Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit releases on Friday, and it's a brand new way to play one of Nintendo's most cherished and fun franchises. The hybrid game/toy package comes in two sets, one with a Mario RC kart and one with Luigi. The sets also have two arrow signboards, four checkpoint gates, and a charging cable for the carts.
The game itself will be available for free from the Nintendo eShop, and you control the karts with a Nintendo Switch console. In light of the release, we're ranking all of the Mario Kart games so far (there are 9). To keep things focused, we won't include the four arcade games or the mobile game. Although both are worth checking out.
#9 – Mario Kart 7
Released in 2011 for the Nintendo 3DS, Mario Kart 7 was a fairly standard addition to the game's roster, with the exception of online play. Mario Kart is a game that shines on a big screen, so shrinking everything down took away some of the game's luster. The graphics left a lot to be desired as well, although much of that was due to the limitations of its console.
The game's biggest issue was following up Mario Kart Wii, which we'll cover in a bit. Going from a blockbuster home console to the tiny DS screen wasn't a great transition. As for gameplay, there was the addition of glider sections, underwater sections, and gyroscope controls, but the game lacked a certain punch and depth. It felt a little slower and banging someone with a shell didn't feel as satisfying.
#8 – Mario Kart Super Circuit
Mario Kart Super Circuit released in 2001 on the Game Boy Advance. This was the follow-up to the N64 Mario Kart and nailed fast physics.
The game's solid, the controls are tight, and it retains some of the classic series elements, but it's a stepping stone to the bold places the franchise would go in the future (which is why it's not higher on the list). The game also featured helpful arrows before every turn to tell the player where to go.
The graphics were great for its time, and you could play it on the go.
#7 – Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart 64 was revolutionary for its time... in 1997. It's not a bad game it just doesn't hold up well with so many superior additions to the franchise. The controls can be clunky and the graphics are muddy, but at the time no one knew any better.
The characters blink and move on the select screen, which was a nice touch. Everyone also has their own signature sounds too, like Toad's "woah, woah, woah, woah" and Wario's laugh.
It does not hold up to its predecessor, but it's a passable game that is fun to play with four friends in the room. It is notable for adding the spiny shell to the mix, which obliterates first place and helps keep the game balanced.
#6 – Mario Kart DS
One of the more successful handheld versions of the game, Mario Kart DS was pure racing fun. It came out in 2005 and was the first Mario Kart you could play online.
The top screen of the handheld shows the normal race and the bottom shows a bird's eye view of the level, allowing for more insight. The responsive controls, modes, and missions give the game a lot of replay value.
#5 - Super Mario Kart
The classic. The OG. The one that started it all. This version released in 1992 and it's a banger. The music, the idea of your favorite characters in a cart, the rocket start, the simple pleasure of slamming a green shell into a competitor, it's all there.
Even the game's battle mode was super satisfying and engrossing. Key gameplay elements that continue to this day are included in this seminal version, including item collection, red shells, boosts, shortcuts, and the sheer frustration from getting left behind in a race.
#4 – Mario Kart: Double Dash
Double Dash, released in 2003 for the GameCube, was a refreshing and delightful return to form following the clunky 64 version. It switched things up in innovative ways, allowing for two characters in one kart and character-specific items, something that was never repeated in the franchise.
The powerslide drift technique was improved with sparks over the wheels during the turns. Blue meant speed boosts. This game also had a huge roster. It was Toadette's first-ever appearance and featured Mushroom Kingdom favorites like Birdo, Daisy, Waluigi, and Luigi. It looks great, it's fast and most importantly it's a blast to play.
#3 – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
This version is an upgrade of Mario Kart 8, but on the Switch. It has ALL the DLC as well as 1080p graphics when the system is docked.
Battle arenas returned, but the balloon variation isn't the same without the survival aspect.
Fan-favorite characters like King Boo, Dry Bones, and Bowser Jr. also returned to the raceway. It is the fastest-selling title in the franchise and one of the Switch's best sellers.
#2 – Mario Kart 8
Things change. Nintendo wouldn't be the company it is today if that wasn't the case. Mario Kart 8 was released in 2014 for the WII U console, which was a shadow compared to the Wii, in terms of sales.
However, the game was revolutionary and introduced a new stock of ideas that gave the franchise a boost and brought in even more players. The game also took the race onto walls with anti-gravity. The controls are feather-lite and the higher CCs require some real skill. It also paid close attention to locales, packing areas with easter eggs and surprises.
#1 – Mario Kart Wii
Everything lined up for this 2008 release. The Wii was the hottest console of its time and thrust Nintendo back into the forefront of gaming with its revolutionary motion controls. Players could control Mario and other characters in a new way for the first time, and it felt great.
The controls are smooth and drifting is intuitive and fast. The game brought back old tracks alongside new ones for Grand Prix. Bikes also made their series debut. It had 24 playable characters, which was the largest until 8.
The game really took off online. There were endless customization options for Miis as well, with players from all over the world creating famous pop culture icons. Mii versions of Hulk Hogan and Michael Jackson were regularly racing against Luigi and Koopa Troopa.
It was easy to organize tournaments and had the series signature high replay value. The new items and slipstream mechanic also help newbies get into the game and place against the most seasoned racers.
A gamer replays Super Mario Sunshine and realizes it's a lot different than they remember.