[Mario Kart 7 logo]

[If this isn't majestic, I don't know what is!]

System: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Designer: Nintendo EAD; Retro Studios
Release Date: December 2011
Genre: Racing
Players: 1-8 (local multi-player; online multi-player options)
Save Feature? Yes

What more can be said about the Mario Kart series of games? Mario Kart 7, along with its predecessors, has turned the racing genre on its head with its fun, unique style of play. Often imitated but never matched, Mario Kart 7 is as fun and enjoyable as ever! The 3D effects, while impressive, only enhance an already diverse, addictive gameplay experience.

Overview: It has been quite some time since I last reviewed a Mario Kart game (Super Mario Kart for the Super NES actually!) so naturally, I can say that I really looked forward to taking the plunge and discussing the brand new 3DS game. It's hard to find anyone who harbors any enmity for the Mario Kart series because quite frankly, every game in the series are incredibly fun to play! Granted, the "cheapness" of losing any given race because of a late blue/red/green turtle shell or some other crazy occurrance might temper our feelings towards the Mario Kart series at times but the super-high funfactor and timeless appeal keeps us coming back...whether we want to admit it or not.

Before I plow into Mario Kart 7, however, I just want to briefly discuss my previous experience with the Mario Kart series since my last review was more than a decade ago. Simply put, I grew up playing and enjoying the Super NES classic with friends and family. I have probably played that game more than any other game in the series and thusly have a strong sentiment for the game. It was quite a revolutionary game pak at the time and proved for the umpteenth time that Mario seems to make just about any game he touches golden.

Although I never really had the chance to enjoy it in depth, I did get to play Mario Kart 64 every once in a while during the N64 era. Although I did enjoy the game, I just never could get into the strangely-shaped N64 controllers and their annoying analog stick controls. To be honest, the N64 controller is probably my least favorite video game controller of all-time. Mario Kart 64 was still a pretty sweet game though.

It wasn't until several years passed that I would get to enjoy a new Mario Kart game, however. Mario Kart Wii with its unique wireless controls and Wii Wheel capabilities proved to be the game that would get me out of my Mario Kart funk. I absolutely loved playing this game with friends and family! It is an amazing game in its own right and, until the release of Mario Kart 7, was easily my favorite game in the series.

Now, having played the brand new Mario Kart 7 game, it is suddenly not so easy to determine because MK7 is yet another fantastic offering from Nintendo! I was so happy when my younger brother surprised me with Mario Kart 7 just this past Christmas because I just had a feeling that this game would be golden. And there is nothing more special than receiving a great video game from a family member you know? Thankfully, the seventh Mario Kart game didn't disappoint. It may not be terribly original, but if you enjoy the Mario Kart series and had a great time playing Mario Kart Wii in particular, you'll experience no problems jumping right back into the driver seat in Mario Kart 7 because it looks and screams, well, Mario Kart!

That's not to say that there is absolutely nothing new in Mario Kart 7 because this game does have a few unique elements all to its own. For one thing, Mario Kart 7 is the first game in the series which allows you to actually race underwater! This new feature is a lot of fun and there are quite a few races that contain underwater areas as a result. Cheep Cheep Lagoon, the atmospheric Wario Shipyard, and the chilly Rosalina's Ice World courses are just a handful that take place underwater part of the time.

In addition to the "waterworld" experience, Mario Kart 7 also throws gliders into the mix! These airbourne contraptions literally give you the ability to sour through the air whenever you leap off of a cliff (one that is on the raceway of course) or any blue ramp (normal ramps are a reddish-orange color). This new addition is truly awesome to behold and adds yet another new element to a series chock-full of unique racing features already. Basically, a great series just got even better because there truly is a thrill to both flying through the air and racing underwater.

Even the weapons repertoire contains a few neat additions in Mario Kart 7. In addition to the traditional turtle shells, banana peels, and mushrooms, Mario Kart 7 introduces the Fire Flower, Super Leaf, and Lucky 7 items. The Fire Flower allows you to shoot fireballs either forward or backward while the Tanooki Tail gives you the ability to swat at competitors or, if you time it right, items that could cause damage to your kart. Last but certainly not least, the Lucky 7 item is extremely rare yet very, very valuable because it allows you to use seven different special items (all at once if you'd like!) If you are having a nasty race, getting the Lucky 7 item can quickly turn things around in your favor.

