Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is, according to many fans, the best version of Mario Kart ever released. The return of the classic battle mode might have a lot to do with it, but another thing that MK8 has going for it is the introduction of new characters and worlds previously never seen in the series. With its latest iteration, Mario Kart has slowly started its metamorphosis into Super Smash Kart, with the introduction of characters like Link, the Animal Crossing villagers, and the Inklings from Splatoon.
While the new characters are nice to see, there isn’t a whole lot to differentiate one from another in terms of stats. The big selling point, in my opinion, is the tracks. That is where the different intellectual properties can really mix with Mario Kart and show what makes them interesting. Racing around Hyrule Castle made the course feel fresh when compared with the usual Mushroom Kingdom aesthetic, and the Animal Crossing track showcased the series’ passing of seasons beautifully.
The introduction of other Nintendo IPs to the world of Mario Kart is a positive change, but Nintendo will need to be careful about which franchise makes the jump to the racing world. Just because Excitebike and F-Zero can integrate well doesn’t mean that Ice Climbers would do the same. So, let’s make things easier for the big N by taking a look at 8 different worlds which would make great additions to Mario Kart, and 7 which should be avoided at all cost.
15 Visit: Corneria
Adding the world of Star Fox to the roster would be amazing, if only because seeing Fox and Falco race around in tiny Arwings would be totally adorable. As great as that would be, the associated track has the potential to be even better, especially since the series introduced single-lap races in Mario Kart 7.
Imagine a track based on the iconic Corneria stage from Star Fox 64. Characters would race through Corneria City, dodging falling buildings and overpasses. They would then use their antigravity wheels to race through the arches on the lake, then finish through the canyons and mountains. Even if using an exact replica of the original map, you’ve got yourself a nice five minutes race with great scenery and recognizable landmarks.
14 Avoid: Brinstar/Zebes
There are of course many worlds to choose from when it comes to the Metroid series, as Samus has traveled to many planets in the galaxy. However, the most well-known of all is probably Zebes, as it was the featured planet in series favourite Super Metroid. Zebes is also home to Brinstar, a series of caves and jungles, but more famously to a bunch of lava and rocks.
So far, lava and rocks have kinda been the specialty of Bowser Castle, a course which has been featured in every Mario Kart game to date. They are usually found near the end of the game, close to if not right before Rainbow Road. I am not saying that there isn’t place for more lava-based stages in Mario Kart (Grumble Volcano comes to mind), I’m just saying that maybe we should explore other possibilities before going back to that well.
13 Visit: Alola
The enduring popularity of the Pokémon series alone would make it a prime candidate for a Mario Kart track. With the Alola region being the most recent in the franchise, it would be a perfect spot to put down a race track. There are the busy streets of Hau’oli City for a more urban setting, the ruins of Tapu Village if we want to get closer to the wilderness, or the Eastern influence of Malie City, which as a motif has rarely been used by Mario Kart.
Another possibility would be to place the race around the many roads of one of the islands of the Alola region, allowing the track to sample a little bit of everything in the background scenery. The map would need to be scaled down slightly, but it would make for a very interesting track.
12 Avoid: Kanto
Kanto was the setting of the original Pokémon Red and Blue, and it is a memorable location full of distinctive areas. One could easily imagine fun tracks based on Vermillion City, or twisting around the tower in Lavender Town. The only problem with those is that the region of Kanto has only ever been represented in two dimensions, with most buildings looking very similar to one another. The graphics, in general, were flatter for that generation, with obviously very few colours until the FireRed/LeafGreen remakes came around. In the process of translating that world to the third dimension, there’s a really good chance that the results wouldn’t measure to whatever memories gamers have of those places. It might be more judicious for Nintendo to stick to the newer generations for this.
11 Visit: Green Greens
Kirby is so colourful and adorable that he is a natural match for the world of Mario Kart. The same can also be said for the world he inhabits. Over the years, many landmarks within Dream Land have been etched in the mind of fans. One such place is Green Greens, the first level of the original Kirby’s Dream Land.
Imagine a forest-based track, littered with star blocks and bomb blocks to disrupt your laps. In the middle, a gigantic version of its boss, Whispy Woods, could make it rain apples as obstacles, or blow wind to try and push karts off the track. With Dream Land’s distinctive hills and baddies hanging around in the background, it would be a perfect representation of the pink puff’s franchise.
10 Avoid: Yo-Kai Watch
Though is it developed by Level-5, Yo-Kai Watch has so far been exclusively published by Nintendo outside of Japan. With many games and spin-offs already available, this series has slowly been becoming more and more popular in North America, a few years after catching fire in Japan. As a multi-media franchise, it might be tempting to bring it into the Mario Kart fold, but doing so might be a bit hasty.
The first game in the Yo-Kai Watch series was originally released in Japan in 2013, making the entire franchise just about four-years-old. In North America and Europe, the series has only been around for a little less than two years. As of now, the series lacks recognizable locations and unique environments. Though I could totally see it being included in the future, there are simply better current candidates for inclusion in the very select Mario Kart club.
9 Visit: Pikmin Planet
There’s a unique art style to the world of Pikmin which makes it eye-catching. The juxtaposition of cartoonish characters and enemies with realistic backgrounds did not originate with the series, but it does accentuate the weirdness and the alien nature of Captain Olimar and the Pikmin. Bringing this style to Mario Kart would be refreshing for sure, and it would also scratch an itch which I have had for a long time now.
The world of Pikmin puts its characters in an approximation of our world… except that they are about the size of insects. The plants around them, or the everyday objects in Pikmin 2, all appear gigantic to these people. Making the Mario Kart crew race in a blown-up world would feel like a throwback to the Micro Machines games of the 90’s, and I think that it’s something that we can all get behind.
