If you think Mario Kart’s gameplay has always been the same, you’ll be surprised to learn that the series has undergone a lot of changes in the last 20 years.
The kart racing series has gone through several iterations, including a switch from 2D sprites to full 3D, from a standard control scheme to one that places more emphasis on motion controls, and most recently, a mobile game adaptation. Each of the 14 Mario Kart games captures an era in video game history, even if some are clearly superior to the others.
In light of the recent mobile release of Mario Kart Tour, we’ve compiled a timeline detailing the evolution of the Mario Kart series across various platforms.
Keep checking back, as we intend to add to this tally in the near future.
We also have other lists that you might find useful if you’re looking for gaming suggestions:
Super Mario Kart
First Day of Publication: September 1, 1992
SNES is the system.
Super Mario Kart, released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, is the game that started it all for Mario Kart. The classic racing game features 20 different tracks, including fan favorites like Donut Plains, and eight different playable characters from the Super Mario universe.
Battle mode was introduced in Super Mario Kart as an alternative to racing, with the objective being to eliminate opponents by means of various power-ups.
In addition to establishing a number of series staples, this game also includes a number of interesting quirks that aren’t found in the sequels.
One example is that in races against AI-controlled opponents, those opponents will use character-specific power-ups that the player cannot use. Second, the tracks are shorter than in later versions, so there are more of them (5 instead of the usual 3).
In races, each participant had a set number of “lives” that would be depleted and result in a loss and a “rank out” if they were used up. Playable characters like Koopa Troopa and Donkey Kong Jr. make their debut in Super Mario Kart and have since appeared in numerous spin-offs.
Using free rotations and plane-scaling, the game was able to create a 3D effect on the SNES’ hardware, which was groundbreaking at the time.
Mario Kart 64
Launch Date: February 10th, 1997
N64 System Architecture
Nintendo’s follow-up kart racer featured numerous enhancements over its predecessor. Switching from the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) to the Nintendo 64 (N64) allowed for the rendering of fully-3D polygonal-based graphics for tracks, resulting in tracks with more interesting design elements like bridges, walls, and pits.
It kept the 2D pre-rendered sprites for characters and items, but added digital voice acting, weight categories for racers, four-player co-op, a mirror mode, and time trials.
New items were also introduced in Mario Kart 64, such as the Spiny Shell (renamed the Blue Shell), the annoying Fake Item Box, and the speed-boosting Golden Mushroom.
With Koopa Troopa and Donkey Kong Jr. replaced by Wario and Donkey Kong, the game featured 16 standard racetracks, 4 battle courses, and 8 playable characters. Subsequently, Mario Kart 64 became available on the Wii and Wii U’s Virtual Console services.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit
On the market as of August 27, 2001
Format: Game Boy Advance
The original Mario Kart handheld game debuted for the Game Boy Advance in 2001. Some of the staples of the Mario Kart series have been carried over into Mario Kart: Super Circuit, and the game also adds some new elements.
Unlocking classic courses from previous games was a new feature, as was receiving a ranking based on your performance in races alongside any trophies you might have earned.
Super Circuit also added a new Linked VS mode where multiple players can compete against each other using just a single cartridge.
There were some limitations to this mode, such as having to play as different colored Yoshi and only being able to select from the four SNES Mushroom Cup courses, but if everyone had a cartridge, all racers and courses would be accessible. Players could trade ghost data for Time Trials via the Game Boy Advance’s Link Cable.
Virtual Console ports of Mario Kart: Super Circuit were later released for the 3DS and Wii U, with the former being available exclusively through the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program.
Mario Kart: Double Dash
Published on November 17th, 2003.
Released in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube, Mario Kart: Double Dash shocked fans by drastically altering the series’ formula, particularly in terms of gameplay.
Two riders per kart meant that the emphasis shifted heavily toward cooperative play. Both players could take part in the game at the same time, with one taking control of the vehicle while the other used items and vice versa thanks to the seamless character switching.
Diddy Kong, Bowser Jr., Birdo, Princess Daisy, Waluigi, Koopa Paratroopa, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Petey Piranha, King Boo, and Toadette were just some of the 11 new playable characters that joined the roster alongside the revamped gameplay and the 9 returning playable characters.
Depending on which characters were behind the wheel, special abilities like fireballs or huge bananas might become available. Each character also received a kart that was tailored to reflect his or her individuality.
Mario Kart Arcade GP
Launch Date: October 10, 2005
Arcade System for Playing Games
In 2005, Namco would release Mario Kart Arcade GP, the first Mario Kart game designed specifically for arcades. The game wasn’t the first in the arcade, but it was the first to get serious backing from Nintendo.
Eleven different characters can be controlled in this arcade version of Mario Kart, which also features 24 different courses and modified gameplay mechanics.
The goal of the game is to cross the finish line as quickly as possible. In addition to the standard Mario Kart power-ups, Arcade GP adds a few of its own, and it also has a built-in camera that can snap a picture of the player’s face to appear in the top corner of the screen whenever they are in a race.
