As of late, a divide is occurring in the gaming community, between gamers who look for fun and gamers who look for realism. Those who love Donkey Kong Country would likely not pick up a flight simulator, and the Call of Duty veterans would not allow themselves to be seen playing Scribblenauts. But the one game that is almost universally loved and lauded by all gamers, from the most hardcore to the most casual is the Mario Kart franchise.
Show me a person who doesn’t like playing a Mario Kart game and I’ll show you a gamer without a soul. Whether you like the original Super Mario Kart, the 3D adventures of Mario Kart 64, the teamwork aspect of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! or the hang gliders in Mario Kart 7, there is something in the series for every gamer to love. In fact, when it came to naming the number one console game in terms of initial impact and lasting legacy, Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition 2008 put the original Super Mario Kart on top.
The Mario Kart series always features exciting and challenging tracks; part of the fun of each continuing title is the discovery of what tracks the designers have challenged racers with. Thereby we present to you the next edition of the Top X List, where this time x = “10 Best Mario Kart Tracks.”
Get ready! 3… 2… 1… GO!
10th Place: Daisy Cruiser
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Race 3, Flower Cup
Mario Kart 7 Retro track, Race 3, Leaf Cup
The Daisy Cruiser seemed pretty straightforward, right? A boat at sea, nice scenery, nothing too tough, just sheer racing enjoyment.
That all changed when you made it to the Ballroom, where the momentum of the waves and the weight of the karts swayed dining tables and chairs into your pathway, substantially knocking a person off the first-place path much further back. Plus, the straightforward design made even a green Koopa Shell dangerous… especially when you shoot it on the first lap and forget about it until it heads straight for you on the third. It certainly helped to have a Princess or a Koopa on your team to counteract with swirling hearts or shells.
9th Place: Yoshi Valley
Mario Kart 64, Race 2, Special Cup
You knew what place you were in for exactly 30 seconds, and then it was just a matter of not-dying. And there were plenty of ways to do it… if the porcupines didn’t do it, the cliffs were waiting for you. And far be it from me to judge, but did it seem like Lakitu took his sweet ol’ time rescuing people on Yoshi Valley? Normally it would just be a quick fishing job, but on this particular course it seemed like forever.
Oh, and then there was the giant Yoshi egg. Thank God there was no giant Yoshi to go along with it.
The kicker: You survive all that, you make pretty good speed, you cross the finish line and only make sixth place??
Still, it was a fun, challenging course, one with great replayability, and one that was great to sucker new players on.
8th Place: Rainbow Road
Every version of Mario Kart ever, last race, Special Cup
SNES version re-appears as Mario Kart 7 Retro track, last race, Lightning Cup
Oh, the infamous Rainbow Road. It just wouldn’t be Mario Kart without you. When we saw the camera pan over the newest version of Rainbow Road, we knew the end was in sight, but it would take all of our skills to get to it.
Lengthy, challenging course? Check. Dangers from various tracks such as Chain Chomps and Thwomps? You got it. Perilous ramps and jumps? Bingo. Track walls? If you’re lucky. Back in the SNES days of Super Mario Kart, we didn’t need no stinkin’ walls! Even if you did get walls, god forbid you find yourself going so fast you went airborne, because if you did, that would be the time someone busts out with a Lightning Bolt. So long, traction!
And if you still are in front after all of this, even if you haven’t seen it in several races, there’s probably a Blue Shell with your name all over it.
The Rainbow Road is as much of a staple to the Mario Kart series as Mario himself, and we can’t imagine a game without it. Even though we’ve fallen, crashed and got blown up thousands of times before this, the sight of Rainbow Road makes even the weariest racer think, “Ok, you wanna Kart? Let’s f***in’ Kart, bish.”
7th Place: Baby Park
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Race 3, Mushroom Cup
Mario Kart DS Retro track, Race 4, Banana Cup
Baby Park had only one rule: GO FAST.
A simple oval, the key to Baby Park was speed… and avoiding the mass mayhem going on around you. Tons of item boxes lay strewn about the field, Koopa Shells could jump the median, there was usually a Chain Chomp hidden somewhere for a race team, and to top it all off, Ferris Wheels, magic shows, and zany music designed to whip racers into a frenzy. Clocking in about ten seconds per lap (in time trials), it wasn’t a big deal that the lap number was bolstered from 5 to 7.
Experienced Baby Park-ers should try having a Baby Bro and Bowser Jr. on a team – both are lightweights, for maximum speed, and if the team gets in trouble, Baby Mario or Baby Luigi can pick up a Chain Chomp for hi-speed carnage! Then, when the baby drives, Bowser Jr. can pick up a Bowser Shell, send it flying behind them around lap 5, and watch the panic ensue!
