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File:Mariokart 1.jpg

 Welcome to Mario Kart!

Mario Kart is a successful series of go-kart-style racing video games developed by Nintendo as a series of spin-offs from their trademark and highly successful Mario series of platformer adventure-style video games. Starting on the SNES, the series has graced every subsequent Nintendo console and handheld with at least one installment, with the exception of the Virtual Boy and the Game Boy Color (portable Mario Karts started appearing with the Game Boy Advance).

Unlike a serious racing game like Gran Turismo or Ridge Racer, Mario Kart isn't just about driving technique, but mixes things up with items that racers can obtain from item boxes, while the tracks themselves can have a significant number of obstacles and hazards such as enemies from the Super Mario Bros. series of games. This kicked off the subgenre of fun racers or mascot racers as other companies have often imitated the concept with their own mascots to varying degrees of success.

As the name implies, the games draw major inspiration from the Mario platformers. Racers are characters like Mario, Luigi, Wario, Donkey Kong and Bowser, items are Koopa shells and mushrooms, and stages often visit major locales like Bowser's Castle or a haunted mansion.

Aside from racing for the finish line, all games in the series have also featured a Battle Mode, where the players drive around in a fixed area and attempt to burst each other's balloons with items or hunt for coins or Shine Sprites (from Sunshine).

The games in the series include:

  • Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992): The original. Has 8 characters and 4 cups with 5 tracks each. Used "Mode 7" faux-3D graphics, so all the tracks were completely flat.
  • Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64, 1996): First use of actual 3D, and set the standards for much of the series: it organized its courses into 4 cups with 4 tracks each, established the usual eight-character starting roster[1], and the introduction of Mirror Mode.
  • Mario Kart: Super Circuit (Game Boy Advance, 2001): Has 8 characters again and 5 cups with 4 tracks each. Went back to the Mode 7 flat courses. It also includes all the courses from Super (reordered into 5 cups of 4), beginning the tradition of including a set of retro tracks to match the new ones. Developed by Intelligent Systems, the people that brought you Paper Mario and Fire Emblem. (Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors also have access to this game on that system; notably, this means they can play every portable Mario Kart game on that system.)
  • Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (Nintendo Gamecube, 2003): Features two characters per kart -- one driver, one "gunner", allowing the player to stock two items simultaneously and swap characters at will. The first game to allow players to pick their drivers and kart separately, as well as having the first unlockable characters (for a total of 20, one being Toadette, who makes her debut here), and character-specific "special" items. It's also rather famous for its preorder bonus disc.
  • Mario Kart Arcade GP (Arcade, 2005): Developed by Namco, features 11 characters including Namco mainstays such as Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Blinky.
  • Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS, 2005): Has 12 characters (4 of them hidden and unlockable) with 3 karts apiece. Also marks a landmark in Nintendo history as being the company's first foray into online multiplayer gaming.
  • Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 (Arcade, 2007): An Updated Rerelease of the first arcade title. Has 13 characters, the 11 original plus Waluigi and Mametchi. It also features four new tracks in addition to the original ones. Also developed by Namco.
  • Mario Kart Wii (Wii, 2008): Allows a massive 12 characters per race (with 13 more unlockable characters, one of which is the player's Mii, while Baby Daisy makes her debut as well), features a selection of motorbikes in addition to the usual karts, a "Wii Wheel" attachment for motion-control steering, and fully-featured online multiplayer.
  • Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo 3DS, 2011): Has 16 characters plus your Mii, but courses are reduced back to 8 racers for balance reasons. Courses now include underwater racing and launch ramps for gliding through the air, and the player can fully customize their kart with individual selections of driver, chassis, wheels, and glider. Co-developed by Retro Studios (the people who brought you Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country Returns), and includes improved online features even over Mario Kart Wii.
  • Mario Kart Arcade GP DX (Arcade, 2013): A new arcade game featuring a single-player Grand Prix, co-op, and a "Clone Battle" mode. Features 13 characters, including Don from the Taiko Drum Master series. Also includes the gliders from Mario Kart 7. Developed once again by Namco Bandai.
  • Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, 2014): Has 36 characters including Miis and DLC, the largest roster to date. The bikes and 12-character races from Wii and the gliding and underwater mechanics from 7 return, as well as ATVs and a new anti-gravity mechanic. Features crossover characters Link from The Legend of Zelda and Isabelle and the Villager from Animal Crossing as DLC. 200cc is introduced as a fourth speed class, pushing the race to breakneck speeds. amiibo support is introduced, which unlocks cosmetic themed costumes for Miis — including Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man, and Pac-Man.

The series features examples of these tropes:

  • One Hundred Percent Completion: Starting with Mario Kart 64, nearly every Mario Kart game requires a gold trophy in each cup and/or in each engine class to unlock new tracks or characters. A few other games in the series cranks it up to eleven by requiring a star rank or greater and getting at least one star in every cup and in every engine class gets you a star next to your name.
  • Airplane Arms: Wiggler in Mario Kart 7 is almost constantly doing this with his upper two arms.
  • All in a Row:
    • The limited AI of early installments generally kept the AI in a close pack and following almost the exact same path each lap, to the point where a map display looks like they're following the leader like you'd see in an RPG (it is especially noticeable when attempting to catch up after getting taken out by, say, a Spiny Shell). A skilled veteran can even decide which AI to harass just by where they drop their items.
    • Later installments give the AI much more variety, especially in Mario Kart 7 where if the track offers alternate paths, the AI will regularly split up between them.
