The five best tracks in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

The best Mario Kart game in the series got even better with the recent launch of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Nintendo Switch. It takes the highly accessible, family-friendly racing approach introduced in Super Mario Kart on the SNES and enhances everything out with gorgeous graphics, an incredible soundtrack, and a track selection that isn't afraid to go as topsy-turvy as it possibly can. First seen on the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 combines a selection of meticulously recreated classic courses along with dozens of new tracks, while the Switch's Deluxe package throws in the DLC courses for good measure. The result: 48 tracks with some of the most sublime, colorful, and outlandish layouts you'll ever throw a red shell on. After spending the past week or so racing - and re-racing - through each one of its courses, I've ranked the five best tracks in the game. Each of these courses offers a distinct glimpse at why Mario Kart 8 Deluxe deserves its spot as king of all kart racing.

5. Royal Raceway

Royal Raceway was a solid track in Mario Kart 64, and it's even better here. Take a trip around Princess Peach's castle, boost off a massive ramp, and launch yourself into the air while dodging a hot air balloon piloted by an adorable Toad. It's also got one of the most hummable themes in Mario Kart history, made even catchier with the big band upgrade in Mario Kart 8. It's just good, clean racing on an iconic course, while also taking advantage of the additional mechanics that have been added to the series over the years - proof that Mario Kart 8 is the perfect blend between greatest hits and new content.

4. Baby Park

Baby Park is pure madness. It's a tiny oval track set on an incline, putting everyone's karts in permanent anti-grav mode - which means bumping and grinding other karts is highly encouraged here for constant speed boosts. The course itself is easily the smallest in the game, but it requires the most amount of laps to complete - seven here, compared to the usual three. Also, item blocks are constantly in motion, and you're always surrounded by the opposition, regardless of what place you're in. This makes for one of the most consistently chaotic races in the entire game, but its brevity ensures it doesn't overstay its welcome. If you come to Mario Kart for item-based mayhem, this is the ultimate course.

3. Sunshine Airport

Star Cup has not one, but two of the best courses in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and the first is this airport based off of Super Mario Sunshine. I love the way it transitions from the tarmac to the air and back again; how within seconds you're dodging conveyor belts carrying luggage, to launching yourself directly into the flight path of an oncoming airplane. It's a fairly straightforward course, but the addition of the grounded plane in the opening third of the track gives you a few opportunities to shave a few seconds off your lap time - or go plowing right into a pair of giant rubber tires.

2. Big Blue

Nintendo has this strange habit lately of only tangentially acknowledging the existence of F-Zero, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is perhaps the best representation the series has enjoyed in years. Both Mute City and Big Blue feature serpentine tracks that will twist you upside down without a moment's notice, as well as glowing pads that fill up your coin cache (evoking the way they fill your boost meter in the original game). Big Blue is the better track, though, featuring multiple airborne sections, rapidly-moving conveyor belts to navigate, and a series of water slide-esque switchbacks to careen down. And how can you say no to jazzy saxophone music while you race? It's not quite the same as a new F-Zero, but Big Blue comes pretty damn close.

1. Mount Wario

Mount Wario isn't just the best track in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - it's perhaps the best track in the series' decades-long history. You start out at the summit by launching yourself out of a giant airplane, then slalom down a winding and precarious snow-and-ice-filled course, across the face of Mario Dam, and close out the descent with a final ski jump through the air. It drops the conventional circuit-based track structure for a one-and-done thrill ride from top to bottom, constantly throwing you into new situations to create a series of ever-escalating challenges. In a game filled with excellent race tracks, Mount Wario is karting perfection.

David Roberts
David Roberts lives in Everett, WA with his wife and two kids. He once had to sell his full copy of EarthBound (complete with box and guide) to some dude in Austria for rent money. And no, he doesn't have an amiibo 'problem', thank you very much.