Mario Kart DS is a racing game developed and published by Nintendo. It was released for the Nintendo DS handheld game console in North America, Australia, and Europe in November 2005, and in Japan in December 2005. The game is the fifth installment in the Mario Kart series of video games, and the first to be playable via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection online service. Like other games in the series, Mario Kart DS features characters from the Mario series, and pits them against each other as they race in karts on tracks based on locations in the Mario series.
The game was well received, receiving an aggregated score of 91% from Metacritic. Praise focused on the game's graphics and gameplay, while criticism targeted its repetitive single-player mode. Mario Kart DS received several awards, including Editors' Choice Awards from GameSpot and IGN, G-Phorias Best Handheld Game award, and IGN's Best Racing/Driving Game and Game of the Year awards for 2005. In the United States, Mario Kart DS was the best-selling handheld game in its first month of release, and also held that position the following month. Overall, Mario Kart DS is the sixth best-selling game for the Nintendo DS as of January 2009.
Mario Kart DS is a racing game, in which the player races in a kart against other racers as one of 13 characters, each with 36 karts to choose from. While racing, the Nintendo DS's top screen offers a third-person perspective of the player's kart, while the bottom touchscreen shows the race's current standings, items carried by each racer, and a map of the course. The bottom screen can be toggled to show either an overview of the entire course, or a bird's-eye view of the player's kart and the immediate vicinity, including nearby racers, course hazards, item boxes, and incoming attacks. Each course features item boxes that the player can drive through to receive a randomly selected item, which the player can use to gain an advantage over other racers. Some items allow the player to attack other racers to slow them down, while other items can be used to speed up the player's own kart to pass other racers more easily.The game features five game modes—Grand Prix, Time Trial, Vs, Battle, and Mission. The Grand Prix and Vs modes require that the player choose an engine class from among 50 cc, 100 cc, and 150 cc. The classes serve as difficulty levels—the higher the engine class, the faster all karts go. In addition, a 150 cc Mirror mode can be unlocked, in which karts use 150 cc engines and tracks are flipped horizontally. In Grand Prix mode, the player competes against seven computer-controlled racers in a series of predetermined courses. In the Time Trial mode, the player must finish a course as quickly as possible. The shortest time is then saved as a ghost, a carbon copy of the player's performance, which the player can race against later. In Vs mode, the player races on a track of their choosing against computer-controlled opponents. The mode can be played either individually or in teams, which separates racers into a blue team and a red team. Battle mode features two scenarios, Balloon Battle and Shine Runners, both which also allow the player to play either individually or in teams. In Balloon Battle, the player must pop the opposing players' balloons by attacking them, or they must steal balloons by colliding into other karts. In the second scenario, Shine Runners, the player must collect Shine Sprites. The player can attack other racers to take away a Shine Sprite from them, and racers with the fewest Shine Sprites are eliminated from the game over time.In Mission Mode, the player must complete missions, each with objectives that range from collecting coins to attacking enemies. In each mission, the player controls a prespecified character. There are seven levels with eight missions in each. After completing each mission, the player's performance is given a grade of stars (three, two, or one) or letters (A, B, C, D, or E). After all eight missions in a level are complete, the player must complete a boss mission to advance to the next level. The game also features a multiplayer mode, in which eight players race each other using the DS Download Play feature or a multi-card wireless LAN connection. Mario Kart DS also supports online play via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, in which up to four players can play together. When playing online, participants can only race against each other; Battle mode is not available when playing via an online connection.