  • Always Night: Ghost Valley 1-3, Banshee Boardwalk, Boo Lake, Broken Pier, Luigi's Mansion (both the track in DS & 7 and battle arena in Double Dash!!), Moonview Highway, Double Dash!!'s Rainbow Road (which unlike other Rainbow Roads is in the night sky of a city instead space)...
  • Artificial Brilliance: In Mario Kart DS, the AI actually seems to know that if it puts a Banana Peel or fake item box on the loop-the-loop... there's no chance for survival. The AI in the games after 64 seemed to have known about using items as shields and even tried to drop banana peels right in your path if you were close to them. They're still very cheatsy, though. By Mario Kart 7, the AI has learned to block items perfectly and even fire them backwards at the perfect time to hit you. The AI is even smart enough to use shortcuts when they have the item needed to reach them.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In the early games, the AI is pretty stupid and naturally handicapped...but they manage to provide a challenge by speeding. In Mario Kart 64, for instance, computer opponents will throw banana peels ahead of themselves and immediately slip on them, but catch up to you by means of Rubber Band AI.
  • Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: The final course of every Special Cup in every game is called "Rainbow Road", a psychedelic race across a wafer-thin track made up of ... well, rainbow. Always set in space (or, in Double Dash!!'s case, the skies above some metropolis), always the hardest track of the game, and most have few railings to protect you from falling off into thin air.
  • Announcer Chatter: Only present in Arcade GP 2.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Lakitu becomes playable in Mario Kart 7 after spending the rest of the series as an NPC. He returns for 8 as well.
    • Also, Shy Guy was promoted from a character used only in Download Play Mode in Mario Kart DS to a fully-playable character in Mario Kart 7 and 8.
    • Wiggler was originally a final boss character for Mario Kart DS and an obstacle in a Wii track before he finally shrunk down and he got himself a kart for Mario Kart 7. (Funnily enough, that Wii track is included in 7.)
    • The Honey Queen had previously only appeared in a few stages of the Super Mario Galaxy games.
    • Metal Mario was originally just a power-up form in Super Mario 64; the only times he's been a separate character before 7 was in the original Mario Golf and as a stubborn mid-boss in Smash Bros.
  • Awesome but Impractical: The Beast and Golden Gliders in 7 are flashy, but are just a reskinned Super Glider. The Golden tires are also pretty, but their stats are worse than the Slick wheels.
  • Bad Future: Possibly with Neo Bowser City. Hovercrafts fly in the background, the environment is very futuristic, and Bowser's image is everywhere.
  • Badass Adorable: Toadette, Toad, the princesses (and their baby counterparts), Diddy Kong, Bowser Jr., and to cap it Yoshi, who hums when he gets a good ranking in Mario Kart Wii.
  • Banana Peel: One of the standard items since the first game. It was the special item of Donkey Kong Jr. in the first game, and a giant variation thereof was the special item of Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong in Double Dash.
  • Band Land: 7 features Music Park, a track where racers drive atop piano keys, drums, and other assorted musical instruments. 8 not only brings back Music Park, but it also features a track called Electrodrome, set in a nightclub run by Larry Koopa.
  • Racers Can Breathe In Space/Racers Can Breathe Underwater:
    • In 8, the background Toads on Rainbow Road need spacesuits, but the racers don't.
    • Another space related oddity is the use of gliders in space, which need air resistance to work.
    • Also present in 7 and 8 with the underwater sections where the racers don't seem to have any trouble breathing. Interestingly in 8, there are Toads wearing scuba gear in the underwater sections of Dolphin Shoals, while the racers, including Toad himself, get along just fine.

Bat Family Crossover: Double Dash!! was the first Mario spinoff to integrate the Donkey Kong Country cast into the extended Mario cast, as it included Diddy Kong. Funky Kong later joined in Wii. Mario Kart 7 also holds a track that's dedicated to Donkey Kong Country Returns.

  • Berserk Button: Wiggler, as expected, will turn red and fly into a rage if he's ever hit by an item.
  • Biker Babe: The princesses when they ride bikes.
  • Big Boo's Haunt: Every game features a haunted track with ghosts. Banshee Boardwalk from the N64 version is a prime example.
    • Technically averted in Wii and 7, which each include a retro haunted track but no new ones.
  • Boring but Practical: The unlockable gliders aside from Beast and Gold are less cool looking but increase your acceleration. They also decrease your kart's weight, thus allowing the kart to glide further distances.
    • The increase in acceleration and decrease in weight is misleading: The unlockable gliders ACTUALLY decrease your flying speed.
  • Bottomless Pits: Fairly often.
  • Bottomless Pit Rescue Service: Falling into a pit results in a Lakitu pulling you back onto the stage, but with a major loss in time, position, or coins. 8 tries to alleviate this by having him appear almost immediately when you fall, but it can still cost you major time.
  • Bowdlerization:
    • In the Japanese version of Super Mario Kart, if placed 1st overall in the Mario Kart GP, Bowser and Peach actually drink the champagne. Peach's animation can be seen here at the 11:30 mark.
    • The Japanese 64 featured an ad that parodied Marlboro cigarettes. This ad was replaced with a generic "Mario Star" ad for international releases.
  • Bragging Rights Reward:
    • Starting with Mario Kart 64, beating the Extra/Mirror Special Cup unlocks a new title screen. [2]
    • Mii Outfit B in Wii is just a special costume for Miis to wear. It offers no benefits over Mii Outfit A.
