As far as I can remember, this was the very first game that belonged to me. Sure we had other games for the SNES, played arcade games, but this was the game that was mine, the game I owned. Obviously I let other people play it. The SNES wasn’t specifically mine, but the game was, and it was a game that would show me that normally racing games are boring.
Released in 1993 in Europe (later than the rest of the world, something that thankfully is mostly a thing of the past) for the Super Nintendo. It is a kart racing game, in fact it’s the first of the mascot racers. Taking beloved characters from a franchise, giving them some kind of vehicle and have them race through tracks related to their games with a bunch of power ups and weapons to aid them in taking first place.
The game lets you pick one of 8 racers. All rounders Mario and Luigi, light weight Yoshi and Peach, beginners Toad and Koopa Troopa and heavy weights Bowser and Donkey Kong jnr (this game came out a little before Donkey Kong Country reinvented that franchise, of note this was jnrs last prominent appearance, but there are theories to explain that). As far as I’m aware the 2 characters from the weight brackets play exactly the same and it’s really there so people can choose the weight class they like in 2 player mode and not worry about the other player sniping it.
The game is split into 2 speed settings and 3 cups, a 4th cup and 3rd speed setting unlocked by playing the game. Players of later Mario games will recognise these as 50cc and 100cc with 150cc being unlocked upon completing Special Cup (which is unlocked by completing the other three cups, Mushroom, Flower and Star in 100cc, though there is a cheat to unlock that early, I miss those). The 8 racers all set off with 2 characters chosen as your rivals depending on which character you picked. These are AI characters and the most primitive the series has had, to the point they just move on a pre programmed line unless interfered with and don’t even use items, instead using unique special attacks such as Peach throwing poison mushrooms. (Don’t worry, blue shells don’t exist yet anyway, lightning was the big super item here).
The tracks are notably shorter than they will become but go for 5 laps instead of 3, and even then you will probably complete a race quicker than its next entry 64s examples. With the more basic controls I often found the race track to be my real enemy rather than the basic computer controlled line of people.
But of course that’s just single player, and it’s the multiplayer that made this game famous. Not only do you have races against your friend (assuming you have a second controller) but you can also face them in the famous battle mode. Choosing one of 4 arenas you need to grab weapons such as green shells and banana peels to hit your opponent so they lose all their balloons. To be honest most of what you will do is fire green shells unsuccessfully hoping to get a red shell and pray your opponent doesn’t have a feather (an item only recently returned to the game).
Long term players of the series may find the controls a lot more basic such as the lack of power slide boosting but the game is a fun experience especially with a friend. So come along and experience the origin of Mario’s most famous spin off series. There’s a reason this game was at one point listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best game in the world.