Mario Kart DS, review

Who I am
Alejandra Rangel
Author and references

To understand the present one must know the past

The way of racing karts has evolved a lot over time, and every Mario Kart released so far, apart from the Super Circuit, has deepened a certain aspect of racing, which is also why it is so difficult to determine which is actually the best among past ones. Super Mario Kart laid the foundations, introduced the concept that gave life to this type of racing game. Mario Kart 64, with the advent of the four doors for the pads, was built with a view to multiplayer, with a particularly careful study for the management of weapons. The Super Circuit, for the Game Boy Advance, was a mixture of the first and the second, inserting the statistics of the karts and the evaluations at the end of the grand prix. The most recent Double Dash, using the GameCube to generate fully polygonal graphics and an efficient physics engine, was created with a focus on driving, which is why it is mainly loved by time trial enthusiasts. From each of these games Mario Kart DS has drawn the best.

The art of holding a steering wheel

Drifts are an evolution of those seen in Double Dash, which have been improved thanks to a careful study of previous games. Thanks to the environments and polygonal characters, the slip is managed in a very precise way, the drift is controlled very well, but despite this it is not as easy and immediate to perform as that of the GameCube version. In Double Dash it was an exhausting race based on generating an extra power slide than the opponent, in Mario Kart DS instead, in addition to the drift, great importance is given to the line and the trajectory of the car as in Super Mario Kart. The power-slide is loaded in three stages as usual: you start to drift with the right backbone, lean towards the outside of the curve, go back inwards,

Everyone is free to create their own driving style, navigating the sea of ​​possibilities offered by the Nintendo asphalt

The art of holding a steering wheel

then again on the outside and again on the inside, when your boost is finally ready to be released. If in Double Dash this process could be carried out in a few seconds, with simple bends of the analog, in the DS the movement must be more decisive and complete, which has led, consequently, to the reduction of short drift. Moreover, if your car is not inclined enough, you will very often not be able to load the boost, and that is why the much hated straight-line drifting in the DS are, except in very rare cases, counterproductive. The jump gave further depth to a control system that was already full of nuances, as it can be used, as well as to turn in a simpler and more immediate way, also at the end of the boost to create new and interesting moves. Basically, everyone is free to create their own style, navigating the sea of ​​possibilities offered by the Nintendo asphalt.

The art of overturning opponents

The management of bonuses, on the other hand, is a perfect mix between the version for SNES and the N64 one, since the quantity of weapons has been inherited from the former while their use from the latter. There are a maximum of three boxes per round, so they must be dosed wisely. Almost all weapons can be parried by acting as a shield through shells or bananas, so some objects take on an important defensive value, as in Mario Kart 64. For this reason, the use of the map below is fundamental, for the first time meticulously detailed thanks to the double screen of the laptop, which allows you to check both the position of the objects already launched and those currently owned by the other runners. Knowing you the weapons that others have, and knowing the others what you have, creates an infinity of different situations that require a

In short, the nirvana of racing games and multiplayer

The art of overturning opponents

great speed of calculation and reasoning, perhaps while the thumbs are consumed by the power slides. To all these aspects extrapolated from the past Nintendo has added a physics engine significantly superior to that of the GameCube version. The contacts between the various cars have been perfected, and now they play a more important role than in the past, as it should be. The weight of a kart is evident from the first moment you check it, you immediately understand its characteristics. The behavior of the cars while in the air has also been improved, it is now impossible to load the power slide while in flight, but above all you can lean forward or backward to slow down or speed up the descent process. During the race it is also possible to stay in the wake of your own competitor, in order to go faster and also gain additional acceleration that will allow you to overtake him; always, however, being at shell risk. In short, the nirvana of racing games and multiplayer.

The cars

There are many karts to choose from, thirty-six at the end of the game. For the first time the character does not constitute a limit, in the sense that everyone can enter any vehicle. It is the Kart that has certain characteristics, the driver has little influence. In MK DS each car has six parameters: speed, acceleration, weight, handling, slip and objects. They are not mere statistics, but they give each kart its own identity, particular abilities. Some manage to drift even on grass, some are faster, others still favor the arrival, once they come across a box, of a strong weapon. All are customizable with their own symbol to be drawn via the touch screen, in a space of 32x32 pixels.

