Mario Kart 64 – N64
Platform: Nintendo 64
Release Date (NA): February 1997
Genre: Kart Racing
Nerd Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Where does one begin when trying to review one of the best recognized games of all time in one of the most popular racing franchises of all time? With a simple and straightforward statement, maybe: Mario Kart 64 took America by storm instantly and remains close to the hearts of so many people, even those who haven’t played it in 10+ years. I’ve been reluctant to write a review on this game because it’s one of my favorites, and that’s what makes it so difficult (surprisingly). I want to say nothing but great things and I would love to give it a 10 out of 10 rating, but it’s just not possible today. In 1996 when I was a little dude, I totally would have given this game 10 out of 10 along with Super Smash Bros. but in 2013, and with my considerably more advanced age and gaming experience, Mario Kart 64 only loses ONE and a HALF points, which is something Nintendo should be proud of.
Mario Kart 64 is a kart racing game with 8 characters from the Mario universe. Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Toad, Yoshi, Peach, Wario, and Bowser all take to the tracks to defeat each other and take their spot atop the podium in front of Peach’s castle! Each racer has their own strengths and abilities, and they are strongly based on the “weight” of the racer. Wario, Donkey Kong, and Bowser are considerably larger than the other racers, and their weight is enough to knock a balloon off the opponent’s kart in battle mode! But their kart could also be viewed as being a little slower… but only when YOU are racing it. No matter WHO you’re racing with, the computer will almost always be faster than you. The use of weapons and power-ups is truly the only way to win in 100cc or 150cc as speed and maneuverability are paltry skills compared to your accuracy throwing a green shell or launching a banana right in front of an opponent. These skills are TOUGH to acquire, but if you’ve never played before, you best beware of the ol’ wily veteran destroying your soft soul.
DISCUSSING GRAND PRIX MODE
There are no unlockable characters, tracks, or game modes in Mario Kart 64. But once you obtain the Gold Cup Trophy in the 150cc in all four track sets, you will 1. Now have access to mirror mode (which is all of the tracks backwards) and 2. Now have a new title screen! These aren’t crazy significant additions to the game, but if you were even good enough to unlock the mirror mode, then you have obviously put some time in and you probably know the tracks REALLY well. So, playing them in mirror mode is pretty sweet because it’s almost like an entirely different race course!
There are some great little tricks that you’ll learn the more you play. I have yet to see these things advertised by Nintendo, but any veteran Mario Kart 64er will know these, and they’ll know them by heart.
- To get a little boost on turns, use the R button to jump and start turning. You’ll notice smoky letters flying out from behind your kart. If you’re turning right, you’ll need to shift your joystick to the left and back right again until the colors of the letters change from white/gray to yellow to red (all while holding down the R button). Once you get the red smoky letters, release and you’ll have a small boost. Drifting is also a good way to maintain some level of control and speed around turns and can be difficult to master, but once mastered, you’ll find yourself drifting around nearly all turns and getting that free little boost.
- Drafting: If you start to ride someone’s tail, you’ll notice air whisping around your kart and you’ll get just enough of a boost to get around the player in front of you. Drafting is the process of riding closely behind a race car in front of you to drastically reduce wind resistance and in NASCAR it is used to reduce gas usage as well. Fortunately we don’t have to worry about gas in the world of Mario Kart 🙂
- You can jump over another racer if you use a turbo boost / mushroom and you time your jump right. When they are right in front of you, use the R button to make the jump. A little practice will ensure a good jump and will bump you forward a little and bump them back just a little.
- If you have a single use item such as a banana, fake item box, or single green shell, you can do many things with these. If you hold the Z button, you will hold the item behind your cart. If you press backwards and release Z at the same time, you’ll shoot the green shell backwards (otherwise it shoots forward upon the release of the Z button). If you press forward and release the Z button at the same time, you’ll launch the banana or box forward (hopefully landing in front of some unsuspecting fool). In addition, by holding the item behind you, you will be able to use it as a one-time shield whenever someone throws something at you from behind. AND it opens up your power-up box, giving you the option of HOLDING a weapon AND having one on standby.