    • The golden parts in 7 are mostly for show, as they have no major bonuses.
  • Bubbly Clouds: Sky Garden, a track from the GBA version; imported into the DS version as well.
  • The Cameo:
    • A Blue and Yellow Toad appear as floats in 7's Toad Circuit. They previously appeared in New Super Mario Bros Wii and Super Mario 3D Land.
    • If the player is racing as their Mii in Wii, various statues and posters will be replaced with Miis from the Mii Channel. Miis also appear as spectators in both Wii and 7.
    • Rally-X, a Pooka, and a Galaga appear as special items for the Pac-Man characters in Arcade GP.
    • Saint Elimine shows up in the Double Dash!! bonus disc to facilitate the transfer of some items to Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword. Bear in mind that this is a character who doesn't even actually appear in her "own" games.
  • Camera Screw: Almost never happens in the series, but one case of it occurs frequently in the Rock Rock Mountain track in 7. When you start to climb the hill before the finish line, the camera, which is always behind your kart, has to shift to a different angle so you can get a better view on what's ahead of you on the climb. The problem here is that the camera shifts a bit slow and leaves you blind for a moment, which can screw you over if you can't see a banana peel or a boulder rolling down at you. This is avoided if you play in first person view.
    • The camera can also a bit uncooperative around walls in 7, mostly in battle mode.
  • Canon Dis Continuity: The arcade versions must be; otherwise Mario Kart 7 would be "Mario Kart 9".
  • Car Fu: Battle modes are generally like this. So are many of the boss battles in the Mission Mode of the DS version.
  • Cash Cow Franchise: Got even bigger with DS and Wii, the latter actually selling better than Grand Theft Auto IV, which would have been unthinkable the previous generation.
  • Cheat Code: Type 3 happens QUITE A LOT during online gameplay with Mario Kart Wii.
  • Cheerful Child: Toadette (who debuted in Double Dash!!). The babies also count, as does Lemmy in Mario Kart 8.
  • Chest Insignia: The series has used a vehicle variant since DS, with each kart having two or three places on it for the driver's personal emblem. DS itself even let players design their own custom symbol.
    • This was removed in all later games in the series, however, likely due to the staggering number of crude and/or offensive things people put as their insignias
  • Chrome Champion: Metal Mario in 7 and Pink Gold Peach in 8.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Whenever a character does not appear in the very next game after one they did, but a very notable one is Waluigi, who was in every game since Double Dash... before not getting into 7. However, he did return in 8.
  • Color Coded for Your Convenience:
    • The playable Lakitu in 7 has a red shell. The usual announcer Lakitu has a green shell.
    • Players are assigned different colored balloons in battle mode to help sort them out.
    • In single cartridge multiplayer mode for Super Circuit, each player uses a differently colored Yoshi.
    • The escalators in Coconut Mall change color depending on which way they go in 7.
  • Comeback Mechanic: The series has been giving out more powerful items to racers falling behind since the start. This also applies to Battle Mode.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The crowning example of this trope. The cheating is so bad...
"Don't you know? 'CC' in Mario Kart refers to 'Cheating Capacity'. On 50cc, they have a much lower cheating capacity than on 150cc, where everyone but you is Hacking to go max speed all the time."
Post on VGF on the cheatsy AI in Mario Kart.
    • In Super Mario Kart, while the AI can crash into walls if you make it happen, course obstacles do not apply to them as they will simply clip through the obstacle. The lead rival can also continuously use a certain item (depending on the character) infinitely.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • By making Koopa Troopa a default and leaving Wario unlockable, Mario Kart 7's starting character roster is a throwback to the character line up from Super Mario Kart.
    • Some of 7's unlockable karts are ones from earlier games in the series, such as the Pipe Frame, the original kart from Super and 64, and the Barrel Train from Double Dash!!
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Many stages (especially Bowser's Castle levels) feature tons of lava. It's only a problem if you fall in, or if you run into a spout, but even if you accidentally do so, no worries--Lakitu will fish you right out.
  • Cool Bike: Mostly in Wii, though there is one unlockable bike in DS as well.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: One of the main features in Double Dash!!. Battle Mode in Wii is also like this.
  • Cosmetic Award: The reward for beating every cup with a one-star, two-star, or three-star rating in Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7 is... the appropriate number of stars next to your name on the "race results" screen.
  • Creator Cameo: Staff Ghosts have been available for the purpose of beating Nintendo staff members' records in Time Trial mode in more recent games. In 7, staff members from Retro Studios join Nintendo EAD's staff.
  • Crossover: With the "Wii series", especially Wii Sports Resort, since Wuhu Island has two confirmed race tracks and a battle track in 7. Music Park also contains some nods to Wii Music.
    • Also in 7, there's DK Jungle, which is a track involving places and enemies found in Donkey Kong Country Returns. Donkey Kong himself has been playable since 64, and Diddy and Funky have joined in at times.
    • In DS, R.O.B. the robot being a guest driver could be considered as one.
    • Wii introduces the Miis as playable characters, and also includes the Blue Falcon from F-Zero and the Tiny Titan (which resembles the Monster from Famicom Grand Prix 2: 3D Hot Rally) as vehicles (the Blue Falcon later returns as DLC for 8).
    • Pilotwings Resort gets a couple of nods in the Maka Wuhu track.
    • Metal Mario's apperance is a (barely) borderline Super Smash Bros crossover.
    • Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Blinky are playable in the arcade installments.
