Mario Kart 8 was pretty astonishing when it first raced across our screens six months ago. Taking the tried-and-true formula of the series, it gave us some of the best track designs yet, some all-new features, a changed item system, and a flawless online. To top it all of was a solid roster and absolutely beautiful visuals and animations. We gave it a 9 in our review. So obviously, the DLC has a lot to do if it wants to live up to the standards set by the main game. The question is: does it? Absolutely; in fact, I’d argue that the DLC is even better.
Three of the eight new tracks – spread across two cups, the Egg Cup and the Triforce Cup – are remakes of tracks that appeared previously in the series. The other five are brand new courses. And honestly? Most are even more fun than the main game’s tracks. Why this is I find hard to explain. They are somewhat harder, for one. But I found that the races were closer, yet more fair, than ever, and they’re just so much fun to drive and race on. They nail that sheer sense of unadulterated fun and exhilaration, yet still maintain an excellent atmosphere, in a way that few of even MK8‘s courses managed to do.
I also found them to be visually incredible. Mario Kart 8 is no stranger to gorgeous environments, but these new tracks are better than ever. Mute City, especially, blew me away, and every single course has plenty of gorgeous sights and painstaking attention to detail. Oh, and the music? Amazing. Both the remixes (Hyrule Field!) and the all new tracks are as excellent as ever.
Online, you can choose to play with the DLC tracks or not. It works just as well as ever, though the lack of an option to play with ONLY the new tracks is rather bothersome – too often everyone would pick a new track except for one or two people who would pick a course from the original game, and the computer chose that one; or more commonly, the computer only gives the option to play on old tracks for a round. Including a way to JUST play on the DLC courses would have been great. Still; it’s a small issue.
With eight tracks, it would have been understandable if that was all Nintendo included in the DLC, but they didn’t stop there: they also included three new characters and several new karts and accessories. Though two of the characters are just dressed-up versions of other characters (Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach), it’s still an admirable addition. Everything looks as gorgeously animated and designed as ever, and having several new karts/accessories/characters to play around with is a joy. This DLC is a must-buy just thanks to the new tracks, but these other additions really put it over the top.
But it’s time to address the elephant in the room: Link is now a playable character in Mario Kart! Wooo!!!! There’s also Zelda and F-Zero inspired Karts and accessories, and to top it all off, there are new courses based off of The Legend of Zelda, F-Zero, and Excitebike series.
Honestly, this has been a long time coming. Limiting Mario Kart to just Mario characters has felt moot for a couple generations now. Expanding it to more franchises, making it “Nintendo Kart” in a sense, makes for more possibilities from a thematic, visual and potentially even gameplay perspective. It also makes for the “Smash Bros. effect,” where fans can freak out just for the fact that these characters are coming together like this, and it can even inform the more casual players about these characters and franchises.
This isn’t really unprecedented, actually. Donkey Kong and Mario haven’t shared a main series game in decades, and Diddy/Funky Kong have absolutely nothing to do with Mario, yet were in Mario Kart Wii anyways. There’s no way they’ll ever change the name, even if more Nintendo characters come in, of course – Mario Kart is one of their biggest names, and they’d never change it. Nor should they. Even so, this DLC is a hugely promising as to expanding the possibilities of the series going into the future.
All-in-all, Mario Kart 8‘s first DLC pack is utterly remarkable. Not only is the track design better than ever, not only do they add new characters and karts, and not only does it live up to the visual and online standards of the main game – it even expands the possibilities of what Mario Kart can be. It’s always possible to nitpick; yeah, they still haven’t fixed Battle Mode, and it’d be nice to only play the new courses online; but for eight dollars, it’s an absolute steal in every way.