Tell Us Dammit: Explaining The Mario Kart Drift

I was reading this article about Mario Kart 8 and remembering the time I tried to explain to my wife, a Mario Kart noob, how to drift. It was really, really hard. How would you explain the Mario Kart drift in one succinct, easy to understand sentence?

I found it really, really difficult. It's interesting: the Mario Kart drift seems really easy and once you understand how to do it, it is really easy — but it's actually a very complicated thing made easy with muscle memory. We've been drifting since Mario Kart 64. We take it for granted now, but newbies need to learn all over again. It's like trying to teach a crawler how to toddle! HOW HARD CAN IT BE!

So that's the question I'm asking you today: how would you explain Mario Kart drifting to a complete noob?


    I don't.

    I explain to them how to powerslide!

      Kart is in--- parking lot. Would you like to play again?

    I would explain that other mario kart games did it better.

      Cool, but like, right now we're about to Play Mario Kart 8 though.

      I appreciate your discerning taste but, man, I'm not doing well in this race.

      Can you just, is it like B? Just tell me the buttons. Oh! That turtle just flew by me!

      Is coming 12th bad?

      I just feel like this'd be more fun if you'd explain sliding to me.

      I'm gonna call my Mum and get her to pick me up.

        Mark, get this man a prize! Open the MK rap competition and then succinctly close it, as the winner has already been found.

        Can Kotaku please have a Mario Kart rap competition?

      Which ones exactly?

      The drifting in MK8 is almost identical to MK Wii, apart from the fact that outward drift bikes have been buffed and are much better now.

      The drifting in SMK was terrible to the point where is was hardly worth doing, and the drifting in MKSC wasn't much better. MK64's drifting was passable although still not great. The drifting in MKDD and MKDS was fairly solid apart from the fact that it created snaking, which was bad.

      That means the only MK game that had arguably better drifting mechanics was MK7, but I think MK8 is superior to that too, if for no other reason that there are four vehicle types (Karts, Outward drift bikes, Inward drift bikes and ATV's/Buggies) that all require slightly different drifting techniques.

      Last edited 10/07/14 11:47 am

        Mario kart ds done it better in my opinion.
        Followed by mk7.
        I just find mk8 more unpredictabl.

          MK8's drifting is anything but unpredictable. You do it right and you'll nail it every time. I can't see how you could possibly suggest it's unpredictable.

            I'm comparing to mkds where you have a basic all round drift. Maybe i'm using a bad car with a bad combo of parts.
            Either way i just liked mkds handling better.

              Each to their own, but IMO MK8's handling and drifting mechanics are far and away better than most other games in the series...with the exception of MK Wii which was almost identical. MKDS's handling and drifting was kinda a weird hybrid of MK64 and and MKDD I feel. Would have been solid enough though if it didn't create snaking, but it did.

                Yeah, its a pitty the snaking ruined it.
                lugi in the cucumber was freaking OP with the handling it had.

    When you press the button your whole kart hops into the air, probably through magic, when that happens while turning bluefire will appear probably cause your kart is on fire, get out of the burning kart and hitch a ride with peach, she will then win the race while you drink some well deserved beers.

    Drifting in Mario Kart since the Super Nintendo's Mario Kart the first Mario Kart not the 64 version.

      SMK did technically have drifting, but it worked a lot differently and didn't provide any kind of mini turbo. All it was really good for was for taking corners super tight. It was also super hard to pull off and really easy to screw up.

    In the immortal words of the penguin from Fight Club - "Slide" :-P

    Drifting is a pretty easy concept to explain.

    It's the action of taking a corner without needing to slow down, that then allows you to gain a speed boost as you exit the corner.

      That's a good explaination of what it is.

    You get this with a lot of games when u try explaining things to non-gamers. You would be amazed at how many ppl I know who cannot understand how to use the right stick to control and camera and left stick to move lol.

    Last edited 10/07/14 11:38 am

    Jump + Turn, I am having the same issue with my better half she slams into walls far too often.
    Drifting is the key to success in MK8, so I hope she picks it up soon.

    "The drifting is super-unrealistic and you'll have a hard time applying basic physics to it, so just don't use it until you're familiar with the controls."

    It is not that you are drifting, but that the world itself is moving underneath you in response to your desires.

    Last edited 10/07/14 11:52 am

    MK8 powerslides remind me a great deal of MK64, which is a great thing.

    I think the only advice I can give is to plan ahead, start the slide earlier than you think you need to. And, as with anything, practice.

