Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS) Review

By James Temperton 19.11.2005

Review for Mario Kart DS on Nintendo DS

Mario Kart DS is a title that Nintendo hope will define not just their latest videogames console, but also one of their most striking advances into a new service ever, the Wi-Fi Connection. Since the SNES days the announcement of a Mario Kart game from Nintendo has been greeted with euphoric cheers of joy and wonder, and this time was no different. Perhaps this Mario Kart title has been a little bit more hyped than most however. If there is one thing we have always been wary of though, it is hype. We can only hope and prey that this title lives up to it, if it doesn't it is in for a big fall. Thankfully, we don't have to wait to find out and neither do you, so read on...

This is without a doubt the most comprehensive Mario Kart title to date. Not only is it packed full of new features and innovations, but it also stays true to its roots and even chucks in some retro fun for good measure. Nintendo have gone to great lengths to ensure that this is not just the ultimate Karting experience, but also the perfect title to launch their online gaming hub with. We do however have some complaints.

Everyone always tells you that you shouldn't complain about something if it is free, so we feel frightfully rude to question Nintendo's Wi-Fi service, but we are going to. In all honesty, it is a bit on the shabby side of good. Everything feels a bit unfinished, a bit rushed and a bit awkwardly integrated, allow us to explain. There is no lobby area, meaning when you go online you don't know who you are going to play against unless you ring them up and ask them to come online (or can contact them online etc.), furthermore you can only add people you know in person to your friends list, and if you race against someone a few times and happen to like them (for some reason) there is no possible way of ever getting them on your friends list. We can see why it was done, its for the little children, but it does feel a bit restrictive. The online play also represents a stripped down version of the main game, not all weapons are available and you only four people can race at once. It all comes across as a bit messy and poorly thought out, which is a great shame.

Screenshot for Mario Kart DS on Nintendo DS

What we can't complain about is the online gameplay. There is no lag, it is great fun and it makes this game what it is. The online play is a massive selling point for this title, enabling even the biggest loners in the world to be able to play multiplayer Mario Kart DS, and at the end of the day Mario Kart was always a game meant for sharing. You can play with people from all over the world, people in your specific region, your specific skill group and of course your invited mates, and what is more it is all totally free! Rushed it may be, but when you have spent a good few hours revelling in the joys of online Nintendo DS gaming you will never look back. The addition of online play is an inspired move by Nintendo and it adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay. And the online gameplay isn't the only new addition. You can connect up eight DS units wirelessly for multiplayer fun so long as you are all within about 30ft of each other. It only requires one person to own a copy of the game too.

The most pleasing aspect of this game is the size of it. There are loads of tracks to race on and modes to play in, making it the most comprehensive Mario Kart title to date. The biggest new addition is Mission Mode, where you have to complete various Kart related tasks (such as hitting crates, driving through gates and fighting monsters with shells) to progress. You get a rating for each challenge you complete and there are various different difficulty classes to tackle. It is a nice little fun addition and the perfect thing to use as a 'pick-up-and-play' bit of action. The main game lies in the single player Grand Prix mode. There are four new cups and four retro cups to try out across three different difficulty classes (50cc, 100cc and 150cc). The tracks are designed superbly, with loads of interactive elements and clever little shortcuts. They are more of a nod back to the days of the SNES original with tough cornering and challenging layouts to test even the best of racers. Some of the new tracks really are insane with boosters, rocket launchers, holes, ramps, moving scenery and falling blocks all over the place, making for a totally frenetic racing experience! The retro cups are a wonderful addition, all lovingly updated and given a fresh lick of paint they all look superb on the DS and play better than ever. Each cup comprises of a SNES, N64, GBA and GameCube track, so everyone is bound to find an old favourite.

Screenshot for Mario Kart DS on Nintendo DS

There are tonnes of characters and karts to chose from and even more to unlock and discover as you race more and more. We're not about to give anything away in this review as that would spoil the fun for you, but trust us in saying that this game gets better and better the more you play. And play it you will. Even when the computer cheats like a bugger on 150cc you will keep on coming back again and again to try and get the best times, the best grades and to unlock something new. As we hinted at there, the cheating aspect does seem to rear its ugly head again here. Well over 50% of the time you will find yourself getting overtaken on the line as you get hit by weapon after weapon when a first place finish is in sight. Either that or you will find characters who always seem slow when you race as them being able to overtake you on straight bits of track for no apparent reason. It is frustrating, but if you get good enough and race this game the best you can then you will get the better of it. At the end of the day, this game succeeds in cheating because it keeps you coming back, you will always want to beat that fricking little fungus one more time or slam the fat yellow moustached bugger into submission and win the Grand Prix. That is the magic of Mario Kart, and it is better than ever here.

Screenshot for Mario Kart DS on Nintendo DS

The handling, the look, the sound and the general feel and presentation of this game is better than ever before. There is loads to see, do and discover and what is most pleasing is how this game plays. The handling of the Karts is better than ever, unlike in the GameCube version the cornering is sharp and responsive, power-sliding is a real art to perfect, but when you do it can give you a massive advantage when racing on the harder tracks on 150cc. Each character has their own feel and style and each Kart has its own advantages and disadvantages. The game is also packed full of some great weapons. One of our favourite ones is a pick-up that turns you into a huge rocket that races itself around the course destroying everything in its path. You rarely get it though and you do have to be in seventh or eighth place to pick it up, but when you do, you will know about it! All the old favourites make a return too, ensuring that some of the smaller more frenetic tracks that are packed full of weapons become something of a free-for-all. Battle mode is as brilliant as ever with Balloon Battle and Shine Runners available for selection, the courses are all very small and very well mapped out, meaning that playing against a group of mates (or even the computer) is hilarious and frustrating.

For such a small console, the DS doesn't half pack a punch in terms of sound, and Mario Kart DS sounds gorgeous. The sound of the game booting up with a deep, booming revving noise will bring a smile to the face of even the most hardened gamer and the sound of Yoshi celebrating as his banana slips up Princess Peach to gain first place brings a full blown grin to our face every time. This game is the very definition of cute, but that doesn't make it a kid's game. Beneath all the cute sounds and delightfully innocent soundtracks is the heart of a really hardcore gaming experience.

Screenshot for Mario Kart DS on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

An inspiring way to launch Nintendo's first major foray into online gaming. Every aspect of this game just screams perfection to us. Not only is this the best Mario Kart title to date, but it is also the best DS game to date and one of the best Nintendo developed titles in recent years. A must have for all DS owners, fans of Nintendo, fans of racing and fans of good, honest old-fashioned gaming with a wonderful modern twist. Buy it. Now.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (57 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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