Thursday, 20 April 2017

Mario Month - The Top 10 Mario Kart Tracks

If people were to ask you what the first best Mario side series was, chances are the first one that’ll come to your mind is Mario Kart. Starting from very humble beginnings in Super Mario Kart for the SNES the series has evolved to becoming one of the biggest multiplayer experiences and best party games, right up there with Super Smash Bros. It’s expanded its roster to mix in some awesome (and not so awesome, *cough Pink Gold Peach cough*) characters, added on some fast and furious new items to troll your opponents and added new racing features such as motorbikes, gliders and the ability to race in water. But the biggest evolution has been with the tracks themselves; what started out as a group of simply designed courses have evolved into grand scale masterpieces with plenty of obstacles and design additions to keep you on your feet. Today, we’re counting down the ten best from all the main series games.

  • NUMBER 10 - Baby Park (Double Dash/DS/8)

At first glance this track may seem unimpressive, not worthy of a spot on a top ten list of Mario Kart. After all it solely consists of a small oval track that the racers must go around 7 times (or 5 times in the much less impressive DS version). But here’s the thing; when the items start to come out this course can become an absolute whirlwind. With a track that’s very narrow and with the racers all generally being bunched out together you’ll be screeching and swerving around to miss all the obstacles coming your way. And since this is Double Dash there are some impressive items to avoid, including the giant DK banana, the giant Bowser shell and Yoshi and Birdo’s egg, in addition to the usual menagerie of shells. Add on the presence of a cool rollercoaster over the track that can hit you if you get too close as well as a cameo from the Yoshi-copter and you get a course where looks truly are deceiving. This madness makes this one to go back to.

  • NUMBER 9 - Music Park (7/8)

If you love music then this track is the one for you. In a very colourful environment in the middle of space, making this track seem like a cousin of Rainbow Road, lots of musical instruments reside as the players race around the course. Trumpets adorn the start of the race, there are tambourines to bounce upon to do tricks, and who doesn’t love doing a powerslide down the piano and glockenspiel notes? For danger, watch out for the giant musical note who will drop down from the air and potentially squish you if you’re not being careful. This one is a beautiful drive down a musical paradise and will always put you in a good mood.

  • NUMBER 8 - Maple Treeway (Wii/7)

This track starts off with one of my favourite things in Mario Kart; a cannon launch that blasts you to the top of a tall area (and we’ll see that a few more times later). Here you’re racing all the way down a giant tree, with the visuals on your drive being very beautiful to look at. Accompanied by lovely soothing music, you’ll be enjoying your leisurely drive downhill but don’t be too deceived by the beauty of the view; you’ll be trying to keep yourself on the log of the tree and doing your best to not run into the Wigglers. Driving through big piles of leaves to maybe get some items and bouncing downhill a big net at the end of the lap is just the cherry in this beautiful but fun course.

  • NUMBER 7 - Mushroom Gorge (Wii/7)

One of the most enjoyable functions that Mario Kart Wii added was the ability to do tricks, flick your controller and let your character show off a bit in mid-air before getting a boost of speed upon landing. The best place to do it is at this track that’s a lot of fun but can be deceptively difficult. Driving through a gorgeous country landscape you’ll be coming up to big, bouncy, red mushrooms. Leap on them, do a trick, land and watch your character speed up. Lest that sounds too easy though you’ll end up driving through a big cave filled with nothing but these mushrooms. It can become easy to mess up the position of your vehicle and drive too far the wrong way as you’re bouncing, plunging you to your doom (and a Lakitu rescue). This one’s tonnes of fun to show off the tricks yet can be deceptively hard.

