Super Mario Kart launched in North America on September 1st, 1992 on the Super Nintendo. It was the first entry in what is now known as one of Nintendo fans most loved franchises.
F-Zero provided the Nintendo development team the inspiration to create a cart racer. The new game was developed under the direction of Shigeru Miyamoto. Mode 7, a graphics mode that allows a background layer to be rotated and scaled on a scanline-by-scanline basis to create many different effects were used for the game. F-Zero, Terranigma, Super Castlevania IV and Secret of Mana were some of the games that used Mode 7. This graphic card was one of Nintendo’s prominent selling points for the Super NES platform which allowed graphic modeling for a pseudo-three-dimensional appearance.
Originally, the single player Grand-Prix mode was meant to support two player split screen. However, due to the Super Nintendo’s hardware limitations, this was an unachievable feat. To allow for multiplayer, the developers introduced battle-mode which was a versus combat mode pitting players against each other in a three-life weapon enhanced battle arena. One of the last major development decisions, which gave the franchise its identity, was the inclusion of racers from the Mario universe. A decision that was only made in the last couple of months of development. The game could have been very different and far less popular if generic racers were the focal point of the game.
Super Mario Kart was a raging success both critically and commercially. Critics praised the graphical beauty of the game. More importantly for gamers, reviewers were entranced by Super Mario Kart’s gameplay that was highly addictive and had great replayability. Super Mario Kart has an aggregated score on GameRankings of 93.60%.
In retrospect, Super Mario Kart has gained praise from many media outlets and from the video game industry. It is listed on the IGN’s (#8, 2017), Game Informer’s (#33,2010) and Edge’s (#14, 2007) list of the greatest games of all-time. It has even been ranked in the Guinness Book of Record (Gamer Edition) in 2009 as the #1 best console game of all time. By the end of the Super Nintendo’s life cycle, over 9 million copies were sold, making it the third best-selling Super Nintendo game of all time.
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Mario Kart has spawned multiple sequels across consoles, handhelds, and arcade. It has become one of Nintendo’s Foundation franchises and each iteration of the game sells millions of copies globally. Although Super Mario Kart has not sold as many copies as some of its successors. The Mario Karts we enjoy today, such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, owe their success and mechanics to the original. There have been 12 sequels in total with the latest release of Mario Kart Arcade GP VR (Arcade release, 2017).
Super Mario Kart created the cart racing genre. Many developers have created clones in an attempt to steal some of the market shares of the Mario Kart series. Notable copies include Diddy Kong Racing, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, and Crash Bandicoot Racing. All attempts to emulate the Mario Kart formula by other developers have not been as successful and only mark up a small proportion of the market share.
There have been many re-releases of Super Mario Kart over the years on Nintendo’s Virtual Console. It has appeared on the 3DS, Wii and Wii U. Thankfully for Mario and Kart enthusiasts, Super Mario Kart is a part of the Super Nintendo Classic’s game library. The new retro console is due to be released globally on the 29th of September. If you were lucky enough to pre-order one of the Super Nintendo Classic Editions, I highly recommend you play Super Mario Kart and learn where the franchise started.