Reader Review: Mario Kart 7

Reader Review: Mario Kart 7

Opinions: our readers have them. Today’s reader review comes from a regular contributor to the site, Tristan Damen. Tristan has adopted a more traditional approach for today’s review, snubbing the Kotaku format for something a bit different *shakes fist*. Read what he thinks of Mario Kart 7 and share your own opinions in the comments!

Mario Kart 7

I’ve always had mixed feelings towards the Mario Kart series. I haven’t played every instalment, but when I pick one up I often find that I have a visually-pleasing racer with woefully-scaled difficulty levels, belligerent AI and addictive mechanics that provide satisfaction and tear-inducing frustration in equal measure. I’ll play these games over the course of weeks, months, even years, and not grow tired of being repeatedly screwed over by the shells of various colours, or many other power-ups that are inspired by the diverse cast of characters. Will Mario Kart 7 prove to be any different from its predecessors, or am I just playing these games for the sake of comfort and familiarity?

The first thing that players will notice with Mario Kart 7 is the wonderfully-rendered tracks and karts; each smacking of colour and the series’ trademark visual charm. The frame rate is brisk and consistent, with Super Mario 3D Land being the only real peer in terms of visual prowess on the portable system. Even with a screen full of racers and power-ups in play, the action never slows: it is a wonder to behold.

The thirty-two tracks in Mario Kart 7 offer a mix of the old and the new, much like Mario Kart Wii. The new courses are all a joy to tear through, and feature a variety of short-cuts and strategies to employ. I was somewhat disappointed by the choice of retro tracks as there is some overlap with the last instalment on the Wii. That being said, Dino Dino Jungle — the best track from Mario Kart: Double Dash and in the series’ history at large – was included this time, so I wasn’t too perturbed. There are some new power-ups added to the mix as well, with two in particular having some interesting defensive applications. Blue shells are still there to undo a perfect race, and the Bullet Bill, Golden Mushroom and Super Star power-ups seem a little overpowered given the brevity of some tracks. All things considered, the game adheres to the well-established Mario Kart formula; superficial changes to drifting and the new ability to glide after certain jumps don’t significantly alter the pace and mechanics of the “standard” Mario Kart race.

The custom kart system employed in Mario Kart 7 is an interesting departure from the character-themed vehicles found in previous iterations. Depending on your selection of chassis, wheels and glider, five stats ranging from speed to off-road ability can potentially be affected. Character choice also has an impact on your performance in different areas. I had a lot of fun experimenting with these combinations, but due to the randomised cruelty one often experiences in a typical race (above 50cc, that is), it’s not something that really needs to dwelled upon. I also found the roster to be somewhat lacking. I’ll try not to spoil anything, but the exclusion of Diddy Kong — and to a far lesser extent, Waluigi — will surely rank as some of last year’s great gaming disappointments. That being said, there’s plenty of customization options and characters to unlock for those willing to invest the time… and endure the frustration.

The main problem I had with Mario Kart 7 stemmed from the difficulty levels, or rather, Nintendo’s inability to properly scale the challenge across the game’s four settings. 50cc presents nothing in the way of challenge and fails to prepare you for the cheap tricks that you suffer in 100cc, or the devastating twists of fate found in the 150cc and Mirror classes. Once I hit 150cc, the f-bombs started flying at an alarming rate; especially considering the wide demographic that this game can appeal to. Still, I kept playing and will continue to play. The AI can be cheap and I may get frustrated, but that’s one of the reasons I keep coming back: vengeance and the joy found in smiting one’s enemies!

Time Trial functions just as it should, and it’s really not worth mentioning the shallow Coin and Balloon battle modes. What will keep series’ faithful invested in this iteration is the Mario Kart Channel and online multiplayer. Players can exchange ghost data via the Spot Pass system and I’ve enjoyed great success besting the times of complete strangers. I must admit, I’ve never had much luck with Spot Pass. Even living in a metropolitan area hasn’t allowed for me to net more than a handful of hits, so I haven’t had that many ghosts to beat. I’ve also had trouble finding matches online. When I did finally get some races in, however, I didn’t experience any lag; so that’s encouraging. I could see how this feature set could extend the longevity of the game, it’s just a shame that I haven’t been able to find a race when I’ve wanted one.

