Video Game / Super Mario Kart

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Super_Mario_Kart_(US).004.png
It's always Luigi, dammit!

Super Mario Kart (1992) is a Driving Game for the Super NES that inspired the Mario Kart series and, with it, a whole slew of Wacky Racing imitators.

Due to technological limits, older driving games felt little like racing on a track and more like watching the track twist below you as other racers materialized or vanished at whim. In 1990, F-Zero changed everything with the Super NES's Mode 7 hardware, finally creating a realistic system with a (technically fakenote ) 3D track and real racers.

But Super Mario Kart is the game that perfected Mode 7 into a fast, wacky, and thrilling challenge. Your racer must navigate the track—shown in the bottom split-screen—rife with obstacles such as grass, pipes, oil slicks, fish, and many an outright Bottomless Pit. Not to mention the other racers—and their obstacles. Yes, both you and your opponents may pick up items to throw in each others' path; this is one of the many kart racing tropes Super Mario Kart started.

The game features examples of these tropes:

  • A.I. Breaker: On higher difficulties, the computer will always jump over a banana peel on the track if it could reasonably see it coming. On courses where you need to hit a jump panel to proceed (which is how this game handled "figure 8" sections), placing a banana right where the computer would drive would cause all of them to miss the jump and be stuck, giving the player a clean victory.
  • Always Night: The three Ghost Valley tracks.
  • Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: The psychedelic Rainbow Road, Super Mario Kart's final track.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Unless interfered with, the computer racers would always follow the exact same racing lines. Learn where that line is on each course, and a human has a huge leg up on beating the computer.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Bowser and Donkey Kong having the highest top speed. In order to make use of this it requires about a lap and a decent amount of coins to get up to speed and relies on the player not colliding with any objects or other karts to stay there, which on the harder tracks can be next to impossible. Averted in 150cc mode, where top speed is more easily reached and turns are easier to control and predict with the heavies. False starts can often be fully recovered in the first lap, which is next to impossible in 100cc. Veteran players and speedrunners alike prefer the heavies in 150cc for these reasons, as demonstrated here.
  • Balance, Power, Skill, Gimmick: The playable characters are grouped into pairs: Mario and Luigi are balanced, Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr. have slow acceleration but high top speed, Yoshi and the Princess have fast acceleration but low traction, and Toad and the Koopa Troopa are the gimmick with high traction, but have low speed and weight.
  • Banana Peel: This mainstay item of the Mario Kart series started here, though you weren't able to drag it (along with the shells) behind you until 64.
  • Big Boo's Haunt: The Ghost Valley tracks, though the Boos just float in the background and don't interact with the racers.
  • Bottomless Pits: In the Ghost Valley tracks and Rainbow Road. Lakitu will fish racers who fall down for the price of two coins (or one, or zero, if you have less than two. He's a nice guy like that.)
  • Bowdlerise: In the original Japanese version, Bowser and Peach would drink from the champagne bottle upon winning first place at the awards ceremony. It was changed in international versions to simply tossing the bottle around.
  • Breakable Power Up: Getting bumped by another racer removes a coin.
  • The Bus Came Back: Toad returns after being left out of Super Mario World. This is also Donkey Kong Jr.'s first appearance, playable or otherwise, since 1983.
  • Car Fu: Heavier karts can bully lighter ones, especially if one racer has been shrunk or is using a Star.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard:
    • They don't follow the same rules as items go; each enemy racer can use only two items (a "signature" item such as Mario and Luigi's star or Princess [Peach] and Toad's poison mushroom, plus the Feather for avoiding obstacles), but they can be used at will. Its egregious use of multiple items without visiting an item box (as the player character has to) is perhaps best demonstrated when a stationary computer uses five or six feathers in a row to avoid an item just under its wheels. Additionally, if you hit an AI kart that's been shrunk by Lightning Bolts, they merely spin out rather than getting Squashed Flat the way human players will. Besides this, AI drivers can drive right through on-road obstacles like warp pipes.
    • Additionally the AI players will change their track positions deliberately to block you. On lower difficulties it's most obvious that Mario and Luigi are doing it, but on 150cc cups ALL the NPCs will do this, including arcing wide on the corners to hit you as you're turning. If you're using the L and R buttons to power slide around for tighter cornering this can completely ruin your trajectory.
    • The AI is also impervious to all objects aside from weapons and other racers. This is most obvious in Bowser Castle 2, where four thwomps with unlucky RNG can trap you for seconds, while you watch the AI drive right through them. On the other hand, the AI can't steal your powerup boxes or use boost arrows either.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Despite the claims of Strictly Formula regarding the rest of the series, Super is a somewhat different beast compared to the formula that 64 would create:
    • AI karts have special powers discussed above under The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard, the deck is nowhere near as stacked against you if you're ahead, there's a coin-for-speed boost mechanic that wouldn't be touched upon again until Super Circuit and 7, and the Blue Shell didn't exist (which the European VC release trailer mercilessly lampshades.) Also there are twenty tracks with five laps rather than sixteen tracks with three laps.