Each installment in the GP series features three unique playable characters: Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Blinky the ghost.
Mario Kart DS
Published on November 14th, 2005.
Mario Kart DS, for the Nintendo DS, is the sequel to the original handheld version, and it came out in 2005. Races in the game feature characters in their own karts, a throwback to the formula used in games before Double Dash.
There’s a new Mission mode in Super Mario 64 DS where players are tasked with accomplishing a series of objectives like gathering coins or defeating specific enemies.
The bottom screen can show an overview of the track or a bird’s-eye view of the player’s surroundings, and the top screen displays the player’s kart. This takes advantage of the handheld’s dual-screen functionality, which was also used in Mario Kart DS. Dry Bones and R.O.B., as well as updated versions of Blooper and Bullet Bill, join the cast of characters.
Previously unlockable relics return and will likely become series staples from here on out. The DS’s Download Play function benefited multiplayer, as it allowed for wireless co-op play between multiple DS consoles using a single disc. Then, via Virtual Console, Mario Kart DS was made available for the Wii U.
Mario Kart Wii
Date of Publication: April 27, 2008
It is widely agreed that Mario Kart Wii is among the series’ finest installments. This is the first Mario Kart game to include motion controls, and it’s also the first Mario Kart game to feature Bikes. In addition, a new system is introduced in which players can perform stunts while driving in exchange for a momentary increase in speed.
To date, Mario Kart Wii has the largest character roster, with 24 playable individuals. Players’ Mii characters also made their first appearance in-game as playable characters, joining the likes of Baby Daisy, Baby Peach, Funky Kong, Dry Bowser, and Rosalina.
The POW Block, Mega Mushroom, and Thunder Cloud were all introduced and retired during the course of the main series. One retro course from each game in the series is unlockable and can be used in Battle mode.
With Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection on the Wii, you can now compete in races over the internet with up to 12 other players in VS mode or Battle mode.
In addition, there is a downloadable “Mario Kart Channel” accessible from the Wii’s main menu that provides access to global and regional Time Trial rankings, ghost data transmission and reception, and global tournaments featuring custom courses and objectives.
Mario Kart Arcade GP 2
Date of Publication: 2008
The Arcade System as a Platform
The playable characters in Mario Kart Arcade GP, a 2008 arcade game widely regarded as a sequel to the original Arcade GP title, are identical to those in the original.
Also, some new characters join the cast alongside internet sensations Waluigi and Mametchi from the Tamagotchi series.
The game also features customized karts for each playable character, modeled after those found in Mario Kart DS. There are now more power-ups than in previous games, and you can choose whether or not to hear color commentary before each race.
Mario Kart 7
Publication Date: December 4, 2011
In 2011, Mario Kart 7 was released for the Nintendo 3DS, and it featured both 3D stereoscopic graphics and motion controls utilizing the system’s in-built gyroscope. It’s also the only game in the genre that lets you race from the first-person perspective and control your vehicles by tilting your device.
Vehicle customization is another new addition, with players able to acquire new components like kart frames, tires, and even retractable hang gliders to soar through the air.
A larger cast of playable characters, including Metal Mario, Lakitu, Wiggler, Honey Queen, and Shy Guy, was also introduced alongside each of these. With Nintendo Network’s online play, each race can now only have a maximum of seven participants, down from the original maximum of twelve.
Mario Kart 8
On the 30th of May, 2014, the release will be made available.
Wii U is the system being used.
Fans had to wait three years for a new Mario Kart game before Mario Kart 8 for Wii U was released in 2014. New paths in old tracks were made possible by the addition of anti-gravity areas, where the player’s kart’s tires would be turned sideways as they drove over walls and ceilings.
In these areas, the opposite of what happens in normal gravity occurs when players crash into other racers or special bumpers and gain speed.
The game expanded the number of playable characters to include Baby Rosalina, Pink Gold Peach, and the Koopalings, and added ATVs as a third type of vehicle, 4-player support for Grand Prix races, and ATVs.
New tracks and downloadable character packs are available for the first time in Mario Kart 8. Tanooki Mario, Cat Peach, Dry Bowser, Link from The Legend of Zelda, the Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing, and more all joined the racing action as downloadable extras.
As the first Mario Kart to receive post-release updates, which added new features and QoL improvements, it is widely considered to be the best entry to date, boasting HD graphics and live-orchestrated music.
Mario Kart Arcade GP DX
Date of Publication: 2014
Video Game System (Arcade) Platform
The kart gliders from Mario Kart 7 were included in the 2013 release of Mario Kart Arcade GP DX, along with new playable characters like Bowser Jr., Rosalina, King Boo, and Lakitu. The game also featured a revamped version of Pac-Man and an appearance by Don-chan, a character from the Taiko no Tatsujin series.
Two new game modes have been added: “Team” mode allows two players to combine their karts to form a more powerful vehicle as they race against two AI-controlled opponents, and “Alter-Ego” mode uses online functionality to have players race against ghosts set by other players.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
April 28, 2017 — Date of Publication
Technology Used: Switch Platform
Released in 2017 for the Nintendo Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an updated port of the original Nintendo 3DS game Mario Kart 8. All of the downloadable content released after the game’s initial release is included, as well as some bonus features.