8 Avoid: Fire Emblem
Admittedly, the characters of Fire Emblem fit perfectly in a fighting game such as Super Smash Bros. They all carry sharp weapons, and they are all menacing in their own way. However, for anyone but long-time Fire Emblem fans, most of these characters are extremely similar with very few things to distinguish them from each other. It’s the same reason why adding Pink Gold Peach or Metal Mario to the roster wasn’t the most original move.
The second problem with adding Fire Emblem to the series is that its worlds are fine when confined to a single game, but they tend to blend together when they get put side to side. Most games are supposed to take place in different worlds, yet they all feature very similar-looking castles and vaguely medieval environment. It would be good fan service, but it wouldn’t feel special.
7 Visit: Onett
Earthbound was introduced more than twenty years ago, but its rabid fan base has been keeping the franchise alive by sheer willpower at this point. The memorable characters and storytelling are part of it, but its unique world is another reason which makes Earthbound players so attached to the game. And thankfully, that very same world would be a great fit for Mario Kart.
The city of Onett, home to Ness and his friends, is a colourful place which has been beautifully rendered in 3D in Super Smash Bros. and its sequels. Its streets would be perfect for some karting action, but Nintendo could stretch things further by including new parts of the town which Smash has not explored, such as the bumps and hills of Break Point.
Plus, it means adding Ness to the roster of characters, and his cartoonish design would fit perfectly with the rest of the gang.
6 Avoid: Angel Land
Pit and the gang have made a very small comeback over the last decade, first with his apparition in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and then with the release of Kid Icarus Uprising. That game was met with modest success, and save for his Smash gig, we haven’t really heard much from Pit in the last few years.
The truth is that Kid Icarus is a fun game, but its settings are pretty generic and wouldn’t stand out all that much without the baddies inhabiting it. Pit fights his enemies in generic-looking caves, in the nondescript overworld or in the clouds. All of these settings have already been seen in Mario Kart, and while putting an Eggplant Wizard in the middle of the road trying to turn your car into a vegetable would be kinda funny, I doubt that Nintendo would include a series which they don’t seem to have any short or long-term plans.
5 Visit: Hyrule Field
The Legend of Zelda is now officially a part of Mario Kart. Hyrule Castle was a great setting for a first track, but Nintendo can keep pushing the concept with a race around Hyrule Field. There are even two ways they could do it. The first one could be based on Ocarina of Time, with the karts driving around the edges of Hyrule Field. Imagine Lon Lon Ranch in the middle, with a single lap taking you close to the entrances of Kokiri Forest, Gerudo Valley, and Zora Domain.
The second option could be based on Breath of the Wild, with the karts following roads around the game’s own Hyrule Field. Throw in some of the ruins as obstacles, and a few Guardians which must be avoided because they are trying to shoot your kart, and you have a very exciting race on your hands.
4 Avoid: 1080 Snowboarding
With the inclusion of an Excitebike track in Mario Kart 8, Nintendo has shown a willingness to recognize some of its lesser franchises. A game based on racing motorcycles goes really well with a game based on racing karts. So how about a game based on racing snowboards, then? 1080 Snowboarding was a surprise hit on Nintendo 64, and some of its downhill courses, such as Golden Forest or Deadly Fall, would make for killer single-lap tracks…
…except that it’s too late now, because Mount Wario has already taken that idea and shown how amazing it is. Including a similar track and simply slapping a 1080 Snowboarding logo on it would look incredibly lazy and simply look like it’s late to the party. At this point, it’s better to keep going with the Mount Wario moniker for future downhill ski-related tracks.
3 Visit: Yoshi’s Woolly World
Yoshi has already had a few tracks bearing his name, but none of them have truly represented the Yoshi experience. None of them have evoked the crayon-style of Yoshi’s Island, which would admittedly be difficult to represent accurately in 3D. But what about the latest entry in the series, Yoshi’s Woolly World? It would totally be within Nintendo’s abilities to render an entire track made out of yarn and fabric, and it would look unique and different.
Better yet: a future Mario Kart iteration would certainly come around the same time as or after the upcoming Yoshi game which was announced at E3. That game adopts a papercraft aesthetic, another style of tracks which has not been seen in Mario Kart before. So why not go for it?
2 Avoid: Bayonetta
With Nintendo taking control of Bayonetta’s publishing rights, it would seem natural that a Mario Kart apparition would follow her turn in the latest Super Smash Bros. After all, she is a popular character with a dedicated fanbase, and the series certainly hits all the marks when it comes to the originality of both the world and its main character.
As good of a game as Bayonetta is, and no matter how exciting the world is, the truth is that its style, its violence, and its mature-oriented storyline wouldn’t necessarily fit all that well with Mario Kart. Bayonetta inhabits a very specific space in Nintendo’s portfolio, and I don’t think that the company is all that willing to make a gun-toting witch part of their whimsical kart races. The Smash series, with its competitive scene, is already a lot more adult-oriented than Mario Kart’s all-ages mantra.
1 Visit: Splatoon
The vibrant colours of Splatoon have already been added to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with the introduction of Urchin Underpass to the game’s revamped Battle Mode. This is great, but what about a real race track? The world of Splatoon has many fun mechanics which could be a lot of fun if brought into the Mario Kart world.
For example, how about a neon-coloured world with paint strategically splattered around the track? The karts could transform into squids by passing over speed boost-like pads, and then use the paint as shortcuts to different sections of the track. Splatoon is one of the best new intellectual property Nintendo has come up with in a long time, and they would be foolish not to capitalize on such a great concept when it can be so easily imported into their number one party game.