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Mario Kart 8 preview

Nintendo's latest karting spectacular is anti-gravity, pro-fun

Take a long piece of paper, give it a twist and connect both ends into a loop. Hey presto: you've just built yourselves a Möbius strip! It's a single-surface, figure eight-shaped object that, coincidentally, Nintendo has appropriated both for the signature track in Mario Kart 8 and the game's logo. It's emblematic of the series itself: every time Mario Kart seems in danger of going around in circles, Nintendo throws in a twist that changes the rules.

This time the twist violates the laws of physics themselves: it's anti-gravity. Karts and bikes have wheels that automatically reorient themselves, allowing Mario and chums to stick to the track, no matter which way up they are. You'll pass an upside-down castle before realising it's actually you who is resisting gravity's insistent pull and not those pink-tipped towers.

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You'll race across the walls of a haunted mansion, looking up to see rivals perpendicular to you. It's utterly dizzying stuff and is potentially disorientating, but for the fact that Nintendo keeps the camera fixed on your kart while rotating the track around it. For this reason, the effect isn't quite as dazzling as it looks in replays, at least until you look trackside and see the rest of the world pointing in a different direction.

But with wider tracks to accommodate 12 racers it's not always easy to appreciate if you're racing on the floor or on the ceiling.

It's worth noting, however, that the three tracks that have been showcased so far are likely to be among the simplest courses in the game, the ones before Hideki Konno and his team of track design aces really start confusing you with tricksy surface-swapping shenanigans.

Besides, at first you'll be too busy gawping at the graphics to notice. Super Mario 3D World looks lovely in its bright, chunky way, but Mario Kart 8 comfortably has the edge as eye candy. This is the first big step up for Wii U, a real visual showcase, running in 1080p at 60 frames per second (and goodness knows we've waited a long time to say that).

You've Been Framed

It's impossibly colourful, gorgeously lit and shaded and is absolutely crammed full of lovingly rendered detail, from the seams on Mario's dungarees, through to the wonderfully strokeable fur on Donkey Kong and the roaring exhaust flames of a corner turbo. This is, dare we say it, Nintendo's first proper next-gen title.

Click to view larger image
If it looks like the future, it (mostly) plays like the past, which is really no bad thing when it comes to Mario Kart, even if it's a shame that anti-gravity's the only thing that sets it apart from the most recent entries. It nabs Mario Kart 7's gliders and underwater racing and puts them alongside the bikes, ramps and stunts pinched from Mario Kart Wii. Once again, you collect coins to go faster, with 10 taking you up to top speed. So far, so safe, though we fully expect the roster of characters and power-ups to increase from the demo.

Yacht's Entertainment

Onto the tracks, then. Peach's Castle (our name) is, as mentioned, a figure eight with a Möbius twist and is more spectacular to look at than to race around. A haunted mansion offers a little more to sink our teeth into, sending us speeding along walls, darting between razor-toothed bonefins in an underwater stretch, dodging crushing blows from hammers wielded by possessed suits of armour and negotiating a short tunnel shortcut over rocky ground.

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  1. Nintendo fan 1 Sunday 21st Jul 2013 at 07:39

    Not enough innovation, I know Nintendo wants to play safe financially. E.g super mario 3d world is is a sequel to super mario 3d land which sold over 8 million copies outselling the far better super mario galaxy. So the next zelda is inevitably going to be twilight princess 2 or something along that path. Did they make skyward sword at launch? No, it was far too ambitious. So I doubt we'll be seeing Nintendo at their finest anytime soon. Oh yes, track design please!?

  2. SuperNintyFan333 Sunday 21st Jul 2013 at 08:06

    I think it is a bit too early to say that this game is not innovative. Don't forget that they haven't said about content, modes, extra characters, the track design of other tracks and the online features.

    Personally I want a track creator, a new mission mode, double the amount of tracks and a double dash style online multiplayer mode. It will likely never happen but one can only hope they have something new and amazing in the game.

