Title: Mario Kart 7
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
NA Availability: Digital | Retail
EU Availability: Digital | Retail
Block Usage: 5,081
The Mario Kart series is something that’s been immensely popular among Nintendo gamers for the past 23 years, and the years just keep passing by. Every Nintendo system since the Super Nintendo (SNES) has had a Mario Kart game, including handhelds. From Super Mario Kart to Mario Kart 64 to Mario Kart Wii to Mario Kart 8, every generation of gamers have experienced this series for the first time. Personally, I began the series with Mario Kart 64, though I have gone back and played the original as well.
With so many games in the series already, there’s a lot people can do with the game, and that’s a nice aspect of the game I’m about to talk about. If you’re a 3DS owner, there is a Mario Kart game that you can enjoy, and even comes bundled with the Nintendo 2DS still. The most recent handheld Mario Kart that still has an active online community, here is my official review of Mario Kart 7!
Due to this game having no story, this section shall remain blank.
Mario Kart 7 is a 3D racing game with combat elements thrown into the mix. This is the series that practically defined the combat racing genre for other franchises, like Wipeout. During races, you are racing to be first, but you also obtain power-ups to attack your opponents with as you go through each track.
As far as content is concerned, there are 32 race tracks in the game. 16 of these are tracks recreated from previous Mario Kart games and 16 are completely new. This matches the amount of track content in its Wii U successor, Mario Kart 8. There are 16 playable characters, 8 of which must be unlocked by beating each Grand Prix Cup in 150cc/Hard Mode. You can also use your Nintendo Mii in the game.
The game has 3 ways to play the game: Single Player, Local Multiplayer, and Online Multiplayer. Single Player has most of the game modes, which I will detail shortly. The two Multiplayer Modes allows you to play with opponents, be them in the room with you with other 3DS/2DS systems or online via Wi-Fi connections in either standard Racing tracks or Battle Tracks, where you fight each other constantly for high scores.
Single Player is comprised of Grand Prix, Time Trial, Balloon Battle, and Coin Runners. Grand Prix has you going through 4-race tournaments to unlock Kart Mods and Characters through Easy, Medium, and Hard Difficulties, in the form of 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc modes. Time Trial has you racing to try to get the fastest record for a specific track. Balloon Battle has you with Balloons for health and fighting and hitting enemies with power-ups over the course of a time limit or until you lose balloons. Coin Battle has you racing and collecting as many coins littered around the track as possible.
Before you go into a track, you select karts with base models as well as customizable tired and parasols. Parasols don’t differ, but karts and tires do. Each kart has its own speed, weight, handling, etc. You can go for a high speed model with low handling if you have good reflexes for the turns or have a standard model so you can just casually drive and not worry too much about sharp turns. Tires can also change this. Bigger tires are more for speed and smaller are more for handling.
Racing through tracks is a matter of staying on the right paths and maneuvering ground, underwater, and gliding sections. Every track has various branches you can go through as well as paths that are easy to drive on and paths next to them that are not. Some might have blocked roads that’s easy to drive on and sand-based paths next to them that will slow you down if you drive through them. The main goal here is to learn the tracks so you know exactly how to drive on them.
The combat elements come from power-ups. You pick up power-up items that give you random power-ups. This could be as simple as mushrooms to give you a speed boost or koopa shells that you launch to ricochet off walls or track down enemies ahead of you to make them crash and slow down so you can catch up. There are a lot of different power-ups including a fairly new Tanooki tail power-up.
The tracks, themselves, are themed after Nintendo games and locations, the majority being of the Mario series. However, a couple of the tracks in 7 also have locations from other series, like the Wii Fit series, despite the fact that the Wii Fit Trainer is not an unlockable character in the game. Aside from the Mii, every character is from the Mario franchise.
The main differences is this is the fact that this has underwater sections where the physics change and your kart turns into a boat/kart combo. Also is the gliding sections. There are some jumping pads like boost pads that have you gliding over long distances with no ground nearby, making you glide with a parasol through the wind towards the next path. There are physics here as well with wind as well as breezes that can blow you around.
Another thing are coins that are scattered around the racetrack. You can collect up to 10 coins to take with you after completing the race. However, when you get hit by a weapon or fall off the track, you’ll lose 3 coins. Getting out of every race with 10 coins will be no easy feat. The point of collecting coins is that they’re used for unlocking new kart and tire models for use in later races, essential for the harder difficulties.
As far as time is concerned, no Mario Kart game takes a very long time to finish the Grand Prix for. If you go through 50cc mode, you won’t have issues winning every tournament and could finish all 8 tournaments in about 2 hours. What I would say, though, is that you would go through with all difficulties. You’d do 50cc to familiarize yourself with the tracks, 100cc to improve your skills, and then the challenging 150cc for unlocking characters and further preparing for multiplayer. By this, I would clock the game, outside of multiplayer, at least around 5-6 hours.
Finally, multiplayer works incredibly well. There is virtually no lag at all when you go into multiplayer matches. I’ve done nearly a dozen different matches now, races and battles both, and those online matches ran just as fluidly as single player races. The community is always active. I have never had to wait more than about 5 seconds to get a full match of people.
The controls are pretty simple to use, but there is only one thing I will say about acceleration: Owie. The thing about racing games is that the 3DS face buttons were not meant to be used in the manner of being constantly held down. Every time I used my thumb to hold down the A button for acceleration, it was strained and was stinging and in pain by the end of a single lap. The alternate button (Y) is much more comfortable, but still strains your finger. Without being able to customize the controls, I feel they should have made the triggers for acceleration and deceleration.
Now the controls. You use the Circle Pad to move around the racetrack and D-Pad is used for changing the camera angle between driver view and third person view. The two triggers are used for using power-ups with the L trigger and jumping with the R trigger. A and Y are used for acceleration. B is used for the brakes. Finally, X doesn’t do much of anything.
Nothing is wrong with the control scheme, but the buttons themselves causes that strain and ache with acceleration. The ability to customize the controls would have gone a long way.
Visually, I’ve got no complaints. It’s not a perfect-looking game, but it looks pretty nice. You can see some jagged on the XL and on the normal/2DS models, there are far less. The models don’t look perfect, but it’s a very nice looking 3DS game.
Performance I also have no issues with. There’s no lag or frame-dropping as you play the games and the load times are normally nice and quick.
Mario Kart 7 was and still is a great little casual combat racer for handheld fans. The only thing bringing it down is the way your fingers can strain with using the A and Y buttons for acceleration. Past that is a game with a big variety of tracks, active multiplayer, and only inferior to its console successor.