Critical Hit | 8 Examples of Mario Kart 8's Broken Item Balancing

By Jorge Ba-oh 30.12.2014 10

Critical Hit | 8 Examples of Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart is arguably one of the biggest racing franchises out there, having spawned a series of successful and memorable games since its inception on the Super Nintendo console many moons ago.

Its multiplayer drive comes through the simple learning curve, tight circuit designs and most importantly, those deadly items.


From simple banana peels to the devastating "Blue Shell," each game has introduced new weaponry to the Mario Kart arsenal.
 
Mario Kart 8 is the latest entry on Nintendo Wii U, combining elements from past games, together with new items and an anti-gravity mechanic, into a stunning HD package. The game has gotten rave reviews across the board, and is one of those all-important evergreen titles to keep enticing new players to Nintendo's home console.
 
However, since playing hours, upon hours, of the game's highly competitive online mode, together with local multiplayer, something seems amiss: the items.

Image for Critical Hit | 8 Examples of Mario Kart 8
Bullet Bill in Fourth Place (12 Person Race)


Since launch, Mario Kart 8 has had its fair share of critics when it comes to the balancing of items between the pack, the lack of key items across multiple races, the lack of defensive items in the upper positions.
 
Several theories also seem to justify the balancing based on how far players are from first place - with more intense weapons - like the "Star" or "Bullet Bill" being awarded if a player is far back from the rest of the pack. Single items, like "Bananas", "Mushroom" and "Green Shell", are said to be more commonplace when the bulk of the pack are tightly knit.
 
However, in reality it doesn't seem to always work out that way - continual "Coin" items can dampen a solid first-place run, whilst single shells and bananas can make a comeback from the tail-end of the pack near impossible.
 
The traditionally stronger items - "Triple Red Mushrooms" and the Star seem to be toned-down in Mario Kart 8, granting only a minor boost in speed.
 

Image for Critical Hit | 8 Examples of Mario Kart 8
Single Mushroom in 11th Place (12 Person Race)


The worst offender, however, is the balancing of items - players can end up with a Bullet Bill in 3rd place (in a 12 person race), or a single Green Shell whilst trailing far behind in last. A player can also be awarded with a single Mushroom, whilst the person who just scooped an item seconds before receives a set of three Red Shells, making the Mushroom a tad bit redundant.
 
On the plus side, the frequency of the Lightning and Blue Shell items do seem balanced and fair (on regular/default settings), only appearing in minimal capacity during races. That said, even these items are also being awarded in strange positions - having been granted a Blue Shell in 3rd place (in a twelve person match), for example.
 

Image for Critical Hit | 8 Examples of Mario Kart 8
Triple Red Shells in 2nd Place (10 Person Race)
Image for Critical Hit | 8 Examples of Mario Kart 8
Single Green Shell in 10th Place (10 Person Race)
Image for Critical Hit | 8 Examples of Mario Kart 8
Rotating Shells Don't Register as a Collision
Image for Critical Hit | 8 Examples of Mario Kart 8
Coin item in 7th Place (12 Person Race)
Image for Critical Hit | 8 Examples of Mario Kart 8
Lucky 8 Item in 3rd Place (12 Person Race)
Image for Critical Hit | 8 Examples of Mario Kart 8
Increase distance with the pack intentionally - still get single green shell in last place

 

Proposal for Improvement


It's difficult to get the perfect or most ideal scenario for all players, but there are certainly aspects of the game that - with tuning - can improve the experience considerably:
  • Reduce the frequency of the Coin item - particularly at the beginning and end of the races, to avoid those who are ahead of the pack being penalised despite driving well to get ahead.
  • Prevent those in lower positions from getting redundant items - like single shells, Bloopers or Mushrooms.
  • Prevent those in higher positions from getting stronger items - like Bullet Bills, "Crazy Eight", Blue Shells or Triple Shells.
  • Reduce the number of Triple Red Mushrooms awarded in favour of Golden Mushrooms, Triple Red Shells, Bullet Bills, and Stars for those trailing behind.
  • Improve the speed gains for items like Stars and Triple Red Mushrooms.
  • Consider bringing back the option to pick up an extra item (if one is being held out already).
What are your thoughts on the Mario Kart 8 item balancing system - does it work, is it fair? Do Nintendo need to patch the game?

User Poll: Can Mario Kart 8's Item Balancing Be Improved?

