OK, Maybe The Wii U’s Selling Point Will Be Graphics

OK, Maybe The Wii U’s Selling Point Will Be Graphics

Behold new screenshots of Mario Kart 8, the best-looking screenshots I’ve seen from Nintendo in a long time. They’re an 11-image argument that, OK, maybe seeing classic Nintendo franchises with HD graphics is worth the price of admission for Nintendo’s newish Wii U console. UPDATE: Trailer added.

It’s not that Nintendo hasn’t made great-looking games on non-HD systems. Kirby’s Epic Yarn looked lovely on the Wii. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker looked phenomenal on the GameCube. Yoshi’s Island looked like a dream on the Super Nintendo.

Beautiful art does not have a minimum spec.

Still, Mario Kart 8, coming out on the Wii U in late May, is graphically stunning. Sometimes screenshots lie or mislead, but this game does look terrific in motion, in real life and even here captured by Nintendo in 11 shots.

OK. Maybe The Wii U's Selling Point Will Be Graphics.
OK. Maybe The Wii U's Selling Point Will Be Graphics.
OK. Maybe The Wii U's Selling Point Will Be Graphics.
OK. Maybe The Wii U's Selling Point Will Be Graphics.
OK. Maybe The Wii U's Selling Point Will Be Graphics.
OK. Maybe The Wii U's Selling Point Will Be Graphics.
OK. Maybe The Wii U's Selling Point Will Be Graphics.
OK. Maybe The Wii U's Selling Point Will Be Graphics.
OK. Maybe The Wii U's Selling Point Will Be Graphics.
OK. Maybe The Wii U's Selling Point Will Be Graphics.

The knock would be that Mario Kart 8 doesn’t play all that differently than the other Mario Karts. Graphics aside, I couldn’t tell you a good non-business reason for Nintendo to keep 8 from also running on the 3DS. The gameplay isn’t beyond the capabilities of Nintendo’s popular handheld. But, hey, Nintendo still likes to spend time and money making a game that only a portion of their audience can play. It worked before and I guess they think it still works now.

The big addition to the MK formula this time is the ability to drive up walls and on ceilings. When you drive up into the anti-grav areas, your tires swivel and you can start gliding around. Bumping into any other kart while in anti-grav gives you a speed boost. Collisions, you see, suddenly become desirable.

Otherwise, what you get in MK8 is pretty familiar. Power-ups and power-slides, three different racing speeds, several cups, each containing four races, a battle mode. Before you race, you can customise your kart’s wheels, body and glider attachment, as you could in Mario Kart 7.

There are some new power-ups, of course, including the Super Mario 3D World-inspired piranha plant that you can see in a shot up top. It automatically bites at other racers. The boomerang is new, too. Nintendo is also expanding the game’s roster with the likes of Metal Mario, Latiku Lakitu and a Shy Guy, all newly announced today for Mario Kart 8.

Also in keeping with tradition, the game has new course and re-done old ones. Spot any old favourites with new features?

What else is there to say, really?

I played it. It played like Mario Kart. Ergo, it’s a lot of fun.

And it doesn’t use the Wii U GamePad much for anything other than a horn or overhead track view — or for off-TV play. But that’s fine. Basic is fine. Mario Kart didn’t need messing with!

We’ll have some video of the game in action later today. Enjoy the screens for now. And look for the game on May 30 for Wii U.

UPDATE: Since some have asked, I should mention that I was playing a non-final version that had some characters, courses and customisation options blocked off. I’d be surprised if any of the game’s core functionality changed between now and launch, but you can assume there’s more to the game than what was shown. For example, the battle mode wasn’t accessible. In regard to the second-screen usage, I’m not expecting there to be significant differences between what I played and what will be released, considering that the game can be controlled with non-GamePad controlled (Pro Controller, Wii Remote). It wouldn’t make sense for there to be advantageous features for the GamePad player in otherwise even races. But maybe a Battle Mode could do something with asymmetrical play that gives the GamePad player different views/abilities? That’s speculation on my part, but we’ll see soon enough.

Oh, and here’s a brand-new trailer. See? Told you it looks good!


  • Pretty clear reason why they wouldn’t release this on the 3DS really.

    They want this to be a WiiU system seller. And it is.

    • It will sell some, but personally I’m not forking out $400+ for another Mario Kart game no matter how pretty it looks by last generation standards.

      Especially when the three other players are going to be stuck playing on wiimote combos if I don’t fork out for more controller controllers.

      • Especially when the three other players are going to be stuck playing on wiimote combos if I don’t fork out for more controller controllers.