As far as the characters and courses go, Mario Kart 7 takes a page out of Mario Kart Wii's book. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Toad, and Koopa Troopa all make appearances and like previous games in the series, there are a plethora of unlockable characters and kart options in this game! You have the traditional 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc Grand Prix selections and like its immediate predecessor, Mario Kart 7 contains a nice blend of all-new tracks along with tried and true courses from previous games in the series. Personally, I love the new tracks in addition to the classic races! In terms of newness, two courses are ripped directly out of Wii Sports Resort (and are beauties too), you have underwater races, courses on mountain tops, and even an awe-inspiring Rainbow Road map that takes place in outer space! Speaking of which, I thought that it was incredibly cool to see the classic Super NES Rainbow Road track make a reappearance in Mario Kart 7. There are not one but two fantastic Rainbow Road courses in this game! It was really fun getting to see the Waluigi Pinball course for the first time too (my brother's friend always talked about how cool this Mario Kart DS track was).

As you can see, Mario Kart 7 contains a little bit of everything. Whether you are a Mario Kart veteran who grew up with the series or a youngster itching to jump into the driver's seat for the very first time, it is safe to say that this game is perfectly suited for anyone who loves go-kart racing! You won't get bored playing this game in any case.

[Wuhu Island at sunset]
[The SNES Rainbow Road track returns in full 3D glory!]

Graphics: Although the Nintendo 3DS is still in its infancy which makes it difficult to gauge which games really utilize the full power of the 3DS, I have to say that Mario Kart 7 truly wowed me as I played through the game. It's not just the fun 3D effects such as confetti or flower petals popping out at you that make this game impressive visually either. Whether or not you use the 3D option, this game just plain looks good! Everything from the character/kart graphics to the background visuals to the flawless animations in Mario Kart 7 simply screams boldness! It razzles; it dazzles, and it should leave pretty much any gamer satisfied. The strength of the Mario Kart series has always been the rich, smooth-yet-random gameplay along with the enticing multi-player options. Vivacious graphics don't hurt though. They don't hurt one little bit.

Music: For a racing game, Mario Kart 7 really came through in the music department as well. Although I am personally a huge fan of great video game music in general, I don't usually expect too much when it comes to racing games. That's why I was pleasantly surprised as I played through Mario Kart 7. Compared to Ridge Racer 3D (a very enjoyable game hampered by what I felt to be a very average and forgettable soundtrack), this game's score is like hearing Mozart or Beethoven or Bach for the first time!

Seriously though, this game features excellent music throughout. While the classic tracks feature the exact same music that was present in previous Mario Kart games (which isn't bad considering that most of these races already featured nice, appropriate music), some of the new courses such as Wuhu Loop really came through. Granted, the Wuhu Loop tune originated in Wii Sports Resort but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy it a second time! The crown jewel for me, however, has to be the incredibly epic and perfectly fitting Rainbow Road music that plays during the game's final race. While the SNES track is excellent as well, this new track has to be the best Rainbow Road tune ever! It takes the classic music and simply enhances it with epicness (or something like that). Honestly, this music blew me away and it makes me want to play this already spectacular race over and over again just to hear the wonderful tune!

Granted, there are several musical tracks in Mario Kart 7 that I can't remember off the top of my head. But I know for sure that nothing truly annoyed or disappointed me in terms of the auditory aspect of the game. And like always, the sound effects and voices throughout Mario Kart 7 only add to the game's distinctive charm. Although this game is as serious as they come (particularly when playing in any multi-player mode), you can't help but laugh at times due to the hilarious voices or crazy situations that will undoubtedly transpire the more you play the game.

Play Control: Like with so many of Nintendo's products, Mario Kart 7 is an incredibly easy game to pick up. Within mere seconds, I re-discovered how to accelerate, use items, and jump/power slide. Of course, previous experience in the series definitely helps but even newbies (or noobs as it were) should be able to learn the controls rather quickly. Figuring out how to execute some of the more advanced moves such as timing when to floor the accelerator at the starting line or holding a turtle shell behind your kart to shield it from incoming attacks might take some time but that's to be expected. Like every other game in the series before it, Mario Kart 7 is simple to learn, but discovering all of the little nuances of the gameplay like the myraid of shortcuts available in each course takes time...lots and lots of time! But that's yet another little quirk that makes this game so enjoyable to play.

