Mario Kart 8 Deluxe comes out for the Nintendo Switch one week from today. In anticipation of the release, we’ve sầu been firing up our old systems & reliving Kart memories through the decades. While drifting into corners, firing off xanh shells, & bursting balloons has been a hoot, we’ve sầu been reminded of why the series has lasted 25 years, outlasting every kart-pretender that a competitor has cooked up: The Tracks.

Strip away the power-ups and power-sliding & each game contains dozens of brilliantly designed, supremely fun courses that are as fun khổng lồ look at và explore as they are lớn race through. Some have hidden shortcuts that can turn a race around; all can be mastered by hitting the right angles & taking those turns at the exact right speed. And just when you think you reach perfection, an opponent sneaks by you at the last second lớn take the gold trophy.

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Perhaps one day we’ll rank every single last traông chồng so you can see your favorite. Until then, know that we have a deep fondness for many of the unnamed. How can we forget the classic “Luigi Circuit” with its question block floating by a balloon, or the melting ice blocks of “Vanilla Lake 3”? Where is “Wario Stadium” or “Wario Coliseum”? Who doesn’t love the subtle Super Mario Bros. 2 flavor of “Shy Guy Bazaar” or the giant glossy airplanes flying over “Sunshine Airport”? What’s in all those trucks on “Toad Turnpike,” anyway?

And then there’s Mario Kart 8’s DLC, a first for the series, that effectively turns Kart into lớn a Nintenvị Tournament of Stars with courses inspired by F-Zero, Animal Crossing & The Legover of Zelda. Luckily they’re all included in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe pháo on the Switch. Time khổng lồ gun the engines and vì chưng more research.

These are the fifteen best Mario Kart tracks.

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15. Baby Park (Mario Kart: Double Dash)

If Mario Kart could be boiled down & balanced onkhổng lồ the head of a pin, và that Kart Essence was then stretched out inkhổng lồ a full course, it might look something like “Baby Park.” Some loathe this traông chồng, a simple oval that’s whipped around a manic eight times. Some, rightfully, regard it as the true kiểm tra of champion drivers. Can you manage these four tight turns for eight laps in a row while roller-coasters và Ferris wheels beg for your attention? You can hate the babies. But don’t hate their Park.


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14. Donut Plains 3 (Super Mario Kart)

The 16-bit game has an austerity that feels innocent and pure. Subsequent tracks don’t have sầu fancy appellations but instead a simple number. Thus: “Donut Plains 3” is the third trip to lớn these mysterious plains, with no fried dough in sight but instead busted wooden bridges that barely take you over pools of water that may be manmade creeks or may be standing water after a long night’s downpour. The original maintains a certain pixelated richness. Play the Retro version in Mario Kart 8’s beleaguered Battle Mode for added strategy: Hide under the bridge and they’ll never know what hit ‘em.

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13. Music Park (Mario Kart 7)

Mario Kart 7 came out in 2011 as the Wii was on its last wobbly legs. As such, the 3DS game acts as a final celebration of the home console phenomenon, with tracks based on titles in the “Wii” series of games. The least-appreciated of the group, Wii Music, nonetheless inspired a cracking Kart course with xylophone planks that ring out in cascading notes as you roll across them lớn giant timpani drums that can bounce you over your opponents. It got the Retro treatment in Mario Kart 8 but its high-def sheen does not capture the luster of its brassy instruments và we missed the depth of the original’s stereoscopic 3 chiều.

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12. Maple Treeway (Mario Kart Wii)

We wanted to lớn celebrate Kalimari’s Desert here & wonder, once more, what might be inside that darkened train tunnel. But once the catchy music left our head we were left wondering: What’s truly special about the desert anyway? It’s barren. It’s empty. But race through a hollowed out tree và find joy in the simplicity of rushing through a pile of colored leaves. The rounded path makes gravity as much of an enemy as that opponent holding a trio of red shells. “Maple Treeway” feels unique in a franchise that loves to iterate on ideas, for better & worse. But if we never run inlớn one of those infernal giant caterpillar things again, it will be too soon.


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11. Koopage authority Troopage authority Beach (Mario Kart 64)

The Nintenbởi 64 version introduced inclines & hills, offering up more than the flat obstacle courses of the original. The beach-themed courses in Super Mario Kart were fun dalliances and gave one the sense of sloshing through puddles. But in Mario Kart 64, the course came alive: Crabs skittered across the sand; deep water beckoned & drowned the sloppy. But the central feature is another shortcut: Drive sầu up a hill & boost over that palm tree and l& in a cavern that takes you out the over side. Miss it once aao ước a skilled squad và a last-place finish is nearly guaranteed. Might as well roll out towards that deep xanh like Tess of the D’Ubervilles.

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10. Cheese Lvà (Mario Kart: Super Circuit)

Mario Kart: Super Circuit on the Game Boy Advance was a revolution at the time: Kart on the go! And yet it felt like a step backwards, returning lớn the Mode 7 rotation and wonky flat backgrounds of the original SNES game. The driving felt looser, keeping the physics from the N64 game, making the whole experience a somewhat muddled, missed opportunity. The game does have some of the wackiest, out-there tracks though, as the course designers hadn’t yet been stultified by the series’ massive sầu success to come during the DS và Wii eras. Who doesn’t want lớn drive on the moon? Which, as it turns out, is totally made of cheese. The rumors were true.

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9. Electrodrome (Mario Kart 8)

With Mario Kart 8’s new anti-gravity trachồng portions, the game took on a slightly more menacing flavor. Gone were the miniature golf + go-kart vibes. These vehicles zoom vertical now. They flip upside down. So why not flip conventions and take Mario and gang to the club? What could have sầu been dub-step schloông xã instead glows lượt thích a neon-flecked glitter ball. Thumping bass scores your ascent through dueling tracks that wind lượt thích the groove sầu on a spinning record. And now you can plug headphones inlớn your Switch khổng lồ visit the ‘Drome anywhere you please.


