays true to its roots. But these new features never feel gimmicky or tacked on.

As always, there are some old tracks as well as new ones. The notorious Rainbow Road is back and is as much of a pain-in-the-ass as ever. Mario Kart 7 addresses the issue of difficulty better than most of the more contemporary titles in the series. Starting out, 50CC is a piece of cake (and that cake is not a lie). 100CC is definitely a challenge, but a reasonable one. 150CC will really test your skill as a kart driver, though, making you work for every win. Coins have also made a return, having not been in a release since Mario Kart Advance. Their use is different now, though, as they’re meant to be accumulated for the purpose of unlocking better kart parts.

Grand Prix isn’t the only mode, of course. The classics have all returned: time trials, balloon battle, coin runners and multiplayer (both local and online). The only difference lies within balloon battle. No longer do you fight to eliminate your opponents’ three balloons before they pop yours. Now, it’s all about who can blow up the most balloons within the allotted amount of time. It’s still fun, but I prefer the old set up. Either way, it’s not a deal-breaker. The one qualm I have with the game, period, is that it feels just a tad slow. It’s still intense, but I wish Nintendo had upped the speed just a hair. It’s just slow enough to be noticeable, but not enough to where it bothered me.

With all things considered, I have no problem saying Mario Kart 7 is possibly the best game in the series. It does nearly everything right and reminds players what the series is truly all about. This is pure Mario Kart at its best and I can’t put it down (except to write this review). Few games live up to nostalgia’s dirty, well-meaning lies, but I’m willing to bet Mario Kart 7 ages well.


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Author: Josh Robinson View all posts by
Josh is a 25-year-old man-child who loves pizza, video games, baseball, cartoons and anime. Most of his heroes are middle-aged Japanese men, and he's been known to quote Seinfeld at random. You can find him on Twitter using the handle @averagejosh.

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