The Nintendo Switch Is a brand new console and as such, it has a desperate need for great games and great game franchises. After launching with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo's second big title out of the gate is a new version of the Wii U title Mario Kart 8 called Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It's got a few new bells and whistles, but is that enough to justify picking up another version of the game you may have already played? Possibly, though likely only for most hardcore Mario Kart fan.
If you've played any game in the Mario Kart franchise, then you're familiar with this game as well. You choose a character from Nintendo's laundry list of heroes and villains, primarily, but not exclusively, from the Mario franchise, outfit them with a go-kart, and then race against the computer or other humans using your speed, and the numerous random weapons strewn around the track, to try and win the race. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe includes over 40 characters to choose from. All DLC characters from the original version of the game are already unlocked and a handful of additional characters are also included such as King Boo, Dry Bones, and the Splatoon Inklings. There's still some new content to unlock as well to give you more of a drive to win.
From there, you choose which set of tracks you want to race on. 12 different "cups" with four tracks per cup are available. 25 tracks are new to Mario Kart 8 while the rest are remakes of favorite tracks from previous Mario Kart titles.
The base gameplay from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is everything you love about the franchise. The carts are fun and the variety of options will give you plenty of different experiences to be had, assuming that you're not the type to focus on a single character. The massive number of tracks also keeps things fresh and interesting. Of course, it's only fresh and interesting if you didn't play Mario Kart 8 to death. Unless you fall in love with one of the new characters or carts, your experience on this part of the game is going to feel a lot like it did before.
That's not to say that playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is exactly like playing the previous title. The Nintendo Switch's unique control schemes make the gameplay significantly differently. Gone are those old Wii remotes, replaced instead with the Switch Joy-Cons. While everybody's mileage may very, I really prefer the Joy-Cons to Wii Remotes. The Wii Remote was designed to give its best approximation of a classic NES controller and while it worked ok, Mario Kart just requires more buttons than that. The Joy-Con is more similar to a SNES controller, and since that was the first console to get a Mario Kart game, it simply feels like a better fit. I actually prefer the single Joy-Con to using the Joy-Con grip with this game, though certainly, the Pro Controller is still the way to go if you have one.
From a gameplay perspective, there is one reason to pick up Mario Kart 8 Deluxe even if you already have the Wii U title, that the's the game's battle mode. The previous edition of Mario Kart 8 tried something new by putting standard Balloon Battle on traditional race tracks rather than enclosed battle arenas. It was an interesting idea but one that didn't work out in practice.
A more traditional Battle Mode is part of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. In addition to the classic Balloon Battle, and it's variant Bomb-omb Blast, where players start with a set number of balloons and lose them as they get hit, the collect-a-thon Coin Runners, and capture the flag style game Shine Thief also return from previous titles. In addition, Deluxe also includes a new Battle Mode game type, Renegade Roundup. In this game, players are broken into teams of two. One side plays the "cops" trying to capture the opposite team with permanent pirana plant items attached to their karts. The team of renegades then tries to break out their teammates by running over a moving target to free them. The cops win by capturing the entire opposing team. The renegades win by having at least one free team member by the end of the time limit. I didn't love this new game type, but adding more variety is certainly not a bad thing.
If you somehow have a Nintendo Switch and somehow never played Mario Kart 8 then picking up Deluxe would seem to be a no brainier. There's plenty of content to keep you busy, at least until Splatoon 2 comes out this summer. If you have played Mario Kart 8 then the decision might be a harder one to justify, but the game is certainly worthy. It may very well be the best Mario Kart game to date.