—The man in red himself (Mario Kart 64)note The Japanese version has a different announcer however.
Mario Kart is a successful series of go-kart-style racing video games developed by Nintendo as a series of spin-offs from their trademark and highly successful Mario series of platformer adventure-style video games. Starting on the SNES, the series has graced every subsequent Nintendo console and handheld with at least one installment, with the exception of the Virtual Boy and the Game Boy Color (portable Mario Karts started appearing with the Game Boy Advance).Unlike a serious racing game like Gran Turismo or Ridge Racer, Mario Kart isn't just about driving technique, but mixes things up with items that racers can obtain from item boxes, while the tracks themselves can have a significant number of obstacles and hazards such as enemies from the Super Mario Bros. series of games. This kicked off the subgenre of fun racers or mascot racers as other companies have often imitated the concept with their own mascots to varying degrees of success.As the name implies, the games draw major inspiration from the Mario platformers. Racers are characters like Mario, Luigi, Peach, Wario, Donkey Kong, and Bowser, items are Koopa shells and mushrooms, and stages often visit major locales like Bowser's Castle or a haunted mansion.Aside from racing for the finish line, all games in the series have also featured a Battle Mode, where the players drive around in a fixed area and attempt to burst each other's balloons with items or hunt for coins or Shine Sprites (from Sunshine).
Games in this series
Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992): The original. Has 8 characters and 4 cups with 5 tracks each. Used "Mode 7" faux-3D graphics, so all the tracks were completely flat.
Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64, 1996): First use of actual 3D, and set the standards for much of the series: it organized its courses into 4 cups with 4 tracks each, established the usual eight-character starting roster,note Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Peach, Bowser, DK, Toad, and Wario. Super used DK Jr. and Koopa Troopa instead of DK and Wario. and the introduction of Mirror Mode.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit (Game Boy Advance, 2001): Has 8 characters again and 5 cups with 4 tracks each. Went back to the Mode 7 flat courses. It also includes all the courses from Super (reordered into 5 cups of 4), beginning the tradition of including a set of retro tracks to match the new ones. Developed by Intelligent Systems, the people that brought you Paper Mario and Fire Emblem. (Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors also have access to this game on that system; notably, this means they can play every portable Mario Kart game on that system.)
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (Nintendo GameCube, 2003): Features two characters per kart — one driver, one "gunner", allowing the player to stock two items simultaneously and swap characters at will. The first game to allow players to pick their drivers and kart separately, as well as having the first unlockable characters (for a total of 20, one being Toadette, who makes her debut here), and character-specific "special" items. It's also rather famous for its pre-order bonus disc.
Mario Kart Arcade GP (Arcade, 2005): Developed by Namco, features 11 characters including Namco mainstays such as Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Blinky. Features a card system for saving data such as Time Attack times and saving powerups, but only on select cabs.
Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS, 2005): Has 12 characters (4 of them hidden and unlockable) with 3 karts apiece. Also marks a landmark in Nintendo history as being the company's first foray into online multiplayer gaming.note At least internationally; the Japanese release of Pokémon Crystal had online battling as well.
Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 (Arcade, 2007): An Updated Re-release of the first arcade title. Has 13 characters, the 11 original plus Waluigi and Mametchi. It also features four new tracks in addition to the original ones. Also developed by Namco.
Mario Kart Wii (Wii, 2008): Allows a massive 12 characters per race (with 13 more unlockable characters, one of which is the player's Mii, while Baby Daisy makes her debut as well), features a selection of motorbikes in addition to the usual karts, a "Wii Wheel" attachment for motion-control steering, and fully-featured online multiplayer.
Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo 3DS, 2011): Has 16 characters plus your Mii, but courses are reduced back to 8 racers for balance reasons. Courses now include underwater racing and launch ramps for gliding through the air, and the player can fully customize their kart with individual selections of driver, chassis, wheels, and glider. Co-developed by Retro Studios (the people who brought you Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country Returns), and includes improved online features even over Mario Kart Wii.
Mario Kart Arcade GP DX (Arcade, 2013): A new arcade game featuring a single-player Grand Prix, co-op, and a "Clone Battle" mode. Features 13 characters, including Don from the Taiko Drum Master series. Also includes the gliders from Mario Kart 7. Developed once again by Namco.
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, 2014): Has 36 characters including Miis and DLC, the largest roster to date. The bikes and 12-character races from Wii and the gliding and underwater mechanics from 7 return, as well as ATVs and a new anti-gravity mechanic similar to F-Zero and Crash Nitro Kart. Also marks the first time the Koopalings are playable in any Mario game. A fourth title co-developed by Namco, but no Pac-Man. Also features crossover characters Link from The Legend of Zelda and Isabelle and the Villager from Animal Crossing as DLC.
The limited AI of early installments generally kept the AI in a close pack and following almost the exact same path each lap, to the point where a map display looks like they're following the leader like you'd see in an RPG (it is especially noticeable when attempting to catch up after getting taken out by, say, a Spiny Shell). You can even decide which AI to harass just by where you drop your items.
Later installments give the AI much more variety, especially in Mario Kart 7 where if the track offers alternate paths, the AI will regularly split up between them.
Always Night: Ghost Valley 1-3, Toad's Turnpike, Frappe Snowland, N64 and DS Wario Stadium (the latter does take place during the daytime in 8, however), Banshee Boardwalk, Boo Lake, Broken Pier, GCN Sherbet Land, Luigi's Mansion (both the track in DS & 7 and battle arena in Double Dash!!), Mushroom City, Wario Colosseum, Mario Kart Stadium, Moonview Highway, Music Park, Rosalina's Ice World, Twisted Mansion, Rainbow Road from Double Dash!! and 8's remake of the N64 Rainbow Road (which unlike other Rainbow Roads, they both take place in the night sky of a city instead of space).
Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: Rainbow Road in every game. A psychedelic race across a wafer-thin track. Always set in space (or, in Double Dash!!'s case, the skies above some metropolis, at least in single player mode), always the hardest track of the game (except in 64's case, where it's completely railed on both sides, and only has the odd, easily-avoidable Chain Chomp roaming the extremely long track), and most have few railings to protect you from falling off into thin air.
Anti-Frustration Features: In Mario Kart 8, finishing a Grand Prix in 150cc now also counts as finishing the same set of races in 50cc or 100cc, awarding you the appropriate trophy and stars for all three engine classes. No more wasting time completing Grand Prix again in 50cc and 100cc just for 100% Completion! (Mirror Mode does not count, however. So you still have to go through that separately.) Also, for the more average players, if you complete races in 100cc, you also get trophies and stars in 50cc as well.
Usually, you cannot collect an item if you already have one, but if you collect an item box just before a piranha plant item runs out, you still get the new item. When you throw a boomerang, it doesn't count as having the item while it's in the air, so another item can be collected in its place.
Announcer Chatter: The second and third arcade games feature an announcer who comments on the race. He doesn't appear in any of the main games.
Antepiece: Mario Kart 7's Rainbow Road features one: partway through the track, a glider launchpad leads directly into a large star ring that gives the racers a small speed boost. In the final third of the race, the track opens into an open gliding section where racers have to avoid floating asteroids and fly through a series of smaller, spread-out star rings to stay in flight.
Anti-Grinding: In 8, the amount of VR you obtain in online races is directly affected by how much the others racers have. If you have less than theirs, you'll obtain far more points even if you didn't finish in first place, though the reverse can also happen, forcing you to look for others with a large amount of VR.
Arc Number: Eight pops up a lot in 8. There's the Crazy 8 item, the Mach 8 kart, it's used as the default racer symbol, various courses containing 8s in their map, Miis are always the eighth character unlocked...
Arc Symbol: The track maps Mario Kart 8 often feature the number "8" somehow. The version of Mario Circuit for that game and Toad's Turnpike are shaped like an 8, and 8's Rainbow Road, N64 Yoshi's Valley, and the returning N64 Rainbow Road all have 8's in their design.
Artificial Brilliance: In Mario Kart DS, the AI actually seems to know that if it puts a Banana Peel or fake item box on the loop-the-loop or the corkscrew... there's no chance you'll survive. The AI in the games after 64 seemed to have known about using items as shields and even tried to drop banana peels right in your path if you were close to them. They're still very cheatsy, though. By Mario Kart 7, the AI has learned to block items perfectly and even fire them backwards at the perfect time to hit you. The AI is even smart enough to use shortcuts when they have the item needed to reach them. Heck, on higher difficulties on Mario Kart 7, if a Blue Shell is homing in on them and you're not too far behind, they may even try to veer in front of you to take you out with them, a tactic commonly employed by human players. In Mario Kart 8, they're even smart enough to utilize the shortcuts on a track if they have a Mushroom on hand, and the blue shell tactic from 7 has been expanded upon so that, if they're in 1st and you're nearby in 2nd, they will notice when another player has launched a blue shell, and let you pass them until the blue shell is close enough to decide on its target.
