Mario Kart 7 (Hands-On) (Nintendo 3DS) Preview

By Adam Riley 02.08.2011 8

Review for Mario Kart 7 (Hands-On) on Nintendo 3DS

The Mario Kart series has been going strong since its original appearance on the 16-bit Super Nintendo in the early 1990s, with one main entry gracing every Nintendo system since then. Now, Nintendo is gearing up for its seventh main release on the 3DS, following Super Mario Kart (SNES), Mario Kart 64 (N64), Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA), Mario Kart: Double Dash (GC), Mario Kart DS (DS) and Mario Kart Wii (Wii), simply being entitled Mario Kart 7. Cubed3 recently got the chance to try out a near-finished build of the highly anticipated racing game.

Adam Riley, Senior Editor

As has been the case with a lot of the current Nintendo 3DS line-up since launch, Mario Kart 7 is not actually being solely handled internally. We have seen Monster Games tackle Pilotwings Resort, Q-Games spruce up Star Fox 64 3D, Grezzo give The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D a new lick of paint, and Vitei, Inc. wave its magic wand over Steel Diver, along with the upcoming Luigi’s Mansion 2 being looked after by Next Level Games. Therefore, it is no massive surprise to learn that the reins of Mario Kart 7 have been handed over to another close Nintendo partner, this time Retro Studios, the drivers of the Metroid Prime series, plus the huge success that was Donkey Kong Country Returns. However, it should be noted that so far it has only been confirmed that Retro has lent a helping hand to the creation of some new tracks. When the full game is released it will be made clear exactly what the development split was between the two companies.

There are several new elements, or at least a couple that appear to have been regurgitated from past entries, as well as plenty of familiar aspects to keep long-term fans content. On the routine side, there is the return of fan-favourite weapons to utilise, such as the red, green and even blue shells, whilst in terms of characters the standard clan are back, with Donkey Kong, Wario, Toad, Princess Peach, Mario, Luigi, et al, except this time with the re-inclusion of Koopa Troopa. As for complete fresh additions, there is the paragliding ability that has been added to karts, the opportunity to drive under water thanks to propeller attachments, and a feature dragged back from the GameCube iteration, namely the customisation option whereby vehicles can be tweaked in numerous possible ways to change their appearance considerably.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 7 (Hands-On) on Nintendo 3DS

On the one course I had chance to test out, selecting Yoshi as my character of choice, I had the fortune to witness both the paragliding and underwater elements on the same track. The former definitely reminded me of when hitting the boost section on DK’s Jungle Parkway in Mario Kart 64 and being shot into the air, almost hanging there, moving in slow motion before crash landing and zooming off once more along the set pathway. It will undoubtedly add a whole extra level of strategy to races, with the player able to careful manoeuvre their karts in mid-air thanks to the automatically opened gliding apparatus and the accuracy of the Circle Pad for control.

As for the underwater sections, whilst the customisation element is meant to allow for different tyres to be donned in order to successfully navigate submerged areas with the greatest of ease, using a standard kart underwater did not feel much different from above ground. There was no resistance from oncoming currents, loss of tractions when moving from side to side, or other aqua-related issues. In the end it came across as a purely aesthetic extra rather than a gameplay-changing one, although perhaps more differences are noticeable when using several different types of kart through the main Grand Prix mode. Finally, visually this is on par, if not slightly crisper, than the Wii edition, and the added 3D brought a whole new level of depth to racing, similar to how it was used to great effect in Ridge Racer 3D.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 7 (Hands-On) on Nintendo 3DS

Mike Mason, Reviews/Features Editor

Indeed, visually Mario Kart 7 is extremely impressive - from my time with the game, a single playthrough of the Grand Prix on offer, it appears to be one of the best looking games on Nintendo 3DS. Effects are thrown around plentifully, with weapons like the Blooper spitting out ink that rests above the screen, obscuring the action much more effectively than in previous titles. Dipping into rivers and lakes is particularly convincing despite the liquid appearing cartoon-like from above - to be expected given Nintendo’s previous prowess with water.

