Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a behemoth. Since its release shortly after the Switch, Mario’s latest motorsport excursion. That means nearly 50% of all Switch owners have picked it up, an absolutely astounding success rate for a title that was originally released on WiiU.
It also means that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best selling entry in the franchise, beating even Mario Kart Wii, which Nintendo released on a console with an install base of over 100 million Wii consoles out in the wild. And that’s if you don’t include the sales of the Wii U version of Mario Kart 8. It’s a juggernaut, an unparalleled success in pure sales terms, but also an absolutely incredible Mario Kart game.
So, considering Mario Kart 8 is essentially a game from 2014, and the fact the Switch install base is also slowly creeping towards 100 million units, a lot of Nintendo fans are asking “where on earth is Mario Kart 9?” Well, I’m here to tell you that I really, really, don’t want it. Not yet.
As a franchise, Mario Kart typically only makes one appearance on a console, and that title sells well as an evergreen purchase for the entire console’s lifespan. You’re picking up a Nintendo console? Well, then you want to pick up Mario Kart as well. That’s always been the way. If you’ve been a Nintendo fan for the past ten years, you might also remember that the Wii U was dropped fairly quickly, not giving the exceptional Mario Kart 8 a fair shake.
Nintendo did the smart thing, and instead of taking years to develop the next title, it added a few characters, included all the previous DLC, sprinkled in a much-requested battle mode, and released what is arguably the definitive Mario Kart experience on their brand new console. That decision paid off with huge dividends, as Mario Kart 8 regularly reappears in the top sales charts across the world, especially around holidays when more people are picking up their very first Switch.
Well, it’s been nearly five years since the release of Mario Kart 8. So why don’t I want a Mario Kart 9 yet? Well, for one thing, Nintendo basically future-proofed this Mario Kart by making it one of the most visually impressive titles it has ever delivered. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe holds up, thanks to fantastic visuals and a rock-solid framerate, and especially with the DLC courses, this is still easily one of the best looking games on Nintendo Switch.
I just don’t see right now what Mario Kart 9 could do to set itself apart from 8. Without a radical shift in either design or gameplay, this will feel like just another Mario Kart. And whether it deserves to be treated like that or not, another entry on Switch will struggle to sell compared to its predecessor which is a known quantity. Mario Kart is designed both for the hardcore fans of the series, as well as the casual console owner. Having two different Mario Kart games on the shelves for Switch would be confusing to the consumer, and I just don’t think Nintendo would want that with its premier brand.
The launch window for Nintendo Switch with Breath Of The Wild on day one, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe not long after will go down as some of the finest months in gaming history. Whether it was still largely the same Wii U game or not, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still an incredible video game. Being able to rip off a Joy-Con and share a few laps with friends in the pub was a revelation. In fact, it still is and has only improved with the arrival of the Switch OLED.
For me, the bottom line is that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still a damn-near masterpiece of entertainment to this day, and fits so perfectly alongside the Nintendo Switch you’d forget it was ever on another console. While a new entry feels about due if you look at the numbers, that feels like missing the point of Mario Kart. It comes along once in a blue moon, but each entry stakes its claim in the cultural lexicon and is remembered by children, university students, and gamers everywhere.
Do I want another Mario Kart? Eventually, but I want it to impress me more than Mario Kart 8 does, and for that, we’ll likely need new hardware. Could the mythical Switch Pro bring this down the line? Perhaps, but Nintendo would never make a Mario Kart title exclusive to newer hardware and ignore the millions of original Switch owners, so it wouldn’t be much of an improvement for most, and that’s hard to sell both initially and years down the line.
I’m not saying it’s beyond Nintendo to add a concept so gratifying it necessitates a separate game either. I’d drop money on a Double Dash sequel in a heartbeat. Maybe we could explore the sea and air like in Diddy Kong Racing? Maybe they add any number of other features that the geniuses at Nintendo are cooking up? But, I still don’t know how it would look any better, and it would also have to be very, very significant to explain the reasons for not just adding any concepts as DLC to the current Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and its 40 million owners instead.
So, what do I want you ask? Updates, DLC, a new mode or two. More than anything else, I want Nintendo to look at the near 40 million owners of an existing game and decide to do something with an established title. Other games would kill to have a player base so huge and would fill every possible second of it with microtransaction and v-bucks. Instead, I think an update with a couple of new modes would shake up the game well enough, but paid DLC could really set things off.
I never want Nintendo Kart, it doesn’t roll off the tongue and loses Nintendo decades of brand awareness. However, I wouldn’t mind if a couple of other Nintendo characters made a little appearance in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. I think a paid DLC with characters from Star Fox, maybe throw Kirby in, perhaps Samus with her famous gunship, and hell maybe even Pikachu and a couple of poké-pals would reignite interest in the game all over again.
Maybe even bring back the mission structure from Mario Kart DS, give players some interesting things to do with their kart skills and even some fearsome bosses to beat. Now that would warrant throwing down a few extra bucks, and wouldn’t change the game for the many people that would stick to the original when playing online. I know, I’m asking a lot, and it’s also probably a good thing that Nintendo releases polished, premium products instead of delivering broken games with the promise of adjustments down the line in the name of live service. So, what I also suggest is that Nintendo puts Mario Kart 8 back on the shelves with this new DLC in the cart.
You can make a joke about it, call it Mario Kart 8 Double Deluxe if you want, but it would still sell gangbusters and could be the smartest thing Nintendo could do when it already sold nearly 40 million copies of the game, while insisting the Nintendo Switch is still only half-way through its life cycle.
So yes, I want a Mario Kart 9 eventually. But I want it on the next Nintendo console, with all the graphical improvements that brings, and I want that Mario Kart game to last another five or six years until the next console. So given the unusual circumstances around this Mario Kart, Nintendo should look at the incredible existing player base it has built and offer those fans a little bit more for now. I could happily keep playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the next four years, but I’d be even happier with a tiny bit more to do. And that’s why I don’t want Mario Kart 9. Not yet anyway.