[Now this is racing in style!]
[The classic Mario Circuit track returns once more!]

Challenge: For some strange reason, I actually had little trouble winning gold trophies for all of the cups in the game (even the 150cc ones!) Now to be fair, I definitely sweated out countless races and I still haven't obtained double or triple stars on most of the more difficult cups in the game. But I do think that it is safe to say that if you have previous experience in the series, particularly with a newer release like Mario Kart DS or Mario Kart Wii, you shouldn't have too much trouble acing this game. That's not to say that it is easy though. You will definitely find yourself having to get and stay on your "A" game consistently in order to win the more difficult races like the Lightning or Special Cups. And whether or not you want to admit it, luck truly is a factor in this game. If you lead a race the entire way then get hit by a blue shell followed up by a red shell on the home stretch, don't be surprised to end up in fifth place despite your best efforts. I suppose even a frustrating event like that one (which is one that I am sure all of us Mario Kart vets have experienced many times over) is what gives hope to all racers though. As long as you are halfway decent and stay close enough to the front of the pack, you just might have a chance to win in the end.

While the main game is certainly no cakewalk and is at least a decent challenge, where Mario Kart 7 really cooks is in the multi-player modes. Whether you play this game locally with friends or online against the world, you will be humbled rather quickly. Even though I consider myself to be an expert Mario Kart player, I have a tough time winning on the world circuit. A really tough time! So the way I see it, it is honestly hard if not impossible to play this game and not be challenged at some point. And the challenge level, overall, seems to be quite fair (aside from a few cheaters I have been ill-fated to come across online...grrrrrrrrrrrrrr).

Lastly, before we move on, let me just say that the replay value in Mario Kart 7 is through the roof as well! Not only does the game provide an adequate challenge but there is so much to see and do in the game that it never truly ends. There are tons of races on the Grand Prix alone and that doesn't even include the Time Trial, Balloon Battles, and Coin Runners mini-games or the multi-player options. If you want the definite kart racing experience that will eat up countless hours of your life, this game is by far the best choice.

Storyline: N/A

[Is it really possible to drive a go-kart underwater? Eh...who cares! :)]

Funfactor: Nintendo can seemingly do no wrong with the Mario Kart franchise. They seem to continously take an already great product and find ways to somewhat enhance the overall experience. Although it is probably too early to tell just how good this game is, it is hard to imagine a better Mario Kart game than Mario Kart 7. If you enjoy the Mario Kart series or have been on the fence as to whether or not you should buy this game, just buy the dang thing already! Seriously! ;) It truly is an incredibly fun and rewarding experience. It has to be arguably the best multi-player game to grace the Nintendo 3DS so far as well. And like all of the games before it (at least the ones I have played), this is one game that you will never get tired of playing. Now that's playing with power!

Negatives: Honestly, I am having a hard time coming up with any real issues or problems with this game! I suppose that if I had to grasp straws, I could mention that Mario Kart 7, despite its new additions, plays almost exactly the same as its predecessors. It doesn't really deviate from the core gameplay that was present back when the Super NES classic was first hitting store shelves. But then again, when you have a product this good, do you really need to do anything extraordinary?

Also, while I have nothing but positive things to say about the course selection and the balance between new courses and classic ones, some gamers might see the inclusion of retro tracks to be a somewhat cheap, "cop-out" tactic by Nintendo so that they didn't have to create too many new tracks. I don't see things that way at all but some of the more nit-picky fans might.

[Two Rainbow Road tracks in one Mario Kart game? I love it! (although many Mario Kart fans are probably shivering at that thought!)]

Ratings: Graphics: 4.7 Music: 4.5 Play Control: 4.7 Challenge: 4.5 Storyline: N/A Funfactor: 4.8 Overall Score: 23.2 out of 25.0 (4.64 average) Overall Rating: Golden Classic!!

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Last Updated: May 21, 2012
WebMaster: Matt Hull tigmo55@yahoo.com
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