Mario and company are back on the track, this time in 3D. Mario Kart 7 returns the series to fine form, complete with tons of secrets to unlock and online play.
- Plenty of little tweaks help the gameplay
- Great racing fun
- Lots of tracks and driver
- Online play
- Kart customization
- Online play is somewhat limited
- Single-player game is basic
Mario Kart 7 Review:
Nintendo is trying hard to make this season the time for the 3DS to shine, especially with Mario. Mario Kart 7 hits the portable exclusively, and while fans shouldn’t expect a total overhaul, there are enough tweaks to make it one of the best in the series. The addition of online play, great 3D usage, and plenty of unlockables are great, but the racing is more refined than ever.
It’s a Me, Mario!
Mario Kart 7 certainly isn’t reinventing the wheel, so fans will know exactly what to expect here. That’s not a bad thing, of course. Nintendo has been pumping out great kart racers for years and this is no exception. What they have done however, is tweak the game play just enough to put the focus much more on racing—as opposed to combat.
While it’s certainly possible to suddenly find yourself shoved to the back of the line because of a direct hit from a turtle shell, the additional strategy of enhanced defenses helps make the combat more skillful. Another cool addition is the use of hang glider wings. Hitting a jump just right causes the kart to fly high into the air and pop wings, allowing players to glide around. This can lead to the discovery of all kinds of secrets and extra coins, but mostly it’s just fun.
There are 32 tracks to unlock, offering a mix of old and new. The retro-themed tracks are a fun inclusion and all the tracks are well designed, with a great eye toward multiple routes and hidden goodies. The game also offers 17 characters (eight are initially available) and some solid, if basic options for customizing your kart.
For Fun, Just Add Friends… or Strangers
Old school players might not approve of the lack of d-pad controls, but the analog circle stick is very responsive. Indeed, the only real complaint about the single-player game is there’s not enough of it. There are three Grand Prix modes—50cc, 100cc, and 150cc—and a couple gimmick modes (combat and pop the balloon), but there’s no real single-player adventure or mission mode to conquer. This is especially unfortunate because the game otherwise captures the look and feel of a true Mario game perfectly.
Thankfully, the eight-player competitive racing is solid whether online or locally. Mario Kart 7 is a terrific multiplayer game, but the online support suffers somewhat due to the inconvenient way Nintendo matches games. You can play with strangers in single races, but players must enter a code to join a team in the community mode. That hassle aside, online play is very good.
Mario Kart 7 might be mostly more of the same, but for fans, the tweaks are in the right direction and the racing is undeniably terrific. A meatier single-player game would have been appreciated, but otherwise this is an excellent portable racer.