Super Mario Kart – Review

Racing games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, as gamers usually expect realism and serious competition. Super Mario Kart took already established and loved characters and put them in a family-friendly racing game. The result was the beginning of a huge series of games that saw children and adults alike competing for hours in heated but fun and entertaining tournaments. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Super Mario Kart!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

SMK is a kart racing game developed and published by Nintendo. It was released in North America and Japan in 1992, and Europe in 1993 on the SNES. It was later released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2009, and the Wii U Virtual Console in 2013. For this review, I played the version found on the SNES Mini.

This is a racing game with a difference. You can choose from eight classic Mario characters including Mario, Luigi, Toad, Donkey Kong Jr, Bowser, Princess Peach, Yoshi and Koopa Troopa. Each character has different characteristics, e.g., Top speed, acceleration and handling. You then race on a number of tracks based on Super Mario World (Donut Plains, Ghost House and Bowser’s Castle etc.). Throughout the race you can pick up various weapons and power-ups such as turtle shells, banana skins and super stars to assist you.

One of the tracks from Donut Land

SMK has two, one-player modes. The first is Mario Kart GP which is divided into two kart speeds: 50cc and 100cc. You can also unlock a 150cc mode when you win all the trophies from 100cc mode. Each kart speed has three trophies to attain: The Mushroom Cup, The Flower Cup and the Star Cup. The more challenging 100cc option also adds The Special cup which contains tougher race tracks. Each cup consists of five, five-lap races. Depending on where you finish in the races will depend on how many points you accrue. The racer with the highest amount of points at the end of the cup competition will determine who wins the trophy. If a racer finishes between 5th to 8th then the player will lose a life and will have to race that track again. You can gain extra lives by finishing in the same position three races in a row.

The second one-player mode is he Time Trial Mode. t’s pretty self-explanatory, you simply race each track and try to gain the fastest time possible.

One of the Ghost House tracks (Screenshot taken by the author)

Although one-player mode is fun and challenging, this game really comes into its own in two-player mode. Hours of swearing at your best mate and calling them “cheating bastards” as I recall from my youth when I’d lose. In two-player mode, you and a friend can compete in Mario Kart GP, Match Race and Battle Mode. In two-player mode, the same rules apply for Mario Kart GP as in one-player mode, but you compete simultaneously via split-screen. In Match Race you can pick and choose which tracks you wish to compete on for a single race without other CPU racers. Battle mode is also head to head and sees each racer begin with three balloons spinning around their kart. You have a choice of four arenas in which you can pick up weapons and power-ups and attack your opponent. The first player that has all their balloons popped, loses. All of these features give the game loads of replay value.

Battle Mode (Screenshot taken by the author)

Wikipedia claims that in an interview with Super Mario Kart creator Shigeru Miyamoto, he explained that SMK was originally developed as an experiment to see if they could create a game capable of displaying the same game on the same screen simultaneously. Whilst I have heard this before, sadly, I haven’t been able to verify this quote, as Wikipedia’s links are broken. If this is true, then this experiment was fortuitous because it culminated in the creation of one of the most popular sub-series of games from Nintendo, with the initial instalment selling over 8 million copies.[1]

If you would like to learn more about the origins of Super Mario Kart, I can recommened listening to episode 17 of season 2 of The Life and Times of Video Games podcast.

What can I say? This game is great! The graphics are bright and colourful, the music sounds perfect for the game, and the gameplay is easy to learn. A nice little touch, to stop you dominating the grid all the time, is that if you are in first place, you will get less effective power-ups and weapons. The further back in the pack your are, the better your weapons and power-ups. My only criticism for this game is that the graphics for the tracks themselves are a little blocky, but that can be forgiven because, in my opiniom, gameplay trumps graphics everytime (controvesial I know).

I had a blast revisiting this game, and it was as fun as I remembered. My blood was pumping as I scraped wins, and dodged banana skins. My favourite character play with is Yoshi. I tried other players too (I really dislike playing with Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr) and found that I also like playing with Mario and Koopa Troopa.

Did I complete the game?

Although I completed 50cc mode, as of yet I cannot seem to win the Star Cup in 100cc mode.

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This is the best driving game to come along for some time. Mario Kart may look like an F-Zero clone on the surface, but there are many interesting upgrades ranging from power-ups to special combat battle modes using a split-screen layout. Replay options and plenty of tracks add to the appeal of this super game. Overall 8.5/10.[2]

Gamerpro: “Here’s one that’s a winner. Super Mario Kart makes wheel-spinning, bumper-grinding, motor racing actually cute! The little guys definitely have a lot of drive. Overall 4.75/5.[3]

Electronic Games: “Super Mario Kart has a fast-paced feelwith plenty of in-depth play. While the gameplay isn’t totally revolutionary, the action does deviate from what we’ve been exposed to in the past to make this new driving adventure something worthwhile to add to the collection, whether you’re a fan of driving titles, or Mario. Overall 93%.[4]

Superplay: Matt Bielby – “Quite simply the best racing game yet on the Super Nintendo, and one of the funniest, most playable ones on any system. The balloon-bursting option is a delight! Guaranteed to be one of the most played carts in the Superplay office for the rest of the year. Overall 93%.[5]

Superplay: Jonathon Davies – “Everything we could have hoped for, and more. It’s completely impossible to fault. In fact, this is the sort of thing the Super Nintendo is all about –  sheer perfection (ahem). (Make sure you find yourself a decent opponent, though). Overall 93%.[6]

My verdict:

“A simple concept but a fantastically fun game, especially in two-player mode that will keep you coming back for more. Tons of replay value, with countless evenings with friends and family is what this game is all about.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Super Mario Kart? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] (14th April 2010). ‘IGN’s Top 100 Games of All Time – Super Mario Kart’. http://www.top1ign.100.com. https://web.archive.org/web/20120414133232/http://top100.ign.com/2007/ign_top_game_23.html Accessed 24th February 2020.

