Mario Kart 8 (opens in new tab) brought the decades old series back to form in eye-popping HD, making the crushing kart combat feel new all over again on the Wii U. The anti-gravity racing, expanded roster, and online component helped keep the series current, but Nintendo wasn't finished when the game shipped in May 2014. Following Mario Kart 8's first DLC roll-out last year, the second pack is revving its engine for an early release on April 23. And its not just showing off either, because there's something serious under this hood: a new 200cc mode, more brutal and challenging than any mode that's come before. If the thought of hairpin turns and crazy speeds in 150cc haunt your dreams, 200cc will probably give you night terrors, and it's going to be awesome. That's not all the DLC has to offer though, and several new characters, costumes, and courses will be showing up as well. Want the who, what, and when of the Mario Kart 8 DLC? Well then, start your engines!
Animal Crossing joins the fun in May
The next big update will add even more sugary sweetness to Mario Kart, a feat some thought impossible. The Villager will hop onto the Mario Kart race track with a custom vehicle, accompanied by his ever-present adviser Isabelle, who seems to have been hiding a secret love of racing under her town management expertise. They'll bring along four new vehicles and eight new courses, including an idyllic Animal Crossing stage complete with changing seasons. Or at least it will be idyllic until engines start roaring.
Perhaps to balance out the extra cute Animal Crossing characters, the third addition in the DLC is Dry Bones Bowser. If you thought the giant lizard was scary before, how about facing his reanimated corpse? First seen in New Super Mario Bros., this imposing variation on the Koopa King last raced in Mario Kart Wii, and is now ready to strap some anti-gravity boosts onto his grim kart.
The Amiibos are coming
Nintendo is getting into the toy market hardcore with the launch of Amiibos this fall. The first dozen figures include Mario (opens in new tab), Link (opens in new tab), Samus Aran (opens in new tab), Kirby (opens in new tab), Fox (opens in new tab), Donkey Kong (opens in new tab), Pikachu (opens in new tab), Peach (opens in new tab), Marth (opens in new tab), Yoshi (opens in new tab), Villager (opens in new tab), and Wii Fit Trainer (opens in new tab), which will also unlock costumes in Mario Kart 8. In addition, amiibos for Mega Man, Pac-Man, Sonic, Toad, Wario, Villager, Rosalina, Bowser and Olimar will similarly be available as costumes with the release of the game's second DLC pack.
Here's how it works. You take your Kirby Amiibo and place it on the Gamepad while in Mario Kart 8's new Amiibo menu that's added in the free update. That Kirby then unlocks an adorable Kirby racing suit for your Mii to wear, complete with a Kirby face on the back of the helmet. It's not as deep as some may have hoped, but they're a clever little bonus all the same.
Link is burning rubber all across Hyrule
Link may be the Hero of Hyrule, but outside of trading punches in Super Smash Bros., the elfin lad has stayed pretty separate from Mario and friends. That changes in the November's DLC, as Link will be available as a downloadable racer with a matching bike. You haven't lived until you've seen the wonderfully ridiculous visual of Link on a motorcycle.
And to go with Link is the nearly as ludicrous Hyrule raceway. The new track drops players into Hyrule's main thoroughfare, sending racers drifting through the castle, the shrine to the Master Sword, and more. If you find the right secret path, you can even do trick jumps over the Master Sword while Hyrule's citizens cheer you on.
It's hard to complain about more Mario and Peach
Link isn't the only racer joining the fray November 13. He's joined by Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach, costumed variants from Mario's most recent games. To date, these characters are now the fourth versions of the duo, joining their standard, baby, and metal variants of the popular racers. It almost feels like overkill, but that melts away when you see the two in their adorable furry ensembles. only with a cuddly twist that longtime fans should love.
Both have their own special karts accompanying them too, as well as some other fun winks to fans. For example, every once and awhile during trick jumps, Tanooki Mario transforms into his classic stone look. However, if I'm being really technical here, shouldn't Tanooki Mario always have the Super Leaf ability?
Mute City is alive and well in Mario Kart 8
F-Zero fans have been waiting for almost a decade for a new entry in the series, and Mario Kart 8's similar anti-gravity action is a reminder to some on what they've been missing. Perhaps Nintendo has started listening to those fans, because the November 13 DLC includes a Mute City track that's really incredible. There's not only a jazzy variation on the soundtrack, but it also moves at a breakneck speed that F-Zero fans will love.
There's even more love for that series beyond the new racetrack. One of the new karts is a recreation of the Blue Falcon, Captain Falcon's iconic vehicle in F-Zero. Combine that with an Amiibo costume courtesy of your Captain Falcon figure, and it's almost like you have a new F-Zero. Is it too much to hope that this could be the start of a new F-Zero renaissance for Nintendo?
Excitebike really mixes things up
Beyond Hyrule and Mute City, Mario Kart 8 already has a gorgeous collection of new and old tracks, and both DLC packs will ultimately add 16 new tracks to the game, starting with the Triforce Cup and Egg Cup coming in November. Of special note is a track that remakes the NES classic Excitebike (opens in new tab). And the course takes its 8-bit roots seriously, from the steep slant of the dirt ramps to the chiptune soundtrack to the random changes of the track's layout.
What other crazy stages are in store? Mario Kart super fans have identified that Double Dash's Yoshi Circuit will be in the Egg Cup, along with Wario's Gold Mine from the Wii, along with a couple more new tracks that have I'll save as a surprise (though you can see one of them in the video above). Will any other classics return in the May 2015 set? Just how crazy could the Animal Crossing course be? And what other references to Nintendo history will make a surprise appearance?
More new vehicles are coming, including some real life wheels
Before you buy these DLC packs for the new rides, now's the time to catch up the previous DLC you missed out on. First released in Japan, Wii U owners the world over can now get some fancy new wheels for free at this very moment.
As of August 27, Nintendo released a software update that adds real life Mercedes-Benz cars to the game. Mario and co. get to drive in style via the GLA, W 25 Silver Arrow, and the 300 SL Roadster. Funny that some of the most expensive cars in the real world cost nothing to drive in Mario Kart.
You get extra for buying the DLC early
So, you have the DLC that's coming in November, and the second pack in May 2015. Purchased separately they'll run you $7.99 / 7.00 a piece. However, if you plan on getting both, you can buy them as a pair for a discount, scoring both packs for $11.99 / 11.00.
Nintendo is offering a little bit more than a lower price if you buy them bundled together too. Purchasing them together opens up eight new colors to outfit Yoshi and Shy Guy with in-game. And that unlocks as soon as you pre-purchase the bundle. Is the chance to play as a purple Yoshi and pink Shy Guy enough to get you to plunk down your cash right now?