Sunday, January 11, 2009

Top 52: Mario Kart 64 (#26)

Having 4-players at once is pretty standard now but, the N64 was the first popular console to have four controller slots. Part of the reason why Mario Kart 64 was so successful was because it was the first really awesome game to be played with more than two people, and therefore really good to play at parties.

Title: Mario Kart 64
Console: Nintendo 64
Release Date: 02/10/97
Genre: Racing
My Ranking: #26

Following up on their success from Super Mario Kart for the SNES, Nintendo brought the Mario Kart series to 3D on the Nintendo 64. Sporting sixteen strange courses, a litany of items, and 4-player support, Mario Kart 64 become the ultimate muliplayer fantasy racing game. Why are Mario characters racing in Go-Karts through Bowser's castle and Moo Moo farm? No one knows really, but what I do know is that this game is insanely fun to play, even now.

Everyone knows how Mario Kart works. You do laps on a track and you can pick up items and shoot them at people. However, what makes Mario Kart 64 so great is that the game feels balanced. The person in last place gets better items than the person in first and therefore has an easier chance to catch-up. Sure, this may cause a rubber-band effect from time to time (meaning the person in last quickly bounces to first, and so on) but, in my experience with the game, the better driver/player wins the majority of the time.

Since Mario Kart 64 is balanced, the game works excellently for hardcore players like myself. It's a ton of fun to race against someone who is really good, while each of you are cutting corners and constantly getting boosts from power slides. However, even for non-hardcore players, Mario Kart 64 is an amazing game.

Since newer players tend to fall to the back of the pack, they get all of the cool items, like stars, golden mushrooms and blue shells. Since these items help propel them to the front without intense skill, newer players don't feel left out of the experience. It's especially rewarding to new players when they pick up a blue shell, use it, and hit the first-place player. The hardcore player who was in first will say something like "Oh @#$%," or something to that effect, and the new player will laugh and feel pride at effecting the outcome.

Somehow then, Mario Kart 64 is a game for hardcore gamers and casual gamers. It even works for non-gamers as well since they understand the basic premise: get to the finish line. And since the game is so colorful and there is tons of action happening with items, everyone will even enjoy the game on a purely visual level.

The game does have some faults though. The special shortcuts on Koopa Troopa Beach, Wario Stadium, and Rainbow Road cut so much of the track that if you do make them and someone else doesn't for a lap, there is no chance at the other player recovering. The track design wasn't as top notch as it could have been. Also, one glaring problem is that versus mode doesn't have music for the tracks, which makes the game feel a bit empty at times.

Still, Mario Kart 64 is the best racing game to play with a lot of people. The game moves relatively fast and you'll have a lot of people talking/swearing during gameplay. Course for course, F-Zero has better design (and better music) but Mario Kart 64 will give you one of the best multiplayer experiences in video gaming.
My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby's Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
#48 --- Metroid Prime (GC)
#47 --- Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
#46 --- Bomberman 64 (N64)
#45 --- Guitar Hero II (PS2)
#44 --- Super Street Fighter II (GEN)
#43 --- Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)
#42 --- Soul Calibur II (GC)
#41 --- Gears of War (Xbox 360)*
#40 --- Elite Beat Agents (DS)
#39 --- Call of Duty 4 (PS3)
#38 --- Super Metroid (SNES)
#37 --- The Orange Box (PS3)*
#36 --- Metal Gear Solid (PS)
#35 --- Doom (PC)
#34 --- Super Mario Kart (SNES)
#33 --- Mischief Makers (N64)
#32 --- Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)
#31 --- Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)
#30 --- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All (DS)
#29 --- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (GC)
#28 --- F-Zero (SNES)
#27 --- Katamari Damacy (PS2)*
#26 --- Mario Kart 64 (N64)

*- Denotes highest ranked game for that console


Anonymous said...

How can you mention Mario Kart 64, but not its amazing battle mode. I probably spent equal amounts of time playing the game itself and battle mode. Fantastic game; my favorite of the series.

Shawn R. said...

Never liked Mario Kart. I know I've always been in the minority on this one. But it always played like the kid-oriented version of a racing game. Not particularly fast-moving, lots of bright-colored Disney-esque powerups, goofy sound effects, etc. I've seen the Mario Kart series as one of the prime examples of Nintendo beginning its slide into blatant catering to the kid-friendly market. Nothing wrong with that as a marketing decision, but doesn't help me as someone wanting something more sophisticated in my gaming.

ultima301 said...

Don't forget the migrane-inducing low framerates that happened with 3-4 players, made the thing nearly unplayable for me. I never really felt for the series either; most races for me just feel like "get into 1st place, drive for a while, get hit by blue / red shells, sink into the middle until you get the powerups to re-take first" over and over again, the winner being whoever was in the good part of that cycle at the end of the race. Being in the front positions is pretty boring in general, and being behind can feel pretty hopeless, even with powerups (later games in the series had better powerups for the weak players). It was a good rental for me, definitely not a buy, DEFINITELY not in my top 52...but to each his own I guess.

Richard R. said...


0.o. Shame on me for not mentioning battle mode. I honestly forgot about it since I love the racing so much.


Honestly, at first it feels like everyone just bounces back and forth because of items and such, but trust me, the best player almost always wins. How can you explain me consistently winning at PLAY otherwise?

The blue shell isn't broken either. If you're really hardcore and someone is close behind you, you'll see the leader purposefully fall back and not take the hit based on when the blue shell was shot and how long it would take to get to the person in first place.

But yeah, the framerate BLEW, hard.

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