    • The DLC for 8 features the Villagers and Isabelle from Animal Crossing and Link from The Legend of Zelda. It also includes several F-Zero tracks and an Excitebike track.
  • Cyberpunk: Neo Bowser City has shades of this in Mario Kart 7.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: The only difference between 150cc and Mirror is that the tracks are flipped around to invoke this.
    • Try playing Double Dash then switching to Wii while using a Gamecube controller. Be prepared for screams of rage as you look behind you instead of throwing items, fail to get the initial boost despite timing it perfectly...
  • Dead Character Walking: Drivers knocked out of the contest in battle mode can still drive around the battlefield, laying boxes, albeit invisible and intangible. Except in 64, where they instead get one more chance to drive around as a bomb, though they're out for good once they blow up another player by crashing into him.
  • Demoted to Extra: In 7 Waluigi went from being a playable character to merely being the mascot of his eponymous Waluigi Pinball track, which returns from DS even though he doesn't. While Waluigi does return for 8, Bowser Jr. is demoted to a cameo in GCN Baby Park (returning from Double Dash!! and DS).
    • Earlier than 7, Koopa Beach appears in 64 despite Koopa Troopa not being playable, and DS has Baby Park appear as a retro track (originally from Double Dash!) despite no baby characters being playable.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Uh...
  • Derelict Graveyard: Wario's Galleon/Wario Shipyard in 7.
  • Difficult but Awesome:
    • The Heavy karts don't recover from failure as easily as lighter karts, but avoiding error allows them to be the fastest karts in the game. Rubber Band AI loves to counter this with light weight karts that can catch up to you on straightways.
    • The Super, Beast/Ghastly, and Gold Gliders become this, especially in Time Trials, if you know about the game's hidden stats. Due to how the hidden stats are distributed, the gliders that don't boost anything (the aforementioned Super, Beast/Ghastly, and Golden Gliders) are quite fast in the air, but lack aerial handling.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: While he already got hints of it back in the original Super Smash Bros and Dr. Mario 64, Metal Mario has become his own character in 7. For example, his voice clips and mannerisms are different than Mario's. They both also suggest he's a lot cockier than Mario.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: With a combination of Golden Snitch and Rubber Band AI, it gives most people a sense of being punished for simply being skilled. Truly skilled players, however, can consistently win races even with the deck stacked against them.
  • Dub Name Change: An odd case in which the North American localization of Mario Kart Wii had many vehicle names different from the already-released European localization.
    • This carried over into 7, as some tracks have different names per region.
    • The Raceway tracks in 64 were called Circuits in the original Japanese version. This change did not occur in later installments except for Nostalgia Levels that originally had the change (e.g. Luigi Raceway in 7).
  • Dummied Out: DS had several unused tracks. Some were merely for testing, such as ones that actually have "test" in the filename and one that is simply an early version of Wario Stadium, but others include Double Dash!!'s Mario Circuit (which returns in Wii), a Koopa Troopa Beach-esque track, a variant of DK Pass without snow, an unused pinball track, and GCN Pipe Plaza with a sunset background.
  • Easter Egg: The results music in 64 plays a different piano solo after 64 loops, which takes about 50 minutes.
  • Easy Mode Mockery: A very mild case in Mario Kart 7. The added bass percussion that plays when you have a sizable lead does not play when playing 50cc Grand Prix, no matter how much of a lead you have.
  • Egopolis:
  • Embedded Precursor: Unlockable, at least; Super Circuit contains all of the tracks from the original Super Mario Kart.
  • Eternal Engine:
    • Toad's Factory in Mario Kart Wii.
    • Also, Tick Tock Clock in DS.
  • Everything's Better with Cows: As resulted in 64, DS and Wii.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Donkey Kong has been a series regular since Mario Kart 64, but Diddy Kong, Funky Kong, and Donkey Kong Jr. have all been playable at some point or another.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Especially when they wear their royal dresses in kart racing. Or skintight suits on Mario Kart Wii's bikes.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: Or not, considering that each Rainbow Road in every game is That One Level, with 7 having two Rainbow Roads; one being new to that game and the other being the one that started the tradition. (Seems to have been played straight with 64, which made it an easy-but-long level that comes after the game's harder tracks.)
  • Excited Show Title: Double Dash!!.
  • Fake Difficulty
  • Fireballs: The special item for Mario and Luigi in Double Dash!!, and made a regular item in 7 onwards.
  • Follow the Leader: This is one of the most ripped off game series ever. Some of the more recent ones even go so far as to mock the series that clearly inspired them as being not about competition, but about making friends, which shows they have never seen WFC races.
  • Fragile Speedster: Averted. The Light vehicles, because of their lack of weight, are easily bumped aside by larger karts and bikes...and because they logically won't have very big engines, they're also the slowest weight class. [3]
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: In the Japanese version of Super Mario Kart, Bowser and Peach will drink their bottle of champagne if they get First Place Gold. This was censored out in the International versions for obvious reasons.
  • Fungus Humongous: Mushroom Gorge in Wii and 7.
  • Furry Confusion: One of the new characters in 7 is the Queen Bee from Galaxy, but one of the battle arenas in the same game takes place inside a beehive, featuring the bee enemies from 3D Land as obstacles. Likewise, Wiggler appears as a playable character here, but Maple Treeway from Wii returns, giant Wigglers included.
  • Game Mod: Wii has a pretty big modding community, especially in regards to remaking tracks from old games and even later Mario Kart games.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: The Trope Namer itself.