Artificial Stupidity: In the early games, the AI is pretty stupid and naturally handicapped...but they manage to provide a challenge by speeding. In Mario Kart 64, for instance, computer opponents will throw banana peels ahead of themselves and immediately slip on them, but catch up to you by means of rubber band AI.
In Super Mario Kart, the AI in Bowser Castle 2 seem to suddenly break at the final jump before the finish line. They keep grinding against the wall which screws up their momentum and causes them to fall into the lava at least half the time.
In Mario Circuit 2 from the same game, sometimes, one particular AI racer will always fail the long jump, grind on the wall, give up and have to go the long way around to try again. Then fail the jump repeatedly.
Lakitu becomes playable in Mario Kart 7 and 8 after spending the rest of the series as an NPC.
Also, Shy Guy was promoted from a character used only in Download Play Mode in Mario Kart DS to a fully-playable character in Mario Kart 7.
This trope is played with in the case of Wiggler, who was originally a final boss character for Mario Kart DS and an obstacle on Maple Treeway in Mario Kart Wii before he finally shrunk down and he got himself a kart for Mario Kart 7. (Funnily enough, that Wii track is included in 7.) Then he gets demoted to an ATV in Mario Kart 8
The Honey Queen had previously only appeared in a few stages of the Super Mario Galaxy games.
Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Mega Mushroom in Wii turns your character and ride giant sized, boosting speed and causing your character to flatten other racers in their path.
Awesome, but Impractical: The Beast Glider in 7 and the Golden Glider in 7 and 8 are flashy, but are just a reskinned Super Glider. The Golden Tires are also pretty, but their stats are worse than the Slick Wheels, and the Golden Kart's stats are worse than the Soda Jet. What's worse, all of the golden parts and the Beast Glider take an extremely long time to earn.
Banana Peel: One of the standard items since the first game. It was the special item of Donkey Kong Jr. in the first game, and a giant variation thereof was the special item of Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong in Double Dash.
Band Land: 7 and 8 feature Music Park, a track where racers drive atop piano keys, drums, and other assorted musical instruments.
In 8, the background Toads on Rainbow Road need spacesuits, but the racers don't.
Also present in 7 and 8 with the underwater sections where the racers don't seem to have any trouble breathing. Interestingly in 8, there are Toads wearing scuba gear in the underwater sections of Dolphin Shoals, while the racers, including Toad, get along just fine.
Starting with Mario Kart 64, beating the Extra/Mirror Special Cup unlocks a new title screen. note In Mario Kart 64, mirror mode was known as "Extra" and mirrored left/right on every track, plus it reversed the direction of the vehicles on Toad's Turnpike. In Mario Kart: Super Circuit, there was no mirror mode, but there was a completely different "Extra" mode that consisted of Nostalgia Levels from the original and was unlocked through a method nobody would think to do without looking it up or asking someone who has. To get all extra cups on one engine class (with the method being the same with each class), every cup has to have a gold trophy and the cups have to be done over again with the coin total at the end being at least 100; fortunately, getting another gold trophy is not a requirement (anywhere from fourth up when just playing through them to get the extra cup equivalent is OK). Beating the 150cc Extra Special Cup unlocked the first new title screen, and achieving a three-star rank on every cup unlocked the second. In Mario Kart Double Dash!!, there is a secret bonus cup known as the All-Cup Tour, consisting of every single Marathon Level track in the game, which unlocks Mirror Mode in the first place, which when beaten on Mirror along with the standalone cups unlocks a secret kart and the new title screen. Mario Kart DS, Wii, 7 and 8 require 150cc to be beaten to unlock Mirror, but otherwise don't have any ridiculous methods of unlocking the new title screen.
Mii Outfit B in Wii is just a special costume for Miis to wear. It offers no benefits over Mii Outfit A.
The golden parts in 7 and 8 are mostly for show, as they have no major bonuses and are comparable to stats of other available parts.
A Blue and Yellow Toad appear as floats in 7's Toad Circuit. They also are the poster characters for the Two-player Online feature in 8 (and can sometimes be seen floating in space in the online play menus, along with a Green Toad). They previously appeared in New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario 3D Land.
If you race as your Mii in Mario Kart Wii, various statues and posters will be replaced with Miis from the Mii Channel (so for instance, your Mii will appear on a statue of Mario in DK Summit, or on billboards in Moonview Highway). On select tracks, like Coconut Mall, your Miis will appear on posters even if you are not playing as your own Mii. Miis also appear as spectators in both Wii and 7.
Rally-X, a Pooka, and a Galaga appear as special items for the Pac-Man characters in Arcade GP.
Saint Elimine shows up in the Double Dash!! bonus disc to facilitate the transfer of some items to Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword. Bear in mind that this is a character who doesn't even actually appear in her "own" games.
Almost never happens in the series, but one case of it occurs frequently in the Rock Rock Mountain track in 7. When you start to climb the hill before the finish line, the camera, which is always behind your kart, has to shift to a different angle so you can get a better view on what's ahead of you on the climb. The problem here is that the camera shifts a bit slow and leaves you blind for a moment, which can screw you over if you can't see a banana peel or a boulder rolling down at you. This is avoided if you play in first person view.
The camera can also a bit uncooperative around walls in 7, mostly in battle mode.
Occasionally the camera will get stuck outside a fence lining the track in Double Dash!! - particularly prone to this are the Wario Colosseum and Rainbow Road tracks.
Canon Discontinuity: The arcade versions must be; otherwise Mario Kart 7 would be "Mario Kart 9".
Car Fu: Battle modes are generally like this. So are many of the boss battles in the Mission Mode of the DS version.
Character Class System: Each game divides up the racers into a few different categories, which affect their performance, and in Double Dash!! and Wii, which karts they could use. Wii used size-based categories, but all other games have used weight-based categories instead. Likewise, 7 and 8 divided characters up into five different categories instead of the usual three.
Character Customization: While every game varied racers' abilities depending on their weight/size category, Double Dash!! truly began using this trope, introducing the ability to choose between different karts for each character, and allowing players to mix and match pairs of racers, granting access to different special items. Subsequent games dropped the two-racer gimmick, but kept the option for different karts. Wii tried varying up characters within each size category by giving them unique stat boosts, but the idea was abandoned in later games. Starting with 7, the karts themselves can now be customized, with different options for the chassis, wheels, and glider.
Cheerful Child: Toad, Toadette, and the babies. Lemmy acts like one. Small Miis can also look the part.
Chest Insignia: The series has used a vehicle variant since DS, with each kart having two or three places on it for the driver's personal emblem. Each playable character has their own icon (e.g. Mario's trademark red "M"), and DS itself even let players design their own custom symbol, although the custom icons were removed in all later games due to the staggering number of crude and/or offensive images people created (VG Cats sums up the mentality here).
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Whenever a character does not appear in the very next game after one they did, but a very notable one is Waluigi, who was in every game since Double Dash before not getting into 7. The game even has Waluigi's stage from Mario Kart DS, Waluigi Pinball.
In Super Mario Kart, while the AI can crash into walls if you make it happen, course obstacles do not apply to them as they will simply clip through the obstacle. The lead rival can also continuously use a certain item (depending on the character) infinitely. To top it off, some of them have access to items you can never get.
In Mario Kart 64 your rival computers will constantly be on your tail, and pass you if you can't constantly hit them with items. Hit them with a banana peel, shell, or fake block and they'll be back in about 20 seconds. Even if they pass you, they STILL might not slow down and will gain a huge lead. If you take an ultra shortcut like on Rainbow Road that skips 1/3 of the track, expect them to speed up unrealistically and catch you.
Wii is even worse. Rubber-banding in speed is still present, although less obvious, but the computer constantly gets the Blue Shell and can and will nail you with it. If not that then expect Bob-ombs or Red Shells to screw you over, followed by getting railroaded by the other drivers as you try to recover, knocking your placing further down, especially if you're on a bridge or next to a hazard.
