- Gaming Resources
- About Us
If you are looking for a truly magical gaming experience you owe it to yourself to try out Mario Kart 64. A game that was hugely popular at the time and helped drive sales of the Nintendo 64. This game has everything a fan of video games could ask for. Join us as we take a look back and see why Mario Kart 64 is the king of the road…
Nintendo has always been known for taking simple game ideas and perfecting them. Mario Kart 64 is one of those simple ideas… create a fun racing game with 4 player support that anybody can play. Many other kart racing games were released on the Nintendo 64, but none worked as well as Mario Kart 64 did. The game was released in 1996, shortly after the launch of the Nintendo 64 and became an instant success for the company. Not only did it prove that the Nintendo 64 could be a legitimate gaming console it also improved on much from the first game in the series, Super Mario Kart, on the Super Nintendo. Sales skyrocketed and it quickly sold more than a million copies.
Nintendo took all the elements of a good racing game and poured them into a pot, added some magic and what you get is a game that anybody can enjoy. This arcade racing game features Nintendo’s long time mascot, Mario, and close friends including Luigi, Peach, Toadstool, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Wario and even Mario’s nemesis Bowser. Being able to take your favorite racers on 16 tracks and through a robust multiplayer experience insured this game was being bought, sold, rented and played more than most console games at the time.
Mario Kart 64 has a few different modes to choose from, the circuit mode acts as the main single player experience in this game. There is no story to speak of, it is simple racing. Mario games rarely even have a story more complex than rescuing a princess anyways, so this is not a problem in a racing game. Each circuit contains 4 races and the winner is the one who accumulates the most points over the 4 races. Getting in that first place can be easy at the start, but will take some real driving techniques to succeed on the 100 and 150cc circuit. The amazing part about Mario Kart’s circuit mode is how diverse and unique each track is. The circuit mode takes place among 3 different cups those being 50cc, 100 & 150cc, which serve as the games difficulty selector. There is even an extra mode you can unlock once you beat the 150cc circuit. After you choose what difficulty you want to play you pick from 4 different cups of tracks labeled Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special.
The Mushroom Cup is the easiest cup with simple races and very few obstacles on the tracks. The driving challenges in these early tracks are relatively low, however power ups will play an important part of the strategy in these early races. As you progress further in the circuit mode the challenge starts to ramp up, your opponents will begin to use items much more effectively and make fewer mistakes. During the three laps of a race you can pick up many useful items scattered across the tracks. The items are stored in item boxes, which are multi-colored boxes with a big question mark on the side contain valuable items for every racer. Turtle shells are the main ammunition in this game, green being standard, where you aim your kart is where they will head. Red turtle shells on the other hand automatically drive towards your opponents in front of you. You can use the power of a ghost and even steal items from other drivers. Something that can be quite annoying if you were just about to use an item and it gets stolen away.
The all mighty blue turtle shell seeks out the leader of the pack and zaps him causing him to spin out wildly. If you get hit with any item you will lose an item you are carrying as well has having to start from a stand still. The lightning bolt shrinks players to micro sizes, you can run over the smaller characters if you were not affected by the lighting. If you character is in the air when the lighting strikes you won’t shrink. You will laugh as characters gets squashed into the ground, and if its you then seek revenge as fast as you can. The items and variety add a lot to the gameplay of Mario Kart 64, while you don’t have to get any items to win the race, they certainly can only help you out.
The competition is pretty stiff, just about at the boundary between frustratingly difficult and just right. While you don’t unlock any extras for beating the harder cups you will get a huge sense of accomplishment in doing so. The challenge feels right; it feels like you are a race driver on the track with real opponents. Many other racing games don’t capture what it is like to be in a race, the fragile nature of it all. One moment you can be in 1st and the next chugging it out in 7th place with Donkey Kong, but all in good fun. Good driving skills and a bit of luck with the item boxes will make you feel invincible when you achieve victory.
Controlling your miniature race car is a breeze, you simply press A for gas and B for brake, Z is for items and R is for sliding around corners, something that veterans of the game will want to utilize. Most tracks have a few different paths to choose from that act like shortcuts, and it is great to know that you won’t be fiddling with the controls. It is simple and straightforward so you can focus on the most important part of the game, racing. Racers can use the slide function to gain some extra cornering power and you can get a boost if you wiggle the joystick back and forth till the smoke from your car turns red. Release the Z button when this happens and you get an instant burst of speed. Great for those final turns when you are neck and neck with an opponent. This technique works great but it will wear down any fresh joysticks on your controller faster than butter in a microwave.
Depending on who you choose in a race is also an important decision you must make. Basically there are 3 different types of karts/ characters in this game, those being small, mid-size or large. The larger characters, Bowser & Donkey Kong have slow acceleration but the greatest speed. Small characters are the opposite of this but you will find you can just as easily win with the small guys as the big and tough brutes. It is such a joy knowing you are not limited only to a handful of charters but all the choices have a fighting chance of winning a race. The roster is a good selection of Nintendo’s past favorite characters however fan favorite Koopa Troopa, from Super Mario Kart(SNES), is missing from action in this version of Mario Kart, but thankfully makes a return in the Game Cube version.
Playing through the tracks in Mario Kart is true gaming bliss. Out of all the 16 tracks ones such as kalimari desert, rainbow road and bowsers’ castle stand out. Kalimari desert sets the race in a barren desert with an operational train. At times during the race you can play chicken with the old train. If you happen to miss gauge your timing you will come crashing into the side of it losing any items you are currently carrying. It is so much fun to block the road so your opponents have to stop and wait for the train. Rainbow road is like rocky road ice cream, some people love it and some people only feed it to their dogs. This long track averages 10 minutes to complete, a real difference between the 2-3 minutes most tracks take to finish. Rainbow road is a magical tour, with neon lights flowing throughout the level. Bowser’s castle features many obstacles such as a huge Bowser statue that spits fire at nearby drivers and has many lava pits to fall into.
The tracks in Mario Kart 64 look amazing with tons of details. The actual characters are 3D rendered sprites much like what was used in Donkey Kong on the SNES. While it would have been nice to see 3D characters, at least the game runs at a fast speed. There are some nice animations but the real attraction is looking at the levels and the amount of charm Nintendo put into each one. The graphics are bright and colorful and each level feels perfectly tuned for racing action with great track design. Even in multiplayer the game still manages to look beautiful.
You won’t notice that much slowdown in the frame rate even in multiplayer, something kind of rare of the Nintendo 64. In addition to playing single race with up to 4 friends you can also complete in one of the best multiplayer modes of any game on the system, battle mode. This mode is akin to death match in first person shooters. You pick your character and play on 4 different tracks. The object of this mode is to hit the other drivers making them lose one of their balloons. If you lose all three of your balloons you are out of the round. These levels are nicely laid out, with block fort being the most robust. You can’t play against computer bots to play with so you will need some friends to enjoy this mode. The chaos of playing battle mode really draws attention to what the Nintendo 64 was meant to do, multiplayer. You always feel like you have a chance to win a race even if you are a newbie to the game. You will be re-playing this game for many hours on end and rightly so.
With a great lasting legacy it is no wonder the game is still popular today. If you are in the market for one of the greatest games of all time then Mario Kart 64 should be your next purchase. Mario Kart 64 is also available on the Nintendo Wii as part of the virtual console store. The game excels in all areas and is a must have for any collection. When you have friends around nothing can compare to the excitement of multiplayer in this classic racing game from Nintendo.
You must be logged in to post a comment.