One night at my church youth group, I thought I played the best game of Mario Kart in my life. Somehow the controller perfectly interpreted my moves better than it usually did - I wasn't crashing or going the wrong way at all! At the end, I realised I had actually been watching my opponent's screen, and I'd never caught on that I wasn't actually controlling it. Meanwhile my character had just been careening randomly into the side of the racetrack.
I have never improved at Mario Kart. But you can improve, thanks to data scientist Henry Hinnefeld's examination of every possible combination in Mario Kart's character choice menu.
Hinnefeld calculated the most optimised combinations of characters, kart bodies and tyre styles. While there are 149,760 combos, a lot of options give you identical stats. Some of the karts and tyres are functionally the same, and so are some of the characters, which can generally be classed by weight. There are just 294 unique combinations of stats. Of those, 15 are superior to all others.
You can get one of those optimal rollouts using any character except Metal Mario and Pink Gold Peach. Your choice depends on whether you want speed or acceleration.
For maximum acceleration, choose one of the Baby characters, ride the Biddybuggy, and use Roller tyres.
For maximum speed, choose the heaviest character class (Wario, Bowser, Morton Koopa and Mii Heavy), ride the Gold Standard, and use Slick tyres.
To balance between the two, choose one of the other combos from Hinnefeld's chart.
Hinnefeld lists all the variants at the bottom, so you can pick the combo with the best "flavour" while still optimising performance. For instance, Wario on the Gold Standard with Slick tyres is exactly the same as Bowser on the Sports Coupe with Cyber Slick tyres.
Of course, this only optimises your potential. Your performance also depends on your playing ability, and whether you're looking at the right screen.
The best Mario Kart character according to data science [The Civis Journal]