Mario Kart, the kart-racing spinoff of the Super Mario franchise, has become a staple in video game culture since its introduction in 1992 on the Super Nintendo. To date, Mario Kart has shipped 110 million units, putting the brand ahead of FIFA, Lego, and Assassin's Creed, among others. Compared to many of Nintendo's franchises, Mario Kart has stayed relatively consistent; the series has come a long way, but without any major departures throughout each entry. That said, not every title has been created equal, and I'll be taking a lot at the series from worst to best.
8. Mario Kart Wii (Wii, 2008)
Mario Kart Wii is a mixed bag. This entry is notable for introducing motion controls, 12-player racing, and motorcycles, while also bringing Mario Kart online for the first time on a home console. Unfortunately, these changes brought the loosest control scheme the series has seen yet, tracks that are far too wide, and a general sense of imbalance overall. Today, Mario Kart Wii is the least compelling to return to; the online service has been discontinued, and there are both better- looking and better-playing versions on modern hardware.
7. Mario Kart: Super Circuit (Game Boy Advance, 2001)
One of two 2D versions of Mario Kart, Super Circuit was pretty impressive in its day. The Game Boy Advance was well known for both ports of Super Nintendo games and original games in that same style, and Mario Kart: Super Circuit actually manages to kind of do both. The game boasts a bright, smooth art style, link cable support, and the ability to unlock every course from Super Mario Kart on top of several new tracks. Unfortunately, gameplay doesn't feel as tight as it should, and the hardware doesn't always seem up to that task at hand.
6. Super Mario Kart (Super Nintendo, 1992)
Super Mario Kart not only launched a franchise, but the kart-racing genre all together. The SNES title introduced series staples like items that the player deploys in order to get ahead, Battle mode, and the Bowser's Castle and Rainbow Road tracks that have appeared in every version since. Super Mario Kart remains fun even today for those that grew up with it, but can feel a bit lacking compared to newer games in the series.
5. Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64, 1996)
4-Player Mario Kart. That was a huge plus for the first 3D entry in the franchise, but it was just one piece of the puzzle that made the game an instant classic. The Battle mode, again featuring 4-player gameplay, is arguably the most memorable in the series, and the racetracks remain some of the most iconic today, with almost all of them having been reimagined in modern games. Oh, and the Blue Shell? You can thank MK64 for those trust issues.
4. Mario Kart 7 (3DS, 2011)
At the time of release, Mario Kart 7 felt like the most full-featured entry we'd seen yet. The overall feel was a great preview of what was to come, but we also got a more fleshed out online mode and, for the first time, customizable karts. It was an incredibly polished game, but ultimately didn't take many risks, and I found myself setting it down a bit faster than I had with other titles in the franchise.
3. Mario Kart DS (DS, 2005)
Mario Kart DS was absolutely incredible, considering what it was able to pull off on the DS hardware. The jump to 3D on a handheld was a smooth transition, and gamers were treated to a solid cast of characters (with several unique karts for each), and (on top of 16 new tracks with some great standouts) the introduction of remastered tracks from each of the part versions of the game. Finally, while it may be considered crude today, Mario Kart DS was the first to take the racing online, and its only flaw is that it isn't possible to play that way anymore.
2. Mario Kart: Double Dash (Gamecube, 2003)
Double Dash is often considered the fan-favorite by the community, and for good reason. The GCN version takes what made Mario Kart 64 great and improved on it in every way. The tracks are more complex, the visuals are sharper, and Battle mode is more intense. However, it's the addition of a second racer in every kart that really got people's attention. The game allows the player to try one of nearly 200 character combinations, opening up availability for different karts and signature items to use in game. Besides, what is more old-school than connecting 8 Gamecubes together over LAN and playing 16-player Double Dash? Nostalgia at its finest.
1. Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, 2014) / Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch, 2017)
Mario Kart 8, when it released on the Wii U, managed to build on nearly every tenant of the franchise to date. For the first time, the series entered High Definition, and was able to go toe-to-toe with games on more powerful hardware. Tracks look and feel better than ever, and players had the ability to upload clips directly to YouTube from within the game itself. Online, while still not where it should be in the modern age, is the best the series has seen yet. On the Wii U, Nintendo released two fantastic DLC packs that introduced 16 new tracks (including those based on F-Zero and Excitebike!), and characters from both the Animal Crossing and Zelda franchises. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe manages to one-up the Wii U version, including all of the DLC and new characters. Most importantly, Deluxe sees the return of the traditional Battle mode, which the last-gen version forgot to include. Without a doubt, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the most-able kart racer out there today.