Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s first wave of DLC is a reminder of just why Nintendo’s kart franchise is so enduring — even if it does play things a little safe.
Mario Kart 8: Deluxe may be a remastered Wii U port, but the game is the Nintendo Switch’s best-selling game for a reason. It’s a polished, pixel-perfect party game that keeps racers all over the globe coming back for those last-ditch wins, crushing Blue Shell defeats, and everything in between.
The original having launched in 2014 did have many speculating over a fresh new title in the franchise, but Nintendo has instead committed to adding another 48 tracks over the next year and nine months through the Booster Course Pass. Wave 1 is out now, adding two cups and eight tracks, but is it enough to justify the outlay?
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Booster Course Pass key details
- Price: $24.99/£22.49 (or included with Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack)
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release Date: March 18, 2022
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Booster Course Pass trailer
Golden Dash Cup
It’s a little tricky to review a slate of DLC that’s being rolled out in piecemeal fashion, but Wave 1 of the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Booster Course Pass is off to a solid start with the Golden Dash Cup and the Lucky Cat Cup.
As is usually the case, there are four races in each. Golden Dash Cup features Paris Promenade, Toad Circuit, Choco Mountain, and Coconut Mall, and many will jump at the chance to play the latter again — with its speed-boosting escalators and shopfront shortcuts.
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On the other hand, Paris Promenade is likely to be new for many as it was previously a Mario Kart Tour exclusive. It looks great, too, with a cartoonish facsimile of the iconic city that sends players flying over the Jardins du Trocadero and squeezing underneath the Eiffel Tower. There’s even a neat surprise (at least the first time) at the end, where the track contorts and redirects players through different streets and even into other racers.
We may be a little biased, but we did prefer the newer tracks to the recreation of Choco Mountain (N64). It just lacks the visual flair of its Golden Dash Cup siblings, relying more on nostalgia. If you’re looking for it, though, you’ll be pleased that it’s here, but its “brown track and misty surroundings” didn’t get us too excited.
Lucky Cat Cup
Lucky Cat Cup has the advantage, at least for the audience that skipped Mario Kart Tour, of two new tracks — and they’re great, too. Tokyo Blur could, arguably, have looked better at night, but may have ended up looking a little like Toad’s Turnpike in places, but it’s a fun track nonetheless. As with Paris Promenade, it also switches things up in the last lap.
Arguably the best track of the bunch, though, is fellow Mario Kart Tour alumnus Ninja Hideaway. It’s full of twists and turns and feels like the trickiest track for many ways, with plenty of alternate routes and vertical jumps.
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Shroom Ridge holds up well, too, but Sky Garden suffers from the same issue as Choco Mountain — it originally launched on the GBA, and so its track design is, understandably, limited. It’s been given a nice facelift, but it’s just not the most exciting.
Is it worth it?
What all eight tracks do, though, is showcase just how excellent the core mechanics of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are. That may sound silly (because of course they’re good, we’ve been playing for years) but an overfamiliarity that comes from playing hundreds (maybe even thousands) of races on the existing 48 courses had begun to make the game feel less brilliant just because it wasn’t as new.
Thankfully, the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Booster Course Pass Wave 1 uses this recency bias to showcase one of Nintendo’s best games of all time, and will likely keep my regular group playing long into the night for the months to come until Wave 2.
As for whether it’s worth the cost of $24.99 or £22.49, you’re essentially paying money in the hope that the upcoming tracks add something substantial to the game. After how well the likes of Ninja Hideaway has done, I’m inclined to suggest that the game will only grow in positive ways, but I’m less enthused about another few Choco Mountains or Sky Gardens.
Then again, the whole set of 48 tracks will be available as they release via the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack, so you may have access already.
Some understandably “flat” track design on older courses aside, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Booster Course Pass Wave 1 has kicked things off solidly. The inclusion of Mario Kart Tour tracks may have been a surprise before launch, but these ended up offering some of our closest races and bitterest defeats.
For most players, it’s more Mario Kart 8, and that can only be a good thing.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch (OLED)