The eminent release of Mario Kart 8 is among us, which is cause for great excitement. Since I was one of the lucky few able to play the game before its official release, it is my duty to impart my vast knowledge upon those who will just start playing on May 30th.
Here are a few hard lessons I’ve learned from playing lots of Mario Kart 8.
Practicing in Low-Speed Makes Perfect
When you bring home that copy of 8 and boot it up, your first instinct as a gamer will probably be to go straight for the fastest speed. Don’t do that. I know you gotta show off your gamer cred but that speed boost from previous games is surprisingly steep. I tried that nonsense coming from Mario Kart Wii and I was skidding across the tracks as if they were made of butter.
Honestly, it’s best to practice on the 50cc engine speed in order to sharpen your skills and work on things like drift timing, kart control and which vehicle is right for the character of your choice. Once that’s nailed, feel free to start going for either 100cc or 150cc (I’d recommend the latter if you want to compete online, since matches and tourneys tend to use that speed).
The AI Hates You and Wants Your Family Dead
When you first start racing in the Grand Prix, the other racers aren’t really an issue; they may toss out an item here and there but overall the race is fairly pleasant–“wait did I just get hit with two, no three shells at once?” Then you run into a banana peel a racer ahead just dropped behind them.
AI in 8 is relentless. You will always be in fear of someone combo-ing you with shells and knocking you off the track. This is especially frustrating when you’re trying to grind for gold trophies to unlock new characters and vehicles where you’ll literally go from 1st to 6th place in the matter of a second right before the finish line (and in the last lap, no less). And this is on normal. If you ever want to turn up the difficulty level, either make sure your kitchen isn’t full of knives you can use on yourself or disable items.
The Third Lap is the Only One That Matters
Following the last point is something else you’ll notice very quickly — just as Divekick proved that the last hit in fighting games is the only one that matters, you too will discover that the only important lap in a race is the last one. Let’s say the first two laps were absolutely picture perfect: drifting was on point, nailed every turn and blocked the occasional item thrown around.
Then you hit the last lap, and suddenly shells, banana peels, plants and cart knocking come out in a frenzied dance of pain and destruction.
Suddenly, sh*t just got real. And not even being three feet away from the finish line is cause for celebration, because a random racer can absolutely come out of nowhere at the last second and pry that first place from your now cold and unfeeling hands.
Don’t think that if you maintain your distance throughout the race, then you’ll be safe; I’ve had plenty of races where I was clear ahead until the third lap when the AI remembered they were in a race and decided to try. And by try I mean terminate with extreme prejudice.
You Will Probably Fail Horrendously in Your First Online Match
So you’ve practiced and practiced and have finally conquered the Grand Prix. “Now,” you think, “I’m finally ready to take on actual human opponents.” If by taking on you mean participating in a race against them then yes you are. If you actually mean totally coming in first place while holding that glorious first place cup in front of your weeping foes, then maybe you should sit down for a moment.
You will not win your first online match. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll lose — as in skid hilariously in every turn, become victim to items galore or just succumbing to the pressure of racing against real humans that can see and laugh at every bumbling move you make. That’s the one benefit of no in-match voice chat, you at least can’t hear them laughing at you.
Also, if you do win your first online match, know that I hate you.
Mario Kart 8 is a very fun and very frustrating game but the most important lesson is to make sure you’re having fun, no matter what. This may be difficult at times so here’s some advice: if you aren’t then walk away until you cool off. After all, what’s the point of playing a wacky kart racer like this unless you’re having a blast?
If you’re interested in hearing more about how awesome the game is, check out my review of Mario Kart 8 here.