Then & Now: Mario Kart Wii

See how Mario Kart characters, tracks, and items have evolved over the years on the SNES, the Nintendo 64, the Game Cube, and the Wii.

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Super Mario Kart came out for the SNES more than 15 years ago, and though there have been many challengers since, the venerable Mario Kart franchise it spawned has remained the undisputed king of kart racing games.

The series has changed remarkably over the years, both in terms of graphics and gameplay. While the original laid the foundation by introducing many of the core items and characters, it wasn't until Mario Kart 64 that the series would take shape as we know it today--blue shells and all.

Join us on an odyssey through time as we look at the long history of console Mario Kart games and examine how the characters, items, and tracks have visually transformed over the years.

The Characters

Mario Kart began with a cast of eight, all of whom have (mostly) gone on to appear in every game since. This number has gradually swelled up to the current 25-character roster, but we took a look at the original eight to see how time has worked in their favor.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

The magnificently mustachioed plumber always leads the pack. Is he supervising Bowser and making sure that kidnappings aren't on the agenda? Maybe he just wants another win to add to his savior-complex wall? Nah, he's more likely just stuck fulfilling endorsement deals for the next hundred years!

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

The princess of the Mushroom Kingdom has never been one to skip out on an adventure or one of the annual sporting events around her demesne. There are protocols in place to discourage the royals from participating in such vulgar, lowbrow happenings, but Peach's fiery personality and clear disregard for the rules allow her to freely mix with the common folk. Her people love her for it, but few approve of the sizeable expenditure necessary for proper rescue operations. When you put yourself at risk so recklessly and so often, don't be surprised if they only send a plumber to save you.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

It takes a lot of self-confidence to go shirtless with a vest, but Peach's royal underling has managed to work it well enough that you've probably never noticed. He worked his way up to become an unlockable character in Mario Kart: Double Dash, but fell back into the common ranks after Nintendo realized that unlocking Toad was the reward equivalent of receiving socks for Christmas.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

Yoshi driving a go-kart makes about as much sense as Sonic hoverboard racing. We're more interested in why Mario's always-faithful mount has chosen to participate in the competition: to get a chance to be the rider instead of the beast of burden, or to get revenge on Mario for dropping him down that pit in the Star World? Perhaps a little bit of both.


Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

The Man in Green, Luigi has always lived his life in his better-known brother's shadow. But thanks to all that spare time he's had while his bro's been off saving the Mushroom Kingdom, Luigi's been able to spend more quality time with his lady, Daisy. Where are the giant statues of Peach and Mario being all lovey-dovey? Oh that's right. There aren't any.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

The King of the Koopas, Bowser has been a member of the racing crew from the beginning and has gone so far as to offer his very own castle for use as one of the raceways. Whether this is because he just really loves to go-kart or just wants an excuse to trade paint with Peach has yet to be determined.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

When Rare reshaped the Donkey Kong franchise with Donkey Kong Country, it was based on the belief that the Donkey Kong that we know is actually the son of the original Donkey Kong, and then the father made his return as Cranky Kong. If true, that explains why Donkey Kong was named Donkey Kong Jr. in Super Mario Kart on the SNES but later became Donkey Kong on the Nintendo 64 and later consoles.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

Bowser's loyal minion led the light kart racers into battle in the original Super Mario Kart. Koopa Troopa was suspiciously absent in Mario Kart 64, having been replaced with Mario's Bizarro World clone, Wario. Though Wario would appear in every subsequent Mario Kart game, Koopa Troopa and his undead variant, Dry Bones, would appear intermittently throughout the series.


The Tracks

The courses of Mario Kart have always been themed around specific locations in or characters from the Mario universe. Over the years, they've gotten more detailed and ambitious in their designs, but for the most part these themes can still be traced. For this feature, we've picked some of the most iconic of the recurring tracks, though there are plenty more worth looking at, such as the various ice and desert courses.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

The haunted houses and valleys of Mario Kart have always been some of the most atmospheric tracks in the game, but they've been absent in several key releases, having been replaced it would seem by Wario's tracks. As great as the rollercoaster-like courses are, it's a real shame that King Boo and his introverted pals are now in hiding.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

We can only assume that it was Toad's bright idea to race through heavy traffic, but it's been a keeper ever since his turnpike became a playable track on Mario Kart 64. We had to use Mario Circuit 1 for the Super Mario Kart shot because the SNES racers hadn't yet developed a taste for racing against oncoming traffic.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

Always one of the latter courses, Bowser's Castle is most noticeable for the multitude of Thwomps and generous amounts of molten lava. Oh, the lava--Bowser's really obsessed with it. You'd think that being dropped into the stuff again and again while Mario whisks his lady love away would convince him to use something less dangerous, but whatever.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

The ultimate challenge, Rainbow Road is a fever dream set in space, where the grand prize is not only a trophy but also an escape from the psychedelic torment. The track bombards you with all the colors of the rainbow and all the forbidden colors of the anti-rainbow before enveloping you in cold blackness after you fall yet again off the largely rail-less road.


