Mario Kart raced onto the video game scene in 1992 and hasn’t driven away since.
There are currently nine games in the series – starting with Super Mario Kart and ending with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – and each one is brimming with original sets of characters, courses, and gameplay features.
While every game in the franchise has gotten its fair share of praise, with some even topping best-selling lists for the consoles they were first released on, there are definitely some that stand out more than others.
Start your engines; It’s time to speed through a ranking of all the games currently in the Mario Kart franchise.
9 Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Hitting the Game Boy Advance in 2001, Mario Kart: Super Circuit was the first game in the series to be released for a handheld console.
It featured twenty new courses as well as modified versions of the original twenty released on Super Mario Kart. While the eight characters featured on the preceding Mario Kart 64 remained the only ones playable in this game, their speeds and weights were tweaked.
Super Circuit received critical acclaim and was later re-released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2011 and the Wii U in 2015 via the Virtual Console.
8 Mario Kart DS
The second Mario Kart game to land on a handheld console received just as much praise as the first. This time around, the emphasis was put on the updated graphics.
Mario Kart DS was also the first and only game in the series to contain Mission Mode – a feature that encouraged players to complete certain tasks, such as destroying boxes or collecting coins, in order to unlock emblems for their vehicles. This feature almost appeared in Mario Kart Wii, as evident from leftover code, but was scrapped before completion.
Mario Kart DS remains the third-best-selling Nintendo DS game of all time, only behind New Super Mario Bros. and Nintendogs.
7 Super Mario Kart
While Super Mario Kart might not boast the same graphics as the previous two, it’s arguably the most classic of the bunch. Originally released on the SNES, Super Mario Kart was the first of the franchise. Players had eight Mario characters to choose from and four cups to race, each containing five courses. Many of the original 2D tracks - including Ghost Valley 2 and Bowser Castle 3 - were revamped and presented in 3D for later editions of the game.
All the iconic items like the banana peel, mushroom, green shell, and lightning bolt got their start in this one.
6 Mario Kart 64
The playable characters in the second-ever Mario Kart game might have remained 2D sprites, but the courses they raced on were now full of 3D excitement. Other updates to the game included races being cut from five laps to the traditional three, the Time Trial mode being introduced, and item panels being swapped with item blocks.
This game also saw the characters Donkey Kong Jr. and Koopa Troopa being replaced with Wario and Donkey Kong.
As of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, every course in the N64 classic has been reintroduced in a later game with the exception of Wario Stadium.
5 Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 released on the Wii U (not to be confused with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, later released for the Nintendo Switch) and gave players a crazy amount of new characters across multiple Nintendo properties, 12 cups containing four courses each, and some of the most stunning graphics in the series.
While the game received generally positive reviews, it did garner criticism for transforming racing tracks into battle courses, rather than adding new ones like in previous entries of the series. Despite this, Mario Kart 8 became the best-selling Wii U game by shipping over 8 million copies. Better yet, Mario Kart 8 had a chance to redeem itself just a few years down the line – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
4 Mario Kart 7
Mario Kart 7 raced onto the Nintendo 3Ds in 2011, adding some new dimensions to the long-standing series.
The gameplay got a solid update. Coins made their first reintroduction since the original Super Mario Kart, boosting a player’s top speed once collected. Players could also customize their vehicles for the first time ever, which was tied to another new feature: hang-gliders.
Racers could soar through the air on certain courses and rush their way through bodies of water on others for the first time ever. All this and more helped Mario Kart 7 see its way to the top of the best-selling games list for games released on the Nintendo 3Ds.
3 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
The latest addition to the Mario Kart series is much like its predecessor for the Wii U – only better. The game introduced a handful of new characters: The Inklings from Splatoon, Bowser Jr., Dr. Bones, King Boo, and Gold Mario. Other minor changes included corresponding karts for the new characters, dual item capacity, boo and feather items, and an 8-player local multiplayer feature.
The hugest change, though, was the addition of new arenas in battle mode and four ways to play them. That’s right; Nintendo heard the critics of the original Mario Kart 8 and elevated everything to the next level in response.
2 Mario Kart: Double Dash
While the graphics for this one might not seem as fabulous now as in 2003, the gameplay is quite literally double as fun. Mario Kart: Double Dash let players race as not one – but two characters at the same time. While one racer was driving, the other was handling the items. You could play as them both or have a friend tag along on your kart and take over the steering at any time.
In addition to this fresh feature, Double Dash is stocked with some of the series’ coolest courses and lets players pick unique kart designs, a first for the franchise.
1 Mario Kart Wii
Topping off the list is Mario Kart Wii. In addition to great tracks and characters, Mario Kart Wii included the Wii Wheel, which encouraged players to physically steer their way through courses rather than simply use a joystick or buttons like in previous editions of the game. This added an exciting sense of realism.
Another stand-out feature was the global online gameplay. Players could represent their country while racing against others from around the world on their favorite tracks.
Finally, the races got an energy-filled update through the introduction of bikes and an extra four competitors added to every track. Who’s ready for a race?