  3. Nintendo fan 1 Sunday 21st Jul 2013 at 08:44

    One can clearly deduce there will be new tracks, characters and whatnot. However I want something that catches me off guard intrigues me, captivates me, I Just feel I know what innovations are coming to mario kart 8. Skyward sword is a perfect example of surprising me

  4. SuperNintyFan333 Sunday 21st Jul 2013 at 09:12

    One can clearly deduce there will be new tracks, characters and whatnot. However I want something that catches me off guard intrigues me, captivates me, I Just feel I know what innovations are coming to mario kart 8. Skyward sword is a perfect example of surprising me

    I want nintendo to make nintendo kart. I really want to race through hyrule as samus in a blue falcon or through the bionis as link in an arwing.

  5. RSE III Sunday 21st Jul 2013 at 10:01

    Umm... This is the exact same preview that appeared in issue 56 of the Australian edition of ONM.

  6. liveswired Sunday 21st Jul 2013 at 10:56

    I think it is a bit too early to say that this game is not innovative. Don't forget that they haven't said about content, modes, extra characters, the track design of other tracks and the online features.

    Personally I want a track creator, a new mission mode, double the amount of tracks and a double dash style online multiplayer mode. It will likely never happen but one can only hope they have something new and amazing in the game.

    It's not too early - Nintendo are playing it desperately safe with everything even down to their Super Mario World 3DS U hodge podge.

    The graphics in MK U are crisp but simple probably to hold 1080p60. It's also a pity we all know Nintendo will stick to their MK template like glue with minor modifications.

    Don't get me wrong I'm looking forward to MK U but as NOM mention about even basics such as the kart cam - Nintendo need to take a look at the innovative camera work in the Motorstorm series - Motorstorm Apocalypse is breathtaking.

    GET IT SORTED NINTY!

  7. Nintendo fan 1 Sunday 21st Jul 2013 at 12:16

    I wish Nintendo would make indie games so that they don't need to make super mario 3d world 8, something unique like limbo or journey.

  8. Nintendo fan 1 Sunday 21st Jul 2013 at 12:21

    I challenge Nintendo to bring out one zelda game and one 3d mario game, then focus entirely on new franchises and not to rely on mario kart rehashed 8 times. Kid icarus uprising for example is hands down my favourite 3ds game, that's what I want Nintendo!

  9. bigterence Sunday 21st Jul 2013 at 19:48

    Looks absolutely fantastic,Nintendo quality and playability through and through.The gauntlet is thrown down to the so called next -gen machines...lets see them do better than this when they finally decide to make an appearance.

  10. Time-Bomb Sunday 21st Jul 2013 at 20:30

    Personally I don't care about massive innovations. For me, anti gravity is enough to come back for more. Fun new levels and maybe a surprise character or two and I'm happy.

    Mario kart is virtually perfect anyway. Any massive changes can only make it worse in my opinion.

    Some sort of level editor would be nice though. Dunno how it would work, mind...

  11. SuperNintyFan333 Monday 22nd Jul 2013 at 13:47

    Personally I don't care about massive innovations. For me, anti gravity is enough to come back for more. Fun new levels and maybe a surprise character or two and I'm happy.

    Mario kart is virtually perfect anyway. Any massive changes can only make it worse in my opinion.

    Some sort of level editor would be nice though. Dunno how it would work, mind...

    Personally I don't care about massive innovations. For me, anti gravity is enough to come back for more. Fun new levels and maybe a surprise character or two and I'm happy.

    Mario kart is virtually perfect anyway. Any massive changes can only make it worse in my opinion.

    Some sort of level editor would be nice though. Dunno how it would work, mind...

    Well you would place different track parts together using the touchscreen while rotating with the analogue sticks. You would select one of set backgrounds and you woukd be able to choose where enemies,item blocks etc by placing them on the track.

    I agree with you in part with the innovation. Really they have perfected the formula and it would be better to make a new racing game e.g f-zero than to force innovation into mario kart. Besides we only get one per console so it doesn't matter that much.

  12. LeoWarioHobbs33 Monday 22nd Jul 2013 at 15:57

    It looks stunning to say the least. Using the Wii U gamepad as a driving wheel will be fun to use.
    The zero gravity along with the Mario Kart 7 gliders and Mario Kart Wii motion controls will make the racing action more intense than any other game. The scenic levels with all the detailed backgrounds will be a touch too.
    I'll be getting a Wii U spring next year and this with Game and Wario, Tropical Freeze and Nintendo Land. Want next year to come quicker!

