March 18, 2022 — fans of classic and current Mario Kart games alike were graced with the release of eight more tracks for the popular Nintendo Switch title Mario Kart 8 Deluxe; part of Nintendo’s recently announced Course Booster Pass that’ll double the amount of playable tracks in the game over the next two years, wave one sports a smattering of reprised courses from numerous other Mario Kart games.
In standard Mario Kart fashion, the new courses are split into two cups, with four circuits each. The first is the Golden Dash cup, consisting of the tracks Paris Promenade, Toad Circuit, Choco Mountain, and fan-favorite Coconut Mall. Paris Promenade hails from Mario Kart Tour, a mobile game released in 2019. The main gimmick here is that the course forces players to take an alternate path on its last lap, resulting in racers driving at one another in a climactic finish near the Eiffel Tower. Though this is a well-rounded start to the cup, it’s largely downhill from here.
Toad Circuit and Choco Mountain — respectively from the 3DS and Nintendo 64 — are both lacking in any memorable qualities, and further, they fall short gameplay-wise.
Though the core gameplay of Mario Kart 8 is strong enough to make any course feel moderately enjoyable, these two entries fail to feature any unique Mario setpieces of interest, and the result is just a drag. The Wii classic Coconut Mall should be a bright spot at the end of the Golden Dash tunnel — and it is, for the most part — but it’s undeniable that some of the track’s original charm is absent in 2022.
The cars near the end of the course no longer coast back and forth (or contain Mii characters), the escalators are plastered with big cartoon arrows, and the large “Thank You” outside the mall’s exit was removed. It’s still fun, and perhaps the best of the first four courses based on nostalgia alone, but the Golden Dash Cup still falls short overall.
The Lucky Cat Cup, however, is much more enjoyable. It begins with another Tour entry in Tokyo Blur. Though this track feels like a slightly-less-fun version of Paris Promenade, the path does change every lap, which keeps things interesting. At a glance, the 3DS’s Shroom Ridge looks like yet another on-road course akin to the Moonview Highways and Toad’s Turnpikes of the past. However, the course feels great to play in practice, with each drift chaining into the next perfectly. Sky Garden from the Game Boy Advance is definitely the weakest link in the Lucky Cat chain, but it’s entirely made up for by the cup’s conclusion, which is easily one of the best tracks in the entire game: Ninja Hideaway, another from Mario Kart Tour.
This course has it all: an exciting environment, a funky bassline, and a surprisingly intricate system of branching paths that are a delight to traverse. At any given time Ninja Hideaway exhibits two or three different paths stacked on top of each other, and it’s this verticality that keeps the course fresh and exciting with every playthrough.
Overall, wave one of the Course Booster Pass is decent but far from phenomenal. The simplicity of the visuals makes many of the included courses feel out of place next to the original Mario Kart 8 lineup, but their gameplay ranges from enjoyable to exceptional as per usual. The principal issue with the older reprised courses is that they often feel, well, older, and don’t make great use of Mario Kart 8’s more unique features (gliding, anti-gravity, etc.). Nevertheless, there’s always fun to be had in a friendly race on any track, and wave one of the Course Booster Pass is no exception.
3 out of 5 Big Oles