        Isn’t that better than every other console out there? I mean to play four player on any other console you would have to buy three additional controllers, this would be like if you could just plug in three old SNES controllers into the N64. Personally I’ll use three Pro Pads because the Wii remote sucks, but it’s a pretty good alternative if you don’t want to spend money and still have Wii remotes laying around.

        • Well yeah…. sorta.

          I mean I own an Xbone and only 2 controllers at the moment, the only difference is a few of my mates also have them so getting four together is easy.

          It might just be me (I suspect it’s not) but as a 29 year old with mates who game casually, I don’t know a single goddam person who owns a WiiU that I could pool controllers with.
          So that’s an issue I haven’t had with a console ever, even with the Dreamcast I knew a few mates with spare controllers (although I was at school then).

          I know some people don’t mind, but I don’t want to play Mario Kart (or any game really) with the Wii-mote combo. It sucks, people are going to whinge about wanting their Gamecube controllers back, plus I don’t want to have to dig up 3 Wii-motes and 3 nunchucks.

          I’m not trying to be down on it but their online systems have similar problems. I’ve got no interest in playing Mario Kart online in sporadic matches with complete strangers. I’ve done it on my 3DS and it doesn’t really float my boat.

          Look, I’m not saying that any of these on their own are end-of-the-world issues. I’m just saying that for me personally, the upfront cost and effort involved in getting a decent game of Mario Kart going isn’t worth it for me. That’s why it’s not a system seller for me- because it’s all been done before, even with a new coat of paint it’s not going to blow my socks off.

          Sadly I think Smash Bros will probably fit into exactly the same boat. I get the feeling that the game that sells me a WiiU will have to be either a brand new franchise or a really good Metroid, Zelda or Mario which shakes one of those franchises up.

          • Fair point. Like I said I don’t like playing with the Wii remote either and I hate the fact they put the Wii remote front and center on all the Wii U advertising. I just think it’s a bit rough to say that’s a problem with the console when they’re doing much more than anyone else does on that front. It’s the only new release console that’s backwards compatible with the previous generation, and it’s one of the only consoles to ever extend that to hardware.
            I do wish they’d make the Pro Pad cheaper though. Considering they still focus on local multiplayer you should be able to buy a four pack for $100. If they do a Wii U Mario Kart or Smash Bros bundle it’ll almost certainly include a Pro Pad like the Monster Hunter bundle did, so I guess that’s a bonus.

      • “Especially when the three other players are going to be stuck playing on wiimote combos if I don’t fork out for more controller controllers.”

        I agree that would be annoying.

        Are you aware though that there is an online mode with up to 12 players, it does not make up for the problems you might have with the controllers, but if you just want to race other people it might be worth a look.

        • Yeah, multiplayer Mario Kart just isn’t the same without your mates on the lounge though.

          Unless a LOT has changed (it hasn’t, I’m just being diplomatic) I’ve found online Mario Kart to be an extremely dull experience.
          There’s not a huge amount of skill in the multiplayer races, there’s no sense or community or progression…. It’s just a bunch of one off races with random results and random people.

          Depending on how it plays (some Mario Karts have been better than others) then a time trial/ ghost mode always benefits from online scoreboards. Trying to shave fractions of seconds off a good lap time is always fun.

    • Is it? Kart games are fun, but I personally don’t know anyone who’d buy a new console just to play one.
      I can see it selling to most Wii U owners, sure, but I’d have thought the people who’d have made this a day one purchase would have already gotten the console…

      • I have been holding off for this. Give me a bundle with 2 controllers and I am in.

        If they announced this with a price-drop for the Wii-U I think they will move some systems.

        • I bought a PS3 exclusively for Metal Gear Solid 4, and if MGSV the Phantom Pain doesn’t come out on PC or last gen I’m buying a PS4 for it.

          Admittedly, I have more PS3 games now, but I sold the PS3 when I was done back in 2008 and bought a new one about two years ago.

        • I bought a Vita for Project Diva, shiny shiny miku vita.
          And im very glad i did, sure there isnt a HUGE library of games, but the ps1 games on it helps (old FF yay). The standby thing helps keep me playing the rpgs now that time isnt always available in big chunks like when i was a kid 😛

          • Exactly though. You went and bought other games for the machine, same as @finalizer. Everyone seems to keep talking as though they expect people to buy a Wii U for Mario Kart and Mario Kart only and that that is a silly idea… because it is. Individual games generally don’t warrant purchase of a system on their own, but collectively they will. And some will be heavier hitters than others, eg Mario Kart and/or Smash Bros which plenty of people have been saying they’re waiting for before they’ll splash out on a Wii U.

          • Also guilty. Bought the wii for mario kart and zelda. Super mario bros wii was just a fantastic little bonus a few years later.

          • While I’ve never bought a console and then only bought a single game on it, there have been several games which I bought *primarily* to buy a single game – that is, I would not have bought the console if that game had not been available.