7 adds a new dimension, thanks to the reintroduction of coins. You need 10 coins in order to max out your kart's speed and acceleration. No so much the CPU-controlled drivers; in the 150cc and Mirror modes, their speed and acceleration are permanently set to above your maximum speed, irrespective of how many coins they actually have or how fast their kart speed stat is supposed to be. Followed by the fact that the A.I. now utilizes shortcuts with mushrooms and stars, and seems even better at shooting things at you and placing banana peels than before. This means that unless you can keep your coin count reasonably high throughout the race and/or make good use of your items, you're going to lose to a rival computer that somehow always manages to stay with you, if not worse.
While 8 features the return of the coin item, making it easy to max out on 10 coins, most of the time you get the coin item when you're in the lead, leaving you unable to defend yourself from an incoming blue shell or red shell. It doesn't help that the second place feels rigged to get a red shell just to mess you up.
Console Cameo: There's a Battle course that takes place on a GameCube in Double Dash and one that takes place on a Nintendo DS in DS
By making Koopa Troopa a default and leaving Wario unlockable, Mario Kart 7's starting character roster is a throwback to the character line up from Super Mario Kart.
Some of 7's unlockable karts are ones from earlier games in the series, such as the Pipe Frame, the original kart from Super and 64, and the Barrel Train from Double Dash!!
Double Dash's special item per character is also a nod to the special items used by the AI in Super Mario Kart.
Convection Schmonvection: Many stages (especially Bowser's Castle levels) feature tons of lava. It's only a problem if you fall in, or if you run into a spout, but even if you accidentally do so, no worries—Lakitu will fish you right out.
Cool Bike: Motorbikes made their debut in Wii, and then returned in 8. Although there was one unlockable bike-styled kart in DS as well.
Co-Op Multiplayer: One of the main features in Double Dash!!. Battle Mode in Wii is also like this. Also somewhat in Mario Kart 64 where Grand Prix supported 2 players; only one player had to place in the top 4 to move on.
Cosmetic Award: The reward for beating every cup with a one-star, two-star, or three-star rating in Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7 is the appropriate number of stars next to your name on the "race Results" screen.
Creator Cameo: Staff Ghosts have been available for the purpose of beating Nintendo staff members' records in Time Trial mode in some games. In 7, staff members from Retro Studios join Nintendo EAD's staff.
With the "Wii series", especially Wii Sports Resort, since Wuhu Island has two confirmed race tracks and a battle track in 7. Music Park also contains some nods to Wii Music.
Also in 7, there's DK Jungle, which is a track involving places and enemies found in Donkey Kong Country Returns. Donkey Kong himself has been playable since 64, and Diddy and Funky have joined in at times.
Pilotwings Resort gets a couple of nods in the Maka Wuhu track.
The only difference between 150cc and Mirror is that the tracks are flipped around to invoke this. Meaning you have to relearn the entire track and make left turns where you used to make right turns. It's really harder on traffic courses, since the traffic direction is reversed as well.
Try playing Double Dash, then switching to Wii while using a Gamecube controller. Be prepared for screams of rage as you look behind you instead of throwing items, fail to get the initial boost despite timing it perfectly...
If you're used to the playstyle of Mario Kart Wii or Mario Kart 7, prepare to be frustrated if you start to play one of the older games. There's no button to trick off ramps and you can't drive underwater.
If you play one of the GP games, prepare to get annoyed when you find out you can't trick or drift, something that was in previous Mario Kart games.
Mario Kart 8 changes how items are deployed. Items that come in groups of 3 are automatically used instead of being in storage until you use it, so don't be too surprised if you got used to the older games and wind up accidentally firing off one of your triple items.
Similarly, the game no longer allows players to "drag" one item behind themselves and still pick up a second item. Can really mess you up if you're used to holding a banana behind yourself for safety while you wait to get a more aggressive item, and instead you just drive uselessly through an item box.
After you finish a race, you're probably used to just pressing A to go on to the next screen. Not in Mario Kart 8. The option after completing the race is going to the highlight reel. However, pressing A there will direct you to the next screen. This is set to be changed back with an upcoming update.
Dead Character Walking: Drivers knocked out of the contest in battle mode can still drive around the battlefield, laying boxes, albeit invisible and intangible. Except in 64, where they instead get one more chance to drive around as a bomb, though they're out for good once they blow up another player by crashing into him.
In 7 Waluigi went from being a playable character to merely being the mascot of his eponymous Waluigi Pinball track, which returns from DS even though he doesn't. He's back to being a playable character in 8, curiously enough.
Earlier than 7, Koopa Beach appears in 64 despite Koopa Troopa not being playable, and DS has Baby Park appear as a retro track (originally from Double Dash!) despite no baby characters being playable.
Mario Kart 8has some pretty intricate details that are likely to be missed in the middle of a race. Examples include Goombas moving their eyes to watch racers pass by and characters looking at the shadow of an incoming spiny shell. However, it seems that landing on Goombas still doesn't squish them, as in ever installment of Super Mario Bros..
Whenever you go over snow, dirt, or sand, your tires will become white, brown, light brown, and red, respectively. If only two of your tires do so, only those tires will accumulate them. Once back on pavement, the dirt will slowly come off, or, if you touch water, will clean themselves immediately.
When you leave a body of water, your character remains wet for a small amount of time.
It was discovered by the brothers who managed to successfully hack Mario Kart 8 that the replay data now tracks everything gameplay-related, be it the positions of the players, what items they're using, what the driver's doing at the time, etc. It even goes as far as to record hacks should one manage to successfully hack the game in order to cheat, allowing others to catch the cheater out, should they ever view the replay data of the one who cheated. The brothers who hacked the game speculated that it was made this way so that it can work with Mario Kart TV.
The Lakitu that that tells you you're going the wrong way in Mario Kart Wii can get flattened by Thwomps should he be underneath a Thwomp by the time it rams into the ground. This situation doesn't pop up often when playing the game normally, but it is possible to deliberately trick him into going underneath one.
The Heavy karts don't recover from failure as easily as lighter karts, but avoiding error allows them to be the fastest karts in the game. Rubber Band AI loves to counter this with light weight karts that can catch up to you on straightways.
The Super, Beast/Ghastly, and Gold Gliders become this, especially in Time Trials, if you know about the game's hidden stats. Due to how the hidden stats are distributed, the gliders that don't boost anything (the aforementioned Super, Beast/Ghastly, and Golden Gliders) are quite fast in the air, but lack aerial handling.
The Super Horn from Mario Kart 8 qualifies. On the Difficult side, it has a very limited range, and requires good timing. On the Awesome side, it can destroy Blue Shells.
Divergent Character Evolution: While he already got hints of it back in the original Super Smash Bros. and Dr. Mario 64, Metal Mario has become his own character in 7. For example, his voice clips and mannerisms are different than Mario's. They both also suggest he's a lot cockier than Mario. In 8, when he loses a race, he says "Mia Mamma", instead of "Mamma Mia".
With a combination of Golden Snitch and Rubber Band AI, it gives most people a sense of being punished for simply being skilled. Truly skilled players, however, can consistently win races even with the deck stacked against them.
Some players use this trope to their advantage by not playing their best on purpose so they can either overtake the leader with the right item or zoom ahead the rest of the pack with a powerful item if they are farther back.
An odd case in which the North American localization of Mario Kart Wii had many vehicle names different from the already-released European localization (for instance, what is known as the Bowser Bike in Europe is known as the Flame Runner in the United States). The same goes for tracks (which is why you might find people who refer to DK Summit as DK's Snowboard Cross, and the battle stage Chain Chomp Wheel is known as Chain Chomp Roulette).
This carried over into 7, as some tracks and parts have different names per region. If a track's name appears on the track itself, though, it doesn't change (Music Park/Melody Motorway being the sole exception).
This happens in 8 too, albeit only with parts and courses that had appeared in previous installments of the series. Here it's questionable as to why this was even done, since the game had a near-simultaneous release worldwide.
The Raceway tracks in 64 were called Circuits in the original Japanese version. This change did not occur in later installments except for Nostalgia Levels that originally had the change (e.g. Luigi Raceway in 7).
DS had several unused tracks. Some were merely for testing, such as ones that actually have "test" in the filename and one that is simply an early version of Wario Stadium, but others include Double Dash!!'s Mario Circuit, a Koopa Troopa track, a variant of DK Pass without snow, and an unused pinball track.
Wii has character icons for Petey Piranha, Koopa Paratroopa, Hammer Brother, and a third Mii outfit. The Chain Chomp was also going to be an item and even has an Icon for it, but it eventually became the Bullet Bill instead.
