With the first wave of classic tracks from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s Booster Course Pass having already arrived and many more still on the way, now is the perfect time to take stock of the series as a whole. The franchise has come a long way since the original game but has always put fun, chaotic racing at the forefront.
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Some Mario Kart games are better than others though, with some players nostalgic for the simple joys of the older games and others preferring the polish and sheer amount of content the latest in the series has to offer. Thousands of players on Ranker have come together and determined which Kart they consider to be the best, and this is how they line up.
9 Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit (Switch)
Whilst it’s hard to compare such a novel game concept to the other conventional Mario Kart games, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit does prove that there is a limit to how experimental a game can be if it wants to keep all players on board. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a mixed reality game in which the player controls a physical radio control kart.
Players can create their own circuits using real-life toys and then experience the circuit as if it’s an actual Mario Kart track on their Switch while the toy kart navigates the circuit. The concept is fun but there is a lot of set-up involved and the extra cost of the toys makes the game less accessible, contributing to its relative lack of popularity.
8 Mario Kart Super Circuit (GBA)
Originally developed by Intelligent Systems, the developers behind the Fire Emblem and WarioWare games, for the Game Boy Advance, Mario Kart Super Circuit was the very first handheld Mario Kart title. While the game isn’t as well-remembered as Mario Kart DS, it was nevertheless successful enough to prove how well-suited the kart-racing experience was for handheld.
There are many great Game Boy Advance games that should still be played, and Mario Kart Super Circuit can be considered one of them, as it faithfully translates the gameplay of its predecessors. The character lineup is identical to Mario Kart 64 but it far surpasses that title in the number of circuits it has. With 40 tracks in total, it actually had the most circuits of any Mario Kart game before the DLC packs for Mario kart 8.
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7 Super Mario Kart (SNES)
The game that started it all, Super Mario Kart’s success set up the series to become the global phenomenon it is and it established many of the conventions of the kart racer that remain fundamental even today. Utilizing a background graphic that moved and scaled with the movement of the kart, Super Mario Kart imitated a 3D plane, making it feel surprisingly modern for 1992.
One drawback of the older title that has held it back is the fact that 8 environments were split into 20 courses, meaning there is a relative lack of variation in the tracks, a feature that certainly doesn’t need to return in the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe course booster. Additionally, in a series that is now popular for the tight, intuitive controls of later titles, Super Mario Kart’s clunky and awkward driving makes it feel archaic, leading to its lower place in the rankings.
6 Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
Proving that the series showed no signs of slowing down after the success of Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart 7 refreshed the series with new features as well as a level of polish that would set the standard going forward. Mario Kart 7 added new customizable vehicles and hang gliders to allow the player to glide during long sections in the air.
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The game also brought in 16 new tracks, including some instant favorites like Waluigi Pinball, as well as including a wide range of classic circuits, meaning there was plenty of content to enjoy. Mario Kart 7 also stood out as one of the best-looking Mario Kart games and, although it has aged somewhat since then, it remains a very visually striking game.
5 Mario Kart 64 (N64)
Mario Kart 64 had a lot to live up to as the successor to the original Super Mario Kart but, by taking things truly 3D, it more than managed to surpass expectations. It also supported 4-player multiplayer, allowing groups of friends to play together in what would become a big part of the series.
With the move to true 3D polygonal environments, Mario kart 64 also had a degree of variation in terrain and elevation that, along with much tighter controls than its predecessor, allowed it to take racing to the next level. With tracks like the new Rainbow Road that became instant classics, it’s no wonder Mario Kart 64 remains many people’s favorite.
4 Mario Kart DS (DS)
One of the most comprehensive Mario Kart experiences on a handheld console, Mario Kart DS was a big step forward for the franchise that became an instant must-have game. Met with universal acclaim on its release, Mario Kart DS didn’t stray too far from the formula that had made Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! so successful but got nearly everything right in terms of controls, the mix of new and old tracks, and simple karting fun.
Mario Kart DS is also one of the best-looking games of the DS era and its visual flair allowed new circuits like Delfino Square, a track so good that fans want to see it return in the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pass, to truly stand out. For many players, Mario Kart DS remains one of the best Mario Kart experiences around.
3 Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, Switch)
Mario Kart 8 took things to the next level becoming easily the best-looking, best-controlling, and most varied Mario Kart game ever, with an amazing soundtrack to boot. By keeping the mechanics that had already made the previous installments so popular whilst adding in new antigravity sections and more multiplayer options than ever, Mario Kart 8 struck a balance between pleasing older and newer fans.
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Additionally, with the enhanced port Mario Kart 8 Deluxe now receiving a huge amount of bonus tracks from across the series in the Booster Course Pass, there is more reason than ever to play this installment. The game is an excellent entry in the series and became the best-selling Mario Kart game ever last year, as reported by NME.
2 Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GameCube)
For many people, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is one of the defining games of the GameCube era and it’s not hard to see why. With gameplay that is significantly slicker and incomparably better-looking than Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! felt like a real step up for the series.
Double Dash!! also has the memorable gimmick of each Kart having two riders, while the unique items that different characters can receive also adds another element of fun to the game. The multiplayer and battle modes are also far more developed compared to Mario Kart 64 and the game is simply one of the most fun and lighthearted entries in the series, leaving a good enough impression on fans to only narrowly miss out on the title of best Mario Kart game.
1 Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
While motion controls are the subject of much debate, there’s no doubt that Mario Kart Wii used them to great effect, with the Wii Wheel accessory bundled with the game only adding to the experience. Karts in Mario Kart Wii control sharply and make the motion controls feel intuitive and satisfying to use, and the experience of driving felt more involved than any other Mario Kart game.
Mario Kart Wii has a good selection of characters and karts, and the circuits include 16 unique tracks which have become famous or, in the case of some, infamous in the years since. The online multiplayer has been surpassed by subsequent titles, but for racing with friends in the local split-screen mode, it remains the ultimate experience. Mario Kart Wii gets everything important right and its enduring popularity means it remains the best Mario Kart game ever.
NEXT: The 10 Best DLC Tracks In Mario Kart 8
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