When it comes down to it, Mario Kart 7 is just what we all have come to expect from such a well established franchise. A great atmosphere, awesome gameplay, the familiar art direction, nintendo-tier music and what we love the series the most for, the multiplayer.
Although Mario Kart 7 is fundamentally very similar to the rest of the games it introduced what is possibly one of my most favorite features, vehicle customization. With about 50hours in the game I still haven't come close to unlocking all the car parts in the game, and I will likely continue to grind for the elusive gold glider. Not only does vehicle customization add this extra game time and make single player a lot more fun and meaningful, it creates a feeling new to the series - that the car is yours, not just a car you picked from a list but one which is yours and unique to you. This adds a whole new dimension in trying to get the edge on your opponents, not only do you have to outrace them - you also have to have a good knowledge of how all of the stats work and experiment to find the perfect combination for you. Notice I say for you, the game is incredibly balanced, although there are some karts that you will be hard-pressed to get above 7th place in, most combinations you make will be somewhat viable in the grand prix's and even when racing online.
The gameplay is smooth, and the game never slows down, both in pace and framerate - running very smooth at all even with the 3D on. The addition of 3D also gives the game some extra depth, and you can truly get emerged into the game, although I never occurred any problems I do know of people that found the 3D to be annoying and even to cause headaches, luckily the game still runs perfectly and you won't lose any competetive edge if you chose to turn it off. As for the gameplay itself, nothing has changed in the principles of the game, there is still 8 races going around 3 laps of a track giving their all to come first. Even in last place, you are never truly out of the game as the game will give you better items, such as bullet bills to boost you back into the heat of the race.
If you have ever played Mario Kart Wii, you will be disappointed to see the lower racer count and that motorbikes have been taken away, however the gliders add a new dimension to the racing that motorbikes fell short in trying to do. When you go on a ramp, instead of following a predetermined path at a set speed you can completely control your vehicle, opening up new opportunities for hidden shortcuts and new tactics. Another let down from the game is the lack of gamemodes that Mario Kart DS had. Both missions and VS mode are missing, meaning the only modes left are grand prix and battle, with both having counterparts online. Although all the disappointments from the lack of these modes are made up for by how well the online runs, barely encountering lag and with no racers jumping around the screen and finishing the race in less than a second.
The graphics are great, and it's always nostalgic to see your old favorite maps remastered, not only in the 3DS graphics but also the 3D creating a depth that has never been seen in a Mario Kart game, and along with all maps having a very filled out background the game really makes you want to step out of your car and just go explore the huge and varied world that Nintendo has created. Although now that Mario Kart 8 has been released, returning to the old game that you once thought looked so good can be underwhelming compared to the HD maps that the Wii U can handle.
All in all, the game is great and honestly would have been a perfect score if it weren't for the huge expectations that the originals had set for it, with mission and vs modes. However this is well made up for by the introduction of a vehicle customization system that can really make every race feel important and get you to play a lot more.