    • The steering mechanics in this game are slippery and sensitivenote . Very delicate input is needed just to stay on the road and not end up hitting the walls or falling off. Mario Kart: Super Circuit carries on with similar mechanics. And instead of the traditional item boxes, there are item tiles, which each can be used up once per track, and since there's only one batch of item panels on each track, players will under most cases be limited to only one item per lap.
    • Each race has 5 laps, which hasn't been used in future games that opted for 3 laps due to the first game having simpler track designs and shorter length. The first game is also the only game (along with 64 and Super Circuit) that uses lives and it's possible to not even finish a grand prix due to running out of lives for not placing in the top 4.
    • This is the only game in the series to have Donkey Kong Jr. as a playable character rather than Donkey Kong himself, though this is due to this game predating the release of Donkey Kong Country 1 by a couple of years.
  • Exclusive Enemy Equipment: The AI versions of Bowser can throw out fireballs that can be difficult to avoid due to its circular movement pattern while Peach and Toad have Poison Mushrooms, which shrink the victim like Lightning Bolts. Yoshi can toss his signature Eggs, which acts like a Green Shell if ran into.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: The Trope Namer.
  • Gravity Barrier: The Ghost Valley tracks and Rainbow Road.
  • Green Hill Zone: The four Mario Circuits.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Each difficulty level affects how fast you and the AI will go. 50cc=Easy (You will easily lap the AI). 100cc=Normal (The AI can keep up a little bit, but you will be a bit faster than they are). 150cc=Hard (You and the AI race incredibly fast and it's difficult to keep a lead on them).
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: Mario and Luigi have middle-of-the-road top speed, acceleration, off-road performance, weight, and handling.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The three Bowser's Castle tracks have lava as the bottomless pits.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Donkey Kong and Bowser have the heaviest karts which are also slow to accelerate, however this is balanced by having the highest top speed in the game.
  • Mascot Racer: This game is the Trope Maker. Though silly racing games existed before, this game set the standard for the genre.
  • Mighty Glacier: Bowser and Donkey Kong Jr. are standard examples of the racing game variant of this trope. While their top speed is high, their slow acceleration and poor handling make it tough for them to actually reach and maintain it. However, their heavy weight means they can smack lighter characters around the track.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • Due to the awkward drifting mechanic present in this game and Super Circuitnote ,combined with the slippery controls and limited availability of items (one per lap, unless the player hits a second item panel that are not commonly seen in the tracks of Super Mario Kart) anything past 50cc will definitely prove to be difficult even for players that can master the non-Mode 7 games. 150cc takes the icing on the cake for not only you go insanely fast (and the slippery controls make it even more difficult), but the AI will go just as fast.
    • The best demonstration of Nintendo Hard at work in this game would be Rainbow Road. Completing this track in the 150cc Special Cup is incredibly difficult because the track is surrounded by a Bottomless Pit and unlike the Ghost Valley tracks has no paving to stop you driving off the track at any points, plus the Thwomps from the Bowser Castle stages with an added bonus - they flash with invincibility so if you hit them you don't bounce off, you spin out, often all the way off the track. It's incredibly easy to go from 1st place with a flying lead to 8th with no way back in the space of a few seconds.
  • The Rival: Depending on who the player drives as, there will be certain characters that perform better and try their best to annoy the player. The rival will always be the same for each character, and that rival will do their best to not let you win. As shown in the page picture above, pick Koopa Troopa and the CPU giving you the most trouble will be Luigi, but pick Luigi and Yoshi will suddenly give you the most grief, and so on.note 
  • Rubber Band AI: Pretty severe, and especially occurs if a computer that has earned many points in the GP falls behind. A rather interesting case with this trope is the AI will only rubber band back to their original position that matches their standings. For example, if an AI controlled Mario was ranked 3rd in the standings and he gets knocked down a few spots during a race, he'll only rubber band back to 3rd place and won't push for 2nd or 1st.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: By pressing Y+A on the character select, you can shrink your racer. This makes you vulnerable to being crushed if a computer so much as touches you, but does not slow you down like enemy mushrooms do.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The Vanilla Lake tracks.
  • Super Title 64 Advance: Even though there was no "non-Super" Mario Kart game on the NES before this one.
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: While item panels on the Battle Mode courses will refresh after they've all been used, there's an oversight on Course 3, which has two such panels in areas you need a feather to get to. Use all the other panels and don't have feathers? You're stuck.
  • Wacky Racing: The cast of Mario characters racing in go-karts in exotic tracks while hurling objects at each other certainly fits the trope.

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