In my review that ran this week, I praised Mario Kart 8 Deluxe by calling it a must own for the Nintendo Switch. I stand by that but it does bring up a particular question: what does the future of the Mario Kart franchise actually hold? Ever piece of Nintendo hardware since 1992 has gotten its own dedicated version of the game until now, as Deluxe is a remastered version of the Wii U title. Given the game’s sales, it would make sense to say Nintendo would want to keep Mario Kart fresh in the minds of Switch owners for longer than the console’s first year. So, should I have really recommended a game that may get replaced by an even better version in a couple of years?
Except, what if they don’t make a new Mario Kart? One aspect introduced to the franchise with MK8 was the use of DLC to add tracks, vehicles, and characters post release. By and large, the content was great; especially since it helped bring Link and others into the competition. Given that Deluxe really is that good, one easier and more friendly way to keep people karting would be to continue the practice. With that in mind, I’ve hypothesized a few potential characters who could easily slide into the roster; because I’m simply not capable of creating race courses.
This one is kind of the obvious one, seeing as Link is already in the game. Link’s announcement for Mario Kart was one of the most important changes to the franchise in recent memory, as it opened the floodgates for all kinds of possibilities. Even so, it does feels a little weird to have Link around but Zelda nowhere. Even Smash Bros corrected that as soon as possible. Besides, if Nintendo’s worried about dresses on motorbikes, the Breath of the Wild version of the character is already wearing pants and race ready!
Oh, did you expect this all to be a list of other Nintendo characters that could join? I could do that sure, but that’s ignoring that the Mario franchise has some of the most unique and clever designs from across 30 years of constant change. One of the more curious changes came in the form of creating a paper doll version of the Mushroom Kingdom. Despite being two dimensional, the Paper Mario series has often rendered Paper Mario with no issue, and would be a huge departure. If you are going to do this, though, you best bring Luigi along, since he hasn’t gotten any variants thus far.
This one is another obvious one, and I don’t just mean because of the two F-Zero tracks or because his iconic whip is already a kart in the game. See, Captain Falcon is already in the game. He appears towards the end of Mute City, on the monitors raised above the track, complete with his taunt from Super Smash Bros. Nintendo fans have long awaited F-Zero’s return with very little hope left, but that is straight up cold. Yes, I am also aware of the Mii suit of the good Captain, but there’s a Mii suit for Mario too, so that’s no excuse.
Why Pac-Man over someone like Sonic the Hedgehog? Well, I’m kind of cheating here. Pac-Man actually has already appeared in a Mario Kart before, and not even in a way that is insulting like Captain Falcon. In Japan, Mario Kart has appeared in three different arcade titles under the subtitle DX. Now, if the idea of Nintendo making arcade games these days sounds weird, that’s because it is. Nintendo actually entered into a partnership with Bandai Namco in order to create the game, and they’ve thrown in not only Pac-Man but Ms. Pac-Man, Blinky the Ghost, and even characters from Taiko Master and Tamagotchi. Brining in Pac-Man would more or less playing catch up.
A part of the Mario Kart fun is that the enemies get in on the fun too. Over the course of the series, we’ve seen Koopas, Shy Guys, Boos, and more. One neglected is the Kamek, better known to older fans as Magikoopa. Much like other enemies, the Kamek is a simple design that focuses on just a handful of solid colors, but that hat and robe combo is properly hilarious. Their shape would make more room to variate Koopa designs, giving players more options to get their bad on. Nintendo could even include a motorbike that is a variation of the Kamek’s broom, which would be amazing.
Speaking of enemies, a lot of the threats of Super Mario Bros. 2 end up getting the short end of the stick when it comes to the franchise’s legacy. At the top of that list sits the conqueror of dream worlds, Wart. Wart’s a little bit of a weird character, since he’s technically a Super Mario character in name only. While he was the main villain of SMB2, he is also the villain of Doki Doki Panic, the Japanese platformer that Nintendo remade into a Mario game, because it was thought the actual Super Mario sequel would be too hard. (We eventually got it as Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels.) Even so, he was a great follow up character to Bowser, and thanks to there being no internet, a lot of casual fans still don’t realize his history. His appearance would be more or less an easter egg, but a great one.
I love Splatoon, but the inclusion of the Inklings in MK8D does kind of sting when you think about how easy it would be to include Samus and her gunship into the racer. I’m talking the real deal, power suit and all. Samus has gotten a bit of a rough deal from her publisher for several years, and giving her the right kind of legacy status afforded to Link would be a decent start to fixing a lot of that. Besides, the Metroid universe has potential for some really haunting courses, and if Isabelle can be in there, Samus kind of deserves it.
The Black Mage
One of the more surprising things in recent Nintendo history was the apparent mending of the fence between them and Square Enix; a move that finally saw the company acknowledge the existence of characters from Super Mario RPG and Cloud Strife join Super Smash Bros. I could only imagine the collective shock from fans to see a Final Fantasy character also make the leap to Mario Kart. But, if you were going to do that, you wouldn’t want one of the more modern characters like Cloud, you’d want to go retro to fit more in the colorful style of the series. Very few Final Fantasy designs are more iconic than the design of the Black Mage from the very first Final Fantasy on the NES. Again, it’s a very simple design relying on primary colors and simplicity, and it would blend wonderfully into MK8D. I’m sure the good folks at Nintendo would love to slap together a Chocobo kart, too. It may be a bit of pipe dream, but the combination would be magical.
That’s the list! Agree, disagree, have ideas of your own, or think Nintendo should do something entirely different with the Mario Kart franchise? Let us know in the comments!