I was digging through some old storage bins in my basement the other day when I stumbled upon a small, plastic steering wheel. I couldn't help but laugh. My brain instantly triggered with the sounds of a blue shell flying towards me as I trash talked my own mother who was still on lap 1. In classic Nintendo Fashion, it seems as though they made a game that was for everyone. If you offered me $500 to find someone in 24 hours who has never played Mario Kart Wii, I don't know if I could do it. Not only did it seem everyone played this game, but we played so much of it. In the summer of 2008, I knew the layout of Coconut Mall better than my own home.
New Technology Brought To Your Couch
This era of Nintendo games were very experimental. Motion controls were still a new concept to most people, and Nintendo brought it right to our homes. When you're a kid, this seemed like nothing short of magic. Because the technology wasn't always quite where it needed to be, imagination carried these games a long way. At the time of Mario Kart Wii's release, we were still under two years into the Wii's lifecycle. The very gimmicky motion controls still felt fresh and new. It was very easy for anyone to pick up and play without any prior knowledge, which played a big role in the games success. Of course if you were boring and or not 10 years old, you could always pick up a standard Gamecube controller to play.
There were 24 playable characters in Mario Kart Wii. Some were easier to unlock than others, and it was exciting being surprised when you got a new one unexpectedly. Before you could just Google how to unlock everything, you would hear rumors from friends at school of how to get certain characters. This was something that kept things fresh and almost mysterious. Finding out information about a game in your own time felt like a journey in itself. I played Mario Kart Wii with my friends for two years before realizing Funky Kong was a playable character. Discovering things at a slower pace was just an added layer of excitement to games that I dearly miss. Sometimes with everything at our fingertips it can inadvertently create a more shallow gaming experience.
Of course we can't forget about the iconic list of courses this game had. Whether it was drifting down DK Summit, getting some last minute shopping done at Coconut Mall, or taking the scenic route through Maple Treeway, this game was packed with 32 defining tracks. With soundtracks that are so good, I found myself listening to them without even playing the game. 36 hours of Coconut Mall music on Youtube here I come! All jokes aside, these courses really set the stage for where Mario Kart was headed. Some tracks had a more classic feel like Luigi's Circuit, and others with new dynamic gameplay like Grumble Volcano. There was a good balance of challenging and easier levels so the game never felt too simple or too overwhelming.
Alternative Game Modes
I'll keep it real with you all. I only played Balloon Battle and Coin Runners so I could do cool tricks on the dirt bike. That being said, this was a great backup plan when simply racing against friends got old. There was also an entirely different set of tracks to play on which added a lot of content to the game. These game modes embodied the competitive spirit of Mario Kart and many egos were crushed while playing. I feel if this game came out today, some of these tracks would be part of paid DLC. They're that fun to play on.
Mario Kart Wii is my favorite Mario Kart. It's an amazing game and I would by lying if I said it wasn't mostly carried by nostalgia. It's the Mario Kart I played during some of the best times of my life. It's also many individual's introduction to the series. It set the standard for what these games would become. It offered a level of fun and mystery that kept people coming back for years even after newer games were released. The combination of the Wii's motion capabilities and sticking to a simple formula allowed this Nintendo classic to end up in millions of homes. Whether you're playing solo trying to beat a Time Trial score, or playing verses mode with friends at a party, this is one of the few games that I truly believe will be played for generations to come.