25 years of Mario Kart: 6 ways it changed racing games forever

by admin September 9, 2017 at 12:47 pm

This year marks a quarter century of Mario Kart. Nintendo’s casual racing classic might not boast the painstaking realism of Gran Turismo or the exhaustive and officially-licenced garage of Forza. But the instantly gratifying gameplay, intense focus on multiplayer action and use of some of video game’s most famous characters has allowed it to shift over 100 million copies worldwide, with Mario Kart Wii ranking as the best-selling racing game of all time with over 35 million sales. 

While it might not dazzle in the same way as more serious racing titles, Mario Kart’s influence has been felt across the entire genre; here are six ways it indelibly altered the racing landscape forever.

The original game’s SNES box art

It gave us the power slide

One of Mario Kart’s trademarks is the power-slide, achieved by tapping one of the shoulder buttons to jump, then drifting elegantly around tight corners. Prior to the release of Super Mario Kart in 1992, racing games had merely toyed with the concept of sliding your car around the tarmac – this was the first time that players had direct control over such an ingenious mechanic. 

The result was a title that, while easy for inexperienced players to enjoy, offered incredible depth for those who wished to shave seconds off their lap times by mastering this game-changing drifting technique. Namco’s Ridge Racer arrived in arcades in the following year and would arguably popularize the power-slide further, but Mario Kart is really where our love affair with the concept began.

One of many imitators

It created its own genre

Those of us old enough to remember the announcement of Super Mario Kart may well recall the intense skepticism felt at hearing that Nintendo’s famous mascot would be swapping action-platforming for kart-based racing; at the time, many felt it was a clear case of the Japanese company shoehorning its golden goose into genres he simply didn’t belong (although it should be noted that Mario also starred in 1988’s Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally, so he did in fact have prior form on the race track). 

However, history has proven that it was a leftfield masterstroke so typical of Nintendo, and Super Mario Kart not only birthed a 100 million-selling series, but also created an entire subgenre of racers into which rival developers would frantically pour their own efforts. While few of these have been successful in emulating Nintendo’s effort, notable examples such as Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed, Crash Team Racing and Diddy Kong Racing came close, and all owe a massive, massive debt to the iconic 1992 SNES release.