Dump Stat: In Mario Kart DS, drift and weight. Due to the exploit of snaking, it was actually beneficial to have LESS drift since if you had more, you'd be turning too sharply while power sliding on straightaways. The same is said for weight since it's combined with the "offroad" stat. The less weight you had, the faster you could go off road such as in grass or dirt. Plus, bumping into other players had no effect online. The item stat was also pretty useless, especially online where you couldn't get triple items. It was good for some courses during time trials though, as you got more mushrooms to take shortcuts.
Hits Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64 and Super Circuit. Items in particular behave much differently in these games. Additionally in Mario Kart 64, the AI racers automatically obtained items, rather than having to drive through item boxes, and they never used red or blue shells against you.
While the first game lacks retro courses or the Mirror mode in Grand Prix, it has 20 tracks (4 cups with 5 tracks each) instead of the usual 16 (or 32 including the retro courses in games with them). Mario Kart 64 has an "Extra" mode that's very similar to the current Mirror Mode, though also has a few other changes. The most significant change was in Toad's Turnpike, where you would now be racing AGAINST the flow of traffic rather than with it. Super Circuit didn't have an Extra or Mirror mode, but it had 5 cups of 4 tracks each, as well as all the retro courses from Super Mario Kart (making Super Circuit have the most tracks out of any Mario Kart game to date, with 40 courses spread over 10 cups). It wasn't until Mario Kart DS where both Mirror mode and retro courses started appearing together from then on, and previously used Retro Courses are never repeated (other than the SNES courses used in Super Circuit).
Mario Kart 64's VS mode did not feature A.I. racers, and oddly, every course played in VS mode would have several bob-ombs in it that you had to dodge. If you wanted to race against the A.I. with a friend, you had to choose Grand Prix mode (yes, Grand Prix mode used to support 2 human players). No Battle mode A.I. ever existed until Mario Kart: Double Dash!! either.
Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64 and Super Circuit forced you to redo a Grand Prix race if you (and your friend in 2 player Grand Prix) failed to place within the top 4. Every other installment lets you continue, albeit at a disadvantage.
Super Mario Kart also had a different mini-turbo mechanic. While the rest of the series had you power slide by moving the analog/directional buttons left and right, the first game has you swing around curves and the straighten yourself out in order to get the boost. This mechanic was revisted in Mario Kart: Super Circuit and tweaked further in Mario Kart Wii, 7 and 8 due to the power sliding on straightaways exploit to move faster (Snaking) that emerged mostly in the Double Dash!! and DS games.
Super Mario Kart is also the only game (thus far) that has the Feather item, which allows you to jump high over obstacles and walls for shortcuts. Unlike the other items, it has not been used in the rest of the games since. It's also the only game to require 5 laps in each course instead of the usual 3 (some exceptions apply in later games, such as 5 for Baby Park, 2 for Wario Colosseum, and even just 1 for some courses starting in Mario Kart 7).
Super Mario Kart was the first game to use the coin system that lets you speed up the more coins you had on you and lost coins every time you were hit or fell off course. Only Super Circuit, 7 and 8 revisted the coin mechanics.
Super Mario Kart and Super Circuit are the only games in the series to use a lives system, making it possible to get a game over for failing to finish in the top 4 one too many times. Although Mario Kart 64 will still give you a Bad Ending if your point total over all 4 races does not make the top 3 (and your friend's total as well in 2 player Grand Prix). They're also the only games whose tracks are completely flat and devoid of any bumps or hills.
Super Mario Kart and Super Circuit are also the only games to have multiple versions of each course. While Super Circuit kept this to just 4 Bowser Castle courses, Super Mario Kart had a whopping 4 Mario Circuits, 3 Donuts Plains, 3 Ghost Valleys, 3 Bowser Castles, 2 Choco Islands, 2 Koopa Beaches, and 2 Vanilla Lakes.
If playing with more than two players in Mario Kart 64, for some reason only two of the players have audible sound effects.
In 64, multiple banana peels came in sets of five instead of three.
The skill level in the Lightning Cup of Super Circuit is something between the Flower and Star Cups, having "average" difficulty in its courses. Since DS, other incarnations of the Lightning Cup had a Special Cup-based skill level for its retro tracks.
Earn Your Bad Ending: In Mario Kart 64, earning enough score to be in the three top places would give you a pretty similar coronation ceremony, only changing the color of the Trophy. Getting fourth place would give you another ending in which your character watches the ceremony from afar before leaving and a bomb crashing into him. But in order to get this ending, you had to struggle to stay in fourth place all the races, since 5th or lower won't let you continue. Getting this ending ends up being more difficult than being in first place!
Earn Your Fun: Super Mario Kart would not let you access the Special Cup on 50cc; you had to play on 100cc and then get gold trophies on the rest of the cups just to be able to play the Special Cup. You also have to beat the Special Cup with a gold trophy earned just to be able to play the 150cc class.
The results music in 64 plays a different piano solo after 64 loops, which takes 52 minutes 48 seconds.
Pressing "Select" in Super Circuit honks the horn, which doesn't do anything.
The horn is also present in Double Dash, but this time, the player has to press the item button when there's no item currently in possesion.
The horn returns in 8, functioning like it did in Double Dash. This time, it takes up most of the space on the Wii U gamepad if the map or TV screen options aren't selected. Naturally, touching it honks it. So far, we only know it spooks the other drivers.
Holding Y+A while selecting a character in Super Mario Kart will make the selected character tiny. This slows the character down, and the character will get squashed if someone runs the character over.
Embedded Precursor: Unlockable, at least; Super Circuit contains all of the tracks from the original Super Mario Kart. Starting with DS, each game featured a Nitro set of cups (16 new tracks) and a set of Retro cups (containing sixteen tracks from previous Mario Kart games).
Enemy Mine: In Double Dash, it is possible to have a setup like Mario with Bowser on a kart, and have them cooperate.
In 8 you and a rival racer can "cooperate" by repeatedly bumping into each other during anti-gravity mode to give both of you spin boots.
Epic Fail: Never, EVER use a Spiny Shell when in first place.
Besides the Rubber Band AI and Super's use of Secret A.I. Moves that are better than anything you'll ever get from an item panel, the computer players are more than happy to spam the best items in the game if you're doing better than them at any given time, especially in Wii.
In 8, the only way to see the course map and which items everyone has is with the tablet. This means anyone playing with another controller goes without this sometimes useful information. The tablet can be placed on the stand it comes with, but it's generally too small for all players to see the information clearly.
Feelies: Mario Kart Wii comes with one of the many plastic Wiimote accessories, the Wii Wheel. Of course, the game can be played just fine without it attached. That, and the game is compatible with other controllers such as the GameCube controller...
Mario Kart 8 came with a red Wii Wheel and a Mario themed Wii Remote controller if you pre-ordered the Mario Kart Wii U bundle.
Fireballs: The special item for Mario and Luigi in Double Dash!!, and made a regular item in 7.
First-Person Perspective: A new feature in 7. It's actually required to use this feature 80% of the time to unlock the gold steering wheel.
Follow the Leader: It started the kart racing format that many other games would mimic.
Fragile Speedster: The lightweights, such as Toad, Koopa Troopa, and Baby Mario. Though not very fast, lightweight characters are able to accelerate quickly to their top speed in addition to having the highest handling and off-road. However, they have low weight and are mostly vulnerable to getting pushed around by heavier characters.
Frothy Mugs of Water: In the Japanese version of Super Mario Kart, Bowser and Peach will drink their bottle of champagne if they get first-place Gold. This was censored out in the international versions.
Furry Confusion: One of the new characters in 7 is the Queen Bee from Super Mario Galaxy, but one of the battle arenas in the same game takes place inside a beehive, featuring the bee enemies from Super Mario 3D Land as obstacles.
Game Mod: Mario Kart Wii has a pretty big modding community, especially in regards to remaking tracks from old games, and even some tracks from Mario Kart games released after Wii - like a couple of Mario Kart 7's tracks (albeit it's hard to make Wii versions of 7 tracks as 7 tracks have glider and underwater segments and Wii does not feature those capabilities. For instance, this adaptation of Mario Kart 7's Rainbow Road or the version in Double Dash!! have been almost perfectly converted to the point that they don't feel any different from their original games.
Long time fans of the series know just how dangerous it is to stay in the lead when a Spiny Shell is active. If you're the more savvy type of player, you will either stay below first place for a while and then try to overtake the leader when the time is right in order to avoid the item or if you know the item is coming, you will slow down to take out as many people as possible when the shell locks onto you. This is magnified in Mario Kart DS, 7 and 8 since the lower screen (or Wii U Gamepad screen in 8) shows what item everyone has, allowing you to react quicker if someone draws a Spiny Shell.