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8. Coconut Mall (Mario Kart Wii)

Let’s not mince words: Mario Kart Wii was massive. With over 35 million copies sold, it’s one of the highest-selling games not only of the franchise but of any franchise. Some looked at the plastic trắng wheel included with the game & choked back their last meal, now rising with their ire that a beloved game was turned into lớn a motion-controlled drive sầu for the masses with too-wide lanes. Some also laông chồng rich imaginations or are too selfish to let others play with their toys. We love the Wii Wheel. We love sầu this send-up of consumerism-as-lifestyle complete with interior fountain. Maybe the joke was on us, the paying public. Either way: It’s better to lớn laugh than khổng lồ not.

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7. Tick-Toông xã Cloông xã (Mario Kart 8)

Another Mario Kart DS variation on “Honey, I Shrunk the Karts.” There’s something about clocks và videogames: Their chimes remind us of older games’ ticking timer in the upper-right corner, và all that whirring machinery made visible is a lovely visual metaphor for the magic of invisible code powering our digital fun. The swinging pendulum makes for a great timing-based obstacle while the spinning gears makes the road beneath your tires feel like it’s finally fighting baông xã. Again, we suggest the Retro remake, which looks stunning in Mario Kart 8 and its Deluxe pháo counterpart.

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6. DK Jungle Parkway (Mario Kart 64)

One of the original eight characters in the SNES title was Donkey Kong… Jr. By the N64 sequel, the daddy kong had returned và kicked his son to the curb. Perhaps Junior was hiding out somewhere in the deep foliage off the course, & that is why, when you veer off the traông chồng, you are course-corrected by an incessant barrage of rolling coconuts. There’s many highlights here: The big jump over the steamboat; the rickety rope bridge; the final hairpin turn up a hill in a cave. Give sầu the Retro course in Mario Kart Wii a hard pass, though. They got rid of the coconuts! Blasphemers.


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5. Moo Moo Meadows (Mario Kart 8)

The “Farm” theme first popped up in Mario Kart 64’s “Moo Moo Farms.” But this return to lớn the hay brought in roaming cows and mud, all watched over by a handsome barn glinting in the sun. Fire up your brand-new copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe cộ to lớn see this track in its HD glory. The music alone will get you running lớn the local Pawn Shop to lớn grab a cheap fiddle & start practicing bluegrass scales.

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4. Waluigi Pinball (Mario Kart 7)

Pity the poor Waluigi. His gaunt frame & nasally voice betray his inner being: A sad, lost creature with a spirit as hollow và brittle as a thin, dead reed. Perhaps khổng lồ compensate, Nintendo has bestowed upon hyên a traông xã with the opposite traits of its owner: Bright, ecstatic, joyful và free. You race alongside gigantic pinballs through a giant table complete with flippers and score targets. Or have sầu you been miniaturized and this table is normal-sized, perhaps tucked inlớn the corner of Waluigi’s empty bachelor pad? The Nintenbởi vì DS original has aged poorly; we recommover the 3DS Retro traông xã in Mario Kart 7.

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3. Ghost Valley 1 (Super Mario Kart)

Though the grvà finale of Rainbow Road gets all the plaudits, the early Ghost Valley courses would lay the groundwork for the formula: The winding tracks, the barrier-less curbs, the ultimate test of risk and reward. Your tires squeak over the wood planks. The haunted music is a foreboding phối of low-octave sầu organ sounds & echoing spectral trills. But the magic touch is the shortcut ramp: Use that Flower to lớn hop onto lớn the extended plank and cut off the entire last corner, or go for the guslớn và use a Mushroom to lớn zoom across the jump pad, catapulting across the gap before slamming on the brakes khổng lồ make the turn và slide across the finish line.


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2. Bowser’s Castle (Mario Kart 64)

Bowser’s Castle contains the final stand-off in most mainline Mario games. Here, it is the penultimate demo, a mansion haunted by decades of pitfalls into lava and a kidnapped woman of royalty inevitably gaining her freedom. It’s the “Dark và Scary Night” of the series, the time when lightning flashes and giant statues come to life & spit fire. We have sầu a special fondness for the N64 version, and though its Wii Retro remake puts a prettier coat of paint on it, we miss the tighter corridors & blurry hedges. That Thwomp stuông chồng behind bars at the kết thúc of the hallway is evidence of Nintendo’s designers having a sicker sense of humor than they get credit for.

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1. Rainbow Road (All of ‘em)

We tried khổng lồ piông xã just one. Each have their merits: The original’s technicolor kaleidoscopic traông xã inspires dread & is burned inkhổng lồ our collective sầu eyeballs; the N64’s floating, galloping colored lanes have a set of whimsy and dream-like terror; Double Dash’s traông xã high above sầu a city feels like the first draft, full of bravavị & misgivings, of what later iterations would tighten và polish; Mario Kart 7 and 8’s galactic missions feel appropriately epic for a gr& finale but perhaps lachồng the tightness of earlier entries, when the last race was more about the ultimate chạy thử of driving skill và less about bouncing on the moon. So we threw up our hands and said, here, take them all. Ravish yourselves. Anyway, “Rainbow Road” is less a collection of tracks than it is an idea. It shall not be limited. It cannot be contained. It is waiting for you.

Since 2003, Jon Irwin has been paid to lớn write about film, techno, ice cream, wine, golf, drag-racing, French children và videogames. His first book, Super Mario Bros. 2, was published last year by boss khủng Fight Books. Follow along:

Chuyên mục: Super Mario World