  • Golden Snitch: Powerful items are usually obtained by players lagging behind. Some people purposely play horribly at the start so they can score a powerful item, catch up with good racing, and then blow past the last few people on the final lap. This also keeps them (relatively) safe from the genuine laggers behind who are using their items to mess with the players in first.
  • Gravity Barrier: At the edge of some Rainbow Road courses.
  • Green Hill Zone: The Luigi Circuits in 64 (renamed Luigi Raceway outside of Japan), Double Dash!!, and Wii (and to some, the entire Mushroom Cup) are, as starting tracks/cup, fairly simple and obstacle-free.
    • The GBA Luigi Circuit averts this, being located at an airport with lots of rain! Also, the only Luigi course not to be in the Mushroom Cup. Mario Kart for DS features the Figure-8 Circuit as the opening course, but the Mushroom Cup still featured a Luigi course at the end.
    • Many of the Mario Circuits throughout the series are also pretty standard-fare.
    • Mario Kart 7 features Toad Circuit as the opening course, with nary a Luigi course in sight in the Mushroom Cup. The original Luigi Raceway does return.
    • Completely averted as of 8, which has absolutely no Luigi tracks of any kind.
  • Guest Fighter: The Arcade GP games, developed by Namco, gave us Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Blinky the ghost (Mametchi comes along in the second game, inadvertently providing the first crossover between Namco and Bandai since they merged)... and that was long before Pac-Man World Rally (which also happened to have its own cameo racers.) Meanwhile, Mario Kart DS offered R.O.B. Mario Kart Wii and 7 let you play as your Mii, in two different outfits in the former. Wii also has two Guest Vehicles, the Blue Falcon and the Mach Rider.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: This'll happen to you pretty often if you forget where you dropped your banana peels and fake item boxes, if your green shells rebound off walls back at you, if you throw a Bob-Omb right into your own path, etc.
    • This can also happen to you with items that are supposed to help you, such as mushrooms and stars. Use these speed boosting items at the wrong time and you'll fling yourself off the track.
  • Homing Projectile: Red Shells and (brr!) Spiny Shells.
  • Hot Potato: Mario Kart Wii introduced the "Thundercloud" item, which gives a ten-second warning before it zaps the user with lightning, but can be passed from one player to another by bumping into them. It does, however, give its user a slight speed boost (and the ability to drive off-road without losing speed), making it a double-edged sword.
  • Humiliation Conga: So you think you're safe in first place? Cue Spiny Shell, Red Shell, POW Block, Lightning, Fire Flower, Super Leaf, and a Blooper just to top it off. And, to add insult to injury, you might have a Boo steal whatever item you have in store. If you're really unlucky, a member of the pack catching up with you will knock you off the track with a Bullet Bill or, if said member of the pack is a heavyweight, simply by using superior size. If you're more unlucky still, the humiliation will be compounded by happening too far into the final lap for any sort of recovery to be possible.
  • Inconsistent Translation: Queen Bee or Honey Queen?
  • Interface Screw: Blooper (Mario-universe squid) items, introduced in Mario Kart DS, cover your opponents' screens in black ink, obscuring their forward view. (This is also visible by painting the entire vehicle/driver black.) It even has an effect on the AI, causing them to swerve and slow down a notch when it's in effect. There's also the cake frosting when you bump into giant whipped toppings in one of the MKDS battle courses.
  • International Coproduction: Mario Kart 7, developed jointly by Kyoto-based Nintendo EAD and Texas-based Retro Studios. The built-in staff ghosts include a mix of Nintendo and Retro Studios records.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: The star. It not only makes you invincible, but speeds you up! And you can drive off-road without speed loss.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: The Thwomps on Rainbow Road in the SNES version are star powered, causing players to spin out and lose coins from even touching them. Strictly speaking, though, they aren't invincible (they can be destroyed by a racer with star power). They reappear the next lap.
    • The Rainbow Thwomps reappear in the Nostalgia Level version of the SNES track in 7 and 8, and this time they also cause the track to ripple and shake whenever they pound the ground. They still cause you to spin out if you so much as touch them.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: Fail to be one of the top three racers at the end of a Grand Prix and you'll miss out on the victory ceremony. The SNES installment showed your racer sitting aside the victory podium quietly sobbing to themselves, while the N64 installment showed your racer watching the victory celebration from a distance before getting chased down and blown up by a Bob-omb. Later games simply give you a "Better luck next time!" message with a chart showing your overall results.
    • Scoring outside the top three is actually rather difficult in the SNES and N64 installments, where if you fail to finish within the top four of any race, you lose one life and are forced to retry that course instead of proceeding on to the next. Later games allow you to proceed through all the courses in a Prix, but as usual, you'll only get a trophy for finishing in the top three.
  • Jack of All Stats: Mario, as in every spinoff, as well as others in the Medium class.
  • Jungle Japes:
    • DK's Jungle Parkway from 64 and Wii.
    • Riverside Park and Lakeside Park from Super Circuit.
    • DK Mountain from Double Dash!! and Wii.
    • Dino Dino Jungle from Double Dash!! and 7.
    • DK Jungle from 7.
    • Wild Woods from 8 combines this with The Lost Woods.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Often Bowser's Castle, which is in every game, but other tracks also feature lava, such as Grumble Volcano in Mario Kart Wii.
  • Level Ate: Some of the battle maps in later games fall into this category. And one of the Super Circuit tracks is made entirely out of cheese (said track returns as DLC for 8).
