Mario Kart 8 is the eighth main game in the series, excluding the arcade Mario Kart games. As with every Mario Kart game, they added some new gimmick, this time being anti-gravity. The game also carries elements from Mario Kart 7, such as underwater driving and the use of the glider. Bikes also return in this title.
The four usual Mario Kart modes appear in this game. These modes are Grand Prix, Time Trials, VS Race, and Battle. Grand Prix allows you to choose and unlock cups, characters, and engine classes in the game and get a star rating based on how well you did in 4 races. The four engine classes, which are 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and mirror all appear like in previous games, however new to Mario Kart 8 is the 200cc mode. This mode is a lot faster than 150cc and due to how fast you’re going you will probably have to stop your kart at some point during the race. Time Trials allows you to race by yourself or with a ghost player to see how quickly you can complete the race. VS Mode is similar to Grand Prix, but you don’t unlock anything and you can change some options before the race starts to your liking. Battle mode has you start with three balloons and your goal is to take out everyone else’s balloons with items, while defending your own balloons. Although in this game you battle on select race tracks instead of exclusive battle mode stages like in previous games. This was honestly a very poor choice and made battle mode a lot less fun.
Alright so enough about the modes, now let’s get into the actual gameplay. The gameplay is simple, you race against 12 opponents in a race to get 1st place. There are various item boxes and coins throughout the track for you to collect. Coins allow you to increase your top speed and unlock new vehicle parts. Item boxes allow you to gain an item to be used offensively or defensively. There are also various other objects and enemies throughout the track that will try to hinder you from finishing the race.
The game has an online mode which, in my opinion, is a lot more fun and challenging than racing against CPU players. You can play either a VS type race or battle mode online. Before the race starts you can choose from three different courses that are on-screen or you can choose it to be selected randomly. Everyone in the race will vote for what they want and the game will decide which person’s option it will use. The actual races are, for the most part, lag free, however there have been occasions where I was disconnected from the match due to my internet not being strong enough. Sometimes the race would lag for one person and not another, which means if one person threw an item and hit someone, the other player actually did not get hit, and thus completely wasting an item on your opponent. The map on the screen showing where all the players are in the race can also occasionally be inaccurate for a time, due to players lagging.
The main gimmick of this game is anti-gravity. In nearly every race there is some place where you can get into anti-gravity mode. Being in anti-gravity is pretty much the same as normal driving, except you're either on the side of a wall or completely upside-down, and your wheels also turn sideways. Also, when you bump into another driver, you and the other driver will receive a small boost instead of just regular bumping. There are these little bump things also occasionally laid out for you to get the same small boost you would get from bumping another racer. You will know when you will be entering anti-gravity mode by a blue line on the track. I think anti-gravity was a very neat gimmick and it worked out well.
As for sound, the sound effects were extremely well done. I liked most of the songs, and even a couple songs I loved, although there were a few courses where their music was more of the “meh” type. The graphics were also very well done and everything looked very clean.
There are a couple options for how to play, one being the Pro controller, another being the gamepad, and the last one being the Wii remote. The Wii remote has two ways to control, one way without the nunchuck and another way with the nunchuck. There are a couple other control options as well that are mostly variants of the ones I already mentioned. I don’t own a Pro controller so I wasn’t able to test that controller option out. The controls via the Wii remote are ok, but it is somewhat hard to drive because the sensor can’t detect the motions of turning the Wii remote extremely well, although I never knew you could use the nunchuck as a controller option, so I wasn't able to test that out either. Granted it still does a good job, but it could be better. Playing on the gamepad in my opinion is a whole lot better as the inputs are buttons, which are much more responsive than motion controls. There is an option on the gamepad to change it from stick controls to tilt controls, but it is basically the same as the Wii remote motion controls.
There is some DLC you can buy for the game. Two DLC packs are available for you to buy and each will unlock you with three new characters, a couple of vehicle parts, and two new cups. If you buy both DLC packs you will be able to pick which color you want for Yoshi and Shy Guy.
The only moral warnings for this game is that there is a little bit of cartoon violence by hitting your opponent with items. There are also an undead character you can play as if you buy the second DLC pack, and there is a haunted mansion track. A couple other tracks also have undead characters.
Overall this game is very well polished and is one of the best games in the series. All the new characters, items, tracks, and anti-gravity were extremely great! The only complaints I have about the game is the battle mode, online mode can get laggy, and the inability to hold more than one item. Although thankfully this game is getting a port on Nintendo’s latest console, the Nintendo Switch, which will address most if not all of these issues!