Review: Mario Kart 7

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Genre: Racing     Players: 1-8      Online: Yes     Streetpass: Yes

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Mario Kart 7 is back on the 3DS, can it manage the balance between luck and skill?

Mario Kart 7

DK soaring through the air

Having played through all of the previous Mario Kart games, and enjoying all except the recent Wii version, I was interested to see how the 3DS version would compare.

Nintendo fans tend to have their own favourite Mario Kart game. Having played all of the previous games, I have strong impressions of each. I loved the original on the SNES, it was bold and original and I still love the 8-bit style. The N64 one was a great step into 3D and was a progress with the track designs. The GBA game was the first step Mario Kart took to portable gaming, which was good but with limitations. The GameCube was another step forward and added the dynamic of being able to which between 2 drivers mid-race – Many consider it their favourite Mario Kart, but for me it just felt it was lacking something. Then there was the DS version, which was the first proper step into online Mario Kart matches and the first to bring back a selection of retro tracks, one of the best Mario Karts in the series. Then the Wii version came out, with 12 players online, but for me this game felt too hectic. Which bring us to now.

Mario Kart 7
For those that don’t know the premise of Mario Kart, it’s a racing game involving Mario characters, but the races involves items and weapons, set on crazy and interesting race tracks. A few key factors go into creating a great Mario game; Fun, interesting tracks and. music. The right balance between luck and skill.

Mario Kart games are about items, being far behind and getting a good couple of items and being to pull back the race from nowhere. But this element can quickly turn annoying, when you are in first place and get hit several times with powerful items knocking you back and never feeling confident in your lead. I felt this was the problem with the Wii version, there were too many characters and too many overpowered items on the track at once, it felt relentless at times, taking the fun out of the game.

Mario Kart 7

7 items

Mario Kart 7 seems to have found a better balance with this. There are always going to be times that frustrate you with Mario Kart games, but it doesn’t feel like a common occurrence. However, getting the top trophies and 3 star ratings on all difficulties is certainly a challenge.

As standard there is the Grand Prix mode, with various cups where you race on 4 courses and accumulate points based on what position you end the race, then your scores are added to determine your positioning overall. There is the time trial mode where you can aim to finish the course in the best time possible without any competing racers on the course. Finally, there is the battle modes, where you have 3 balloons and for each hit you lose a balloon, loses all three balloons has you out of the fight.

New additions to the franchise are the ability to drive underwater and to have your kart convert into a glider, extending your air time with any high jumps. Although these additions don’t add much and are only a big element on a very small number of tracks. The other addition is the ability to customise your cart by choosing from a selection of wheels, cart body and glider options. These can greatly affect how your cart handles and does also make a significant difference in the race.

Mario Kart 7

The quality of tracks on this game, unfortunately could be better. There are some standout tracks like the new rainbow road and melody motorway, but a big number of tracks aren’t as memorable as the tracks in previous games. The retro track selection makes up for this to an extent.

Graphically, Mario Kart 7 look beautiful on the 3DS, especially on the 3DS XL, it runs smooth with no problems at all. You can also play with first person perspective, which looks great but isn’t too practical.

Nintendo has also taken a step forward in implimenting online play. You can have matches of up to 8 players, random or with friends. Or you can set up and join communities, say if you wanted to have a community specifically for your college friends or for members of a specific website. Also, for the first time, Nintendo has been pro-active in releasing patches to stop players cheating and using glitches or unintended shortcuts. Then not allowing you to play online until you have installed the update. You can also play the battle modes online.

Another feature is the streetpass functionality. In this game you swap ghost data, so you can race the best time data for people that you pass. Mii characters you street pass can also randomly appear in the Grand Prix mode. Or you can go online, see if anyone you passed is currently online and you can race against them.

Mario Kart 7

Overall Mario Kart 7 is a good fun with a strong multiplayer focus, that looks crisp and beautiful on the 3DS. It has a good balance of luck and skill, where winning a race doesn’t feel random or impossible. Online and streetpass features have been implemented well in this game. There could be more personality in the track selection. Unless you have disliked previous Mario Kart games in the series, this is a worthwhile investment, where the core gameplay still remains fun.

Head Heart
Great 3D Fun
Great Graphics Less stand out tracks
Good Online Options Some odd character choices
Good StreetPass  
  Great  86%

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David Lee
David is the founder of Heart Gaming. Regular writer, reviewer and editor. Has a strong passion for gaming; particularly the Legend of Zelda series.