A game that has become one of the most successful franchises for Nintendo first raced its way onto the Super Nintendo 25 years ago this week. Do you know what it is?
Super Mario Kart made its debut on the SNES on September 1, 1992 in the North American market (having debuted just a few days before in Japan on August 27 and later releasing elsewhere in early 1993). It was a pretty straightforward concept: take the already-popular Super Mario characters and have them race against each other in a wacky and colorful go-karting experience.
The original lineup consisted of eight characters: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, Yoshi, Toad, Donkey Kong Jr. and Koopa Troopa (with everyone save for DK Jr. and Koopa having since appeared in every other Mario Kart title). Each racer had slightly different statistics regarding top speed, rate of acceleration and general handling mechanics. Characters each had some sort of special power unique to them – for example, DK Jr. could toss bananas.
Super Mario Kart featured both single and multiplayer modes, with the main draw for both being the Mario Kart Grand Prix, which pitted the player or players against computer-controlled opponents over the course of five races which make up each Cup. The tracks on which the races took place were all based on recognizable Super Mario series areas, such as Bowser’s Castle, and many featured road hazards in the form of enemies like Thwomps. Other modes included Time Trial, Match Race and Battle Mode, which have since become standard in subsequent Mario Kart titles.
The game released to universal critical acclaim and went on to sell more than nine million copies, becoming the third-bestselling game ever for its platform. Critics were quick to praise the colorful graphics and the universal appeal of multiplayer modes. Super Mario Kart was largely responsible for kicking off the entire genre of “kart racing” spinoffs, which was mimicked throughout the ’90s with other major mascot-focused franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog (with its Sonic Drift racer) and Crash Bandicoot (with Crash Team Racing among others).
Super Mario Kart kicked off a franchise that has, to date, sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. The most recent release, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, arrived on the Nintendo Switch earlier this year; despite being a port of a Wii U game, it became the fastest selling game in the franchise, moving more than 1.2 million copies in just three days.