[2] ‘Review Crew: SNES – Super Mario Kart’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (November 1992). Volume 5 Issue 11:26. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/7f/EGM_US_040.pdf Accessed 25th February 2020).

[3] ‘Bro. Buzz, ‘Pro Review: Super Nes – Super Mario Kart’. Gamerpro. (December 1992). :80-2. (https://retrocdn.net/images/2/26/GamePro_US_041.pdf Accessed 25th February 2020).

[4] Stevens, S., ‘Video Game Gallery: SNES – Super Mario Kart’. Electronic Games. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 3:79-80. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic-Games-1992-12/Electronic%20Games%201992-12#page/n79/mode/2up Accessed 25th February 2020).

[5] Import Review: SNES – Super Mario Kart. Superplay. (November 1992). Issue 1:29-30. (https://archive.org/details/Superplay_Issue_01_1992-11_Future_Publishing_GB/page/n29/mode/2up Accessed 22nd February 2020).

[6] Davies, J., Import Review: SNES – Super Mario Kart. Superplay. (November 1992). Issue 1:29-30. (https://archive.org/details/Superplay_Issue_01_1992-11_Future_Publishing_GB/page/n29/mode/2up Accessed 22nd February 2020).

Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II – Review

In the voice of the great Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker, “And there he goes! Look at that! Villeneuve has passed him! Villeneuve has won the Brazilian Grand Prix!”.

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II is a Formula One racing game developed and published by Sega. It was released on the Mega Drive, Master System and Game Gear in 1992, and is the follow up to Super Monaco GP. The game’s development was also assisted by Senna, who supplied his own advice about the tracks featured in the game. I chose to review the Mega Drive version.

Naturally the object of the game is to win the Driver’s World Championship and/or the Senna GP. To win the World Championship, you must race 15 other drivers on tracks from the 1991 Formula One season. You gain points depending on the position that you finish. The higher the finish, the more points you accrue.

In Practice Mode you can choose to train freely or simulate a race. This enables you to familiarise yourself with the sharp turns of each track, and allowing you to perfect your racing line. In Practice Mode you can also select the number of laps you wish to complete, your starting position and sometimes, the weather.

The late, great Ayrton Senna died tragically from injuries sustained during a crash whilst competing in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix (Screenshot taken by the author)

In Beginner Mode, you first enter your name and select your nationality. You are then given the choice to run a few practice laps before the main race. When you select Race Mode, you can choose your preferred type of gear box (automatic, 4-speed manual and 7-speed manual). Before the main race starts you must complete a lap in the quickest time possible. Your time compared to the times of the other drivers will dictate you starting position. Your aim is to be the Polesitter.

Master Mode is pretty much the same as Beginner Mode with the exception that you may get the opportunity to drive better race cars by challenging rivals during races. If you beat the rival, you race their car from then on. There are five different car companies to achieve.

For the Senna GP, you simply compete in one race. You can choose from three tracks, and your lap times are given after each race.

In-game screen offering all the views and information you need (Screenshot taken by the author)

As mentioned, when reviewing Super Hang-On, I’m not a fan of racing games. There’s nothing wrong with them, they just don’t do it for me, so I am reluctant to spend too much time on them. However, I will say that even though I found this game very challenging, I did enjoy playing it.

The game is challenging and much practice is needed to understand the physics of the game. Frustratingly, when a collision with another racer occurs, you aways seem to come off worse than the other racer. No serious damage occurs, it just slows you down. However, if you hit a sign or barrier at high speed, you will crash and your race is over.

The 16 tracks plus the Beginner, Master, and Senna GP modes increase the replay value considerabley, and fans of racing games will find that this not a game that will be completed within a few hours. Alas, it is a pity there is not a two-player option.

The graphics are bright and colourful, and should be praised for their realism. I’d argue that they are superior to F1 (1993). The music is very basic and easily forgettable, but then again you’re not playing a racing game for the music are you!

Did I complete the game?

Sadly no. The best result I achieved was fourth overall. In the World Championship.

What the Critics Said:

Mean Machines: “A very good racing game – but if you’ve already got Super Monaco GP, this simply isn’t different enough to be worth buying. Overall 87%[1]

Mean Machines: “If you already have the original Super Monaco in your cart collection, take a look before you buy because it is very similar. However, if you’ve just got your Mega Drive and fancy owning one of the greatest road racers money can buy, take a look at Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II – it leaves the others on the starting grid. Overall 94%”[2]

Computer & Video Games: “Super Monaco still ranks one of the best racers on the Mega Drive, right up there with the likes of Road Rash and Super Hang-On. However, it has to be said that this sequel is quite a disappointment because it’s too close to the original game! Overall 84%[3]

Sega Power: “Bigger and Badder sequel to the original game, this time with the golden touch of Ayrton Senna himself. Hit the gas and burn some rubber, baby. Groovy! Overall 5.5.[4]

My Verdict: “Becomes more enjoyable the more you play it. Fans of racing games with love the realism, and the challenge.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP 2? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II’. (June 1992). Issue 21:20-1. Mean Machines. (https://ia600306.us.archive.org/2/items/mean-machines-magazine-21/MeanMachines_21_Jun_1992.pdf Accessed 14th December 2019).

[2] Leadbetter, R., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:126. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n125/mode/2up Accessed 15th February 2020).

[3] Boone, T., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco Grand Prix 2’ Computer & Video Games. (July 1992). Issue 128:68. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/08/CVG_UK_128.pdf Accessed on 11th February 2020).

[4] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Super Monaco GP II’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:99. (https://retrocdn.net/images/b/b9/SegaPower_UK_46.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).