Fans give Mario Kart 64 the HD remaster it deserves

Mario Kart 64 HD
(Image credit: Nintendo/Andrat)

An incredible fan remaster project has brought Mario Kart 64 into the HD era, remodeling and retexturing all the game's original characters and environments with an eye toward a crisp, clean presentation.

Mario Kart 64's characters used a technique similar to that of Donkey Kong Country. The devs created what were, for the era, highly-detailed 3D character models, and then converted them to 2D sprites that could be easily displayed on the old hardware. The effect was pretty impressive at the time, but these sprites don't hold up so well when blown up to modern display resolutions on today's screens.

The folks behind Mario Kart 64 HD have taken the next logical step, then - they've recreated those old 3D models from scratch in order to make more detailed sprites and insert them back into the game, alongside the usual texture upgrades you'd expect from a fan remaster project. The mod has been in various stages of development and availability for years at this point, but a newly-released trailer shows just how good it can look.

The mod is available on GitHub (opens in new tab), though you might have better luck getting it up and running if you follow the instructions available through the Enhanced64 Discord (opens in new tab). The upgraded textures can be run alongside the game through a variety of N64 emulators, or through Dolphin.

Project lead Andrat is already working on their next mod, too - a similar HD upgrade for Mario Party 2.

Ran remaster projects have been getting increasingly robust in the past few years, with efforts on the way to do things like inject 60 FPS and ray tracing options directly into emulated N64 games. Fan-made PC ports of games like Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time are offering even more impressive improvements.

Did you know we could've had an official no-item mode in Mario Kart 64?

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.