Mario Kart 7 Review

Mario Kart 7 (Available only on Nintendo 3DS)
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 1-8
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo/Retro Studios, Inc.
Release Date: December 4, 2011

Parent Talk: Mario Kart 7 is perfect fun for all ages. Compared to Mario’s venerable platforming adventures, his Kart racing series is even more accessible.

Plays Like: Every previous Mario Kart, with a few tweaks and subtle differences.

Review Basis: Completed every Cup on every difficulty level and achieved first place. Unlocked all characters, played all mini-games, and raced against friends via local wireless and online.

The Great:

Another great entry in arguably the most fun and recognizable racing game series. The games are easy to play and bring charm that captivates all audiences. Every generation has seen a Mario Kart release and the 3DS’s doesn’t disappoint. This may even be the first MK for many young gamers. Mario Kart 7 delivers on simple mechanics, colorful characters and fun tracks.

The Good:

+ Track selection. There are eight cups, and some need to be unlocked. Four cups feature collections of previous games’ tracks, like the SNES original and the more recent MK Wii. The other four bring original MK7 tracks. They’re creative and unique, with a variety of colorful environments and perilous hazards. With the ability to glide through the air and dive underwater, new and challenging gameplay elements have been opened for races. The new Rainbow Road is long and intense, spanning colorful tracks, and even a bumpy moon surface. Other tracks shoot players off ramps and onto home rooftops, or have them dive underwater and navigate an undersea tube. It’s an excellent combination of nostalgia and surprise. The new cups are memorable.

+ Excellent presentation. The 3D effect makes tracks impressive, though it doesn’t mix well with gyroscopic steering. MK7 is one of the most attractive 3DS titles, outclassed only by a select few.

+ Old tracks. The classic tracks were updated slightly to fit with the new mechanics.

+ Impressive gyroscopic control. Though it doesn’t jive with the 3D, gyroscopic steering is surprisingly intuitive and fun. Switching between it and standard is an easy D-pad press. The gyroscopic option takes place in first-person, offering a much different perspective and sensation.

+ New items. The Tanuki Tail, an obvious nod to the same item’s return in Super Mario 3D Land, lets you whack nearby opponents. The Lucky 7 is a set of powerful tools that rotate around your cart like a barrier. The Fire Flower lets you toss fireballs at opponents for a limited time. Many of the classic items are still there, including the dreaded Blue Shell.

+ Cart customization. MK7 allows you to unlock and customize parts to design a unique racing machine. You can choose the wheel, body and glider parts to personalize your cart’s acceleration, top speed, handling, etc. You unlock the parts by collecting coins rather than winning races, which adds depth to competing.

+ Several Cup difficulties & Mirror Mode. Finishing the higher difficulties extends the life of an already-fun multiplayer racer. Mirror Mode also provides a challenge since the courses are flipped. Completing races on the higher difficulties unlocks new characters.

+ The 17-character roster. Full of unique faces, Metal Mario and Rosalina finally make their Kart debut.

+ Balloon Battle and Coin Runners. Fans should know about Balloon Battle. Some of its older tracks, like MK64’s Big Donut, even appear here. Coin Runners is a newer addition to the series, introduced in the Mario Kart Wii. The goal is to collect the most coins in the time limit.

+ Multiplayer. Local wireless and Wi-Fi modes are available. A Download Play option is too, enabling 3DS owners without the game to participate. The online portion is a superior effort for Nintendo and hopefully a sign of things to come. Players are assigned a rating to determine their appropriate skill-level bracket, making competing more fun and accessible. You can even create custom groups, and set specific rules or guidelines for races.

+ Street Pass/Spot Pass support. Tag other MK7 players to view their profile, stats, and race rating. You can even obtain ghost data via Street Pass and Spot Pass, which is especially cool.

The Bad:

– A limited character roster. Mario Kart Wii offered 25 characters. Though the expected mainstays still appear, it’s disappointing that characters like Waluigi were left out.

– No Mission Mode. Mario Kart DS had a lengthy side mode, which helps the game rank high on the series quality list. It’s sad that this feature has been absent for awhile.

– No bikes or extra cars. We’ve seen MK introduce more vehicle options before, but despite MK7 offering fun customization, there are fewer vehicle options even after unlocking parts.

The Ugly:

Still unbalanced. If you want a fair challenge, you won’t get one. (i.e. many, many Blue Shells will drop you from first place at a crucial moment).

The Lowdown:

Mario Kart 7, like every other MK, is fun and accessible for all. Diehards will probably nitpick the finer details and debate which game is truly “the best.” Some Double Dash!!’s balance, or MKDS’s Mission Mode and content, or perhaps even the classic SNES and N64 releases. However, every game without exception provides hours and hours of enjoyment. Do your 3DS a favor and pop in Mario Kart 7.

Score: 8.5/10