Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review: The Final Lap

Three years later, Mario Kart 8 is still the best kart racer Nintendo has ever made. The Deluxe version of the game for the Nintendo Switch improves upon the core game in key ways. Just like in the summer of 2014, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of the most tightly construction entertainment packages you can find today and has been refined almost to perfection.

For more detail on what makes Mario Kart 8 so good you can read our original review from three years ago. All the positives are still true so I want to focus on what has changed.

The biggest addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, other than it including all of the game’s previous DLC, is that players can now hold two items at once. This adds a new defensive layer while near the front of the pack and makes players trailing behind a lot more trigger happy. Its a welcomed change that can make races feel even more frantic but surprisingly fair since you’re more likely to gain more ground in this version of the game. Pulling off an epic comeback from 12th is much more feasible now. There is also a new level of boosts from drifting adding even more to your top speed with shiny new pink sparks.

The Inklings, along with the ability to hold two items at once and new battle modes, are the game’s main changes.

Two new characters have been added, the Splatoon boy and girl, along with a superior battle mode. Balloon Battle returns with the terrific change of not eliminating players once all three of their balloons have been popped. This is where I have spent most of Battle Mode time as the new battle maps, like the Splatoon themed one, are tight and chaotic at all times. There are four other battle modes too: Renegade Roundup, Bob-omb Blast, Shine Thief and Coin Runners. All of these are fun diversions from the traditional races but I found myself enjoying Coin Runners and Balloon Blast the most. Sadly, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe still lacks a Mario Kart DS style mission mode though I’ve come to not expect that anymore.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe runs in 1080p docked on the Switch and has full four player split-screen even while undocked and two player split-screen play online. The game runs flawlessly at 60 frames per second at all times, even when two players are playing in portable mode at native 720p. It does drop down to 30 fps when 3-4 players are playing away from the TV but considering how everything else works at 60 fps, its easy to accept this change.

Playing in two player split-screen at 60 fps/720p or with four players at 30 fps on a handheld is absolutely mind blowing.

Mario Kart 8 still has no traditional in-game communications, no voice chat or messaging system to be found. No Rocket League style quick messages outside of short pre-written message options while waiting for a course to be chosen in the lobby. Nintendo could have revamped the communication options for MK8D but its not something anyone thought they would really do so I can’t say I’m surprised.

In the end, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is worth a second purchase for Wii U owners upgrading to the Switch. The new battle modes and changes to the item mechanics make a familiar package feel new in the moment-to-moment gameplay and the core game is endlessly fun. The $59.99 price tag is a little high considering some fans already paid $60 in 2014 plus $15 for the DLC but Nintendo likely wanted to cash-in on all the new Switch owners who never bought a Wii U. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe improves upon an already stellar game and refines it in small but very important ways.

Final Thoughts

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe refines the game you bought in 2014, changing how races play out with the ability to hold two items at once. The new battle modes are a welcome addition and the performance of the game is jaw dropping for a portable device in 2017. If you're double dipping then the $60 price tag is a bit steep but in the end the game justifies the asking price.

Overall Score 85%