Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the most popular game on Switch, the very definition of an “evergreen” title. Aside from Battle Mode and a few minor changes, however, dedicated fans have been playing the same content since the original Wii U with its DLC content, a storyline that finally changes with the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe exclusive Booster Course Pass.
Wave 1 has landed and generated plenty of excitement, and there’s certainly a thrill to kicking off the game and being presented with two new cups to enjoy – the Golden Dash Cup and the Lucky Cat Cup. The mix of courses reminds us that this is the ‘bottom row’ equivalent of the original lineup, with a range of retro and – for the first time – Mario Kart Tour tracks included across all eight new offers. It’s a solid initial selection, especially since it’s the first batch and therefore presumably “easier” Cups in what will become a massive 48-track package.
The stars of this first wave, partly because of how unfamiliar they are for anyone who hasn’t spent much time with the series’ mobile entry, are these Mario Kart Tour tracks. The Paris and Tokyo themed courses are superb and feature clever alternate routes in the final lap, a neat touch to shake things up.
Ninja Hideaway is the most diabolical track in wave 1, with multiple routes that will allow strategists to experiment to find an edge. It’s a course that feels almost too tricky and smart to play with mobile controls, and it’s one of our early favorites. Although relatively short (especially in the faster 200cc mode), these Mario Kart Tour courses hold up very well on the Switch’s big-screen canvas.
Retro tracks all have appeal too, with Coconut Mall and Shroom Ridge being the strongest. The latter is a frenetic and rather hilarious 200cc experience, with all runners struggling to avoid heavy traffic. The rest are pretty straightforward and “passable” tracks, but since they’re based on work done for Mario Kart Tour, we get a pretty basic Sky Garden, which is a slight disappointment.
It’s also worth noting that these recreations go no further than adding anti-gravity sections – the main gimmick that Mario Kart 8 introduced to the series. In truth, these additions to the original retro MK8 tracks were rather simplistic at times and you get some boosts and slips here – but don’t expect any major diversions from the source material.
That’s the key takeaway with these tracks: ultimately, they’re recreations of fun rides but not the creative overhauls some might expect. On the one hand, there’s a tinge of disappointment there, and a reflection that this is a bit of a Nintendo ‘B Team’ effort, but the source courses are still entertaining and engaging. fit well into the speed classes and mechanics of Mario Kart 8.
In terms of presentation, the audio is a delight, with musical remixes that improve on the originals, full of the energy you’ve come to expect from this title. Visually we just decent results; the tracks look crisp in handheld or docked play, and the development team improved the lighting and some aspects of the design over what mobile gamers will have seen.
However, the origins of the MK Tour through this content are also evident, and in some cases it feels a bit lackluster from Nintendo. Environmental factors like grass and sand are simplistic flat colors, lacking texture and the life. Compare aspects like these with equivalents like Moo Moo Meadows or Dry Dry Desert – two retro remixes in the base game – and it’s not a favorable comparison.
Overall, Wave 1 of the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pass is enjoyable and gives a modern classic an exciting new spark of life. After going through the racing classes, it’s likely the itch will be back and we’ll be back in the online lobbies, looking forward to the next five waves to come by the end of 2023. That’s key takeaway that we picked up early on when sampling the Booster Course Pass – you can’t go wrong with “more Mario Kart”.