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Mario Kart: Super Circuit – GBA

Mario Kart: Super Circuit – GBA

Mario Kart: Super CircuitPlatform: Game Boy Advance

Release Date (NA):  August 27th, 2001

Developer:  Intelligent Systems

Publisher:  Nintendo

Genre:  Racing

Nerd Rating:  6.5 out of 10

Mario Kart: Super Circuit is the series’ third installment as well as the first appearance of Mario Kart on a handheld.  My feelings on the game are somewhat mixed, though it is a clear improvement (technologically) over both Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64a fact that’s hard to ignore.  If you’ve read my other reviews on Mario Kart games, you’ll see that I consider Double Dash!! to be the progenitor of what we see as the “modern Mario Kart” and arguably the single largest advancement in the franchise.  The first two installments may be decidedly old school, but Super Circuit inhabits an interesting in between area.

Mario Kart: Super Circuit

Pick your poison.

For the most part I enjoyed Super Circuit on my Game Boy Player, but I did punch it into (one of) my trusty GBA SP(s) to get an idea of how it was probably most enjoyed at the time.  As the fourth highest selling GBA game of all time, it must be pretty good, right? Mario Kart: Super Circuit is a rather small game, but the kart racing antics intrinsic to all Mario Kart games have been translated to the GBA in adequate fashion.  Five different “cups” are available with 4 courses each, leading to a total of 20 unique tracks.  Eight separate characters are featured, plus 3 different game modes.  Many people would consider the multiplayer aspect of Mario Kart to be one of the franchise’s defining features, and although 2 GBAs can be linked together, I haven’t yet tested it.  According to the box though, only 1 cartridge is required so perhaps I’ll update this article in the future.  Unfortunately, even when using the Game Boy Player, it’s not as simple as just plugging another controller into the GameCube.

So yeah, no multiplayer in this review, but I would suspect most people enjoying this game will do so by themselves.  The player can choose between typical Grand Prix racing (where all courses in a particular cup are played and trophies awarded at the end), a time attack mode, and “Quick Run,” which allows one to play through a single course of their choosing.  Like most other games in the series, 3 difficulties are available in the form of 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc.  The computer controlled characters are nothing to sneeze at here and overall I feel like the AI is well balanced.  Items and weapons are more evenly distributed in Super Circuit, a welcome change of pace from later games where the more powerful items are skewed towards weaker players.

Mario Kart: Super Circuit

“Boo Lake” is one of my favorites!

Mario Kart: Super Circuit

Cheese Land!

The tracks themselves look a little small and simplistic compared to what we see today, but on a fundamental level they’re designed quite well.  With intersecting tracks and all sorts of hazards and helpful features along the way, the races never get boring.  A few of these tracks have been redone in spectacular fashion on later releases and it’s interesting to see their humble beginnings on the GBA.  Those taking place in Bowser’s Castle are the most memorable, but most courses are unique in their own way and a pleasure to look at.  I had at first presumed that Super Circuit would contain a number of forgettable, mediocre raceways and was quite surprised by the level of variety.  On one course the time of day changes after each lap, beginning during the day and moving through twilight into evening.

The character select screen may be small, though who you choose doesn’t have much bearing on the race.  We don’t yet have customizable karts; each character has their own “speed” and “weight” rating but in all other respects are the same.  The racing mechanics are still a little raw and rough around the edges and will probably be the most difficult thing in the game to get used to.  Controls are a little loose but with a little practice it’s easy to cut tight corners without braking or decelerating.  There’s a surprising number of objects built into the tracks, probably the most of any Mario Kart game when it comes to ramps, jumps, and traps.  Some hazards, such as puddles, can cause spin-outs, but unique to Mario Kart: Super Circuit is the ability to recover by quickly decelerating and braking.

Mario Kart: Super Circuit

One of 3 courses taking place within Bowser’s Castle.

Weapons systems are slightly simplified from previous games yet many old favorites reappear.  They function as expected; items can be thrown backwards or forwards, we still have turtle shells and lightning bolts, and nothing new has been brought to the table.  However, unlike previous and future games, the player doesn’t loose his or her powerup after going off course or being hit by another player.  Even an active powerup – such as 3 circling turtle shells – will remain completely intact after falling off of the course!  Some might see it as unfair, but I thought it was a nice touch.

Mario Kart: Super Circuit

This is the one with the changing lighting conditions.

Graphics are dated and a bit simplistic, though I can overlook the game’s rather basic appearance due to the GBA’s limited hardware.  Super Circuit is at least bright and colorful, and it’s easy to see where the track goes, easily the most important part of actually racing.  I won’t say that there’s anything impressive going on, but the graphics are serviceable.  My single qualm is how much the actual screen moves instead of just the kart.  When turning and moving, the entire screen is doing a lot of dancing as well, and I found my rather sensitive motion sickness kicking in after a couple of races.

Mario Kart: Super Circuit may not be perfect, but you could do a lot worse when it comes to handhed racing.  Age has taken its toll on the nearly 15 year old game, though I can envision a time when Super Circuit would’ve been an impressive feat.  This installment might be best played these days as a curiosity, especially since some of the game’s best courses have been revamped in subsequent releases.

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

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  1. AbyssalOblivion
    AbyssalOblivion says:

    Excellent review, man! I fondly remember his title but often looked past its shortcomings.

  2. Pingback: Game Boy Advance SP - Nerd Bacon Reviews

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