Mario Kart 3D hands-on preview

At first glance, Mario Kart 3D seems like "Requisite Sequel #247," with much of the same content we've seen in prior games. The usual racers are present, the items are holdovers from past titles and the music is the same indistinguishable bounciness that's taken over the series since Double Dash!! on GameCube. But nestled among all the sameness are a few additions that set MK3D apart from its many predecessors.

Above: Flying! But watch out for those pipes!

Most notable is the inclusion of hang gliders that are tucked into each kart. When you hit specific ramps and gain sufficient air, a glider will pop out and enable you to glide across large gaps or troublesome parts of the track. It sounds utterly superfluous (and to be honest, it kinda is), but Nintendo's brought over some Pilotwings sensibilities to make that controlled descent feel natural and fun. It's also integrated into each track quite well; most of the time you're power-sliding and tossing red shells at each other as you always would, then suddenly all eight racers are thrust into the air and now must avoid dangling objects (like branches or signs) before touching down and seamlessly continuing the race.

Above: Land, sea or air - Mario's gonna race no matter what the terrain

As silly and borderline unnecessary as it sounds, I enjoyed soaring past opponents in the air, and especially liked the satisfying bounce you get when coming in too hot for a landing. I don't think it's possible to botch the landing, you just lose a bit of speed for each hop. I also look forward to finding all the hidden ramps in each course, as they let you glide over areas that can really slow you down. For example, one glider ramp is placed on a precarious ledge overlooking the water. Most racers will just drive right into the lake (triggering the kart's new underwater mode) but eagle-eyed players will spot that ramp and fly right over their heads as they trudge through the water.

Above: The 3D effects are quite good, adding a real sense of depth to each track

MK3D also allows for a small bit of kart customization. After choosing your racer, you can then select a body type and size of wheels, and then the third slot only contained the aforementioned hang glider - maybe there will be different versions that affect descent? As for wheels, picking hefty monster truck tires reduces your turning radius, but also makes you something of a battering ram, capable of jostling other karts off the track. Opting for tiny wheels, on the other hand, lets you turn on a dime but leaves you open for said jostling. There are more options in each category, but in this early build these choices were all that were available.

I gotta say, I rather enjoyed the demo. The courses, while definitely familiar, felt a little faster and more drift-friendly than Mario Kart Wii, just without the motorcycles and needless trick system the latter introduced. The racing was tight, the power-ups were silly but not ridiculous and the effortless transition from land to sea to air made each course constantly entertaining. Here's hoping the rest of the courses (as well as power-ups and kart parts) all come together to make MK3D as long-lived and fun as Mario Kart DS.


  • Festifool - September 1, 2011 8:27 a.m.

    Hopefully they'll take out the Blue shell, I hate the idea that if you're doing too well one inescapable attack can screw up your entire race.
  • Vortex10 - August 26, 2011 7 p.m.

    i dont have it, but it better have the good ol' blue shell fr5om n64 or at least the feather!aahhhh,good times......
  • can1play360 - August 1, 2011 4:26 a.m.

    This seems like a great game to get on a 3DS
  • indyplayer313 - July 25, 2011 9:37 p.m.

    New improvements sound cool, but if it has the blue demon shell I am never buying it.
  • Spybreak8 - July 25, 2011 4:01 a.m.

  • metroid2099400 - July 25, 2011 12:10 a.m.

    I'm glad to year that this is working out well. I quite like the Mario Kart series, but I must say that I was a bit freaked out when I saw the gliders and underwater sections in the E3 trailer. Will there be gyroscope controls? I was playing OoT in a car and every turn made my bow's aim swerve drastically. It wasn't really a problem there, but it'd definitely mess up my runs in a game like MK.
  • Imgema - July 24, 2011 9:54 a.m.

    "the music is the same indistinguishable bounciness that's taken over the series since Double Dash!! on GameCube" I don't understand why Nintendo has ruined Mariokart's music ever since the Gamecube version. All Mariokart games had memorable, catchy music that made the games more enjoyable. Now its jut some generic crap. I actually stopped caring for the series for that reason alone (and the blue shell of course).
  • SparkleDevon - July 24, 2011 12:37 a.m.

    I hope that for Individual battles and Battles with just your friends, there are NO TEAMS and NO TIME LIMIT. I really hated that. If that wasn't the case, I would have played balloon battle obsessively, but they screwed it up so badly it was no fun, even for offline. For online, I can understand, but still. It was ridiculous. Also, I really hope that They (re)introduce Missions, and have Global Records for Time Trial and stuff.
  • shawksta - July 23, 2011 11:58 p.m.

    Great to see its well, DS also had an interesting challenge mde,which will hopefully be added onto this one. Brett, you should know by now that the "familiar courses" are known as Retro Courses from previous mario karts all together. I just love playing battle mode on the N64 skycraper in mario kart wii @Zepaw I dont know about you but for me mario kart wii's online works %90 of the time.
  • Zepaw - July 23, 2011 11:49 p.m.

    I care most about online play. Mario Kart Wii was a failure in my eyes but I could still play Mario Kart DS all day.
  • codystovall - July 23, 2011 10:56 p.m.

    What about items?
  • Stabby_Joe - July 23, 2011 10:39 p.m.

    Mario KART... gliders? I'd cut out the obvious question and just call it Mario Racing or something at this point

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