The Mario Kart 8 DLC went live today, and it is arguably the best paid DLC package ever released by Nintendo.
For the price of $7.99, or less than $6, buying the season pass get you a plethora of goodies. Link, Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach become playable racers. The Master Cycle, Blue Falcon, B Dasher, and Tanooki Kart make up the four new available vehicles, with Triforce Tires and Hylian Kite also making an appearance, and finally there’s eight new tracks.
While it’s nice to see Link join the karting mayhem, and the door being opened to even more cameos down the road, the real meat of this package is the addition of the eight new tracks. There’s three updated classic tracks and five brand new ones, divided into the Egg and Trophy Cups.
Mario Kart 8‘s three classic tracks are the updated versions of Yoshi Circuit, Wario’s Gold Mine, and and the original Rainbow Road. All three hold true to their originals while added a little bit of a twist. Yoshi Circuit is functionally the same as its previous incarnation, just prettier. The challenging curves are still there. Wario’s Gold Mine made the HD jump beautifully as well, with the mine carts now providing anti-grav boosts. Finally, the unforgiving SNES Rainbow Road makes its triumphant return as the stage with no guard rails, meaning players will often careen off the side with hilarious regularity online. The Thwomps pounding the ground now send ripples down the track providing races with extra speed boosts for well timed jumps.
Classics are alright, but everybody knows the new tracks steal the show. While all of these levels are impeccable, Excitebike Arena was the one that blew my mind. It’s a simple oval track with tons of tightly packed ramps allowing for rapid fire boost jumps. There are also mud patches to slow racers down. The jazzy remix of the classic Excitebike tune really sets the tone as you fly around the stage with the same level of satisfaction you’d get from a perfect race in the original game. It’s like Nintendo condensed fun into light and beamed it directly into my eyes.
The next new track was a surprise as well. When I first saw “Dragon Driftway”, I thought it was neat and then didn’t pay it any more attention, “Mute City,” “Hyrule Circuit,” and “Excitebike Arena” had overshadowed it in my mind. It does hold its own by nailing the Chinese theme perfectly. It snakes around dangerously and leads to some really tense racing. It was more enjoyable than the other non-crossover new tracks.
The finale to the Egg Cup is “Mute City.” Mario Kart 8 crushed it here. If this were a metaphorical home run, the cover would have exploded off the ball as it screamed through the atmosphere and downed a malevolent alien star destroyer. The entire race is done in anti-grav mode. There are no coins normally sitting on the track, you have to run over special charge panels to get coins outside of stealing or finding them in boxes. Everything about this track serves to emphasize speed: The rapid accumulation of coins at the start of the lap, full time anti-grav causing every bump to increase velocity, the excessive amount of boost pads, and the plentiful bumpers make this the craziest of all the tracks. Mario Kart 8‘s take on Mute City is is perfection.
The Triforce Cup’s first non-retro track is arguably the weakest of all the Mario Kart 8 DLC courses, but that’s not a knock on it by any means. “Ice Ice Outpost” consists of a two-lane track in which the lanes spiral around each other like a double helix.There are plenty of points at which you can crossover, and it can really mess with red shells thanks to the constant splitting of lanes. Other than that though, this track is a straightforward race.
Finally, there’s Hyrule Circuit. “Mute City” is an example of how great a job Mario Kart 8’s DLC does of translating one racing game’s style into another, but “Hyrule Circuit” is a continuation of the Zelda love letter started by Hyrule Warriors. All of the little touches fans will recognize as they race around the track highlights the effort the people of Nintendo puts into their games. Rupees replace coins visually and aurally, Dekubabas replace Piranha Plants, the item box sound is replaced by a sped up version of Zelda‘s iconic treasure jingle, and the Master Sword ties into one of the better, more balanced shortcuts in the franchise.
Nintendo’s Mario Kart 8 DLC offerings are a cut above. This is DLC done right, and if more companies offered as much content for such a reasonable price, perhaps the three letter acronym wouldn’t be a four letter word.