Upon reflection, there’s not a whole lot that can be considered new in Mario Kart 7. For most (myself included), however, that’s one of the big drawcards of this game and the series at large: consistency. If you’re a fan of the series, I have no doubt you’ll have a great time with this instalment. If cheap AI and power-ups have never been your cup of tea though, you’d best steer clear.

Do you agree with Tristan? What did you think of Mario Kart 7? Let us know!


  • I’d agree that it’s pretty much a rehash with nothing really inventive going on.

    That said, it managed to sell consoles. Maybe that’s all people are looking for?

  • i haven’t played mario kart 7, however this review pretty much sums up every Mario Kart iteration i have played 😛
    frustrating and annoying, but i keep coming back for more

  • This makes me sad. I got MK7 for xmas but havent been able to find my 3DS anywhere:(
    I do take it to work with me though so who knows where it could be. I am very temped to pick up a red 3DS now though lol

  • It’s a shame you haven’t been able to get many online races. I don’t seem to have any troubles finding a full 8 player race (when I’m on a decent connection), but maybe I’ve just been lucky.

    The only thing I wish they’d included was the Mission Mode from Mario Kart DS. That was great fun and a little distraction from the regular races. Maybe some new battle modes as well (personally I don’t find the coin or balloon battles much fun… maybe they could combine balloon battle with regular races or something to mix it up?).

    Anyway, overall great game.

  • I agree it’s definitely more Mario Kart goodness with nothing too innovative. I think the tweaks are generally good. I disagree that the ai is unfair or tricky. I haven’t had TOO much trouble getting through most of the difficulty levels even though there is definitely a difficulty increase. Maybe I play too much mario kart? :/ In general I’d say it’s the most polished mario kart yet with perhaps the exception being the Wii version.

  • Nice review. I think the online play saves it for me. I’ve been playing the MK series for so long that there’n no real interest for me in going through the various cups. But the online is so good. Lag-free, heaps of players online. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.

  • Nicely written, and I agree with pretty much all of it.
    My main problem with the 3ds version is that I prefer the d-pad configuration from the DS; it lets you throw in power slide boosts much faster, and you don’t miss a cruicial “left” in the “left-right-left” when you’re not quite as used to the circle pad as you’d like. If using the D-pad on the 3DS version was allowed I’m sure I’d rate it much higher.
    I think the DS’s track selection, difficulty, controls, and AI balance is the best in the series, and for that reason it’s still my favourite.

  • I don’t entirely agree with this review.
    I have always been a big fan of the mariokart games, and though I agree that many parts of the 3DS installment follow the canon of the series, it is far more than just a new rendition of an old game. The addition of the glider and propeller makes races far more interesting: it adds an entirely new way to race, and opens up access to more shortcuts than in any of the past games. Rather than simply following the track, the game almost dares you to find alternate routes and search for shortcuts, especially in the very expansive wuhu island stages.
    On the comment that the game is sometimes frustrating, that is kind of the point: if first place didn’t face the threat of blue shells, it would be absolutely boring out front. items like those keep you on your toes.
    Though i agree with the review on some aspects, it seems to miss the point of the game.

    • I would have to agree with you oc1234. I have been playing mario kart since the SNES version. After the N64 version (which was amazing) Nintendo really lost me on the whole series. This game along with 3D mario and Zelda OOT, are the reason i got 3DS. None of these games have disappointed.

      I believe Nintendo is back at its best with this system. Truly stunning level design, for mario 3D in particular. And yes, you do get a lot of random AI. haha. but it wouldn’t be mario kart without it! You have to break at least one 3DS while playing or you haven’t had fun

  • The internet is what detoryed the game for me… 5 minutes in, i disconnect… the problems of living in australia. sigh. and yet the wii version didn’t have this problem

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