Mario Kart Games, Ranked In Order Of Difficulty

Game designer Eitan Glinert (Slam Bolt Scrappers) told me over dinner last week that he's really good at Mario Kart games, good enough that, a year ago believed he and his colleagues at Fire Hose Games could gold-medal all the races in all the console Mario Karts for charity in a 36-hour stretch.

Unfortunately, Glinert and friends failed to get their gold medals for charity. They choked, I guess. But Glinert did get a blog post out of it, which gives us these rankings, from toughest to easiest, and a theory.

The Super Nintendo's Super Mario Kart (toughest) The GameCube's Mario Kart: Double Dash (2nd toughest) The Nintendo 64's Mario Kart 64 (2nd easiest) The Wii's Mario Kart Wii (easiest)

Not too shocking a list. And his theory about why this was?

The original Super Mario Kart was likely so brutally difficult due to an inability to program especially smart AIs [artificially intelligent opponents]. Rather than spending lots of time trying to (most likely unsuccessfully) make smart AIs the programmers simply opted to create a set of advantages for computer players that just feel flat out unfair. Perhaps this helps to explain why the N64 version was easier, as maybe the developers wanted to create a more accessible sequel that would be less frustrating. With the advent of the Gamecube, a system designed to speak more to "hardcore" gamers, it seems that Nintendo made their greatest effort to create a truly balanced Mario Kart that would appeal to and work for a broader slice of audiences. Of course, with the Wii's focus on a more casual audience it made sense to tone down the competitive nature of the game to make it easier for less frequent gamers to pick up and play (and play well).

I'll leave it to you readers to assess where the portable Mario Karts fit in on the difficulty scale and to debate how tough the 3DS' Mario Kart, slated for release by year's end, will be.

On the Relative Difficulty of Super Mario Kart Titles [Slam Bolt Scrappers blog]


    GBA and DS editions are curiously missing...

      Seconded...DS is is my Fave.

        They did say "console Mario Karts"

          Aren't they portable consoles?

            Nah, they're portable platforms or systems. Not consoles.

    My list including the handheld titles:

    Super Mario Kart
    Mario Kart Double Dash
    Mario Kart Super Circuit
    Mario Kart 64
    Mario Kart DS
    Mario Kart Wii

    Mario Kart Wii would be a bit higher in the list when playing multiplayer online though.

    The Special Cup on 150cc on the SNES was insanely hard. One mistake on any of the 4 tracks and your hopes of winning where over. You had to do it as a 2P game just so there was one less computer opponent. Then as there was no retire option, you'd have to do the 3 laps as player 2 after the you'd completed the race. Good times.

      I ran blocker for my brother on this cup - it was bloody difficult, but I red-shelled anyone who came near him.

      We only just scraped through. It was very close.

      Special Cup on 150cc was a NIGHTMARE! I don't think we even finished it. All I recall is getting bronze for Mushroom cup on 150cc, even that was TOUGH.

    However annoying, having to finish 1st to get gold on 150cc Special Cup with Rainbow Road, and then doing it. Pretty great gaming moment.

    Getting t-boned on the last corner and falling off the track to finish 4th, not so great.

    I would rank Mario Kart DS just over double dash. It introduced a whole variety of concepts that added a lot of depth to the game, without feeling overly gimmicky like the Wii version.

    Competitively, it was also the most fierce. Most of my friends own DS's, and when we get together it's always Mario Kart and Tetris!

    As for Mario Kart GBA, i'd rank it pretty low. I easily gold starred this one, and while it was fun it wasn't very hard.

      I know we're talking difficulty, but I thought Mario Kart DS was the best Mario Kart ever.

    Is it me or was 64 version the hardest? No matter how well you do there would always be someone just behind you. You could never shake 2nd place, I got gold in all the Snes cups and I found double dash quite easy.. the N64 version though.. GRRRRR

      I know what you are saying but I remember finishing 64 in 3 or 4 days.

      The invisible string thing was real.

      I would play multiplayer with a mate and whoever was 1st was always followed by 2nd and 3rd as if they were tied to an invisible string. This made it hard for a human player to maintain 2nd place usually ending the race in 4th.

        This is true. The game was specially programmed so that you couldn't win by a great distance.

        The AI opponents' speed was not limited the way that it was in the other MK games. Didn't matter how many times you knocked 2nd place off a cliff, they'd be able to catch you in no time. Best tactic was always to hold great items in reserve until just before the finish line on the last lap.

        I remember being able to lap 2nd place in some of the longer SNES races. In the N64 version, not so much (or not at all, actually).

        On the flip side, they slowed down if you fell behind, giving you a good chance of catching up.

    Whilst I only have the GBA, DS, GC and Wii editions (I have played the others though) I will say that the DS version is definitely the best, though I'd probably say this is due to the DS itself. The GameCube version though has some evil tracks - could never manage that bloody dinosaur one.

    It's hard to trust this list, I hear the super nintendo version was in last place until the very last minute.

    The super nintendo version is actually not that difficult, just play the game in reverse, do the 150cc cups and mirror mode first, then 100cc, then 50cc, you'd be surprised how difficult the easy 50cc option becomes.
    The ranking system on the later games is just annoying, you won gold, okay, award a star if you finished first in all the race, but the ranking system is hard to understand, there is no set list on how to improve your rank at all, just educated guess work.
    The Wii version is not as easy as the list suggests, there are too many weapons that you can not avoid, blue shells, power blocks, lightning, black ink, there are many a person reading this whom have been having a great race then the following happens, blue shell, a volley of red shells, lightning, black inked, walloped by someone whom is using a star, then just to add insult to injury, run over by someone using a enlarger mushroom, with only half a lap to go, your chances of recovering are almost zero.
    I have played all versions of mario kart except the Gamecube version, the Wii version may be fun to play, nice and smooth in 60hz mode, but there over compensation of some player complete lack of skills has really annoyed die hard fans, who like a challenge, but not to be ruthlessly beaten by the computer if they try too hard to unlock everything!

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