Mario Kart 64 Review

Even with all its bells and whistles, Mario Kart 64 is very likely to disappoint you after about a week.

Super Mario Kart, one of the greatest head-to-head titles ever released for the cartridge systems, is back, this time for the Nintendo 64. There's a whole new set of courses, new racers, slick 3-D graphics, and most surprisingly, a four-player simultaneous play option. This should all be great news to Mario Kart fans, and in fact it is - sort of.

Don't get me wrong: There's nothing really wrong with the new Mario Kart - the increasingly rotund plumber and his jolly crew have never looked and sounded so good. And from Wario's penguin-like mumblings to the glittering crown on the Princess'- head, it's obvious that the design team was plenty willing to get down and dirty with the presentation aspects of the game. The addition of more detailed sliding techniques and a few new nasty things to distract (read: crash) your opponents are welcome features (the deadly lightning bolt just can't be beat for dispensing raw fear). But once you get past the predictable new additions, you begin to realize that there's really not much depth to Mario Kart 64.

History has shown us plenty of titles that featured the very best sound and graphics money could buy which still somehow ended up being not much fun to play - Killer Instinct, Rebel Assault, and Tomb Raider all come to mind. While Mario Kart 64 is certainly better than most of these titles, it still shows a lack of solid play design that really hurts its long-term play value. First off, and perhaps most importantly, single-play mode is just too easy. This is due in part to the game's extra wide tracks, and in part to the poor AI routines - which deliver opponents who seem more like they're on their way to the local convenience store than in an all-out race for the finish line. This same lack of play consideration also infects the super-large battle courses. The result is that players can (and do) drive around for minutes without even spotting an opponent - much less getting a chance to score a hit. None of these problems ever really destroys the game entirely, but they do make it more difficult to get excited about picking up the controller for more than a handful of races. This is a big surprise considering Nintendo has built its empire on solid control and design in its games.

If you own a Nintendo 64, you're probably going to buy this game whether or not you read and heed this review - after all, there aren't really a lot of N64 games to choose from, and it IS a Mario title. Fair enough. The thing is, even with all its bells and whistles, Mario Kart 64 is very likely to disappoint you after about a week. I wouldn't feel right about not giving you that warning. That said, I'm off to Mario Kart on my SNES to reminisce about the good old days, and dream of what this cartridge could have been.

The Good
The Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

37 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for culex

I'm not really here to beat a dead horse, just admiring an OG review. Whatever the current opinion is on release date, you really have to wait a couple of years to see if it can really stand the test of time.

Avatar image for hicklespickled

A flawed review should be complained about if it happened 20 days ago or 20 years ago. There is no such thing as necro complaining.

Avatar image for guudgidga

lol if you're here to complain about this 20 year old review, you're an idiot

Avatar image for startropics0

This review can't be serious.

Avatar image for SOedipus

Damn, what a troll.

Avatar image for ceaseless


Avatar image for Mr_Intense

"Even with all its bells and whistles, Mario Kart 64 is very likely to disappoint you after about a week." It's been about 840 and I still love it.

Avatar image for PesmergaYuber

I liked Crash Team Racing better, but a 6.4 is brutal.

Avatar image for -Dark_Palladin-

"If you own a Nintendo 64, you're probably going to buy this game whether or not you read and heed this review "

What's the point of writing the review then?

Avatar image for angelkid995


Avatar image for GSJones1994

MK64 was excellent. The reviewer was just being way too harsh.

Avatar image for Rod90

The best Mario Kart is still Double Dash!!

Avatar image for GSJones1994

<< LINK REMOVED >> No, I think it's DS.

Avatar image for ldmrod

I just joined the page to input how bad this review is since I'm still playing MK64 after 15 years with my friends

Avatar image for StoveNJ

If I'm not mistaken, Trent Ward was a GamePlayers and Ultra GamePlayers magazine writer, so I won't hate on him over this. I loved those magazines. But I disagree with him big time on this. Mario Kart 64 was one of the best games on the system.