  13. Waldy565 Monday 22nd Jul 2013 at 19:03

    Despite what criticisms people may have for the series, it's a fun game to play. Hell, even me and my Nan when she visits occasionly pick up a Wiimote, stick it in the wheel, and drive round MK Wii's tracks, and the online gives it endless replay. Admittedly, I wasn't to wowed by MK7 and have been giving it a miss thus far, but MK started as a console game and I think they're the far superior medium to put racing games on anyway (compared to handhelds). I will definitely be picking this up day 1, in the hope the whole family can enjoy some MK8 racing come 2014! One last thing - the graphics absolutely have a Smash Bros beauty to them - they're looking, um, better word than brilliantly, gorgeously, shining bliss? ... Eye candy, yeah, that's it! And 60fps :D

  14. liveswired Wednesday 24th Jul 2013 at 22:17

    Looks absolutely fantastic,Nintendo quality and playability through and through.The gauntlet is thrown down to the so called next -gen machines...lets see them do better than this when they finally decide to make an appearance.


    lol...Wouldn't quite agree with you there Terrence....Mario Kart U would run in 4K on next gen consoles at 60fps considering the power gap - either way Sony or Microsoft aren't likely to be bothered. Nintendo fans buy Nintendo games - casual consumers are missing this time though so Nintendo won't achieve Wii like sales. Graphically it is essentially a current gen game - however as with usual Nintendo titles features fantastic artistic direction and design missing from it's rivals.

    If Nintendo are going to throw down the gauntlet how about the slew of modding features and content present in Modnation and LBP Kart thrown in for good measure???

  15. Hero_Of_Moga Friday 26th Jul 2013 at 07:49

    Oh yes, track design please!?

    I wish everyone would stop asking for track design because what they don't realize is that if track design were implemented it would be cheaply made and uninteresting to use if it was a good design system the game would probably cost about Ł60-Ł70 and the online would just get clogged up with poorly made tracks that have been made by some kid who has posted the same one 10 times over, if anyone has played Lego Indiana Jones 2 and used the level design in that then they will know what to expect from level design systems and they will probably be the people who are not asking for track design: in short if we got track design it would feel poorly made and of cheap quality

  16. Hero_Of_Moga Friday 26th Jul 2013 at 08:01

    Despite what criticisms people may have for the series, it's a fun game to play. Admittedly, I wasn't to wowed by MK7 and have been giving it a miss thus far


    if I'm honest Mario kart is the best karting game/series available all of the other karting game developers just wait for the new mk game to come out then steal all of the original ideas and put it in their own game 70% of the other karting games are as I said just cheap rip-offs of Mario kart games, also I recommend trying mk7 it is a fantastic game much better mkwii the online is better, the graphics are better, the courses are better, it's 3d and its portable its definitely one of the best 3ds games available

  17. Dave-O Sunday 28th Jul 2013 at 11:22

    I really hope they make single lap races on this game. Mario Kart 7's rainbow road was the best because of this. I hope they use more than three aswell. I'd also think it'd be cool if they added another retro cup called the rainbow cup, i dont think i need to say what'll be in it.

  18. ninelevendo91 Monday 7th Oct 2013 at 05:27

    I feel ripped of now, this is IDENTICAL to the Australian ONM. Everybody loves Mario Kart, MK7 was great, but I fear that anti-gravity isn't enough. I wonder if Bowser's ride from 3D World will make an apperance. Please tell me Koopa City ( Neo Bowser City ) will be back! I think Metal Mario, Rosalina and Wiggler should return, But not the stupid Babies like in Wii. Hope it follows MK7's customization ( ? ) comes back. Otherwise a great looking addition to the Wii U library

  19. MatthewONM Monday 7th Oct 2013 at 07:43

    I feel ripped of now, this is IDENTICAL to the Australian ONM.


    We wrote this piece for ONM UK, not the other way round.

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