Mario Kart 64 is Not As Good as You Think It Is

I was doing my usual read through of the Twittersphere this morning with a coffee in my hand. It’s the modern day equivalent of reading the daily paper that you could buy for a few pennies in the 20’s except with less ink and more opinions you didn’t ask for. I was learning the news of the day, checking in on my favorite follows, and groaning at the newest trends that the locals have so brilliantly graced us with. Par for the course.

I then stumbled upon a poll from the Toucher and Rich account about Mario Kart. More specifically, which Mario Kart is the most superior.

Naturally I exercised my gahddamn American right to vote. I have yet to play the newest Mario Kart for the Switch (I thought it was just a re-release of the one for the Wii U? Yes, no, maybe?) so that was a no.

I love Double Dash–it’s a close #2 for me–but I went with “Other” in support of Mario Kart Wii. It had solid online play, great cars and bikes, and the controls were accessible to a lot of folks. Want to hold the Wii remote sideways like a steering wheel? Go for it. Like the GameCube controls in Double Dash? Get on the sticks. Prefer the typical Wii remote and nunchuck set-up? Let ‘er rip.

Now I expected the “Other” choice, and more specifically Mario Kart Wii, to be the caboose. I’m pretty sure I’ve got an unpopular opinion on this topic, and not the unpopular opinion the @FreddyAmazin’s or the @Dory’s of the world would have.

“Unpopular opinion, but pizza’s, like, SO good.”

What I didn’t expect was the results to be so extremely lopsided.

SEVENTY FOUR PERCENT SAID MARIO KART 64!!

JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH. I thought it was gonna be a two-horse race but even that was too far fetched apparently! Mario Kart 64 with the decisive victory in this poll.

I respectfully disagree with the vast majority of the folks voting.

Now I like Mark Kart 64. I really do. It’s a fine game that everyone seems to enjoy.

But I can compare Mario Kart 64 to of one of my favorite quotes from the books about Winston Abernathy Pooh, more commonly reffered to as “Winnie,” and his pals in the Hundred Acre Wood. I recently saw Christopher Robin at the ol’ AMC Braintree 10. Delightful film, I recommend it. That movie remind me of this nugget of wisdom:

“‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”

That perfectly caputres my feelings about Mario Kart 64. We as a society like the idea of Mario Kart 64 more than Mario Kart 64 itself.

Close your eyes. Actually, don’t. Because then you can’t read what I’m about to write. But what if your eyes are already closed? How will I be able to tell you to open them back up? Damnit. Well if your eyes are closed then enjoy your nap, and if they’re open then just imagine this situation:

It’s a Friday night. You just got your BLs or Millahs or Natty Lights (I don’t judge) and you’re getting ready to go to a house party that is wayyyyy too crowded and full of people you don’t know and music you don’t like.

You stop by your buddies’ dorm room or house or apartment, and someone pulls out the ol’ N64. They don’t make em’ like this anymore, do they? Your eyes widen at the idea of playing some throwback games before heading out to a place where you can buy PBR pitchers for the same price as that newspaper from the 20’s I mentioned earlier.

The group decides on Mario Kart 64. Who doesn’t like Mario Kart? You pick Yoshi because you’re a smart person. Someone picks Luigi because they’re not a smart person. Someone picks Peach because it’s 2016 and we don’t discriminate on our go-kart tracks. Another picks Wario because they’re a libertarian.

You start it off at Luigi Raceway to ease your way in to the Yoshi Valleys and Bowser’s Castles of the game. It’s a fun first match, you run it back another time or two, and then it hits you.

This game is kinda strange. The frame rate’s messed up, it’s a little unresponsive, some turns seem impossible, you keep missing opponents with red shells, all that jazz.

Win or lose (probably win because you picked Yoshi), it’s not as fun as you anticipated.

But you–and everyone else–keeps this to themselves for a little bit, until someone suggests that they finish up with Rainbow Road and switch it to Madden or NHL on PS4 before heading out to hear someone completely butcher “Closing Time” by Semisonic at karaoke night. Everyone agrees.

That’s the typical Mario Kart 64 experience. You get excited thinking about it, you play it for a few rounds, and immediately realize that the game is decades old at this point and doesn’t hold up like you imagined it would. Then you rinse and repeat when someone suggests it months later. The nostalgia people have for it hinders their view on the game itself; they overlook the game’s flaws in the modern age because they have fond memories of it.

Again, this is not to say that it’s an objectively bad game. Those first couple of rounds are quite enjoyable and fun. That’s what games like these should be first and foremost: fun.

But once the appeal wears off and the game begins to show its age, it’s not as fun compared to other games in the series. It doesn’t have the replay value that a game like Double Dash has, which is over a decade old now and still a blast to play.

I find it funny that this is the case since MK64 and MKDD both have 16 tracks and the courses on the N64 installment are considerably better than the GameCube edition. Take the tracks I mentioned earlier and throw in Mario Raceway, Royal Raceway, Choco Mountain, DK’s Jungle Parkway, Koopa Troopa Beach, etc. That’s a helluva lineup. Double Dash has some great courses (Wario Colliseum being my personal favorite) but there are also some big time stinkers in there.

But that goes to show how good of a game Double Dash is. It still holds up where 64 doesn’t. There aren’t any glaring frame issues. The gameplay is smooth. The power ups consistently work and don’t bail on you like they do in 64.

Mario Kart Wii is my favorite because it’s got the same pros as Double Dash and there are far more courses. If you download the Mario Kart Custom Tracks files, you also get every single Mario Kart course ever created up to the point of Mario Kart Wii’s release, as well as some solid originals made by community members. That’s a win-win-win folks.

Mario Kart 64 has none of that. It was groundbreaking for its time and will be forever recognized as such, but it’s extremely limited in a contemporary frame. 16 tracks, can’t change your car type, bare bones cast (although I don’t need like gold Waluigi or Link from Zelda in my Mario Kart games), and spotty gameplay. What you see is what you get.

It’s still a fine game, but it’s for sure not the best in the series. Not by a long shot.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna duck for cover from the haters.