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We've been seeing a lot of news lately about Mario Kart leading up to the release of Mario Kart 8: Deluxe making its way to Nintendo's newest home console and portable device- the Switch. Now a bit of news has surfaced revealing that the game was originally going to be quite different.
In an interview with Retro Gamer Magazine [via GamesRadar] the original creators, Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideki Konno and Tadashi Sugiyama, talked about the series, the inspiration and the themes that they focused on when creating the original Mario Kart. According to Konno the game was originally a multiplayer prototype for F-Zero due to the similitude in technology that they used at the time to create pseudo-3D raster effects through a technique known as Mode 7 processing,
Our original plan (for Mario Kart) didn't include Mario or karts. The game's roots lie in one of the launch titles for the SNES: F-Zero. The game was designed for single-player gameplay because of our focus on getting across the sense of speed and the size of the courses. It was a prototype for a multiplayer version of F-Zero that ended up being the starting point for Super Mario Kart, and from there we went through a period of trial and error to find what worked.
They definitely found what worked through said trial and error because Mario Kart was the kart game to which all others were measured (and still are) to this day.
A bevy of clones spawned from the success of the original Mario Kart more than they did F-Zero. A lot of it was due to the fact that the former allowed for split-screen play, which was a rarity back then during the 1990s (and sadly, it's still a rarity 25 years later).
The ability to play with your friend and compete in races that weren't just top-down games like the Micro-Machines titles or the Combat Cars games was something that really took the industry by storm. A ton of gamers absolutely fell in love with Mario Kart on the SNES back during the 16-bit era, and we saw other games like Wacky Wheels, Rock 'n Roll Racing and lesser known games such as Eat My Dust and SuperKarts.
While they admit in the interview that Mario Kart wasn't as technically complex as F-Zero and lacked the track depth as the futuristic racer, it had the special power-ups and the ability to reach ahead in a race not just relying on pure skill but also relying on a bit of luck and power-up manipulation to clench the victory.
This concept would follow similar patterns with the release of Mario Kart 64, which has gone down in history as one of the very best multiplayer games ever made, along with the evolution of that concept with the highly regarded and hugely successful Mario Kart Wii and the follow-up Mario Kart 8.
One of the core tenets of the design was in direct opposition to the philosophy behind F-Zero -- which relied on technical skill, reflexes and a focus on single-player excellence -- insofar that they wanted Mario Kart to be entertaining no matter what the skill level was of the player, and they wanted friends, family and loved ones to be able to partake in the experience and simply have fun.