  • NUMBER 6 - DK Mountain (Double Dash/Wii)

I previously mentioned my love of the cannon launch function in Mario Kart and it all kicked off in this course from the epic Double Dash. The cannon shoots you right to the top of a volcano that has a face on it and your job is to drive all the way down it, avoiding tumbling rocks and trying to stay on the tight mountain edges. It’s so easy to fall off here, whether or not it’s because you failed a turn on the twisting slopes or you missed your driving timing on the rickety bridge that you need to cross in order to finish the lap (woe betide you if you run into a banana peel on this bit). Whilst the original track in Double Dash was already amazing the Wii remake adds to it by allowing you to perform tricks over the sides of the mountain (to the point where you’ll go back to Double Dash and get annoyed that you can’t do the tricks when you shake your controller). Add in a funky jungle beat soundtrack and you’ve got a course that’s simple but fun.

  • NUMBER 5 - Yoshi Valley (64/8)

One of the most hectic courses of the entire series comes next, dedicated to my favourite Mario character. Usually most tracks in the Mario Kart series take a very linear and simple route but not Yoshi Circuit. Here the tracks are all random, you don’t quite know where you’re going to go in this course. The fact that all of the positions are hidden only makes it crazier as you don’t know if you’re winning and whether or not you should speed up or slam on the brakes and be careful. Add on twisty turny pathways, a giant Yoshi egg in the centre of the course and banjo music and you have one of the craziest courses of the series by a long way.

  • NUMBER 4 - Rainbow Road (Super Mario Kart/Super Circuit/7/8)

Not many tracks from the very simplistic Super Mario Kart stand out – most of them are essentially repeated variations of the same track. However, get right to the end of the Special Cup and you’ll be greeted with this glorious sight. Whilst Rainbow Road is a common sight in each games and has a number of great tracks, including the ones seen in 64 and DS, the first one stands out as the best one. Rather than any fancy tricks and settings, unlike later games, this one is merely a narrow path in space with no handrails and just a couple of Thwomps as obstacles. You’ll be fighting hard to stay on the difficult twists and turns of the course, making this one a true epic battle for survival.

  • NUMBER 3 - Bowser's Castle (N64/Wii)

Speaking of tracks that appear in every game, here’s Bowser’s Castle, a monolith dedicated to Mario’s nemesis. Double Dash and Wii both have great renditions of this track but the standout version has to come from 64. This one manages to be tricky due to, once again, narrow paths leading to very tight turns. It’s a blast driving down the halls of Bowser’s palace and hoping that on your next turn you don’t run smack bang into a Thwomp. Then at the end of the lap you end up right on top of the castle, snaking around the structures that our favourite Koopa has put up. This one will make you want to be the bad guy.

  • NUMBER 2 - Airship Fortress (DS/7)

Whilst the airships probably cause a sense of fear and loathing in the main games with their auto-scrolling and tonnes of enemies (looking at you, World 8 in Super Mario Bros. 3) this one will cause a sense of adrenaline and fun – and perhaps just a little fear. Driving through the classic airship from the series the most notable feature are the enormous Bullet Bills that come your way right at the start down a long sustained path. Hit one of these and it’ll be hard to recover. Avoiding rocky wrenches and fire bars inside the airship add to the thrill and the enjoyment of being launched by cannon to another section of the ship to race down the 
tower and back to the start of the course is just so great.

  • NUMBER 1 - Waluigi Pinball (DS/7)

For my favourite course of the whole series we have to look at a character that rarely gets his dues, Waluigi. He’s never appeared in a main series game, he never pops up in a Wario game and he’s generally treated as the joke of the Mushroom Kingdom. But thankfully he has something that can strengthen his legacy and it’s this amazing track. Cool oozes from all corners from this track, with the awesome music, the psychedelic launch cannon at the start, the roulette sounds that accompany picking up an item box and the end of the lap featuring giant pinballs and flippers ready to hit players who aren’t ready for it. Waluigi may not be the most popular character of the series but he at least has a strong legacy with this, the best track in the Mario Kart series.

Do you agree with this list? Which tracks do you like to speed round with your friends that I left off? Comment down below and join back next Thursday for the final instalment of Mario Month, the top 10 Mario power-ups…

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