            For the PS1 that was Final Fantasy VII. For the 3DS it was Tales of the Abyss. For the Vita it was Persona 4 Golden; for the GameCube it was Tales of Symphonia.

            I don’t doubt there will be quite a lot of XBox Ones sold due to Titanfall.

            So it really depends on what you mean by “for one game only.” Sometimes you buy a console in order to play one specific game, and even if there had been no other games available you may still have bought the console. Once you’ve broken the barrier to entry, refusing to buy other games for the same platform is just silly.

    • It would have been a great sytem seller….. 1 year ago.
      look im a massive nintendo fan but they made this to late.

    • Being realistic, people with a 3DS already have Mario Kart 7. (Which I should go and play again, it’s been a while).

  • Mario Kart 8 console bundle might be the one to start shifting units. Not a massive load of sales, but people (myself included) are sometimes suckers for classic series dressed up in new shiny graphics

  • expanding the game’s roster with the likes of Metal Mario, Lakitu and a Shy Guy, all newly announced today for Mario Kart 8.Except of those, only Lakitu is properly new :p

    Also wow. This looks pretty awesome and I am hype. Especially thanks to that Rainbow Road bit at the end, a friend mentioned it last night and I launched into my usual anti-MK64 rant. But that looks awesome, they’ve done i up really well. Also Donut Plains!

  • When you make one game a year I guess the graphics of an outdated system can shine.

    p.s. I’m a nintendo fanboy so it’s like a family annoyance

    • 2012 – Nintendo Land, NSMBU
      2013 – NSLU, Pikmin 3, WWHD, Mario 3D World
      2014 – MK8, Smash Bros, Hyrule Warriors

      Fanboy harder 😛

      • 9 games in 3 years… sorry I should have wrote 3 games a year……

        Nintendo land sucked, was fun for a couple hours and still goes alright for multiplayer (it’s no wii sports). NSLU, cmon… it’s just NSMBU skinned/DLC’d… it’s great but not a fully fledged title.

        2014 – Excited for all of those, definitely the strongest lineup they’ve had in a while.

        I really wish they’d brought out another wii sports 2.0 or something. I downloaded some of the HD remakes and they were decent, but I would have loved a new one 🙂

        • “If only they did more than one game a year.

          …they do? Oh. If only they did more than however many games they are doing.”

          I disagree, Nintendo Land is awesome, Wii Sports sucks and Wii Sports Resort is highly underappreciated. NSLU is a no less fully-fledged title than Galaxy 2 was, at the very least it’s a full expansion pack. And there’s no way you can deny that every title has been highly-polished, regardless of how much you like it as a game.

  • I’m going to be one a long holiday when this comes out. Maybe my brother in law will get it for his Wii U….

  • Very impressed by the quality of the graphics (for a Wii U game). If there’s a bundle I’ll be very seriously considering picking it up.

    Been a Mario Kart fan since the original. Even had Double Dash, unfortunately I sold it to my sister in-law for a present for her kids along with all the rest of my Gamecube games when I sold her my Wii about 4 years ago. Pretty sure she’s still got it, think I’ll have to pay her a visit, and see if she’ll sell it all back to me.

  • It looks great but I bet after 10 minutes of playing it I’ll be “Ho hum, pretty much the same as the last 7 Mario Kart games”

    I’ll still buy it though, hopefully online will be fun.

    • Mario Kart is meant to be played with a bunch of family and or friends. If you’re only playing by yourself or online it’s nowhere near as fun.

      • I don’t even find it fun with friends. The items kill it for me – actual skill in the game makes you less likely to win. I get the idea of keeping the weaker players competitive, but the balance has been way off since the N64 game, and I don’t think it will be fixed for this title.

        • This is largely a myth that only applies to players in a medium-level skill rank. People with actual skills will win in spite of any number of blue shells most times.

          Mario Kart, especially in the latest iterations have a surprisingly deep level of complexity. I have been playing the Wii one for 4 years and I’m quite, quite good and I still get amazed at what some people can do.

          • Even if it only applies at the medium level amongst people who play at home, it totally destroys the fun. I don’t think its a myth though – the game heavily (and demonstrably) punishes people who drive well.

          • -who drive OK. Your argument that the myth is valid among a subset of mediocre players is irrelevant to the point I am offering. It’s like complaining that Poker punishes everyone who doesn’t draw an Ace: even in a game with so much reliance on chance, skilled players will win much more frequently than medium-level players, ace or no ace. Mario kart has a much higher reliance on skill than luck and it’s still true.

            Blue shells ruin your fun? Try to become good enough that you can shrug them. Sure, from time to time you get triple combo’d lightning-POW-shove into the lava and lose a race that you definitely should have won, but as you get better, the times when that happens get fewer than the times you get to laugh at your opponents for winning a race in which you got blue shell’d 4 times.