The Items

The gods of kart are a fickle bunch. Throughout Mario Kart history, the item set has been in constant flux and has seen perhaps the most change. Sometimes you can hold two items at a time by dragging one of them behind you like a shield. Some items, like the feather, have come and gone, while others, like the mushroom, have remained the same.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

The item boxes, those semi-tangible blocks that bestow the driver who collides with it happy-fun-times weapons, have come a long way. Originally introduced as single-use golden panels on the track (Yeah, Mode 7!), item boxes are now floaty, transparent, and oh so magical. Watch out for fakes, though!

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

While the use of performance-enhancing mushrooms is clearly an ethical dilemma, the Mario Kart Racing Commission has shamefully turned a blind eye to mushroom abuse in the series. Faster racers make for a more exciting product, put fans in the seats, and drive lucrative broadcasting deals. Seriously, everyone 'shrooms in the kingdom--one veteran racer is a mushroom!

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

The banana, a classical instrument of tomfoolery, has been a series staple since the very beginning. Though they are often used to deflect deadly red and green shells, nothing says you care more than delivering a delicious, potassium-laden treat to your friends and foes! If you're wondering, the super sized banana featured in the Mario Kart: Double Dash shot is actually Donkey Kong's special weapon, which is three times more nutritious and grumpier.

Mario Kart Wii Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Mario Kart 64 Super Mario Kart

How many Koopa Troopa's are forced out of their homes every year for our amusement we may never know, but science has conclusively proven that Mario Kart is 200 percent more fun with an assortment of green and red (but not blue--those are for jerks) shells smashing into its participants.


Discussion

204 comments
wario96
wario96

ahh double dash the only game that mario and bowser would get along

PlzDieNow
PlzDieNow

Mario Kart 64.. those were the good times. According to my sense of nostalgism, not the reviews (apparently).

Axcel_94
Axcel_94

man... i miss double dash. :( Hope it comes out on New Play Control.

Linkman0714
Linkman0714

ah the days of mario kart 64...i used to pwn everyone so badly no one would want to play with me. Those were the days

n-re
n-re

i really love super mario kart games ,really nice.

blooxpert
blooxpert

wow mario's head was kinda big in Mario Kart 64 lol

LOZ_Link
LOZ_Link

I love and own all the kart games except for the hand held ones. I personally like double dash the best, it more technical because you have to juggle both the two characters and the items. However I like the blue shell from the 64 version the best because it hit everyone which really helps if your in last. The blue shell that fly's is cool, but only really helps players who are in the top four spots to make a move for first, so it makes no sense for last players to get it if it does not really help them. Its Waluigi time....

Victor335
Victor335

@ Jakesta7 Cheap blue shells? Do you only say that cause you continually get pwnt by them? Their not cheap, they make the game fair and balance. It allows people at the back to catch up, making the game fair, and annoying, but over all fun.

Jakesta7
Jakesta7

I wish they would hav put Mario Kart DS in this, but my favorite track ever is the desert one on the 64. They should get rid of cheap blue shells for the next mario kart.

rachkovsky
rachkovsky

Its nice to see these screens. Personally I like Mario the best!

ShadowedSight
ShadowedSight

Oh man. This reminded me of my long lost love for Rainbow Road.

Whiteyford420
Whiteyford420

I agree with carnivale clown, it was very good to take a trip down memory lane, but the article could have contained more. Than just picture comparisons. It did bring me back to snes kart matches when i was a kid. Not saying i could have done better either, but being an older gamer I would have enjoyed more in depth comparisons. Appreciated the nostalgia though.

CarnivaleClown
CarnivaleClown

n63? You missed a bit =P This article isn't one of the best they have done. . . Why no actual in depth differences? Just a ton of picture comparisons. This could have been done better. Not saying I could have done better, but it just seems like it was put together 2 hours from when it was due.

theguitarhero6
theguitarhero6

i think mario kart ds isnt on this because its not a major console like snes n63 gcube and wii its a handheld like the other gameboys

g8tr1522
g8tr1522

WHY ISNT THERE MARIO KART DS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i need a logical answer NOW!!

SchlossRitter
SchlossRitter

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

SchlossRitter
SchlossRitter

Why do characters have to emote loudly every two seconds now? It gets kind of annoying.

lew_0911
lew_0911

@athenian29: Yeah, I hope they bring back the history series. I read every article at least twice already. And yeah, blue shells are for jerks. The best you could do when you're about to get hit is either cross the finish line before it touches you (which always manages to raise my blood pressure) or find a collateral to take with you.

beepyou34
beepyou34

They should have included the DS version.

zeith81
zeith81

I love all mario kart games because you will always have fun in a go kart. but i gotta say zip zip sure is the best cycle. And yoshi is my main man

TristanH12
TristanH12

Mario Kart Double Dash will alwaws be my favorite, i miss the dual cart riding buddies and their hilarious sounds. And what is wrong with Donkey Kongs voice in mario kart Wii, he sounds like goofy or something.