6th Place: DK Mountain
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Race 4, Star Cup
Mario Kart Wii Retro track, Race 3, Lightning Cup
OK, I know the list is a little Double Dash!! heavy, but I think the game contains some of the best tracks in the franchise. Why else do they keep showing up in Retro cups?
Case in point: DK Mountain. In all actuality, this track is just a simple loop. But it’s on the downhill slope of a volcano, which means it’s bumpy, craggy, and dangerous, not to mention perilous thanks to all those cliffs. The downhill speeds can get pretty high, which means any early turn, Fake Box, or even a speedy Heavyweight team could send you flying over the side.
And let’s not forget: the Cannon that got you to the top of DK Mountain was nothing short of badass.
DK Summit in Mario Kart Wii was pretty great too, but the snow tended to slow down the races, which is great for those who didn’t like the mayhem of DK Mountain, but if you liked your races fast and rowdy, you were more than annoyed when you wound up face-first in a snow pile.
Side note: Is it just me, or does the volcano’s face look like the Grumpy Cat from those internet memes? Wonder what he thinks abou–
5th Place: Waluigi Stadium
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Race 4, Flower Cup
Mario Kart Wii Retro track, Race 4, Banana Cup
Yes, I know, another Double Dash!! track! Originally, Wario Stadium from Mario Kart 64 was here, and Wario Colosseum from Mario Kart Wii almost made it, but Waluigi Stadium was the peak of the dirtbike arena course. And in the Banana Cup on Mario Kart Wii, you actually could race dirtbikes on the course. Now I much prefer karts to bikes, but you gotta admit, seeing yourself flipping, busting wheelies, and generally being awesome on the Arena-vision screen on your dirtbike was kickass.
There were two reasons Waluigi Stadium made it here and not Wario Stadium from 64. Although I love the jump in Wario Stadium, which if you’re evil a well-placed Banana Peel can really screw up, Waluigi Stadium has more challenge to offer. More mud to slog through, more hills to get airtime (and a mini-turbo boosts) off of, the giant “Piranha Plants” blocking your way, and of course, big jumps with nasty fireballs.
The other reason: too many people knew that shortcut. I’m looking at you, you cheating sacks.
4th Place: Chain Chomp Wheel
Mario Kart Wii, Battle Stage
You, a bunch of opponents, a ton of item boxes, a HUGE rolling Chain Chomp, and absolutely nowhere to hide.
Best. Battle Stage. EVER.
BRONZE TROPHY: Banshee Boardwalk
Mario Kart 64, Race 3, Special Cup
Mario Kart DS Retro track, Race 2, Lightning Cup
There were some pretty good haunted tracks throughout the franchise, but Banshee Boardwalk from Mario Kart 64 tops them all. With some of the eeriest atmosphere of any track, Banshee Boardwalk had only partial railing, reminiscent of the original Ghost Valley tracks from Super Mario Kart, Boos flying about, a creepy haunted house full of bats and a shortcut that was more trouble than it was usually worth, prime points for firing red Koopa Shells and causing destruction and mayhem, and –
Wait… was that just a giant Cheep-Cheep I just saw jumping across the sky??
Mind = BLOWN.
SILVER TROPHY: Coconut Mall
Mario Kart Wii, Race 2, Flower Cup
Mario Kart 7 Retro track, Race 3, Banana Cup
I loved Coconut Mall. I loved everything about it. Multiple routes, jockeying for position throughout the mall, recombining in the parking lot. Way too much fun. Don’t drive on the wrong escalator or you’ll fall behind. Music? Fantastic! Peppy and energizing. Favorite track music in the game.
I even liked it when the other Miis backed into me with their car in the parking lot! (Damn you, Ramon Aranda-style Mii…)
Honestly, this is one of my favorite tracks in the entire franchise, but there is one more that I love that gets almost-universal praise every single time I mention it…
GOLD TROPHY: Waluigi Pinball
Mario Kart DS, Race 3, Flower Cup
Mario Kart 7 Retro track, Race 4, Banana Cup
How in the hell has Waluigi Pinball not been put on a home-console track list? This track has been featured on the most recent handheld offerings in the series, Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart 7 but has not made it onto the big-screen games like it should. However, this simply means that the die hard Mario Kart fans get to appreciate this gem.
There is just nothing not to like about this track. Peril in the form of pinballs, bumpers, and flippers wait around every turn. The track starts with a Cannon-like launch as if you yourself were a pinball, launching racers to the top of a high-speed downward spiral. The pinball field traps green Koopa Shells to cause more problems as the race reaches laps 2 and 3. The music is great and the track has its own 8-bit sound effects. It’s a damn near perfect track.
It’s fun, it’s fast, and it’s frantic… exactly what Mario Kart players expect and thrive on.
* * * * * * * * * *
Did I miss something? That’s why it’s the Top X List… there’s always room for discussion! Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!