  • Level Map Display: All the games have a map of the course you're racing on.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Parade Kart in Double Dash!!, since it's heavy, has good acceleration, and high top speed. Additionally, any character can use it.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Lightning has the decidedly odd effect of shrinking characters temporarily.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Part of the appeal of the series where if the skill gap between players isn't too far off, a player lagging behind has a chance of winning if they get the right item. However, this is also very controversial with the competitive scene/skilled players due to how a single item like the Spiny Shell can instantly turn a victory into a loss (especially during the final lap). It also does not help that this trope is in full effect when it comes to playing against the game's Rubber Band AI. The trope is softened somewhat in a few of the games in the series that allow the players to change what type of items can be spawned in a local multiplayer game plus certain items being retooled (or removed entirely).
  • Lucky Seven: 7 features a rare item called the "Lucky 7" which surrounds the player with seven items they can use at their leisure. But it's a double-edged sword and can backfire in several ways, as the items will also activate if another player touches them, and can be lost entirely if the player is hit by an item or course hazard. 8 features a similar item called the "Crazy 8", which adds a coin to the mix.
  • Made of Iron: All the characters can shake off explosions, lightning strikes, and falling into lava quite easily.
  • Marathon Level: Mario Kart 64's version of Rainbow Road. It is by far the longest track in the series, taking approximately 2 minutes to complete a lap.
  • Mascot Mook: Koopa Troopas have been playable off-and-on since the first game. Other playable "mook" characters include Dry Bones, Lakitu, Shy Guy, and Wiggler.
  • Medley: The music for Wuhu Island tracks in 7 is a medley of the themes of Wii Sports Resort and Wii Sports.
  • Mickey Mousing: Music Park's feature. Players can drive over piano and xylophone keys, adding layers to the track's music, Piranha Plants bob their heads to the music and bite players within the beat, and giant music notes stomp to the music, creating shockwaves. Electrodrome also uses this gimmick.
  • Mighty Glacier: Bowser, Donkey Kong and Wario, plus a few others depending on the game in the Heavy class. As mentioned above, the Heavyweight racers get the most powerful cars, so they're actually faster, and they're not as vulnerable to ramming. Low acceleration means that they are actually more vulnerable to big screwups, though, and the worse handling only compounds this.
    • Glacier Waif: In Mario Kart Wii, size is determined by height, not weight. Waluigi, practically a living stick-man, is in the Large Class (when he was originally Middleweight in Double Dash and DS) because he's so tall. The same goes for King Boo (a ghost who shouldn't weigh anything) and Rosalina (who stays in the higher weight class in 7 onwards).
  • Mondegreen: "Save the geese!" (The original line is "Take-a this!")
  • Musical Nod:
    • The results music in 7 is the results music from 64, just with a differently-pitched melody line.
    • The Rainbow Road music tracks from Double Dash and 7 include part of the 64 Rainbow Road theme.
    • The Wii Rainbow Road music includes part of the Good Egg Galaxy theme from Super Mario Galaxy and the DS Rainbow Road theme.
    • The 7 Bowser's Castle music includes part of the Double Dash!! one.
    • Neo Bowser City contains three nods, to Toad's Turnpike, Wii's Circuits, and N64's Raceways.
    • DK Jungle's music in 7 contains the jungle theme from Donkey Kong Country.
    • Rock Rock Mountain's music bears resemblance to "It's a Dead Heat" from Mario Party 8.
    • The Results music for Mario (and to an extent, Bowser) in Super Mario Kart is based on the Super Mario Bros. theme.
    • Piranha Plant Slide's music in 7 contains nods to the Above Ground and Underground themes of Super Mario Bros.
    • The Title themes of DS and Wii contain part of Double Dash's. The Title theme of 7 makes a nod instead to Mario Kart 64.
    • Bowser's Castle of Wii is actually a slowed-down Maple Treeway theme.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Especially in early installments like the SNES, the AI definitely is a cheating bastard. The AI plays more fair in later installments, but still gives the impression of all teaming up against the player.
  • Mythology Gag: As mentioned in the main text at the top of the article, the games are heavily influenced by Mario platformers. However, Super Circuit's Rainbow Road instead has a reference to a Mario RPG (specifically, the original Paper Mario) by having Bowser's Castle from that game in the background. This was likely because both Super Circuit and the Paper Mario games came from Nintendo's Intelligent Systems division while the other Mario Kart games except for the arcade games come from Nintendo EAD like the platformers.
    • The drivers from 7 make the Pipe Frame match the color they originally used in 64.
      • Koopa Troopa's Pipe Frame matches the color in Super, which is the only game before 7 that both have appeared in together.
    • N64 Luigi Raceway and SNES Rainbow Road in 7 stick to the classic formula from their respective games, as they don't have gliding or underwater driving.
    • The rival system in 7 pairs most of the drivers from Super Mario Kart with their old rival from said game.
    • Piranha Plant Slide is one big mythology gag to the original Super Mario Bros.. The cardboard Goombas are also one to 3D Land.
  • Nerf: The gimping of power sliding and the removal of "snaking" in Wii.
    • In DS, a very simple technique called "snaking" allowed karts with very certain drift and acceleration stats being balanced to each other to attain very high speed via the speed boosts from repeated drifting, even on straightaways. The developers of Mario Kart Wii and 7 took note of this and completely overhauled the mini-turbo system, making it truer to Super Mario Kart and Super Circuit in how the boost was attained by drifting for a longer time around a corner.
