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Mario Kart Arcade GP – Arcade

Mario Kart Arcade GP – Arcade

Mario Kart Arcade GPPlatform:  Arcade – Emulated on Wii via QuadForce

Release Date (NA):  October 2005

Developer:  Namco

Publisher:  Nintendo

Genre:  Racing

Nerd Rating:  7 out of 10

Project Obscure

Note:  I’ll go ahead and admit that by emulating this game on my Wii, I was unable to experience several of the features as intended, such as the steering wheel and pedals.  Also, due to some strange fault with QuadForce, I was unable to use the game’s multiplayer mode.  I realize that my opinion is necessarily incomplete, and I have tried to adjust my critique accordingly.  Although imperfect, using QuadForce on one’s Wii is probably one of the best ways to experience this arcade-only game at home.  You can learn how to do it right here at The Bacon.

Mario Kart Arcade GPIn the spirit of Mario Kart 8’s recent release, I began researching ways to play these arcade-only installments of the franchise from the comfort of my home.  My efforts were largely successful, and what I thought would be little more than a novelty has truthfully turned out to be one of the most enjoyable of the series.  Meet Mario Kart Arcade GP.  Like so many other arcade racing games, this was a full-blown sit down, press the pedals, and use a steering wheel kind of game.  I had to make do with a GameCube controller but hey, that’s not so bad.

Anyone familiar with the Mario Kart games in general will instantly feel at home.  It looks and plays a lot like any other Mario Kart, but there are a few key differences that put a different twist on these arcade exclusives.   First up is the roster.  Although not huge, it does support enough core Mario characters to keep most fans happy.  For whatever reason, a few Pac-Man characters are included, such as the titular yellow ball, his female counterpart, and Blinky, the ghost (the red one).  Like most games in the series, character choice has little to do with racing ability apart from a few specialty powerups.

Mario Kart Arcade GP

Another huge change that won’t be immediately noticeable is the sheer number of powerups and items available – we’re talking dozens.  During each race, only 3 powerups are available, but as more races are completed, more items are unlocked and at times the player will be able to choose what 3 will be in play prior to the start of a match.  The range of items is vast, but they basically boil down into two groups: items that go forward, and items that go backwards.  To be fair, there are a few that will directly affect the racer such as invincibility, but most will either be tailored to take out enemies in front or hinder the progress of those behind.

Mario Kart Arcade GP

Pac-Man + Mario Kart = Makes Sense Right?

Despite the multitude of mostly unfamiliar items, they all do pretty much the same thing, which is slowing another racer down.  The effects aren’t nearly as varied as we’re used to in home versions.  Karts may be lifted by a tornado or flung by an explosion, but in most cases, they recover quickly.  And after the countless times I’ve been hit by the “pan,” a rain cloud, or the steering wheel, I have a hard time telling the difference between them.  Aside from some very minor interference, I barely noticed most of the attacks thrown my way.  In a strange sort of way, this actually works in the game’s favor, but more on that later.

When it comes down to the racing in Mario Kart Arcade GP, I feel that it’s some of the strongest in the series.  For some reason the controls are among the most fluid I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing; they’re somehow tighter and more responsive.  Does this have something to do with the steering wheel translating to the GameCube’s analog stick?  Maybe.  Either way, it’s hard to deny how smooth these karts steer, and there are far fewer jerky and out of control movements than usual.

Mario Kart Arcade GPThe other aspect that helps contribute to the flowy motion is the abundance of wide tracks.  In many regards, these courses may not feel exactly like the typical Mario Kart raceway.  With the aforementioned wider tracks, longer turns, and an overall de-emphasis on gimmicky obstacles, Mario Kart Arcade GP moves a little more in the direction of racing games with a bit more realism.  Don’t get me wrong – you won’t be operating a clutch or customizing your kart’s shocks – but the game does favor reliance on driving-skill over combat.

The graphics look great, even exceptional for a game running on GameCube-comparable technology; it’s almost on par with those of Mario Kart Wii.  It’s got all the vibrance and brilliance we’ve come to expect from Mario, and the courses themselves display a wide range of environments, including some great looking rain.  Seriously, the visuals here betray their 2005 origins.

Mario Kart Arcade GP

The real arcade machine includes a camera which will take your picture and superimpose your character’s features over the photo!


Another laudable feature of the original machine (which makes its way over to the Wii in imperfect form) is the use of a “Mario Card.”  Players could save their progress, rank, Time Attack records, and so forth onto a piece of plastic similar to a credit card.  When they returned to the arcade, all they had to do was pop in their Mario Card, and they’d be able to continue the game with all of their accomplishments intact!  Pretty nifty way of making the players happy and ensuring a steady donation of quarters, if you ask me.

For fans of the series’ typical presentation and style, some of the details of Mario Kart Arcade GP may seem less than exciting.  After all, highly similar powerups and items with minimal effect may not seem like improvements, and “more realistic” tracks may not fit the standard image of Mario Kart.  In fact, I was slightly underwhelmed during the first few minutes, though as I pushed onward I began to notice what was turning out to be a remarkably different experience with a familiar friend.  If you find yourself growing irritated from time to time at the “unfairness” brought upon by the judicious use of items yet also appreciate the casual feel evoked by the simplicity of other Mario Kart titles, Mario Kart Arcade GP might just be the middle ground you’re looking for.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything:

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  1. Pingback: Project Obscure - Nerd Bacon Reviews

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