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Nintendo 3DS Review: Mario Kart 7

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In my world, Mario Kart is synonymous with fun.  Got a Nintendo system?  Get Mario Kart – you’re going to love it.  Even less good Mario Karts (Double Dash) are great fun.  The man may only be a plumber in the Mushroom Kingdom (or in the real world, we guess he’s kind of a hero in the Kingdom), but he’s royalty in the kart world.

So, joy of joys, the mustachioed man is back with more kart racing fun (just in time for the holiday season not coincidentally) in Mario Kart 7.   We, of course, had no idea that this was the seventh time he’d hit the kart circuit, but we trust Nintendo to have counted the number of iterations of the game they have put out.  Available for the 3DS, Mario Kart 7 has everything you’ve come to expect from the series and a new trick or two.

The new game features 32 courses, and as with the most recent Wii outing for Mario Kart, half the courses are old (with a few slight tweaks) and the other half are new.  Many of the courses, even the new ones, feel like they have quite a wide track to them and it isn’t until one ups the difficulty (50cc, 100cc, and 150cc are again the available levels here as well as mirror) that there is any sort of trouble in taking the gold with a perfect score in each cup.

Where the game gets (slightly) different is with the ability to customize karts.  While a bare minimum of customization options will be available up front, collecting coins on the courses will allow you to open up new options for karts including bodies, wheels, and types of gliders (we’ll get there in a second).   It may not be the depth of customization that you’re used to in other racing games but it is more than other Mario Kart titles have sported in the past and it adds a welcome dimension.  You will certainly find that spending a little bit of time on the selection of your kart, tires, and glider will benefit you in races on higher difficulty levels.

Now, as for those gliders types – some courses in the new game require you to take to the air.  You don’t really generally do this for extended periods, but you can do it and it can help you pass folks… just like you can go underwater from time to time.  No need to fret, the game is still mainly traditional kart stuff—it hasn’t quite gone off Diddy Kong Racing style yet—these are just new, additional (and welcome) elements.  There are also some new items in the game like a Tanooki Tail, Fire Flower, and a Lucky 7 (you get seven items with that bad boy).

Perhaps what most pleases us about the game are the graphics.  Mario Kart 7 features some pretty good looking images on the 3DS, and the 3D bits prove to be a welcome part of the whole rather than jarring and disconcerting as we’ve seen with some other titles.

Other than that, what really makes us happy about the titles is that while there are tweaks here and there to the gameplay, it is the same Mario Kart that we know and love.  It is the sort of pick-up-and-play, accessible to everyone, game that Nintendo often excels at, while having a depth of content that will please those who are well indoctrinated into the franchise.  There characters are fun, the karts are fun, the courses are fun, and we defy anyone who likes kart or arcade racers to not enjoy themselves with it.

While we still don’t see anyone buying a 3DS in order to be able to play Mario Kart 7, we can’t imagine anyone having a 3DS and not buying Mario Kart 7.

Mario Kart 7 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.