Definitely! Needs an overhaul.
Yes, some areas can be improved.
No, leave as it is.
Box art for Mario Kart 8
Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Driving

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (4 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

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Comments

and THAT!!! is why I still play 7 over 8 any day of the week. It's honestly one of the most balanced Mario Karts ever which is sad how a handheld beats out the console version. The good news is with SSB4 Nintendo is getting used to "Patching" so to speak so it is "Possible" they fix 8. Until then I'll stick with either 7 or the N64 version.

They need to cut down on triple mushrooms, or just not make EVERYONE get them. They become so useless since everyone gets them. There's also been a lot of races where I get absolute trash weapons and I'm right at the back. Stuff like a single green shell and loads of single mushrooms, which is never going to help ever!

The balance seems so weird in MK8, I definitely think they hit the nail on the head with MK7. I never remember complaining much about weapons in that game.

Stuff like a single green shell and loads of single mushrooms, which is never going to help ever!

Definitely - those weak items at the back are useless, particularly the green shells when there's no-one in front. Needs more Golden Mushrooms, at least, or stars. Stars seem a bit gimped this time round, though.

and THAT!!! is why I still play 7 over 8 any day of the week. It's honestly one of the most balanced Mario Karts ever which is sad how a handheld beats out the console version.

True - I agree, didn't have many issues with that one.

Really, they need to make it more like MKWii (just less frantic) and MK7.

 

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer
Guest 01.01.2015#4

Viendra said:
and THAT!!! is why I still play 7 over 8 any day of the week. It's honestly one of the most balanced Mario Karts ever which is sad how a handheld beats out the console version. The good news is with SSB4 Nintendo is getting used to "Patching" so to speak so it is "Possible" they fix 8. Until then I'll stick with either 7 or the N64 version.
meh 8 was better 7. mario kart 7 was a bad retro studios game which made me hesitant to purchase it at first. come on man 8 is waaay better than mario kart wii AND 7. SAY IT!

OT: trust me they will patch it by the time mario kart 8's 2nd dlc comes out if you people gather enough people on miiverse and make some NOISE. maybe it will happen before the 2nd pack comes out.

( Edited 01.01.2015 06:06 by Brando67854321 )

Our member of the week

Mmmh while I DO win more often at MK7 than 8, I still do prefer 8 overall for the actual racing. The only things really bothering me, and I've been saying so quite a few times already in the forums Smilie, are the item balancing and the battle mode which is utterly crap XD. But the actual racing I prefer way wayyyy more in 8 and also the online seems to be more stable for me in 8 than in 7. Both games are good in my opinion, but my own preference still goes to 8. It's the most fun I had with a MK game in a long time and for me it's not quite as frantic as MKWii, at least against the CPU, it's far more bearable.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Well the main thing to admit is its all opinion based. For me N64 will always be the best. Hopefully Nintendo fixes 8 soon

Yeah, I'm the same, Rudy. Despite some problems, I still love Mario Kart 8 the most of any Mario Kart game. The actual racing is perfection and the most polished of any of the games in the franchise.

Our member of the week

Marzy said:
Yeah, I'm the same, Rudy. Despite some problems, I still love Mario Kart 8 the most of any Mario Kart game. The actual racing is perfection and the most polished of any of the games in the franchise.

Like I think Liam or Lewis said in one of our online sessions though, I also feel it kinda loses its replayability because the battle mode is crap. You could alternate between battle and races in the other MK games but here, you'll think twice before hopping into a battle mode, because the lack of proper arenas kills it... not to mention the lack of different battle modes other than balloon battle.

For me Mario Kart Double Dash had the best Battle modes, but not the best arenas. Best arenas, I 'm not sure which one that would be. MKDS I guess, cause it had Block Fort from MK64 Smilie. I can't remember the name of the kinda similar arena in MKWii too, which I loved as well Smilie. Battle Arenas should have been brought back already and most certainly NOT as paid DLC !!

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Interesting to read other people's thoughts. Before this article I would not have thought I would be in the minority here in thinking that Mario Kart 8 does item balancing very well.

Andross (guest) 14.05.2015#10

Yes! The item system in this game is utterly broken. I have never gotten a bullet in the entire time that I'm playing, where's others seem to get them all the time. Also, in this game it seems to be possible for multiple people to get bullets at the same time, where as in previous games it seemed only one at a time. But by far the worst offender is are the mushrooms, which pop up far to frequently in 3-1st place.

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