Mario Kart: Super Circuit (Game Boy Advance) Review

By Adam Riley 02.02.2003

Review for Mario Kart: Super Circuit on Game Boy Advance

Mario Kart, a game of legends. There is so much positive press surrounding the plumber’s spin-off game that no real introduction should be needed. In fact, does yet another review need to be written? Well, since its UK release on the 14th September, 2001, Intelligent System’s game hasn’t sold in the mass numbers that it deserves to. So obviously there are some poor, misguided souls that have yet to experience this sublime racing game. So on with the review!

The line-up is back: Wario, Donkey Kong, Bowser, Toad, Princess Toadstool, Yoshi and the infamous Mario Brothers, Luigi and Mario. Once again they are to go head-to-head across many different-themed courses in an attempt to win the Super Circuit tournament. Not much of a storyline, but one at least it’s simple and to the point.

This game is another example of how technically marvellous the GameBoy Advance is, and just what can be achieved by developers if they take the time and care to produce the best results on the system. Many assumed that the game would be based entirely on the Super Nintendo iteration’s graphical engine, since the GBA was, and still is to some extent, touted by many in the Industry as a portable SNES. Many a jaw hit the floor after viewing the game in action though, as what is present is far beyond the capabilities of the 16-bit machine from years gone by – this looked like a mini-version of Mario Kart 64! All of the character and item sprites from the home console edition looked as if they’d been plucked out of the large cartridge and shrunk to fit into the dinky little GBA cartridge. This, plus the charming and bright backgrounds and track-side features make this game one of the graphical stand-outs on the handheld, even today!

Screenshot for Mario Kart: Super Circuit on Game Boy Advance

Plinky-plonky, Japanese-y in-game music. It is certainly not to everyone’s liking, but in this reviewer’s opinion it couldn’t be better! Why? Well this game can cause a lot of frustration, and the music being so bright and happy prevents you from launching your little console right across the room in anger at times. Hook your system up to either headphones or your speaker system and you will definitely benefit – as you will gain access to the wonderful Stereo Mode that is otherwise wasted on the GBA’s simple Mono speaker. On top of the music are the delightful sound effects and voices that are present. Again there are the *blings* of collecting coins throughout the courses, the little *boings* and *screeches* that the karts make when hopping or skidding round corners, the noises made when collecting items boxes, amongst many other staple Mario Kart effects. But in addition to this are voices, which is an impressive feat in itself, yet even more so when considering the fact that virtually all of the N64 version ones are included – yes, all the various taunts and minor-insults return in full force. It makes you wonder how they managed to fit everything into such a small cartridge.

Screenshot for Mario Kart: Super Circuit on Game Boy Advance

Often Nintendo talks about ‘quality over quantity’, but thankfully that idealism has been dropped for this title. There are the eight characters to choose from (mentioned at the start of this review) and an initial twenty tracks to race on in either Grand Prix mode or Time Trial. Depending on how well you race and how many coins you collect along the way, more tracks and Time Trial options become available. To do this, though, you must first of all master the controls. From utilising the wealth of items available to you, to hopping and drifting round corners, to gaining that elusive speed boost at the start of the race, it will take a while to become the supreme King of Mario Kart. Those coming off the back of the SNES and N64 versions will find that handling is slightly more ‘loose’ than before, and that emphasis is put more on ‘hopping’ around corners and over objects than is on ‘drifting’. Due to the nature of the GBA layout, the controls can be cramped at times, and this becomes especially annoying when having to hop round yet another of the prevalent U-turns with the R-shoulder button, whilst trying to keep hold of the L-shoulder button so that a shell or banana skin is protecting your rear. Most of the time your finger will naturally move off the L button as you rapidly hop to avoid crashing into a wall, which can lead to an array of abusive words being flung at the screen as your protection suddenly disappears out of sight. There is a welcome return from the SNES version, in the collection of coins that not only open up new tracks as previously mentioned, but also increase your kart’s speed during races. In later races the collection of these can be vital to your victory. It is all of these little things added together that make this the ultimate package – and one that will be difficult to improve upon in the future.

Screenshot for Mario Kart: Super Circuit on Game Boy Advance

Twenty initial courses, three levels of racing difficulty (50CC, 100CC and 150CC), a Time Trial option where you can race against your own ghost, the option of trading saved ghosts with friends, the ability to unlock the twenty original SNES Mario Kart tracks, multi-player racing (only on the SNES tracks with multi-coloured Yoshi’s for those with just one cartridge, though) and the lovely battle stages all make for a game that will still be in the back of your mind when the next-generation of handhelds come to fruition.

Screenshot for Mario Kart: Super Circuit on Game Boy Advance

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Some may try to tell you otherwise, but this is the definitive version of Mario Kart, and a perfect way to warm up your karting skills in the run-up to the GameCube’s forthcoming release. Thoroughly recommended.


Intelligent Systems







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (15 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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