This article was first published on Gameluster.com on May 16. I have not updated it at all so mentions of Mario Kart 8 remain as they were originally written and I have not updated the list at all with new courses.
The Mario Kart franchise has such a rich history of fun and excitement brought about by its races and to celebrate the impending release of Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U I set out to write this. The main stars of Mario Kart that really ties the whole thing together is the courses, often we rely on the inventive courses to provide us with a sense of fun, and often because of this creativity and excitement we want to come back and play these courses time and time again. That is at least how I feel and while I have not liked a good portion of what we have been offered across the seven entries to date there have at least been a few standouts that I have really liked.
10. Yoshi Falls (Original appearance in Mario Kart DS, more recently it has featured in Mario Kart Wii)
I know in the long run there are a lot of courses that really could have made it into this spot, but since the first time I ever had a go at Mario Kart DS this was the course I played. There is nothing overly special other than the memory in my first time seeing how well a course could be transitioned to a handheld console. But the memories aside Yoshi Falls was just a well designed course, sure it wasn’t long, sure there was no defining features, but that’s not the point Yoshi Falls was fun to race on, with computers or alone and that is why it made this spot because I enjoy it.
9. Peach Gardens (Original appearance in Mario Kart DS, has since appeared in Mario Kart Wii)
What else is there to say, this is just a really well designed course, the work done in the design of the garden is incredible and all the little sections feel unique and different as you visit them all, the other benefit is the course is enjoyable and that is why I love this it shows how great detail can be even on a DS game, which all in all is why I love this course, even transitioned to the Wii this course still shines as one of great detail and will go down in history and always be remembered.
8. Melody Motorway (Original appearance in Mario Kart 7, set to appear in Mario Kart 8)
There is something about this course I loved from the moment I first set my eyes on this course I knew there was something special. So what was so special about it, well to this day I still don’t completely know I just know I immediately fell in love with the course. I think it is special because of the design, the combination of musical instruments that make up the course and even make up the music made a great atmosphere that I just loved to race on. I didn’t care when I won or lost because I just loved everything about this course.
7. DK’s Jungle Parkway (Original appearance in Mario Kart 64, since has appeared in Mario Kart Wii)
I had a lot of fun on this course back in the day, on the Nintendo 64 I spent a good portion of my time on the original version of the course in Mario Kart 64 mastering all the little spots that the original courses offered. I loved being able to get a quick shortcut right near the end of the course, and even my little shortcut that gave me a boost near the beginning to pull ahead of my competition, I was disappointed that these spots were removed in Mario Kart Wii but I still have always loved the look and design of this course. It has always felt nice to race on this course and it did feel like a Donkey Kong level which really added to the appeal.
6. Rainbow Road 3DS (Only in Mario Kart 7)
I don’t normally enjoyable the Rainbow Road courses, I normally find these courses long, boring and repetitive. Though Mario Kart 7’s Rainbow Road did change my opinion slightly. One of the major changes in a selection of Mario Kart 7 courses was the addition of stages. Stages were essentially the same thing as laps except with each section you would encounter a different environment, this is part of the reason that I really liked this Rainbow Road, the traditional repetition and boredom made present in the courses past were completely removed and became interesting as you raced across asteroids and all matter of space related things that continued to drive the course and make it interesting. It is all because of how the course changes that makes it have replay value and made a course I really loved.
5. Toads Turnpike (Original appearance in Mario Kart 64, is set to appear in Mario Kart 8)
Traffic levels are usually more of a challenge and frustrating to complete. It is funny when I think that this is why I like these courses more particularly why I like Toads Turnpike, it is a nice course that makes itself fun when you have to avoid traffic. Even more so because it is all in such close quarters between each racer and vehicle, then in order to get items I had to make sure to be off to the side. Mostly I just love the design and just how fun the course was to complete and go through over and over again. In the end it made a great course to finish a Grand Prix.
4. Royal Raceway (Original appearance in Mario Kart 64, is set to appear in Mario Kart 8)
Like many of the 64 courses this course holds great memories for myself, I never exactly cared about racing about the course itself, even though it is not to say I didn’t like the course, because it was a pretty good course especially with some of the turns and the ramp potentially ruining a good lead or even costing you the race. Mostly I liked going through this course in Time Trial mode just to go and visit Peach’s castle. This was the best features of any course, being able to visit such a memorable location, drive around the front, and even remember our time with Super Mario 64, it was great. Then you look at the great music and the aesthetics of the course itself and it was amazing.
3. Kalimari Desert (Original appearance in Mario Kart 64, since has appeared in Mario Kart 7)
I have great memories of this course, I always loved the look and feel of this course as you speed around a desert environment. Mostly what makes this course interesting to me though was the train that went around the tracks. How I saw it, was as a way to chase the lead in these courses. Even when a while behind the train helped to give me a chance to catch back up and often even take the lead. I would often narrowly miss the train and leave the others to sit and wait for it to pass. It was still a pain in parts such as when having to race but I still loved the course, more importantly I loved taking to time trails here to chase the train on the rails which is why I really love this course and remember it so fondly.
2. Moonview Highway (Only in Mario Kart Wii)
I know another traffic level. You may have something against these but I personally like these courses, again it follows the same reasons I like Toads Turnpike, however there are other reasons why I really like this course. I love the environment that surrounds this course including the great detail in the environment, and the ramp right near the start of the course that gives me a nice push ahead of the competition. Mostly though I really like the fact that the course is not as suffocating as Toads Turnpike which is why I rated this higher, there is room to breathe which is a sigh of relief even if it doesn’t stop me being ran over by traffic almost constantly.
- Yoshi Valley N64 (Original appearance in Mario Kart 64, set to appear in Mario Kart 8)
Would it be any surprise that I really like Yoshi Valley. Back when the Nintendo 64 was my main console to play on I remember me always being one of the best on the track. I could leave all my opponents in my dust without even a moment’s hesitation but this course was always my Achilles Heel. Because of the layout of the entire course you never knew who was in first, or any in any position for that matter. This really messed up how well I was doing on each visit as I would have to learn the best ways around in order to try and retain first. Very rarely I succeeded but that is why really love this course, it is inconsistent with any other and makes for the idea that anything can happen. In other courses you can honestly say yeah if my opponents and their shells, I fell off the track, but here was free game, anyone’s race to win. The mystery of not knowing what happening and who you need to outrace will always make this one of my best and worst Mario Kart experiences. It is even made worse because I haven’t played Mario Kart 64 in many years but I can still remember everything about it. Hopefully though I am not alone in why I love this level and others have great memories or particular reasons why they like this course.
Mario Kart has been very up and down with me for years but there are some really amazing courses in Mario Kart as I have said. In the future I look forward to seeing how my opinions change as we move into Mario Kart 8 with more new courses to potentially love. For now I look forward to the future and even though I never mentioned it I have to give an honourable mention to the courses Coconut Mall, and Bowsers Castle on the 64. Before you think anything I just really love the 64 courses as that was my favourite game in the series. So what do you think do you agree with my list?