This trope also leads into some Dangerously Genre Savvy moments if you're the kind who will do the Spiny Shell fake out on your opponents in the DS and 3DS versions of the games. The other players, aware that a Spiny Shell is coming or is going to be used will slam on the brakes in a desperate hot-potato move to make someone else is the new target, while you with the shell in your possession may never use it at all to trick the other players into slowing down and allow you to take the lead. This means, as the Spiny Shell holder, you are extremely dangerous to hang around since you can launch the item the moment you drop back.
Though 8 introduced the Super Horn that will destroy the Spiny Shell, a Red Shell from the second or third place racer can give the lead player a Sadistic Choice of taking the Red Shell hit and letting the other racers catch up, or "wasting" the (super-rare to get when in the lead) Super Horn on the Red Shell but be vulnerable to a possible Spiny Shell attack later. What's more, the Super Horn is lost if the racer is struck by lightning, meaning they could let a Red Shell hit them and never get to use the Super Horn on a Spiny Shell.
Golden Snitch: Powerful items are usually obtained by players lagging behind. Some people purposely play horribly at the start so they can score a powerful item, catch up with good racing, and then blow past the last few people on the final lap. This also keeps them (relatively) safe from the genuine laggers behind who are using their items to mess with the players in first.
Meanwhile, Mario Kart DS offered R.O.B., and beginning in Wii you can play as your Mii. DLC for 8 adds more crossover characters; Link of The Legend of Zelda fame and the Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing.
Hoist by His Own Petard: This will happen to you pretty often if you forget where you dropped your banana peels and fake item boxes, if your green shells rebound off walls back at you, if you throw a Bob-Omb right into your own path, etc.
This can also happen to you with items that are supposed to help you, such as mushrooms and stars. Use these speed boosting items at the wrong time and you'll fling yourself off the track.
The computer racers may accidentally get hit by the items they left behind in Super Mario Kart.
Hollywood Drowning: Surprisingly averted in Mario Kart 7 and 8. Although there are tracks which let you go underwater freely, there are tracks where you aren't allowed to go underwater. In these tracks, your character will fall and scream until they hit the water and their screaming is promptly cut off because you can't be heard underwater. This contrasts other Mario Kart games where their voices are heard even when they are submerged underwater.
Hot Potato: Mario Kart Wii introduces a new item called the Thunder Cloud, which gives a ten-second warning before it zaps you, shrinking you temporarily, but you can pass it to someone else by exchanging contact with them. It does, however, give you a slight speed boost (and the ability to drive off-road without losing speed), making it a double-edged sword.
Battle Modes involving the Shine Sprite are a reverse version of this, where whoever is holding onto the single Single Sprite when time runs out is the winner.
Humiliation Conga: So you think you're safe in first place? Cue Spiny Shell, Red Shell, POW Block, Lightning, and a Blooper just to top it off. And, to add insult to injury, you might have a Boo steal whatever item you have in store. If you're really unlucky, a member of the pack catching up with you will knock you off the track with a Bullet Bill or, if said member of the pack is a heavyweight, simply by using superior size. If you're more unlucky still, the humiliation will be compounded by happening too far into the final lap for any sort of recovery to be possible.
Incredible Shrinking Man: The Lightning item causes this to the racers, resulting with them losing their items and reducing top speed. In some games, this also leaves other racers open to being flattened.
Interface Screw: Bloopers (Mario-universe squid), introduced in Mario Kart DS, cover your opponents' screens in black ink, obscuring their forward view. (This is also visible by painting the entire vehicle/driver black.) It even has an effect on the AI, causing them to swerve and slow down a notch when it's in effect. The ink can be removed early by hitting a booster while it's in effect. There's also the cake frosting when you bump into giant whipped toppings in one of the MKDS battle courses.
Invincibility Power-Up: The star item not only makes you invincible, but speeds you up! And you can drive off-road without speed loss.
Invincible Minor Minion: The Thwomps on Rainbow Road in the SNES version are star powered, causing you to spin out and lose coins from even touching them. Strictly speaking, though, they aren't invincible (they can be destroyed by a racer with star power). They reappear the next lap.
The Rainbow Thwomps reappear in the Nostalgia Level version of the SNES track in 7, and this time they also cause the track to ripple and shake whenever they pound the ground. They still cause you to spin out if you so much as touch them.
In the Bowser Castle tracks, such as those on Wii, the Thwomps do cause the track to shake if you happen to be by one when it pounds the ground, but instead of spinning you out, you can be crushed by one if you happen to have poor timing, so it helps to study the Thwomps and the sequence in which they come down.
It's a Wonderful Failure: Fail to be one of the top three racers at the end of a Grand Prix and you'll miss out on the victory ceremony. The SNES installment showed your racer sitting aside the victory podium quietly sobbing to themselves, while the N64 installment showed your racer watching the victory celebration from a distance before getting chased down and blown up by a Bob-Omb. Later games simply give a "Better luck next time!" message with a chart showing your overall results. The Game Boy Advance installment had the stand outright crush you.
Scoring outside the top three is actually rather difficult in the SNES, N64,and GBA installments, where if you fail to finish within the top four of any race, you lose one life and are forced to retry that course instead of proceeding on to the next. Later games allow you to proceed through all the courses in a Prix, but as usual, you'll only get a trophy for finishing in the top three.
Jack of All Stats: Mario, as in every spinoff, as well as others in the Medium class.
Riverside Park and Lakeside Park from Super Circuit. The revisit of the SNES Donut Plains courses in this game also qualify, as they use the visuals from Riverside Park rather than the original SNES aesthetics.
Dino Dino Jungle from Double Dash!! and 7.
DK Jungle from 7 and 8.
Kid-Appeal Character: No Mario Kart game has ever been complete without one. At least Toad appeared in every installment.
14 out of 30 (non-DLC) characters in 8 form the kid-appeal half of said game's roster.
Toadette, Baby Daisy, and Baby Rosalina are those who respectively originated in Double Dash!!, Wii, and 8.
Lethal Lava Land: Often Bowser's Castle, which is in every game, but other tracks also feature lava, such as Grumble Volcano in Mario Kart Wii, where parts of the track actually collapse (look for the cracks in the track the first time by and just be aware that those sections might be gone by the time you get back around).
Level Ate: Some of the battle maps in later games fall into this category. Cheese Land from Super Circuit, as the name suggests, is made entirely out of cheese. Sweet Sweet Canyon from Mario Kart 8 is a track composed of cakes, sweets and soda lakes.
Level In Reverse: The Mirror Cups take the courses and mirror them horizontally, forcing you to then have to relearn your way around the track.
Limited Animation: DS and 7 has only your character with full animations while everyone else on your screen are stiff (and they're even rendered with less polygons to boot). This was most likely done to prevent the system from being taxed and keep things running smoothly.
Luck-Based Mission: Part of the appeal of the series where if the skill gap between players isn't too far off, a player lagging behind has a chance of winning if they get the right item. However, this is also very controversial with the competitive scene/skilled players due to how a single item like the Spiny Shell can instantly turn a victory into a loss (especially during the final lap). It also does not help that this trope is in full effect when it comes to playing against the game's Rubber-Band A.I. . The trope is softened somewhat in a few of the games in the series that allow the players to change what type of items can be spawned in a local multiplayer game plus certain items being retooled (or removed entirely).
Lucky Seven: 7 features a rare item called "Lucky 7" which surrounds you with seven items you can use as you want. But it's a double-edged sword and can backfire in several ways, as the items will also activate if someone else touches you, and can be lost entirely if you get hit by an item or course hazard. Its successor, the Crazy 8, spawns eight items to use at once.
Made of Iron: All the characters can shake off explosions, lightning strikes, and falling into lava easily.
Mario Kart 64's version of Rainbow Road. It is by far the longest track in the series, taking approximately 2 minutes to complete a lap. It's so long it was reduced to one lap in 8.
The All-Cup Tour in Double Dash!! is, well, all sixteen tracks one after the other. It always starts with Luigi Circuit and always ends with Rainbow Road, and the remaining fourteen tracks are played in a random order.
Wario Colosseum is a subversion, as it is a long track where only two laps are required for a race.
A few tracks in Mario Kart 7 are a subversion, namely both Wuhu Island tracks (Wuhu Loop in the Flower Cup and Maka Wuhu in the Star Cup) and Rainbow Road. These tracks are ESPECIALLY long. The subversion comes in when you only have to drive one lap, and progress is divided by 3 sections. Rainbow Road still takes longer than most races though.
Mount Wario in 8 is one big race down an icy mountain, from the summit all the way down to the base.
