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A Decade Later, Mario Kart 8 Is Still Impossible To Top

I could run through these courses for the rest of my life

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A screenshot of a track from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's final wave of DLC. A statue of Luigi and Daisy sits at the center of a fountain as the sun sets behind them.
Image: Nintendo

My best friends and I have a typical rotation of games we play on game nights. These are often competitive shooters or cooperative survival games, which lend themselves particularly well to our needs. However, one night about two years back, we came to an impasse until one of us jokingly tossed out, “Let’s just play Mario Kart.” Within minutes, we had all grabbed our Nintendo Switches, jumped in a call, and booted up the game. We didn’t set it down for about another five hours.

Stories about Mario Kart 8 tend to follow that formula. It is either the first or last game a group will settle on playing, but because it’s so reliably great, it’s just about the only game any group needs once it’s been decided upon. I’ve found Mario Kart 8 endlessly rewarding as both a participant and a spectator since it launched ten years ago, and I reckon it’s still got another ten years in it if we’re being honest.


Buy Mario Kart 8: Amazon | Best Buy

When it was released in 2014, Mario Kart 8 was the biggest deal on the least incredible platform. Gravity-defying tracks melted folks’ brains back in the day, and the breakout meme of Luigi’s death stare is timeless, but above all, what distinguished Mario Kart 8 was that it’s polished to a tee. New items like the boomerang and the super horn were crowd-pleasing additions, and Mario Kart 8 even adapted to the times and threw in DLC, and a lot of it. By the time its servers were shut down on the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 had become the best-selling game on the console, topping out at about 8.5 million copies sold. Despite the numerous laps it made there, though, it would shine even brighter a few years later as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch, where it has also gone on to become the console’s best-selling game, moving an astonishing 61.97 million copies and counting.


In the ten years since it first released, Mario Kart 8 has taken over the damn world.

Every now and then, a game breaks containment. You know a game is big when people who don’t typically play or follow games know about it and play it. Mario Kart 8 is one such game. Hell, it’s arguably a cultural touchstone. If I’m at a party, there’s a good chance the host has a Switch set up with MK8D ready to go. For the first several years of the Switch’s lifetime, anywhere that gamers gathered, you were bound to see clusters of people crowded around a Switch or two playing MK8D. I never actually played my Switch on the move (as was often touted in Switch commercials) but when I first got my hands on MK8D, you’re damn right I played it everywhere I went.


MK8D isn’t just enthralling, though; it’s become part of the lexicon. I can’t tell you the amount of dating profiles I’ve swiped past where girls are openly challenging potential suitors like me, the drift king, to play them in Mario Kart. As video games have become more culturally acceptable and significant, MK8D was there alongside the likes of Fortnite leading the charge on casual and competitive games. It is the avatar of all kart racers and easily one of the most ubiquitous games ever. Mario Kart games certainly enjoyed acclaim, high sales, and fan fervor before, but MK8, and specifically MK8D, earned something above that: prestige and a place in all our lives.

It’s become so huge that Nintendo doubled down on MK8 even after porting it, with all its existing DLC, to the Switch. Though MK8D’s Booster Course Pass was a controversial announcement at the time, it has also added an undeniable wealth of value to one of the most stacked games ever. Over the course of a year and a half, Nintendo added 48 race tracks to the game, as well as eight characters and several smaller fixes and changes. Most of the tracks are remastered from previous games, but some are entirely new, and regardless, MK8D has enjoyed more support and content than most long running-service titles.


Is it selfish and maybe even a little dumb of me to never want it to stop?

The move to continue supporting MK8D to this extent has brought into question whether or not there’s even a need for another Mario Kart game. There will most assuredly be one, but trying to imagine where Nintendo goes from here is a little difficult. MK8 and MK8D have been such decisive and easy wins for the company, I wouldn’t fault Nintendo for just releasing it again on the Switch’s successor, though it’ll almost certainly be backwards compatible. Why not just continue pouring everything into this already quintessential game rather than start from scratch? In a world of games as platforms that are constantly evolving, why not just turn the foundation of this perfect game into the basis for a long, uncomplicated future for the Mario Kart games?


For all its countless strengths and legendary titles, Nintendo hasn’t really enjoyed a success quite like MK8D before, and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t become the company’s Resident Evil 4, which has seemingly haunted every console to ever exist after its release. Much as you never need to give it to a company, I’ve got to give it to Nintendo: it made one of the greatest games ever and accidentally turned it into the most enduring title of the past several generations.

All I’m saying is that 8 is already a symbol synonymous with the concept of the infinity, so it’s all teed up for Nintendo to keep playing this tune forever…and maybe even cut me a check for the idea. I don’t know of any other game I’ve been playing for ten years. I don’t know many other games that I think I’ll still be playing in another ten. If I had to pick one though, I’m all in on Mario Kart 8, and even if you don’t know it yet, you probably are too.


Buy Mario Kart 8: Amazon | Best Buy