Better alone than badly accompanied .. maybe

The single player of Mario Kart DS it is undoubtedly much more full-bodied than usual, and ensures fun for any type of player. The main mode is, as usual, the grand prix, and it is also the one you need to unlock most of the secrets. It is divided into displacements, which are three, 50, 100 and 150, and represent both the speed at which your cars will go and the difficulty of the races, therefore the skill of your opponents. Although the first two are simple as usual, the 150 is able to give a bit of a challenge even to the best drivers, so newbies will take a long time to complete all the cups, also considering that at the end of each competition you will be assigned an evaluation based on your times. The tracks are thirty-two in all, sixteen new and sixteen taken from the old episodes, all reconstructed with polygons in the essential elements. The new ones have a very high quality standard, on average they are probably the best of any Mario Kart, although as a level of difficulty those of the Super Nintendo are still a step above. Some tracks, like Waluigi's Flipper, have a very original structure, and are difficult to master even for the best runners. The other sixteen, considering the repertoire from which they were taken, could have been better chosen, especially those obtained from Mario Kart 64. Distressing is the absence of the Rainbow Road of Super Mario Kart, while the choices made with the Super Circuit and Double circuits are excellent. Dash. In addition to the grand prix, the battle, usually reserved for multiplayer, is also playable in single. In this mode, players clash inside an arena, trying to destroy each other using the weapons scattered throughout the setting. To signal the remaining energy to the runner there are three balloons, which you must continuously hold up by blowing on the microphone of the DS. There is also an alternative version of the battle which consists in trying to recover the only keepers scattered in the game arena before the other competitors. Then there are the challenge, the time trial and the missions. The first is a kind of fully customizable friendly, from the duration of the competition to the quality of the CPU-controlled racers. The time trial is the usual time trial, this time more accurate than usual: the experts of this mode will know that previously each character, regardless of who he was, was granted two or three mushrooms to use during the journey. In Mario Kart DS, in order not to always choose the same kart, some cars are assigned three mushrooms, others only one, and it is up to the player to decide each time which is the best choice. The CPU ghosts, usually easy to overcome, are this time very tough and hard to beat. The missions are the real novelty of the game, together with the online one. Indeed, most likely if there had not been online there would have been no missions either, since, although well done, in essence they are a tutorial. The approximately fifty tests will guide beginners in learning the basic techniques, so as to allow them to play good multiplayer races. Although they are also valued like the Grand Prix, they are easier to complete, even with the highest score. A nice and fun addition, which will serve more to newbies than to experienced players. The only flaw lies in the fact that the learning curve is not perfectly calibrated, since from one mission to another, at a certain point, there is a clear leap in quality.

The track

Here is the list of circuits of Mario Kart DS playable online: Ottotornante, Yoshi Falls, Smack Beach, Luigi's Palace, Picchiasol Desert, Borgo Delfino, Peaks of DK, Circuit of Mario, Wario Stadium, Rainbow Track, SNES Mario Circuit 1, N64 Muu Muu Farm, GBA Track of Peach, GCN Luigi's circuit, N64 Snow covered circuit, GCN Baby Park, N64 Cioccocanyon, SNES Cioccoisola 2, GBA Giardino Nuvola, GCN Yoshi circuit. The only offline ones are: Waluigi's Pinball Machine, Mushroom Hills, TicTac Track, Flying Fortress, Peach's Gardens, Bowser's Castle, SNES Donut Plain, GBA Bowser Castle 2, SNES Koopa Beach 2, GBA Luigi's Circuit, GCN Ponte dei Funghi, N64 Bewitched wharf.

Compete with the world

The game, undoubtedly, gives its best in multiplayer. Offline is simply a bomb, LAN extended to eight players, battle, the possibility of facing the team grand prix, a true paradise. With a single cartridge you can only do some circuits and the "guest" will not be able to choose the character to play with, since he will be automatically assigned Shy Guy. Wireless offline is just perfect. Online, on the other hand, has several limitations, unfortunately indispensable to avoid the classic problems deriving from online gaming. The maximum competitors are four, and the weapons that can be used offline as a shield, for example the green shell, must necessarily be thrown. Not all tracks are also accessible online, those with external elements have been removed which, due to the lag, could create confusion among the players. Peach's Garden, for example, is full of 'categnacci' that scour the track, so it would not have been appropriate to transfer it online without being sure to keep a perfect synchrony between the links. These cuts are rewarded by the fact that online play is incredibly smooth, and lag is truly minimized, even non-existent if the two runners both have a good connection. The service, on the other hand, is excessively simplistic, and one cannot communicate in any way with other competitors. They are sought by establishing certain conditions, for example you can search for elements of a similar value to ours or that come from our own continent. You cannot directly choose who to play with, but thanks to the friends list, to be filled in through the exchange of codes, you can limit yourself to competing with your acquaintances. There are a lot of people online and it takes just over a minute to create a match, it is a pity that everything works automatically and in some cases the match starts even if four participants have not been reached. The audiovisual sector is a small miracle. If observed closely both the polygonal models and the textures are nothing exceptional, but thanks to the small size of the screens, the splendid light effects that the DS can generate and the perfect fluidity of Mario Kart, the overall impact is extremely pleasant. one of the best games for the Nintendo laptop in this field too. The sound is nice as usual, but above all useful for noticing the arrival of some weapons a few seconds before they reach their destination, so as to attempt a counter move to neutralize them.

Mario Kart DS is a game that has been in development over thirteen years, and inevitably has an incredibly powerful base structure, tending towards perfection. Everything is done with skill, certainly among the best titles that one of the best development team on the planet has ever created. Mario Kart DS it is potentially infinite, thanks to the new online mode but also to a deep guide system built with wisdom and experience. The game is permeated by a sense of completeness and compactness, it is pure rock. It could be said that it is the best Mario Kart in history, that it is the pinnacle of multiplayer, that no other racing game is at its level; you might say, but it would be boring. Just play it, you will understand everything by yourself.


  • Perfect in the basic aspects
  • Fluid both offline and online
  • Gran track design
  • Masterful control system
  • Full of references to Mario's entire story
  • Small graphic miracle
  • After an hour of drifting, your hands hurt
  • Not all tracks playable online
  • Overly simple online service
  • Missions abruptly change difficulty

It is said that the ability to synthesize is a rare gift, reserved for a select few. Evidently, among these chosen ones there is a certain Hideki Konno, capable of summarizing thirteen years of history in a single game, his history, that of Mario Kart. The path started in 1992, continued and carried out on four Nintendo consoles, through various experiments and metamorphoses, flows today, November 2005, into a single, tiny, cartridge: Mario Kart DS. A point of arrival.

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