Mascot Mook: Koopa Troopas have been playable off-and-on since the first game. Other playable "mook" characters include Dry Bones, Lakitu, Shy Guy, and Wiggler.
Mercy Invincibility: Zig-zagged. Spinning out makes you immune to being spun out again until the animation is finished, but you are still open to harder hitting attacks that makes you tumble, such as shells. If you are hit by a shell or a similar powerful attack, you can't be hit by anything else again until the animation stops.
Mickey Mousing: Music Park in 7 and 8. On several curves, you drive over piano and xylophone keys, adding layers to the track's music, a drum is utilized like a bouncy mushroom, Piranha Plants bob their heads to the music and bite you within the beat, and giant music notes stomp to the music, creating shockwaves.
The Electrodrome track in 8 continues the trend, being themed after a nightclub.
Mighty Glacier: Bowser, Donkey Kong and Wario, plus a few others depending on the game in the Heavy class. As mentioned above, the Heavyweight racers get the most powerful cars, so they're actually faster, and they're not as vulnerable to ramming. Low acceleration means that they are actually more vulnerable to big screwups, though, and the worse handling only compounds this.
Glacier Waif: In Mario Kart Wii, size is determined by height, not weight. Waluigi, practically a living stick-man, is in the Large Class (when he was originally Middleweight in Double Dash!! and DS) because he's so tall. The same goes for King Boo (a ghost, although he was a Heavyweight in Double Dash!!) and Rosalina (who stays in the higher weight class in 7 and 8).
Mission Pack Sequel: Super Circuit to 64. It uses much of the same code, the same characters, and the same items. The courses, however, are much Denser and Wackier than that of 64, or any game in the series. Case in point, one of the courses is made of cheese.
Mythology Gag: As mentioned in the main text at the top of the article, the games are heavily influenced by Mario platformers. However, Super Circuit's Rainbow Road instead has a callback on the originalPaper Mario by having Bowser's Castle from that game in the background. This was likely because both Super Circuit and the Paper Mario games came from Nintendo's Intelligent Systems division while the other Mario Kart games except for the arcade games come from Nintendo EAD like the platformers (though Retro Studios, which is one of Nintendo's American development divisions, assisted with International Co Production 7, as noted above).
The drivers from 64 make the Pipe Frame match the color they originally used in 64.
Koopa Troopa's Pipe Frame matches the color in Super, which is the only game before 7 that both have appeared in together.
N64 Luigi Raceway and SNES Rainbow Road in 7 stick to the classic formula from their respective games, as they don't have gliding or underwater driving.
The rival system in 7 pairs most of the drivers from Super Mario Kart with their old rival from said game.
Piranha Plant Slide is one big mythology gag to the original Super Mario Bros.. The cardboard Goombas are also one to Super Mario 3D Land.
A billboard in 8 advertises Shy Guy Metals, claming they've been around since 1987. This is a reference to Doki Doki Panic, which was Shy Guy's debut in 1987. Their technical Mario debut was in 1988.
The Pipe Frame's design in 8 is based on the artwork from Super Mario Kart.
Pink Gold Peach may say "Oh, did I win?" if she comes in first. Peach also may say this if she wins in Super Smash Bros..
Some of the staff ghosts in 8 are references to what world the Koopalings appeared in Super Mario Bros. 3. Wendy appears in Dolphin Shoals (Sea Side), Ludwig appears in Pirhana Plant Slide (Pipe Maze), Lemmy appears in Sherbet Land (Iced Land), and Morton appears in Bone-Dry Dunes (Desert Hill).
Sunshine Airport in 8 has several red and white feathers on the reception desks, which look exactly like the feather item that debuted in Super Mario Kart.
When near the Aqua Cups ride in 8's Water Park, the haunted carousel theme from Super Mario 64 can be faintly heard.
The gimping of power sliding and the removal of "snaking" in Wii.
In DS, a very simple technique called "snaking" allowed karts with very certain drift and acceleration stats being balanced to each other to attain very high speed via the speed boosts from repeated drifting, even on straightaways. The developers of Mario Kart Wii, 7, and 8 took note of this and completely overhauled the mini-turbo system, making it truer to Super Mario Kart and Super Circuit in how the boost was attained by drifting for a longer time around a corner.
The map feature from Mario Kart DS had a slight nerf in Mario Kart 7; the map no longer shows active course hazards like Bullet Bills or Goombas so the Blooper item could be more dangerous if you had relied on reading the map in the DS game.
The shortcut in Koopa Troopa Beach was cut very short in 7.
7 nerfed the Super Star item, making its speed boost a lot less powerful compared to the other games, but it still is useful for cutting through grass and dirt for an improvised shortcut.
In Mario Kart 64 the there were hidden special item blocks on Luigi Raceway and Koopa Beach that were always guaranteed to give you a spiny shell. When these retro courses reappeared on the 3DS, the block on Luigi Raceway was changed to a normal block and on Koopa Beach it was replaced with a coin.
In Mario Kart DS there was also a special hidden item block on DK Pass that would usually give anyone who gets it a star or three mushrooms, and less often a single mushroom or even a red shell. In the 3DS where DK Pass reappears as a retro course, the item block's chances were changed to give single mushrooms more often than three mushrooms or a star.
The Bullet Bill, an item introduced in Mario Kart DS, was heavily nerfed in 7 and 8, traveling much slower than it did previously.
The thunderbolt item was changed slightly by Wii; rather than having everyone stay shrunk for a fixed amount of time, the amount of time one stays small depends on what position they were in when they got hit. The further up you are in position, the longer you will stay small while doing worse in a race will have you stay small for a short amount of time.
In Wii, red shells home in on enemies even when thrown backward. In 7, they behave like green shells in that regard, and only home in when thrown forward.
Bikes in Mario Kart 8 were redesigned so that they can no longer pop wheelies, but to compensate, their mini-turbos work the same as a kart plus bikes can cut corners better than a kart can.
In general, players can no longer hold two items at once in 8 unlike all of the previous games, weakening their protections against incoming projectiles. Said protection gets another nerf in the form of coins becoming common items for racers in 1st place, which now forces players to think whether they should risk using items to slow down opponents or get a Super Horn to destroy Spiny Shells, or keep the item for protection before it gets used away to grab another item box.
The Spiny Shells in 8 no longer stun for as long and don't appear as often; and it also received an indirect nerf with the availability of the Super Horn. The Spiny Shell also received an inadvertent nerf when it gained wings in Double Dash!!. Supposedly, this addition increased the shell's speed and reliability in hitting the racer in first, but denied its ability to hit any racer in between, actually cutting its overall effectiveness for the user as a Comeback Mechanic. The devs soon realized this and removed the wings by 7.
Bob-ombs were nerfed heavily from 7 on, taking about twice as long to explode.
In 8, Lakitu's Bottomless Pit Rescue Service appears nearly instantly after a driver falls off course. In previous games, there was a delay of a few seconds before they were set back on the track, invariably costing the player in question several positions.
Nintendo Hard: In most games in the series (some more so than others), 150 cc and Mirror Mode, particularly the Special and Lightning Cup. Super Mario Kart tends to be the worst of the bunch due to the following:
Momentum in the game gets wonky at times. If you crash head on into a wall and use a feather at the same time, you bounce quite far going backwards. If you smack into another racer while turning, you stop dead cold no matter what weight class you play as.
Trying to pass the AI, especially on 150 CC is a nightmare due to how they all drive on the same path and you're likely to run into them on turns.
The AI on 150 CC never lets up, which makes staying in the lead extremely difficult. If you screwed up too many times, you stand no chance of catching up. The AI's rubber band was broken on this level. This is also on top of the AI having infinite items, being able to throw them with near pinpoint accuracy, and having unique items you could never get.
Despite being a racing game, the game has a lives system. Every time you finish in the bottom 5, it costs a life to try the race over and it was Game Over if you lose all your lives. This was just as bad in a 2 player GP mode because if one of the players lost all their lives, they were eliminated from the rest of the cup!
Super Circuit includes all twenty tracks from the original SNES game.
From DS on, the Retro Grand Prix. Four cups (Shell, Banana, Leaf, and Lightning, in that order) with four assorted tracks from previous games, usually tweaked for the new game's mechanics. 7 and 8 even finish off the Lightning Cup with an old Rainbow Road (Super Mario Kart's and 64's, respectively).
All the retro tracks in 8 take the trope to the next level by remaking the old tracks with updated HD visuals, new set pieces and remastered music. Not only do the retro tracks look and feel new with the upgrades, they also still play in a way most old fans would remember them for. On top of all this, some retro tracks use the anti gravity and flight mechanics to give the old tracks a fresher feel to them without deviating from the original design of the tracks.