Overall, the use and FULL USE of ALL power-ups, boosts, tips, tricks, and any shortcuts is an integral part of successful gameplay and if you ask a seasoned expert, he’ll tell you all of those tricks are a part of his winning philosophy. Using this entire arsenal becomes the most effective way to play the game and beat the enemy, and will soon become second nature. Of course, as The Cubist stated in his review of Mario Kart Wii, no matter how much of a lead you have, the computer finds a way to thwart the strongest players and keep the game competitive and close all the way to the end.
There are 3 modes for single or two-player gameplay: Grand Prix, VS, or Battle. 3 or 4 players can only do VS or BATTLE. Why 4 people can’t race in the grand prix is beyond me, but it is what it is and there’s nothing we can do to change that. Versus mode is a simple 1 track race between you and 1, 2, or 3 friends. You choose one of the 4 events, then you choose one of the four courses in that event, then you race your friends to the end. It keeps a tally of the winner, which is great for rubbing it in with your friends. We did notice some serious “rubbing it in” by the computer! If you lose, it blasts you in front of everyone with a huge “LOSER” across the screen! And when you don’t place in the top 3 in grand prix, then you’re forced to sit outside of the castle, watch everyone win, and get blown to shit by a bobomb.
DISCUSSION OF BATTLE MODE
Battle Mode is probably the most revered part of Mario Kart 64 and adds a wonderful style of gameplay that is entirely separate from any other game mode. In battle mode, you and an opponent square off against each other in a head-to-head battle to inflict damage on each other. Each racer has 3 balloons tied to the back of their kart, and by attacking your opponent with one of the many Mario universe weapons (green shells, red shells, bananas, or fake item boxes), your opponent will lose a balloon. Once all 3 balloons are gone, that player is done. In 4 player mode, that player turns into a bobomb on wheels and can roll around slowly trying to blow up the remaining players (only works once. Once you blow up a player, you’re bomb is done).
There are 4 different courses for battle mode: Blocks, triple decker, donut, and skyscraper. Each course is very unique in its own way, with blocks being my personal favorite (and highly regarded as the most fun of them all, as it is one of only 2 battle courses that doesn’t have natural hazards). Skyscraper is possibly the most difficult, and for some reason the game speed is increased by about 300% or more and provides some very chaotic and uncontrollable kart driving.
Battle mode is the creme de la creme of Mario Kart 64 for any multiplayer mode, and it not only provided hours of gameplay in the past, it STILL provides that level of awesomeness! My girlfriend and I had a great time playing this game for a couple hours the other night, and I’ll probably keep playing it even after this review is published. She’s not into video games too much, but this is one she can really get into and enjoy. For some reason, the battle mode in Mario Kart Double Dash!! is considerably weaker than the one on Mario Kart 64, which was extremely disappointing as I strongly believe that Battle mode could have been a spin-off stand-alone game (and why they haven’t done it yet is still beyond me!). There could be so much advancement and updates in classic levels for nostalgia as well as the addition of dozens of battle stages, weapons, traps, hazards, online gameplay, etc. Maybe one day soon we’ll see a battle mode release for the Wii U, but I wouldn’t count on it. Regardless of whether it gets released as its own game or not, future Mario Kart releases could really benefit greatly with a more in-depth battle mode.
Mario Kart Double Dash!! was pretty disappointing in so many ways, especially considering it was the first home console successor to the famed Mario Kart 64. This game, however, stands the test of time even if the graphics are showing their age in 2013. Mario Kart 64 sees considerable improvements in gameplay from the original Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo, mainly due to the advanced technology of the Nintendo 64 over the SNES’s Mode 7 graphics. The Mode 7 graphical abilities on the SNES made any true polygonal 3D abilities near impossible. But Nintendo 64 fixed that up and made it great.
Mario Kart 64 was a true revelation in racing experiences and I would rate it as the true pivotal moment in Nintendo’s Mario Kart franchise. It came at the right time in video gaming and had a huge impact that Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn only wish they could have achieved. While Sony Playstation may have won the war, Mario Kart 64, Super Mario 64, and Ocarina of Time kept the Nintendo 64 relevant and helped them win a few major battles along the way. Mario Kart 64 defined the Nintendo 64 AND a generation. It will forever be remembered as one of the most influential games of all time and is still a very fun experience!
Reviewed by NerdBerry
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