Infinity8378
Infinity8378

Mario Kart Wii uses less shadowing and shading making everything look flat as a pancake. The lighting is more defined, but the shadowing is worse with no shadows of the characters on the bikes. The textures are better, but some of the characters and karts look low-poly compared to double dash at times. Double Dash's Mushroom City would have been a better highway level to compare. Rainbow Road has better textures, but is not much else. Double Dash has better shadowing, shading and character models, while Mario Kart Wii has better lighting and textures. The graphics of both are comparable.

Giga-man
Giga-man

Whatever happened to the DS? I've played all of the Mariokart games and I've gotta say... DS is the best.

Hoski0999
Hoski0999

I dont own a wii so i dont know exactly how well the game plays out, but i've started to notice that once they switched off to different style of cars the game started to loose its fun as a game. I had no desire to play double dash after i played for awhile cuz i was hoping to get into it, but never did. Mario kart 64 was amazing but i still feel never beat out the snes version. Now with the add on of bikes and different style of kart, i'm feeling i won't be going near it ne time soon. It's just not mario kart, ever game needs change to keep going, but the original kart i feel is what made it fun as weird as that sounds. But you gotta love mario kart whoever you are lol.

SoxsMafia
SoxsMafia

lol!!! donkey kong looks better in N64

hurleyreyes
hurleyreyes

I hate the foggy-like appereance of the colors in the Wii version! It´s ok that the light effects are way better than Double Dash, but why did they made the color palette so pale! A characteristic of this series was always its vivid colors on the characters and the race tracks, but now it looks... like, joy-less, kinda sadder. Also the HUD´s were better on the later games. And the menus are also very serious, like in the normal wii setup menu... I´m disappointed with the graphics on this game. Miyamoto says that gameplay is much more important than graphics, and he is partially right, developers must prioritize gameplay, that´s ok, but that doesn´t mean to totally discharge the visual aspect of a game. I think a good presentation is important in every aspect of life... I was hoping to see the same graphic quality as in Mario Galaxy. However this game is as fun as I expected, not better than MK64 which I think is the best in the series, I was hoping to see Wario Stadium on the classic courses... but no 'sigh'... Well, this is only my opinion.

charlie_bm
charlie_bm

I love mario kart! It's the best multiplayer, 'cause friends who don't like fighting games sure like this ones!

JohnnyWeird
JohnnyWeird

Well. That was just a big middle finger for Mario Kart DS, now, wasn't it?

ScionofEntropy
ScionofEntropy

Wow, there really is a big difference here (between Double Dash!! and Wii), in the characters, textures, and effects. I wouldn't have noticed that without the comparison, though; partially because it's been so long since I've played Double Dash!!.

EndlessPunisher
EndlessPunisher

Havent played MKWii yet, but I already see a big graphics difference, for those whom disagree are just being ignorant.

IronMaiden1958
IronMaiden1958

There are obvious improvements graphics wise to the game since Double Dash, I think you people are just blind or have never even played the Wii version.

humantnt
humantnt

For u Douches saying double dash looks like mkart wii u are stupid. theres a huge noticeable differences So grow a brain Double dash drifting is soo crap im glad they fixed it on the wii version

NecroCharm
NecroCharm

Hmmmm. The graphics on the Wii and GC versions are almost the same. The N64 version didn't look much worse.

Roman_Slayer
Roman_Slayer

A decent way to waste time, just like writing this comment.

BenevolentEnemy
BenevolentEnemy

That was actually so boring I think I want to cry. I don't know why I rifled through the lot of it, probably for the pictures. Don't get me wrong, I'll buy this game. It's just, the comments were so boring/not funny that I had to stop reading them.

dkcamp
dkcamp

that was fun! thanks for the feature GS! sonic0491, your opinion may upset the "kids", but your attitude upsets the rest of us. do your part to make gaming FUN, and not a competition: stop intentionally provoking people. grow up.

uhateit
uhateit

Such a sweet game, enjoying those online battles and whoopin on everyone out there :)

EnterSandman
EnterSandman

There wasn't a Mario Kart for the NES...

dallen8
dallen8

I wonder why they didn't post the first mario cart for the nes?

Moniique-xx
Moniique-xx

you can use the classic controller delcidanddarth (sp?) i wish i had it lol

sonic0491
sonic0491

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

athenian29
athenian29

Very interesting history piece. Speaking of history pieces, what happened to the old "History of..." features? I MISS THEM!!!!!!!!!!!

fabz_95
fabz_95

Great feature GS! Was very interesting

drzkeny
drzkeny

YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!! Mario kart is awsome