Watch out for Blue Shells
Well known to gaming insiders, it might surprise some Nintendo fans to find out that the Mario Kart games on the DS, Wii, and 3DS were consistent top sellers for those systems. Given the millions of sales Mario Kart has collected in recent years, its only a matter of time before the king of the kart racers come to the Wii U in some form.
But when its finally time for our next race, there are a few things we have in mind for his next race around the tracks.
Dont get too casual
The Mario Kart series has tread the fine line between casual players and hardcore fans for years, with some entries doing a better job of balancing than others. Mario Kart: Double Dash was loved by longtime kart racers, but didnt reach a wide audience. Oppositely, Mario Kart Wii simplified things, making it popular with new Wii owners while some older kart fans grumbled. Can a middle ground be found on Wii U?
Hopefully Nintendo will keep follow the example of the most recent entry on 3DS. Mario Kart 7s newer tracks had some complexity to them, power-ups like the Blue Shell were more consistent, but it still appealed to newer players with options like motion controls. Which reminds us
It needs better motion controls
Mario Kart Wii introduced motion controls to the franchise, a move that some old school fans rejected as unneeded, particularly when a cheap plastic steering wheel was added to the mix. Despite that rejection, motion controls returned in the 3DS version (along with a similar steering wheel), meaning its all but assured the function will be in the Wii U entry. So what can be done?
First off, its very fortunate that in its normal position, the GamePad is held similarly to an in-game wheel, perhaps fitting the system a good degree better than on the Wii or 3DS. More importantly, the game will likely follow the style of New Super Mario Bros. U, meaning you can play with either the GamePad or Wii Remote, so we hope that the devs upgrade and deepen the Remote controls this time around.
Give the GamePad other uses
As we just described, the GamePad and its motion controls will almost certainly be used as a simple steering option in single player races, but what else can be done with the versatile controller? Lets hope Nintendo has something better planned than a rearview mirror.
Perhaps the screen can be held sideways, allowing you to control racers like the F-Zero minigame in Nintendo Land. Or perhaps in four player races no one will hold the GamePad, it just staying in the center as a map, similar to what weve seen in Pikmin 3 demos. Or how about a five player mode that imitates New Super Mario Bros. U, letting the non-racer survey the course and drop items and obstacles in the way of the other racers? There are so many possibilities.
Add a level creator
Speaking of a ton of possibilities, the ability to play, create, and share has become a staple of the PlayStation brand over the last few years, and the recent release of LittleBigPlanet Karting (and the less-recent release of Modnation Racers) showed just how well that ideology works with kart racing. Wed love to see the next Mario Kart go where none have gone before: level creation.
Using the GamePad, level creation would be incredibly simple to execute. Drawing tracks would take but a few minutes, and populating them would be as easy as dragging and dropping little icons into the game world. Being able to create cool arenas and share them over Miiverse would be absolutely awesome, and help keep us karting for a long time.
Add even more transformations
Mario Kart titles have had some hidden complexity of late, be it customizable cars, different racer duos, or driving motorcycles, but Mario Kart 7 pushed things even farther. You could outfit you racer with a hang glider to stay in the air longer on big jumps, and every car was able to drive underwater. Both opened up many new avenues for both players and level design.
For the Wii U entry, we say let the transformations continue. Let players change their car into an off-road ATV or an imposing tank if the course calls for it. Sure, that might sound like were asking Nintendo to rip-off the most recent Sonic Racing game, but were sure Nintendo can find its own unique spin on the idea.
Include characters from outside of the Mario series
Crossovers and cameos have been around almost as long as the medium of gaming, but having guest characters is pretty indispensable at this point. Series like Soulcalibur, Final Fantasy, and Yakuza have all recently used crossovers to spice up their franchises, and Mario Karts fairly static roster could really use something like that to freshen things up.
Who should join Mario and his friends on the track? If Nintendo wants to keep things uncomplicated, the next game could just add other Nintendo characters to the game, like Link, Pikachu, or Kirby. And if Nintendo is feeling more generous, they could open the floodgates to include characters from friendly third party publishers like Namco, Capcom, or Ubisoft. making the tired collection of Mushroom Kingdom residents feel fresh again.
Restrict old courses to DLC
We revel in Nintendo nostalgia as much as the next fanboy, but Mario Kart is starting to test our tolerance for retrospection. Each release in the franchise subsists more and more on reusing old courses, with about half of the tracks in Mario Kart 7 recycled from previous games. If Nintendo is going to keep reusing old tracks, the least they can do is limit that to DLC and give players a fully new experience in the retail copy.
Nintendo is quickly becoming very accepting of selling DLC to players, and its a fine way to extend the life and--more importantly for Nintendo--the revenue of a title. The next Mario Kart will surely have DLC of some kind, so why not put it good use and partition off the reused courses? Well pay to play Moo Moo Farm or Waluigi Pinball again, especially if we enjoyed at least two dozen new courses in the retail version.
New battle modes
Just as we think the roster and the number of tracks could use some freshening up, the same goes for the battle modes. We love Balloon Battles almost as much now as when we perpetually played them in Mario Kart 64, but we need something else to keep things interesting.
Mario Kart 7 had the right idea with the Coin Runners, a competitive mode about collection the most coins instead of bursting balloons, so lets see some more of that. How about choosing your own load out of items for a match, bringing CoD style customization to the game? Or maybe even let the person holding the GamePad battle against four Wii Remote holding racers using the touch screen?
Quicker fixes to exploits
Exploits can ruin any game, but they can have a particularly damaging effect on racing games. Not long after Mario Kart 7 hit stores, players found some particularly exploitive shortcuts in a few tracks, something Nintendo needed to fix quickly to make online play fair again. And Nintendo did release a patch five months later.
If Nintendo is really serious about having an online system, the company cant wait that long to release a patch to the Wii U game. Not if it wants to keep any kind of community for the game at least. Based on the speed of updates to the consoles firmware, we have our doubts.
Please dont call it Mario Kart 8
It was a cute surprise to see Mario Kart 7 be the first numbered entry in the series, recognizing its legacy and all that. Still, numbers that high should be reserved for Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Dump the numbers with the next entry, otherwise it just makes the series feel old.
See you at the finish line
We've shared our vision of Mario Kart's future with you, but we'd love to read your ideas for the next step in kart racing. Please let us know in the comments!
Want more Wii U predictions? Read The Legend of Zelda Wii U - What we want from Link's Wii U adventure and Super Mario Wii U - What we want to see next in the Mushroom Kingdom.