Is the new installment of Nintendo's flagship racing series the best yet? Read more to find out!

User Rating: 9 | Mario Kart 7 3DS
It's that time of year again when triple-A games begin flooding in, bringing about holidays in preparation for the gaming marathon some call 'Christmas', and this time we see the release of the newest instalment in Nintendo's flagship racing series: Mario Kart 7. While it may be many years since we've seen the release of a portable Mario Kart game, with Mario Kart DS being released almost 7 years ago, the long wait for Mario Kart 7 has definitely been worth it. If you've been holding off on purchasing a 3DS, waiting for that killer game, here's your reason!

Mario Kart 7 again heralds the return of a strong focus upon multi-player gameplay, and this time online multi-player is simpler and more addictive than ever. A simple 'join game' feature allows you to instantly drop into your friends' current races (or at least wait until the next one starts), worldwide matches offer races from all across the globe, and the new community option brings to Mario Kart 7 quite a degree of competitiveness. Players can battle it out for a top position on the community leaderboard, join communities, and even create their own; it's definitely a great addition to what is already satisfying online multi-player.

Local multi-player also returns, and now allows both Mario Kart 7 owners and download Players to be able to race together, which seems to be a step forward from the days of Mario Kart DS. Several modes are included in the local multiplayer, ranging from a simple Grand Prix mode where players race through pre-set batches of four courses competing for the most points, a strictly competitive VS mode, the infamous balloon battle and a new coin collecting mode. Though some Mario Kart purists may be a tad disappointed to the changes made to balloon battle, as this mode now consists of popping the most enemy balloons within a set time limit rather than somewhat of a survival mode, it still seems to offer shorts bursts of hectic gameplay which is most suited to Mario Kart 7's local multiplayer. Similar to balloon mode, coin mode sees up to 8 players battling it out to collect the most coins on a map within a set time limit, and though a fresh addition to the Mario Kart series it tends to lose its appeal after a few matches.

Of course single player returns with the usual suspects: grand prix mode (in 50, 100, 150cc and mirror) offering a plethora of 16 beautiful new tracks and 16 old favourites redesigned for 7's new kart features of hang gliders and underwater karts, a standard time trial mode to achieve the fastest times which allows for the recording and exchanging of ghost data, and of course a single-player battle mode. Though it is disappointing to see Mario Kart DS' great 'Mission Mode' absent from the single player, Mario Kart 7 still provides an entertaining single-player as seen in most previous titles.

Though racing gameplay is largely the same, several additional features have been added: a new 1st person mode which allows the player to race from within the kart, steering with either the slide-pad or gyro controls (which to my surprise works a treat and is a rather unusual but refreshing way to race), additional items, new characters (but not nearly enough!), and of course: new karts! Kart customisation has also been improved, with the placement of coins around each raceway; the player can gather these coins to unlock new karts, wheels and hang gliders to customise their very own new and unique karts. Although, the options are rather limited and would have benefited from further customisation.

With the addition of new online features, Streetpass options, great visuals that seem almost perfectly suited to 3D, and without a doubt one of the highest levels of replay value a game can offer, Mario Kart 7 is an essential for any owner of a 3DS. Though nothing we haven't already seen Mario Kart 7 is definitely a worthy addition to the popular racing franchise and like Mario Kart DS should develop a strong online community lasting even into the console's later years.

Visuals: 9/10 – On par with Mario Kart Wii, the game make excellent use of the console's 3D aspect, really breathing life into the vibrant and wacky tracks and offers unparalleled depth.

Sound: 8.5/10 – Revving engines and squeals from nearby characters accompany some catchy tunes as you drive along all 32 tracks.

Gameplay: 9.5/10 – Some of the best racing action of the entire Mario Kart series, tracks are as varied as ever and multiple gameplay modes will definitely keep you playing. Mario Kart is still some of the best multi-player that any series can offer.

Completion Length and Replay Value: 9/10 – The single-player campaign is easily finished in a couple of hours, but the online multi-player is undeniably the focus of Mario Kart 7. Though lacking in mission modes, you'll definitely be replaying these tracks over and over.

Overall Score: 91%

Oh, and in case you're wondering about the online community option, put this code into the community search bar: 04-0072-0457-3328. Look forward to seeing everyone online!
This has been Ben Qualbert Schuster dedicated Ninty fanboy.