Mario Kart 7 review Mario Kart's 3DS debut will be played by thousands all over the globe long after Link has rescued Zelda and Mario has snaffled his last Star Coin. Where Mario Kart 7, Legend Of Zelda Skyward Sword and Super Mario 3D Land are all magnificent showcases for Nintendo's design genius, this new chapter in the world's favourite racing series is quite different to its contemporaries.
It's not a game you can finish, in the traditional sense. Mario Kart 7's true qualities emerge over days, weeks and months of honing racing lines and learning where to lob bananas.
Playing against friends familiar and distant, every race becomes a miniature melodrama - a five-minute seesaw of disappointment, elation, victory or defeat.
It's a rare thing to find any gamer yet to indulge in a spot of Mario Kart, but even those with an intimate knowledge of the series will find something new to love in the seventh game in the series.
Lucky Number Seven
The visuals and controls might look and feel near-identical to Mario Kart Wii, but the 16 new tracks, new customisation and online options give Mario Kart 7 added reasons to be cheerful.
Fortunately, the new courses revolve around the new air and sea sections in such a coherent way that they never feel tacked-on or superfluous. The additional diversions have given Nintendo's design team much more to play with, and Mario Kart 7's set of courses is the richest and densest crop yet.
A more varied scramble to the finish line makes for a greater sense that there's more to be discovered over time, especially in those tracks which dispense with the traditional three lap structure.
Two Wuhu Island courses plus a spectacular romp down Rainbow Road are one long dash from A to B, and because there's no repetition in any one race they take a little longer than the others to really master. Though the Wuhu Island duo aren't perhaps the most creative courses Nintendo has ever produced, there are some truly outstanding creations elsewhere among the sixteen new tracks.
Melody Motorway and Piranha Plant Pipeway are the most striking of the debutants in Mario Kart 7, through cute use of musical cues and a loving marriage of Mario references both retro and recent.
Kart handling has been tuned to feel tighter and sharper, making Mario Kart Wii seem slightly woolly in comparison. The reshuffle of the items is more prudent than prodigious - the Tanooki Tail, Fire Flower and Lucky 7 are solid additions, but hardly game-changers - the clearest indication yet that after seven games of honing this formula to near-perfection, Nintendo would rather augment than reinvent.
Although of course there is a small random element to item selection, you can guarantee that there are a set of algorithms working away under Mario Kart's bonnet quietly nudging you in the direction of certain items, hobbling you slightly if you're too far in front or helping backmarkers to keep pace.
Retaining that feeling of chaos while secretly and subtly directing the play is among the greatest tricks Nintendo have ever pulled. That Mario Kart chaos is there in single player 150cc races, of course, but add seven other humans and Mario Kart 7 really comes alive.