    • The map feature from Mario Kart DS had a slight nerf in Mario Kart 7; the map no longer shows active course hazards like Bullet Bills or Goombas so the Blooper item could be more dangerous to players that had relied on reading the map in the DS game.
    • The shortcut in Koopa Troopa Beach was cut very short in 7.
    • 7 nerfed the Super Star item, making its speed boost a lot less powerful compared to the other games, but it still is useful for cutting through grass and dirt for an improvised shortcut.
    • The Bullet Bill, an item introduced in Mario Kart DS, was heavily nerfed in 7, traveling much slower than it did previously.
  • New Neo City: The Neo Bowser City track from 7.
  • Nintendo Hard: In most games in the series (some more so than others), 150 cc and Mirror Mode, particularly the Special and Lightning Cup.
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • Super Circuit offers us all twenty tracks from the original SNES game. Later iterations took this up another level and devoted entire cups to the concept, with the retro cups in 7 being the first to end with a Rainbow Road (in this case, the one from Super Mario Kart) like the standard cups.
    • 7's DK Jungle is practically a love letter to Donkey Kong Country Returns, since Retro Studios designed it.
    • The level Shy Guy Bazaar is a major shout out not only to Super Mario Bros 2, but to Doki Doki Panic, considering the Arabian setting.
    • Airship Fortress, which is based off of the airship levels from Super Mario Bros 3.
      • Also, Figure-8 Circuit contains platforms from SMB3 in the background, while Desert Hills is based off of World 2, aka Desert Hill, from SMB3.
  • Numbered Sequels: The Nintendo 3DS installment, Mario Kart 7.
  • Old Save Bonus: A Super Mario Galaxy save ramps down the requirement for unlocking Rosalina in Wii by several notches (from ranking 1 star in every cup on Mirror or playing 4,950 races to... merely playing 50 races).
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: The Bowser's Castle music from various games has this.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Starting with DS, it's entirely possible to dodge a Spiny Shell. However, doing so in Wii and 7 requires a well timed mushroom boost, making some luck needed and being hard to pull off. 8 allows you to destroy it with the Super Horn.
  • Palmtree Panic: The various beach-themed tracks. Notable obstacles are shallow and deep water (though in 7 deep water can typically be driven through instead of being an obstacle), Cheep-Cheeps, and crabs (which in Wii and 7 look like Sidesteppers from Mario Bros).
  • Pinball Zone: Waluigi Pinball in DS and 7.
  • Poison Mushroom:
    • Mario Kart 64 introduced the "Fake Item Box", a hazard that resembles a normal item box; skilled players frequently place these among normal item boxes so their opponents will pick the wrong one during a heated multiplayer match. Strangely, it was removed in 7.
    • An actual Poison Mushroom appears in Super Mario Kart as Peach and Toad's item.
  • Power-Up Letdown: The speed boost provided Super Mushroom in Mario Kart 64 is barely even noticeable, as a result of the development team nerfing the Super Mushroom due to complaints that it was a Game Breaker in the SNES original. Subsequent games have generally hit the right balance in terms of how much boost it provides.
  • Prehistoria: Dino Dino Jungle from Double Dash!! and 7.
  • Rank Inflation: Starting with Super Circuit, then the DS and Wii games. If an A rank is not enough for you, try to get 1,2, or 3 stars. The Wii version ups the ante and requires you to at least 1 star some cups to unlock certain extra content [4]. 7 only has stars, from zero to three depending on how quickly you clear each cup.
  • The Red Baron: In Mario Kart 7, each player is given a title (the player can view their own under Mario Kart Channel, at the face icon) based on how they play (for example, Quick Starter is for those good at hitting a boost at the start, while Dolphin is for those good at racing underwater). When racing against the AI-controlled version of those players gained through StreetPass, their play style is informed by their title.
  • Red Ones Go Faster: With the customizable parts added in "7" comes the Monster wheels, which can make a kart much heavier instantly. Their cousins, the Red Monster wheels, are a bit lighter and have a touch more acceleration.
  • Retraux: The music for the retro courses in 7 was remastered less thoroughly than in the previous two games, so the music tends to sound very similar to how it originally sounded, aside from possibly having clearer audio depending on the original system.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: In Mario Kart DS, destroying boxes reveals mushrooms which give an instant speed boost. Mario Kart Wii keeps the boxes and adds leaf-piles on one of the stages that may also reveal mushrooms or other items.
  • A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside An Enigma: Wario's official profile in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! states that he is "a puzzle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in yellow."
  • The Rival: A feature that debuted in Super Mario Kart, and then returned in 7 and 8. Depending on who the player drives as, there will be certain characters that perform better and be more persistent. For example, Mario's two rivals in 7 are Bowser and Metal Mario.
    • If people are tagged with 7's StreetPass feature, their Mii may show up sometimes in Grand Prix mode to be an extra rival. Their Mii will also act as a rival in their customized Grand Prix.
  • Rollercoaster Mine: "Wario's Gold Mine" from Mario Kart Wii, which later returns as DLC for Mario Kart 8.
  • Rubber Band AI: Amplified by the fact that racers in the back get more powerful items such as the Spiny Shell (which homes in on the leader), as well as by the computer being a cheating bastard.
    • It's interesting to note that the AI players' driving is calibrated at differing strengths depending on the player's choice of driver. For example, if you play as Bowser in Mario Kart 7, your fiercest AI rivals in a single-player GP will be ... Mario and Luigi.