Of course, with the addition of vehicle modifications, touching water no longer necessarily ruins your race; it’s actually essential to drive through it, a propeller popping out from the back of your kart to push you along as you do so. As Adamnotes, there is a disappointing lack of traction changes in this new environment, but it does allow for the exploitation of wider, multi-levelled paths. While the majority of drivers might stick to the sand right on the ocean’s bottom, a sneaky player can slip onto rock ledges and cruise along hassle free. It will be interesting to see how far this is taken in other courses.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 7 (Hands-On) on Nintendo 3DS

The vehicle alterations feel very much inspired by Monster Games’ Excitebots. Boost up special ramps and you are catapulted into the sky, only for a hang glider to burst out of the kart, allowing you to soar through the air wherever you please. Rather than the uncontrollable cannon air sections found in previous Mario Kart stages, the hang glider can be gently adjusted and steered. By moving the nose of the glider up and down you can command acceleration, either deciding to rapidly descend to get back onto solid ground post haste or remain airborne for as long as possible, avoiding the traffic below. Hold your position well and it’s possible to cut out large sections of the course - I skipped out on two or three curves by floating around peacefully as other karts tussled beneath me.

I feared that these changes would affect Mario Kart negatively, but they invigorate the series, freshening up races and giving more opportunity for different strategies. The core driving action that the franchise is known for is still as tight as ever, however - Mario Kart 7 handles well, power sliding and all. The courses shown off were all good fun too, including a Donkey Kong Country Returns level scattered with Tikis. It will be interesting to see the final mix of courses and find out how big a role the new environments play in the game as a whole, and whether they incorporate more obstacles specific to them, such as bubbles underwater, or birds in the sky.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 7 (Hands-On) on Nintendo 3DS

Final Thoughts

Mario Kart 7’s new features fit in smoothly, in far better fashion than anticipated. Provided that Nintendo fleshes these new area types into more than mere distractions, they could shift the series into a fascinating new direction. The early indication from this test drive is that Mario Kart 7 is up there with the very best entries in the franchise, combining the traditional quality we have come to expect from the series with some fresh new ideas, but at this stage it remains to be seen how far they have been pushed.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (19 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


Cool! Sounds like the new additions will be fun. And the 3D sounds like it would be really helpful for a racing game on a tiny screen. I remember playing a racing game on the DS (Asphalt: Urban GT I think it was) and I had a hard time making out what was it front of me, so I would sometimes just slam into a wall on turns. Sharper and more colorful graphics help, too, but I think the 3D could be beneficial to the gameplay.

I was under the impression that you could have either a glider or a propeller attached to your kart, but not both at the same time. It would give a clear advantage in one area, but not the other. Is this right? Or do all karts always have a propeller and glider hidden away?

If a few more great games come out, maybe I'll try to get a 3DS. Right now it's hard to justify the cost of new video games for me, though.

TAG: That American Guy

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18

I was under the impression that you could have either a glider or a propeller attached to your kart, but not both at the same time. It would give a clear advantage in one area, but not the other. Is this right? Or do all karts always have a propeller and glider hidden away?

On the levels playable in the demo there wasn't really opportunity to use both in a single stage as far as I could tell, but hang gliders and propellers were both used in a single GP. Unsure if that's going to be the case for the final game, will have to wait and see. Smilie

Really looking forward to this as. Loved the online on the DS and Wii games. Smilie

I just hope that snaking isn't possible.

It's sounding great.

I'm really looking forward to playing online with C3 members again. I had so much when we played the Wii version, back when the chat rooms were up.

( Edited 03.08.2011 11:55 by Marzy )

Bratwurst (guest) 03.08.2011#5

Doesn't cutting lots of corners make it too easy?!

The thing I really wish for is a simple track editor. It might be too complicated to create tracks in 3D, but roller coaster tycoon did I good job of that.

PMD said:
The thing I really wish for is a simple track editor. It might be too complicated to create tracks in 3D, but roller coaster tycoon did I good job of that.
This is one of the ideas I had in mind, I was talking about it whilst watching E3.

Basically, you have a track editor and much like Brawl's stage editor you can send/recieve tracks to/from friends and Nintendo distributes a new track everyday/week. (This could be either the best user made track or a Nintendo made track)

Another idea would be to have a database, where you could upload tracks to and download other users' creations.. much like Mario vs. DK 2.

Even without a track editor, I'm pretty sure this will still be a great game. I hope Nintendo adds a similar feature like the events or whatever they were called from Mario Kart Wii, they were pretty cool.

To me it just looks so bland and boring - the only "progression" seems to be the glider/propeller bits, with the rest kind of generic. Would love bikes again - definitely made Mario Kart Wii more enjoyable.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

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