Numbered Sequels: The Nintendo 3DS and Wii U installments, Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart 8. Not only do they refer to actually being the seventh and eighth installments, but they also respectively refer to the Lucky Seven and the Möbius strip.
Obvious Rule Patch: Bikes in Mario Kart 8 were changed slightly by not allowing the player to pop a wheelie for boosts of speed, which now makes bikes more on par with karts. Bikes in Mario Kart Wii trumped karts so much that it was impossible to find any time trial record that wasn't a bike user and online play was also mostly a bike user game.
Old Save Bonus: Installing Mario Kart Wii on a console that has a Super Mario Galaxy save is beneficial in that it ramps down the requirements for unlocking Rosalina by several notches (from ranking 1 star in every cup on Mirror - or playing 4,950 races to... merely playing 50 races).
Ominous Pipe Organ: The Bowser's Castle music from Double Dash!! has this. The regular Bowser's Castle levels for DS and 7 feature parts of the GCN medley.
Once an Episode: Each game starts with a standard circuit and ends with Rainbow Road. Mario Circuit and Bowser Castle tracks also appear in every game.
100% Completion: Starting with Mario Kart 64, nearly every Mario Kart game requires a gold trophy in each cup and/or in each engine class to unlock new tracks or characters. A few other games in the series cranks it up to eleven by requiring a star rank or greater and getting at least one star in every cup and in every engine class gets you a star next to your name.
In Mario Kart 8, a set of 62 Miiverse stamps are unlocked by placing first in Grand Prix with each character, and beating Nintendo staff ghosts in every course in Time Trials.
Acceleration in Double Dash!! and DS, Speed in Wii, 7, and 8. Other stuff is useful, but those are the ones good players end up focusing on.
Acceleration is king when playing against the AI since better acceleration lets you recover from spills quicker. Speed is the top stat for Time Trials since it's all about finishing tracks as quickly as possible.
Outrun the Fireball: Starting with DS, it's entirely possible to dodge a Spiny Shell's explosion. However, doing so in Wii and especially 7 requires a well timed mushroom boost (or a convenient cannon in Wii), making some luck needed and being hard to pull off. Starting in 8, the Super Horn can effortlessly trump the Spiny Shell.
Palmtree Panic: The various beach-themed tracks. Notable obstacles are shallow and deep water (though in 7 deep water can typically be driven through instead of being an obstacle), Cheep-Cheeps, and crabs (which in 7 look like Sidesteppers from Mario Bros.).
Pinball Zone: Waluigi Pinball in DS and 7. The track is also notable for having the exclusive feature of having the sound effects replaced with 8-bit, pinball sounding ones.
Player Data Sharing: Starting with Super Circuit, players could share Ghost data for Time Trials, and Wii made it possible to do so over the internet.
Playing with Fire: Fire Flowers were Mario and Luigi's special Item in Double Dash!!, and they become proper items in 7 and 8.
Mario Kart 64 introduced the "Fake Item Box", a hazard that resembles a normal item box; skilled players know that the best place to put one is on top of a real item box so that the other characters won't be able to know where it is. Strangely, it was removed starting with 7.
An actual Poison Mushroom appears in Super Mario Kart as Peach and Toad's item. It shrinks any of the drivers on contact.
The speed boost provided Super Mushroom in Mario Kart 64 is barely even noticeable, as a result of the development team nerfing the Super Mushroom due to complaints that it was a Game Breaker in the SNES original. Subsequent games have generally hit the right balance in terms of how much boost it provides.
The Blooper from the later games. It's supposedly to block your sight and make it hard to avoid obstacles... but it's not too hard to see through the gaps remaining and figure out what's going on anyway. Or just to look at the map on the bottom screen in Mario Kart DS or 7. On the bright side, the AI do act like drunken idiots when someone uses it against them, so it has some use as long as you're not going against human opponents. Come 8, though, the Blooper has the added effect of lowering traction as well, causing drivers to take wider swerves in turns.
The 2 coin item in Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 8. You gain nothing to defend yourself with, and coins are easy enough to find on the track.
Prehistoria: Dino Dino Jungle from Double Dash!! and 7.
Starting in 64, billboards for in-universe products are scattered through the tracks. 8 takes it a bit further, as the products advertised have to do with racing, such as motor oil or batteries, along with the logos for these fictional companies being decals on certain vehicle bodies implying that they also sponsor for the racers. The logos even appear in the end credits, as if the game itself was advertising the brands!
In a more literal example, Mercedes-Benz shaped karts appear as free DLC in 8.
Racing The Train: Kalimari Desert in Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart 7 has a train that runs on a continuous clockwise loop that also means the race course has two grade crossings. It can be this trope, though, especially given how being forced to slow down at either grade crossing to wait for the train to pass totally wastes a lot of time. So it means a lot of karts racing towards the level crossing as the train races by, and the odd too slow racer smashing right into it. You can also either try and outrun the train round the track in the Nintendo 64 version by racing ahead through the tunnel. Or in the 7 version, you can fly straight over it with a glider ramp and/or just take a star and just drive straight through, sending the train flying into the air.
Rank Inflation: Starting with Super Circuit, then the DS and Wii games. If an A rank is not enough for you, try to get 1,2, or 3 stars. The Wii version ups the ante and requires you to at least 1 star some cups to unlock certain extra content note such as getting at least one star in all the 50cc cups to unlock Baby Daisy. 7 only has stars, from zero to three depending on how quickly you clear each cup.
The Red Baron: In Mario Kart 7, each player is given a title (the player can view their own under Mario Kart Channel, at the face icon) based on how they play (for example, Quick Starter is for those good at hitting a boost at the start, while Dolphin is for those good at racing underwater). When racing against the AI-controlled version of those players gained through StreetPass, their play style is informed by their title.
Red Ones Go Faster: With the customizable parts added in 7 comes the Monster wheels, which can make a kart much heavier instantly. Their cousins, the Red Monster wheels, are a bit lighter and have a touch more acceleration.
Retcon: Several characters' weight classes have been changed over the years:
Peach and Yoshi were originally lightweight in 64, then being made middleweight in Double Dash. Interestingly, Nintendo's very inconsistent with their weight throughout the series, being back to light characters in DS and 7 and back again to medium characters in Wii and 8.
Diddy Kong and Bowser Jr. were lightweight characters in Double Dash, but were rectified to being middleweights in Wii.
Waluigi was a middleweight in Double Dash!! and DS, but has been changed to heavyweight in Wii.
Retraux: The music for the retro courses in 7 was remastered less thoroughly than in the previous two games, so the music tends to sound very similar to how it originally sounded, aside from possibly having clearer audio depending on the original system, and of course the bass percussion added if you build up a large lead.
Rewarding Vandalism: In Mario Kart DS, destroying boxes reveals mushrooms which give an instant speed boost. Mario Kart Wii keeps the boxes and, on Maple Treeway, adds leaf-piles that may also reveal mushrooms or other items (usually banana peels). In 7 you can also bump the cardboard Goombas in Piranha Plant Slide, vases in Shy Guy Bazaar and barrels in DK Jungle to get some items.
Ribcage Ridge: Bone Dry Dunes from Mario Kart 8 features a desert landscape with several gigantic bones scattered around the course, as well as forming part of it.
The Rival: A feature that debuted in Super Mario Kart, and then returned in 7. Depending on who the player drives as, there will be certain characters that perform better and be more persistent. For example, Mario's two rivals in 7 are Bowser and Metal Mario.
If people are tagged with 7's StreetPass feature, their Mii may show up sometimes in Grand Prix mode to be an extra rival. Their Mii will also act as a rival in their customized Grand Prix.
Rollercoaster Mine: Wario's Gold Mine from Mario Kart Wii - with drops, rises, jumps, and even a section where you are dodging mine carts.
It's interesting to note that the AI players' driving is calibrated at differing strengths depending on the player's choice of driver. For example, if you play as Bowser in Mario Kart 7, your fiercest AI rivals in a single-player GP will be ... Mario and Luigi.
Same Content, Different Rating: Subverted with 7, which boasted an E10+ rating (for Comic Mischief and nothing else, oddly) in trailers for the game. Apparently the ESRB changed their minds.
Same Language Dub: Happened between the Japanese and International releases of 64. All the characters spoke English in the Japanese version, but some characters had their voices changed since they sounded goofy. The announcer in Japan also had an American accent, instead of Mario.