          • Really? Really that’s the only thing you get out of my argument? You’re flailing to be right where your on arguments fail. Besides MK items ARE random within the availability of items allowed for each position. You may never get a bullet as first, but there will be times when no one gets a blue shell, others when they get it 5 times. Anyone with a decent skill can be blue shell’d once and still win, but it takes superb skill to win after being blue shell’d more than 3 times. If you don’t have that kind of skill, you’re stuck complaining about your bad luck.

            My point, I repeat, is that increasing your skill will greatly diminish the times you are screwed by chance. That is true in Poker, MK and any other game with an element of variance.

        • Curse that blue shell!

          Although whenever one is heading for me I try to slow down and at least take out some other competitors at the same time.

  • Am I the only one who thinks these graphics really aren’t all that great?

    They look like something you’d expect from a PC game in around 2009-2010. Jaggies everywhere, visible polygons, etc.

    • Of course it doesn’t look as good as current PC games, it’s a Wii U

      If it were on PC I’d expect it to look a lot better, but as a Wii U game I think it looks great.

    • lol, visible polygons ay…the whole thing is made of polygons.

      The lighting and effects are beyond the 360/PS3, that’s simply because the GPU in the Wii is more modern. It’s able to do all this at 720p and 60fps, that’s pretty impressive in itself, not many games ran like that on last gen hardware and these visuals.

      We all know the U isn’t a superpower, but it can produce very nice visuals and more importantly it has Nintendo games which is the whole point anyway.

      (Oh and I don’t compare consoles to PC’s, that’s just stupid)

      • I think he’s referring to the fact that you can see the shape of specific polygons. Pretty weak sauce in my opinion. I love that your going on about how great it looks compared to 8 year old hardware rather than its real competitors. It looks better than a gameboy too.

        • You can see “the shape of polygons”, or what you are actually meaning, low poly count models, in many games, even on the PS4 and X1, it’s a design choice made to enable more resources to be used elsewhere.

          I was comparing it to the previous gen hardware as many people still think it’s less powerful than those systems for some weird reason.

          Comparing to the current get, I would argue that most of the 1st party games on the Wii U look better than what you can find on the PS4/X1, not from a technical stand point, but from an artistic standpoint. Nintendo are very good at making colourful and beautiful looking games.

          Anyway, this is getting way of track, play games to enjoy them, don’t piss on about how many polygons you can see.

      • Well, if graphics are going to be a “selling point” rather than just “not a reason people refuse to buy your console” then it’s totally reasonable to compare them to the best mainstream graphics available (PC) together with the major console competition (PS4/XBone).

        The article isn’t entitled “Wii U is better than 8 year old console”, it’s suggesting that the graphics are actually a reason people might buy it.

        Which is, frankly, ridiculous.

    • Really?

      Are you talking about the pictures or the video?

      If your talking about the video, it’s been compressed so of course the game is not going to look good in it.

      It will look much much better in person when you play it.

  • Looks nice but it’s Mario Kart 8. 8! How many more do they have to do of the same game? Same can be said for COD but no one is bashing Nintendo for it. I guess they have been through a rough patch with publishers excluding the Wii U (and that Frostbite joke) so a bit of sympathy is ok but c’mon Nintendo.

    • it might be game 8 but that’s 8 since the SNES and includes handhelds… how many COD games in the last gen alone?

  • Mmm, now I have Sonic Racing Transformed as my go-to casual racer when I have company over I’m not sure I need Mario Kart anymore.

    • Exactly. Sonic has two games, LBP has a karting game, F1 Racing is out, Modnation racers… no one was gonna wait 4 years for a new game. People will only buy this for the characters.

  • Hmm… Should I get Mario Kart 7 with shinier graphics and more vertical than usual or just stick with Mario Kard 7…

  • I haven’t really loved a Mario Kart game since MK DS. By far, the best Mario Kart out there, in my opinion. That’s mostly due to the format – I’d watch TV and my DS for hours on end chasing high lap times, perfecting lines … for no real reason. None of my friends had DS’s (or even saw the point of them) and I didn’t have wireless internet – so I just played endless four-race single-player tournaments. I obsessed over it as if it were Gran Turismo.
    But I also loved the simplicity of it. It was all drifting and chasing racing lines, without any of the gimmicks I’ve come to associate with the franchise, such as kart kit outs, and bikes with tricks. Now, I have a WiiU, and wish I had more great core games for it. I’ll probably buy this just to give it a go, and to have it in my library – but will it ever rival MK DS? I doubt it. I’m sure it’ll be great but I seriously doubt it.

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