Super Mario Kart is a go-kart racing game developed by Nintendo EAD for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The first game of the Mario Kart series, it was launched in Japan on 27 August 1992, in North America on 1 September 1992 and in Europe on 21 January 1993. Selling eight million copies worldwide, the game went on to become the third best selling SNES game of all time. Super Mario Kart was re-released on the Wii's Virtual Console in Japan on 9 June 2009.
In Super Mario Kart the player takes control of one of eight Mario series characters, each with differing capabilities. In single player mode players can race against computer controlled characters in multi-race cups over three difficulty levels. During the races, offensive and speed boosting power ups can be used to gain an advantage. Alternatively players can race against the clock in a Time Trial mode. In multi-player two players can simultaneously take part in the cups or can race against each other one-on-one in Match Race mode. In a third multiplayer mode – Battle Mode – the aim is to defeat the other player by attacking them with power ups, destroying balloons which surround each kart.
Super Mario Kart received positive reviews and has been praised for its presentation, innovation and use of Mode 7 graphics. It has been ranked among the best games of all time by several organisations including Edge, IGN, The Age and GameSpot whilst Guinness World Records has named it as the top console game ever. It is often credited with creating the kart-racing sub genre of video games, leading other developers to try to duplicate its success. The game is also seen as having been key to expanding the Mario series into non-platforming games; a diversity which has lead to it becoming the best selling game franchise of all time. Several sequels to Super Mario Kart have been released, for consoles and in arcades, each enjoying both critical and commercial success. Whilst some elements have developed throughout the series the core experience from Super Mario Kart has remained intact.
See also: Mario Kart#GameplaySuper Mario Kart is a kart racing game featuring several single and multiplayer modes. During the game players take control of one of a selection of Mario series characters and drive karts around Mario series themed tracks. Whilst racing the player's viewpoint is from behind the kart, the view behind the kart can be displayed on the lower half of the screen in single player mode. In race modes players attempt to finish in front of other opponents – which can be computer controlled or controlled by other human players – or aim to complete a circuit in the fastest possible time. There is also a battle mode in which the aim is to attack the other human player. During races players can pick up power ups by driving over question mark tiles on the track; these are used to gain an advantage during the race. Examples of power ups include shells and bananas which cause racers to spin if hit and stars which make the player temporarily invulnerable to attack. Computer players have specific special powers associated with each character, that they are able to use throughout the race. In competitive race modes coins can be picked up along the tracks. Having more coins increases the racer's top speed and protects players from spinning when hit by another kart: they instead lose a coin. Players also lose coins when they are hit by power ups and when Lakitu returns them to the track after they fall off. Players are able to "power slide" around corners in order to maintain their speed, although power sliding for too long causes the kart to spin. Karts are also able to hop which can facilitate faster, tighter turning. Reviewers have praised the gameplay of Super Mario Kart describing the battle mode as "addictive" and the single player gameplay as "incredible". IGN has stated that the gameplay mechanics defined the genre.Game modesSuper Mario Kart has two single player modes, Mario Kart GP and Time Trial. In Mario Kart GP one player races against seven computer controlled characters in a series of five races, these are called cups. Initially there are three cups available – the Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup and Star Cup – at two difficulty levels, 50cc and 100cc. By winning all three of the cups at the 100cc level, a fourth cup – the Special cup – is unlocked. Winning all four cups at 100cc unlocks a new difficulty level, 150cc. Each cup consists of five five lap races, each taking place on a distinct track. In order to continue through a cup a position of fourth or higher must be achieved in each race. If a player finishes in fifth to eighth position they are "ranked out" and the race must be replayed – at the cost of one of a limited number of lives – until a placing of fourth or above is achieved. Points are accrued by finishing in the top four positions in a race; first to fourth place receive nine, six, three and one points. The racer with the highest number of points after all five races have been completed wins the cup. In time trial mode players race against the clock, through the same tracks that are present in Mario Kart GP mode, attempting to set as fast a time as possible.
Super Mario Kart also has three multiplayer modes; Mario Kart GP, Match Race and Battle Mode. The multiplayer modes support two players and the second player uses the bottom half of the screen which is used as a map in the single player modes. Mario Kart GP is the same as in single player, the only difference being that there are now two human controlled drivers and six computer controlled drivers. Match Race involves the two players going head to head without any computer characters on a track of their choosing. In Battle Mode the two players again go head to head but this time in one of four dedicated Battle Mode courses. Each player starts with three balloons around their kart which can be destroyed by power ups fired by the other player. The first player to have all three of their balloons destroyed loses the battle
Super Mario Kart features eight playable characters from the Mario series – Mario, Luigi, the Princess (later named Princess Peach), Yoshi, Bowser, Donkey Kong Jr., Koopa Troopa and Toad. Each character's kart has different capabilities with differing levels of top speed, acceleration and handling. During races, computer-controlled characters have special items, or superpowers, which they are able to use. These powers are specific to each character; for example, Yoshi drops eggs which cause players who hit them to lose coins and spin, while Donkey Kong Jr. throws bananas.
The characters are rendered as sprites portrayed from sixteen different angles. The sprites were described as "detailed" by Nintendo Magazine System when the game was first reviewed and were thought to contribute to the "spectacular" graphics of the game as a whole. More recently, Nintendojo called the sprites "not-so-pretty" when they are rendered at a distance, and IGN has commented on the dated look of the game. Super Mario Kart was the first game to feature playable characters from the Mario series other than Mario in a non-platforming game and the selection and different attributes of the characters is regarded as one of the game's strengths, IGN describing a well-balanced "all-star cast". All of the characters present in Super Mario Kart have gone on to appear in all of the later games in the series except for Koopa Troopa, who has only appeared intermittently after being replaced by Wario in Mario Kart 64, and Donkey Kong Jr., who was replaced by the adult Donkey Kong.
The tracks in Super Mario Kart are based on locations in the Mario series, including Bowser's Castle and Donut Plains from Super Mario World. Each of the four cups contains five different tracks for a total of twenty unique tracks, additionally there are four unique Battle Mode courses. The course outlines are marked out by impassable barriers and feature a variety of bends ranging from sharp hairpins to wide curves which players can power slide around. Numerous obstacles themed from the Mario series appear, such as Thwomps in the Bowser's Castle levels, the jumping fish from Super Mario World in Koopa Beach and pipe barriers which are found in the Mario Circuit levels. Other features include off-road sections which slow down the karts such as the mud bogs in the Choco Island tracks. Each single player track is littered with coins and power up tiles, as well as turbo tiles which give the karts a boost of speed and jumps which launch the karts into the air.The tracks have received positive commentary with GameSpy describing them as wonderfully designed and IGN calling them perfect. When naming its top five Mario Kart tracks of all time in 2008, 1UP.com named Battle Mode Course 4 at number three and Rainbow Road – along with its subsequent versions in the series – at number one. The track themes in Super Mario Kart influenced later games in the series; recurring themes that first appeared in Super Mario Kart include haunted tracks, Bowser's castle and Rainbow Road. Some of the tracks from Super Mario Kart have been duplicated in later games. All twenty of the original tracks are unlockable as an extra feature in the Game Boy Advance sequel Mario Kart: Super Circuit. Remakes of Mario Circuit 1, Donut Plains 1, Koopa Beach 2 and Choco Island 2 appear as part of the retro grand prix series in Mario Kart DS and remakes of Ghost Valley 2, Mario Circuit 3, and Battle Course 4 appear as part of the retro cup and battles in Mario Kart Wii.