    I'd break it down into its constituent components:
    1) Hop with ZR - and hold it down to drift.
    2) Whilst in the air, flick the analog stick in the direction you want to turn.
    3) Let go of ZR to break the drift.
    Once that fundamental skill is learned I would go into more detail:
    - You can adjust the angle of your drift further by steering, either into the corner or away from it.
    - By flicking "left, right, left" or "right, left, right", you can initiate a boost. There are two levels of boost - blue and red. These boosts will translate into a temporary speed boost once you break your drift. The longer you hold the drift button, the more boost you get - and you can speed up this process by flicking the analog stick left and right to get more boost, faster.
    -Once you're skilled enough you can hop whilst drifting (be careful to do this BEFORE you get your first flames) to sharpen your turn even further. This is especially useful for heavier characters with poor handling.

    BUT - I would be sure to mention these little bits and pieces:
    -Be mindful of your driving line because once you're flaming, you'll get that speed boost anyway. You can boost yourself right off an edge or into a hazard if your driving line is off.
    - You can dramatically lose traction if a heavier opponent bumps you from the INSIDE of your driving line whilst drifting.
    - The old adage of "slow in, fast out" in terms of racing lines absolutely applies. The sooner you set yourself up for a corner, the better your line out of it will be.
    -There's a bastard technique you can do with the right characters where you can extend your boost by hopping while in a speed boost, but don't get reliant on it. It's easy to crash and burn whilst employing this technique.
    And the final piece of advice:

      WHat, you can speed up boost process????

      One thing that bugs me is the initial sideways movement with karts. >:[

        It's not precise (as far as I can ascertain) but you can get to the second level of boost by flicking left-right-left again after you hit it the first time. It's only really useful on really wide corners because you have to exaggerate the motion a lot more. Most of the time it's not worth it (with my kart loudout, anyway) because Shy Guy turns really sharply and too many adjustments throws him significantly off course. But yes, you can certainly get boost faster by flicking the analog stick "away" from the corner once you're sliding, then "into" the corner, then "away" again.
        I think the change in the system came out of the DS version where snaking unbalanced the online too much - where it would immediately engage "MAXIMUM BOOST" as soon as you hit the last "left", or "right". With digital controls it just made some racers utterly useless in competition (although I myself was a big fan of it).

    The powerslide is the exact opposite of what you would do in the real world if you wanted to take the corner as fast as possible.

    "Hold down the drift button while turning into a corner, then wait for the sparks to appear at the wheels before you release for a speed boost.

    Then just practice your timing with starting and ending a drift so as to remain on the track as best as you can."

    How did I do?

    One succinct easy to understand sentence, huh. I'll try but it won't be pretty.
    As you approach a corner begin holding the powerslide button and the direction you wish to turn, your character will travel in an arc around said corner, you can increase or decrease the size of the arc by steering into or away from the turn, you will receive a speed boost upon releasing the powerslide button which will vary in length depending on the duration of the powerslide.
    Hmm, succinct.... nope. easy to understand..... maybe, I tried :P

    Ah yes. This has been the bane of my existence since the release of MK8. "Where is Auto mode?" and "Do I have to change gears myself now?" are the most common questions I am faced with from my less seasoned gamer friends who have obviously only ever played MK Wii. Being the long time Mario Kart fan and self proclaimed Drift King that I am, these questions cause an immense feeling of rage from within my soul, especially knowing I now have to undertake the painful task of teaching these amateurs how to get sideways around a corner.

    After many failed attempts at trying to explain the in-depth mechanics of Mario Kart drifting and watching my friends take corners wider than my rear Cyber Slick tyres, I really needed to come up with some sort of solution. My solution is this: say to the noob "As you start turning a corner hold jump", and then send them on a few hot laps around Mario Kart Stadium. Do not say another word as this will do nothing but confuse them. It may make you feel quite uneasy watching the noob try to put this new idea into action, but after a few races they will have mastered it and worked the rest out for themselves.

    By using this method, you will have your drift challenged buddies counter steering and orange boosting out of corners like they were born to do it. My friends now look back on their pre-drift lives in disgust, and rightfully so. People who don't drift in Mario Kart have not lived.

    The biggest question is what Control Method do they use, you need to get them away from tilt controls.

    Have them hold down the button when they enter a corner. Every corner, when they get used to it tell them they don't need it for every corner.

      Nothing wrong with tilt controls for a beginner. In fact, for a beginner, I'd recommend it.

    I tried to explain it, she understood and then provided her own explanation of how little she likes the game, and then I took it back to the store.

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