VG Tribune

Hands-On Impressions: Mario Kart 8

May 17, 2014 / 7:02 PM

By: Jesse Waldack

Mario Kart 8 GamePad

At about 11:55 CDT today, my local GameStop had started to update their demo unit to include the Mario Kart 8 Demo, thinking it would take about two to three minutes to perform the update.  Joke wasn’t only on him, but myself and two of my children who were there waiting for the demo to be playable at “noon”.  The demo kiosk upgrade took about 20 minutes.

So about 12:15 CDT, we are the first people at this GameStop to get our hands on Mario Kart 8.

Details of our experience playing the Mario Kart 8 demo, including video of multi-player and single-player play will appear after the jump.

Kiosk Update

About 15 minutes in, waiting for the kiosk update to finish

First up, I let my children play a 2-player match while I recorded it.  The first player had to use the GamePad and player two uses the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.  I am presuming that the final game will allow for more flexibility in controllers that can be chosen, but there were no Nintendo representatives available to ask questions to like previous demo events that I’ve been to.

Mario Kart 8 is set up with 30 available characters and 8 available tracks.  Many of the vehicle customization options were unlocked for the demo allowing us to pick one of many vehicles, wheels, and wings/parachutes.  The game then launches a “Grand Prix”, which consists of 2 laps of the chosen track.  I presume that the final release will include multiple tracks in a row, each with 3 lap races.  We will find out for sure when the game launches.

The controls that we noticed on the GamePad included “A” for acceleration, “L2” for item use, and “R2” for grinding through curves.  The image above shows what the GamePad screen looks like when the game is played.  The order of racers from 1 through 12 on the left side with whatever item they have equipped, a mini screen in the upper right-hand corner showing what’s on the TV, a mini-map below it, and a button in the lower right-hand corner to toggle controls from button presses to “Wii Wheel” style play.  That just leaves the ever-present joke of the game’s reveal at E3 last year, “You can use the GamePad to honk your horn!” taking up over half of the screen’s real-estate.

The controls using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk felt exactly the same as they did in Mario Kart Wii (or is that Mario Kart 6, I forget).  “A” was used for acceleration, “B” for grinding, and “Z” for item use.  We know that Wii Wheel controls will return in the game, as the Wii U Mario Kart 8 bundle comes with a red Wii Wheel, but that option was not available to play at the demo due to the perma-connected controllers to the kiosk.

We could not get a good feel for the music since the sound wasn’t up very loud on the demo unit, and the GameStop’s video speaker was right near us, so we probably picked up more of that audio in the videos than we did of actual game sounds.

Since there were no others around wanting to play the demo,  I took over my daughter’s controller and played a game with my son.  We both enjoyed it, though I had a hard time relearning the timing of when to grind and when not to since it has been years since playing Mario Kart Wii, and I never did play Mario Kart 7.  We played two games together. I won the first one and he won the second.

When I had my fill, I let him play single-player and recorded his play through.  We didn’t learn anything new with this play through that we didn’t already know from the previous games, but he still had fun playing. He played several times as single-player before we left for the day.

In general, everyone enjoyed the game and all are looking forward to May 30th when Mario Kart 8 launches in North America and Europe.  Japan’s launch date is May 29th and Australia’s launch date is May 31st putting this at almost a same-day world-wide release.

About the author /


Having played Intellivision and Atari games since he was six, Jesse has not only grown up with video games, but has seen just about everything. A husband and father of three teenagers, he still tries to squeeze in a game or three when he is able.

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