  • Same Language Dub: Happened between the Japanese and International releases of 64. All the characters spoke English in the Japanese version, but some characters had their voices changed since they sounded goofy. The announcer in Japan also had an American accent, instead of being Mario.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • Many of the tracks in Mario Kart Wii are simply gorgeous. Especially Rainbow Road and Moonview Highway.
    • Daisy Circuit - a small, well-built city near sea: now mix this with the fact that there's that beautiful sunset.
    • With every generation they add scads of detail to the graphics. Even in the DS version: considering the hardware power differences, it's safe to say that there was nearly no loss in the tracks ported from Double Dash!!.
  • Schmuck Bait: Players might expect picking up a stray Blooper might help them in 7. It actually will ink just that one player.
  • Shark Tunnel: "Koopa Cape" in Wii. In 7, thanks to the ability to drive underwater, it's turned into more of a shark half-pipe.
  • Shifting Sand Land: Some sort of desert track is also common in the series, but the king of this has to be the Thwomp Desert battle arena.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Japanese version of 64 contain several. The most famous of them is probably the orange 64 ball, which is a parody of the Union 76 ball.
    • One of the possible driving styles in 7 is Loftwing Aviator.
  • Skill Gate Characters: The Light karts can easily recover from error, but they're the slowest karts in every entry.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Vanilla Lake in Super Mario Kart, Sherbet Land in Mario Kart 64 and Double Dash!!, the aptly titled Snow Land in Super Circuit, DK Pass in DS, DK Summit in Wii, Rosalina's Ice World in 7, and Ice Ice Outpost in 8.
  • Smug Smiler: Metal Mario in his promotional art.
  • Spiteful AI: If a CPU has an item, they'll almost always try to hit the player with it.
    • Mario Kart 7 takes it up a few notches by having the AI always drift into your path so they can steal every coin and item box in front of or your just bump you off the road. They take it a step further by going out of their way to hit two item boxes so you'll be even less likely to pick one up.
  • Springs Springs Everywhere: In the course Mushroom Gorge from Mario Kart Wii and 7.
  • Sprite Polygon Mix: In 64.
  • Socialization Bonus: In Mario Kart 7, if you get a StreetPass tag of someone using a kart element (chassis, tires, or glider) that you don't have, the Mii in question is included in your current GP, and you win the GP, you get one of the elements that they had that you previously lacked.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Falling in water results in having to be fished out by Lakitu, but averted in certain places in 7, where underwater can be an alternate route.
  • Super Title 64 Advance: Applies to every title in the series thus far except for Super Circuit, Double Dash!! and 7. [5]
  • Take the Wheel: The main appeal of Double Dash!!. If two players are playing together, they can swap places and let the other player take control of the wheel. Also used in the game's ad, with two old ladies in a security cart.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Happens to the players. A lot. See Humiliation Conga, above.
  • Under the Sea: 7 introduces underwater areas. Cheep Cheep Lagoon and Wario's Shipyard are mostly underwater.
    • Notably, Rosalina's Ice World and GCN Daisy Cruiser have underwater sections, but no glider sections.
  • The Unexpected: Some of the so-far-one-off characters can qualify, such as Petey Piranha, ROB, Funky Kong, and Honey Queen.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: With MK 64, which wasn't too much of a leap since the first game was already Mode 7, and 64 still used pre-rendered graphics for just about everything but the maps themselves.
  • Variable Mix: In Wii and 7 the menu music gains more, faster layers based on how close you are to picking everything needed to have an actual race, and the music in races warps when certain powerups are used. In 7, the percussion of the course's song gets deeper if the player is in the lead.
  • Wacky Racing: To the point that the game becomes part racing game and part vehicular combat game.
  • Your Size May Vary:
    • In a few cases, spectator characters are usually made (especially in the case of 8), a hair larger than the drivers, which is most evident with the Toads in 8's Dolphin Shoals and Rainbow Road, where the Toad spectators are bigger than the main Toad.

Notes

  1. Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Peach, Bowser, DK, Toad, and Wario. Super used DK Jr. and Koopa Troopa instead of DK and Wario.
  2. In Mario Kart 64, mirror mode was known as "Extra" and mirrored left/right on every track, plus it made Toad's Turnpike That One Level by reversing the direction of the trucks on the track. In Mario Kart Super Circuit, there was no mirror mode, but there was a completely different "Extra" mode that consisted of Nostalgia Levels from the original and was unlocked through a method nobody would think to do without looking it up or asking someone who has. To get all extra cups on one engine class (with the method being the same with each class), every cup has to have a gold trophy and the cups have to be done over again with the coin total at the end being at least 100; fortunately, getting another gold trophy is not a requirement (anywhere from fourth up when just playing through them to get the extra cup equivalent is OK). Beating the 150cc Extra Special Cup unlocked the first new title screen, and achieving a three-star rank on every cup unlocked the second. In Mario Kart Double Dash!!, there is a secret bonus cup known as the All-Cup Tour, consisting of every single track in the game, which unlocks Mirror Mode in the first place, which when beaten on Mirror along with the standalone cups unlocks a secret kart and the new title screen. Mario Kart DS and Wii require 150cc to be beaten to unlock Mirror, but otherwise don't have any ridiculous methods of unlocking the new title screen.
  3. They do tend to have much better acceleration and handling, though--the fastest light car in Wii handles better than almost any heavy car.
  4. such as getting at least one star in all the 50cc cups to unlock Baby Daisy
  5. However, Super Circuit is "Mario Kart Advance" in Japan.
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