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Back in 2008, the Nintendo Wii was the hottest console on the market. It was the casual phenomenon that no house went without. Everyone and their grandmother had one, if even just for Wii Sports bowling and Wii Fit in the grandmother’s case, every house with a Wii had a similar library on their shelves, as the Wii’s hard-hitting sellers were enough to knock you out. You’ve got your previously mentioned Wii Sports/Fit, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, New Super Mario Bros, Mario Strikers Charged Football, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games (look; there were a lot of Mario games on the Wii, but what can I tell ya? He’s the golden boy after all). But one game that can be found with nearly every Wii on the planet is another system seller in a series of system sellers… Mario Kart Wii. The Wii was the casual system for everyone and Mario Kart is the casual game for everyone that any level of gamer can appreciate and enjoy. So, it makes sense that it’d be one of the Wii’s best-selling games, the second best-selling to be precise, (just behind Wii Sports) and it has the quality to live up to that for the most part.
Mario Kart Wii shines in its multiplayer. Not uncommon for the series but the simple controls of this iteration make it easy to jump in and get the hang of. Hold the Wiimote on its side (preferably in the Wii wheel), hold the 2 button, B button on the back for items and tilt it to steer. That’s it. It’s beautifully simple and easy to convince friends to hop into. Unlike say Brawl, a fantastic game but one that requires skill and if you’re good you won’t find many people willing to play to get their ass handed to them with no chance of victory. Mario Kart may require some skill and track knowledge but items can make it anyone’s game, keeping the thrill active for entire circuits and play sessions. In previous games there was a drifting mechanic that allowed for tighter turns with an additional boost if you drifted long enough. This is still present in Mario Kart Wii for veterans and more skill oriented players but the automatic handling option without it is so wickedly precise it tends to be people’s preferred choice. As many find drifting with the wheel to be cumbersome and difficult to control. Good luck if you try doing it with a bike.
But none of that would matter without what makes a racing game in the first place, the tracks. And Mario Kart Wii has some very strong courses. Maple Treeway, Mushroom Gorge, DK’s Snowboard Cross and great interpretations of the usual Bowser’s Castle and Rainbow Road tracks are all tons of fun to race through in the Wii version. Plus, this game graced the world with Coconut Mall and us mere humans didn’t and still don’t deserve such a majestic track. It may not be quite up there with Mario Kart 8’s tracks but to be fair, that game is a later release on more powerful hardware and also contains Coconut Mall, which puts it in the argument in the first place. The character roster is the best in the series with the usual suspects present whilst also featuring the likes of King Boo, Waluigi, Dry Bowser, Rosalina and Funky Kong; who alone makes this the best roster. Mario Kart Wii had the all new Funky Mode before it was cool.
If racing isn’t your cup of tea, I don’t know why you bought this game in the first place but you’re in luck, as Mario Kart Wii also sports the series staple battle mode. It’s a fairly standard affair that’s essentially the same as previous games. Balloon battles have you dropped into an arena and have you either attack the opposing team, or individual players in free-for-all-mode, with items to deplete their stocks of balloons for a KO. Coin Runners is the same set up but instead of being offensive it’s a scramble defence game where you drive around the arena collecting coins and whoever has the most at the end wins. Battle mode doesn’t exactly excel in terms of variety but it’s a fun enough distraction for when racing gets a bit tiresome.
Despite all this the game is sadly lacking in its single player content. Beyond racing in circuit cups, there’s not much for you beyond doing it again in time trials against the punishing developer times (that I’ve beaten). Going for all gold cups with 3-star rating, requiring you to have near perfect driving, times and come first in every race, is your only other option for challenge and it is admittedly no easy feat (but I’ve beaten that too). You could take the racing worldwide in a very well performing online mode, but that’s since been discontinued. The addition of a mission mode, similar to that of Mario Kart DS, would have potentially made for excellent replay value and single player content. It was planned to be included early in development but was eventually scrapped. The game’s core focus is casual multiplayer in either racing or battles and that’s what they focused on, it’s just a shame that the solo player experience suffered because of it.
Mario Kart Wii is a fantastic entry in series. Its become a staple of the Wii’s library and anyone who’s ever held a Wiimote has more than likely tilted it to drive a kart around Yoshi Falls. While the newer and shiner Mario Kart 8 is the superior game, booting up the Wii and getting 4 Wii wheels out for multiplayer action is as fun in Mario Kart Wii as it ever was. It’s still the most accessible title in the series and something any friend or family member can get to grips with in minutes. Go back a decade, throw some shells and bask in the unrivaled good time of Mario Kart Wii.