Selective Gravity: In 8, the anti-gravity sections seem to only affect vehicles and not the characters themselves, since a character's hair will fall in whatever direction gravity is actually going in (if Peach is riding upside down, her hair will look like it floats upwards, for example). It seems like everyone's put glue on their heads, then, since no one ever loses their headgear. And, naturally, items are perfectly capable of sticking to the road.
Schmuck Bait: You might expect picking up a stray Blooper might help you in 7. It actually will ink just you alone.
8 has some areas and turns that look like good places to drift but doing so would result in going off course or into a wall in almost all cases—such as the mini-turn after the waterfalls in Shy Guy Falls, the winding road prior to the finish line in Dolphin Shoals, and the cave with sand dunes in Bone Dry Dunes.
Sequel Difficulty Drop: 7's 150cc and Mirror modes don't seem as difficult as Wii's versions, most likely because of the lowered player count and removal of some of the nastier items. Still infuriating though.
A large factor in this is likely the removal of the fake item box. In every Mario Kart game since Double Dash, shells go right through the fake item box, making it absolutely useless for you to use them as a defensive option. A favorite technique in Mario Kart Wii with their Random Number God was giving you a fake item box and then giving the CPU in 2nd place a red shell, effectively making you helpless unless there was a sharp enough turn or a convenient cannon to be fired out of. Another major factor is that blue shells no longer strip you of an item you haven't used yet, and that lightning isn't rigged to happen every 30 seconds. All of this combines to allow a skilled player in fist place to play a much stronger defensive game without having it stripped away by the Random Number God.
Also, the criteria for getting at least one star on each cup seems to be significantly lower in Mario Kart 7 and 8, and getting three of them seems to almost be down to winning every race and not falling off the track too much. Apparently because being hit by items thrown by the AI opponents doesn't hurt your rank this time round.
In 8, placing first in all races now guarantees a three star rating. In addition, the Super Horn can defend against Spiny Shells. However, this is Subverted, as the Coin item is back, and it is even more worthless than the fake item box in defending against anything the close rivals throw at you. (At least you could hit the rivals with a well placed fake item box.)
Shark Tunnel: Koopa Cape in Mario Kart Wii. In 7, thanks to the ability to drive underwater, it's turned into more of a shark half-pipe.
Shifting Sand Land: Some sort of desert track is also common in the series, but the king of this has to be the Thwomp Desert battle arena on Mario Kart Wii where a Thwomp crashes down to cause ripples through the sand.
Shock and Awe: The Lightning Bolt. Starting with Double Dash, the lightning bolt creates an electric aura around the victim(s) who are hit by the item; the Thunder Cloud item from Wii also uses this concept.
Socialization Bonus: In Mario Kart 7, if you get a StreetPass tag of someone using a kart element (chassis, tires, or glider) that you don't have, the Mii in question is included in your current GP, and you win the GP, you get one of the elements that they had that you previously lacked.
Space Zone: Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 7 has part of the track on a rocky planetoid, while Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 8 includes a space station.
Spinoff Babies: Some games have baby versions of Mario characters as racers. No explanation is given as to how they're able to drive... Or why they're able to race with their adult selves.
Spiteful A.I.: If a CPU has an item, they'll almost always try to hit the player with it.
Mario Kart 7 takes it up a few notches by having the AI always drift into your path so they can steal every coin and item box in front of or your just bump you off the road. They take it a step further by going out of their way to hit two item boxes so you'll be even less likely to pick one up.
Stealth Pun: In Sweet Sweet Canyon, there are bottles of soda spraying liquid. They're soda fountains.
Super Drowning Skills: Falling in water results in driving very slowly (Super Mario Kart), or you needing to get fished out immediately in subsequent games. This is averted in certain places in 7 and 8, where underwater can be an alternate route.
Super Title 64 Advance: Applies to every title in the series thus far except for Super Circuit, Double Dash!!, 7, and 8. note However, Super Circuit is "Mario Kart Advance" in Japan.
The retro tracks Avert this trope by having the console's initials at the beginning of their names. Tracks from Super Mario Kart have "SNES", tracks from Mario Kart 64 have "N64", tracks from Mario Kart: Super Circut have "GBA", tracks from Mario Kart: Double Dash!! have "GCN", tracks from Mario Kart DS have "DS", tracks from Mario Kart Wii have "Wii", and tracks from Mario Kart 7 have "3DS".
Take the Wheel: The main appeal of Double Dash!!. If two players are playing together, they can swap places and let the other player take control of the wheel. Also used in the game's ad, with two old ladies in a security cart.
The titular maneuver in Double Dash!! is a stronger variant of the rocket start that can only be achieved by two players working together.
7 has the Lucky Seven item, which gives the player seven different items to usenote Mushroom, Green Shell, Red Shell, Bob-omb, Banana Peel, Starman, Blooper. Additionally, one of the kart bodies available to unlock is named the Blue Seven (complete with the 7 logo on its spoiler).
The first track of 8, Mario Kart Stadium, does this for the entire series. 8 also features the Crazy Eight item, which adds a Coin to the Lucky Seven's arsenal, and the Mach 8, one of the default kart bodies.
Too Awesome to Use: Since the Super Horn is the only item that can destroy Spiny Shells and is fairly rare to get while in first place, people in the lead are naturally hesitant to use it on the more common Red Shells.
Tron Lines: Various places in Neo Bowser City, as well as on the kart wheels in Mario Kart 8's antigravity mode. 8's Electrodrome course even has lightcycle-style trails following the karts and bikes on some sections of the course!
7 introduces underwater areas. Cheep Cheep Lagoon and Wario's Shipyard are mostly underwater.
Dolphin Shoals from 8. Notable for being the first course in the series to start underwater.
Unexpected Character: Some of the (so-far) one-off characters can qualify, such as Petey Piranha, ROB, Funky Kong, Honey Queen and all seven Koopalings. Definitely applies to the characters who were created just for these games, such as Toadette, Baby Daisy, Baby Rosalina and Pink Gold Peach.
And then we have Link, Isabella and a Villager as DLC for 8. Although people often talked about how it would be fun to have other Nintendo characters in Mario Kart (Super Smash Kart, anyone?), no one expected it to actually happen, especially in Link's case.
Variable Mix: Starting from Wii, the menu music in the games gain more faster layers based on how close you are to picking everything needed to have an actual race, and the music in races warps when certain power-ups are used. In 7 and 8, the percussion of the course's song gets deeper if the player is in the lead. (Unless you're playing on 50CC.)
Additionally, certain tracks in Wii, 7 and 8 feature multiple mixes of the music playing, with the music seamlessly switching between them depending on where you are in the race. Some variations are minor (like Toad's Factory adding a clapping track to the music when indoors or the Bowser's Castle theme being quieter when you're outside; Shy Guy Falls adding the sounds of mining equipment and chanting Shy Guys when near the mines) and others can completely change the tone and/or instrumentation of the music (like Koopa Cape switching to a completely different instrumentation of its music when you head into the shark tunnel/underwater half-pipe; Dry Dry Ruins using a completely different instrumental when you are inside the temple; Moonview Highway using different instrumentations for the part in the countryside and the section in the city; Wario's Gold Mine switching from bluegrass to a more retraux theme with heavier percussion when inside; Water Park's music becoming calmer when underwater; Dolphin Shoals with three sections—starting zone, cave, and home stretch—with a unique instrumentation each (though it throws away the Variable Mix in the final lap, which only features the saxophone).
Video Game 3D Leap: With 64, which wasn't too much of a leap since the first game was already Mode 7, and used pre-rendered graphics for just about everything but the maps themselves.
Wacky Racing: To the point that the game becomes part racing game and part vehicular combat game. The series is also the Trope Maker for many others like Konami Krazy Racers (which actually preceded Super Circuit's release on the GBA) and Diddy Kong Racing (whose title character would be integrated into this series in Double Dash!!).
A WTF moment in Mario Kart Wii comes with Waluigi. He's as skinny as a rake, and yet is classed as heavy. Becomes even more egregious when you consider that he was a medium in Mario Kart DS... (Though this is because Mario Kart Wii goes by character height in addition to weight.)
In Mario Kart Wii, giant Wigglers stomp around on Maple Treeway at the top of the tree. In Mario Kart DS, a giant Wiggler is raced as the Final Boss! Wigglers come in a variety of sizes in all the games; a small one played tennis in Mario Power Tennis. Not to mention that Maple Treeway returns in 7 as a retro course, further adding to this trope.
Petey Piranha in Double Dash!! He's a heavyweight character, but he's nowhere near as big as he was when he appeared in Super Mario Sunshine (or his guest appearance in Super Smash Bros Brawl, even).