Avatar image for pcty

The test of time proved that the reviewer was wrong.

Avatar image for hiphops_savior

<< LINK REMOVED >> It also showed that MK64's biggest flaws weren't even mentioned in the review. I conclude the review only played 50 CC and thought it was enough. Biggest mistake ever, and now this is his legacy.

Avatar image for MR_TUBBy

Still my favorite Mario Kart 15 years later.. Oh well, to each their own :)

Avatar image for Agreb91

I don't think the reviewer expected Mario Kart 64 to stand the test of time like it did. Many people still enjoy this game to this very day.

Avatar image for djwood84

I liked the part where you spent the whole article claiming SNES MK was better than MK64, but never offered anything to back up your opinion.

Avatar image for Fezzinator101

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

Avatar image for angelbless

This must be one of the worts reviews I read in GS troughout the years. MK64 still hasnt dissapointed me after more than 14 years and is a must have for all who still owns a N64

Avatar image for akram182

as i dig in the past, i'm shocked to know that gamespot reviews have been bad for years... a 6?? r u kidding me?? i rather play mario kart 64 than any of the other copies that have appeared ever since...

Avatar image for Raelador21

I just realized one of the greatest games of all time was given a 6.4. Dark ages of Gamespot indeed.

Avatar image for linkyshinks

Trent C. Ward ????

Avatar image for ministerkataoka

This game blows.

Avatar image for brok

Deny it all you want, but Diddy Kong Racing WAS the better N64 Kart Racer. The score here was too low for MK64, true, but the review is spot on about the reasons it isn't as good as most think it is.

Avatar image for SiMgUrL1721

<< LINK REMOVED >> I personally think that Mario Kart 64 is still a better game than some of of it's sequels (especially Mario Kart Super Circuit and Double Dash) because the track designs were more inspired and challenging. Also, Mario Kart 64 was also the first racing game in the series that I played, so I naturally enjoyed the game play more by playing it longer than the other titles. Sure, the graphics and rubber banding AI in grand prix mode weren't the greatest, but it's still very enjoyable to play with my friends and family to this day. I also liked how Luigi's voice was vastly different back then, and he still sounded better than his current voice. The controls were pretty spot on as well, and drifting in corners wasn't all that difficult. In my opinion, Mario Kart 64 is still one of the best of the series along with Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7 with their fantastic online modes.

Avatar image for brok

<< LINK REMOVED >> I agree about MK64 being better than most later games- The Wii one is alright (except for the battle mode- what were they thinking? what a clusterf$%^), but it still takes second place to the SNES version. As for DKR, it just had better handling all round, and generally much tighter, more fluid levels, at the cost of blander visuals. DKR also had bots in battle mode, something Mario Kart has NEVER got right.

Avatar image for xlord121

@Majkic666 u cant play that with friends...i was talking about multiplayer..... although that is an amazing game

Avatar image for Majkic666

@xlord121 what about Legend of Zelda OOT?

Avatar image for xlord121

this and mario party 2 are the only reasons i pull out my N64 and play it with friends....

Avatar image for Jesushazluv

I highly agree with this review. Besides nostalgia factor, it's one of the worst Mario Karts to date. Mario Kart "6.4" is a a mediocre title.

Avatar image for kriggy

I agree, really bad review. This is probably one of the best multiplayer games on n64. And also stating that Tomb Raider wasn't a fun game is kind of sluggish, there's a reason why the game brought so much attention back in the day.

Avatar image for redeka

It's been years and I'm still playing this one...bad review.

Mario Kart 64 More Info

  • First Released Feb 10, 1997
    • Nintendo 64
    Even with all its bells and whistles, Mario Kart 64 is very likely to disappoint you after about a week.
    Average Rating9395 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Mario Kart 64
    Developed by:
    Published by:
    Nintendo, Playtronic
    Driving/Racing, Arcade
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Kids to Adults
    No Descriptors