After a long absence, Boos and Super Mario Kart Feathers are once again available to players. More racers, such as Bowser Jr., Dry Bones, King Boo, Gold Mario, and girl/boy Inklings from Splatoon, have also been added, and players can now carry two items at once. The Battle mode has also been revamped for Deluxe.
Mario Kart Arcade GP VR
Dissemination Begins on October 1, 2018
This year saw the introduction of Mario Kart Arcade GP VR, the latest installment in the Mario Kart arcade series, to virtual reality arcades. The game drastically changes the formula by having players store their items in balloons rather than Item Boxes.
Each item type has its own unique hand gesture that must be used in conjunction with the balloon.
The roster of playable characters in the VR game is significantly reduced, with only Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi available to the player. However, non-playable AI versions of Bowser and Wario appear during races.
Mario Kart Tour
Due out on September 25th, 2019
Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS
Because of its compatibility with both Android and iOS, Mario Kart Tour is the first game in the series to be made available on mobile devices. New characters Pauline, Peachette, and Musician Mario join the cast of returning favorites.
The game’s story is broken up into tours that function like cups from previous games, with each tour featuring a set of featured tracks that change every two weeks.
The game radically departs from the standard Mario Kart formula by altering the requirements for victory in each race. Grand Stars are awarded not for first place but for point totals.
Frenzy is a new mechanic that is activated when a player has three of the same power-up in their inventory; this allows them to use that power-up multiple times while making them invincible.
In spite of all these modifications, Mario Kart Tour still has the simplest control scheme of the series, requiring players to do nothing more than steer the kart and use items. Loot boxes, which can contain anything from a new racer or kart to a glider with a random drop rate, can be purchased with in-game currency called Rubies from an in-game app shop.
The Gold Pass is a new subscription service introduced in Mario Kart Tour that increases the amount of rewards earned during races and grants access to the 200cc engine speed.
Who is Mario Kart for?
Since its release on the Super Nintendo, the Mario Kart series has amassed a large fan base thanks to its fun and casually competitive party game design. The game’s accessibility and relative unpredictability make it a great fit for Nintendo’s “games for all ages” branding, as even the most skilled players aren’t guaranteed to win thanks to the use of items and track gimmicks. The game is appealing to those who want a quick, friendly Grand Prix and those who want to win the title and the bragging rights that come with it because the controls are simple to learn and fun to master.
The Mario Kart series is great if you like racing games with a large cast of playable characters, a wide variety of customization options that encourage experimentation without penalizing “bad builds,” a straightforward interface, and a lot of fun.
Shigeru Miyamoto Says Mario Is 24-25 Years Old…Wait, What?
Let’s begin with one of the few truly “direct” pieces of evidence we have regarding Mario’s age.
According to an interview with Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto from 2005, published initially on Nintendo Japan’s website, Miyamoto said that Nintendo didn’t “put any restrictions on Mario as a character” other than “the fact that he’s about 24-25 years old.”
You, like everyone else, are probably shaking your head at that suggestion. We’ll get into the specifics of why you should be skeptical shortly, but for now, just know that Mario does not look anywhere near 24 or 25 years old.
In that regard, a number of hypotheses can be entertained. First, and perhaps most plausibly, is that Nintendo simply doesn’t give this issue much thought. Therefore, they probably care more about the character’s consistent design than they do about this quote Miyamoto gave a long time ago. They probably think of Mario as a godlike figure due to his enduring popularity.
Going further, you could say that Mario has matured since Miyamoto made that remark. Looking at it strictly from the context of Super Mario’s 20th anniversary, Miyamoto’s statement makes a little more sense.
Others have pointed out that Miyamoto could be implying that Mario has the physical abilities of a person that age (likely because of his regular jumping exercise routines). A part of me believes that Miyamoto was using Mario’s physical abilities as a proxy for his age, even though I tend to side with the “Mario is immortal” camp.
Shigeru Miyamoto Has Called Mario a “Weird Old Dude”
Miyamoto has only provided the 24-year-old to 25-year-old range in direct response to questions about Mario’s age, but he has made comments in the past that seem to run counter to that.
As the author puts it, “With 3D, little ‘lies’ like that can go unnoticed. Therefore, we lied quite a bit! Mario, after all, is an old kook who can triple his own height when he jumps. So, it’s hard to keep track because who cares? (laughs)”
To call someone in their twenties “old” is, granted, an odd thing to say. I would hazard a guess that Miyamoto originally envisioned Mario as older but ultimately settled on keeping him in his prime physical form. Of course, he could have just been kidding.
When is Mario’s Birthday?
Here we have yet another fantastic question about Mario’s age that is genuinely puzzling. There are actually three theories about when Mario was born.
The first widely held belief is that Mario’s actual birthday is March 10 (or “Mar10 Day”). But it appears that fans who wanted to celebrate Mario couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use such a clever date, so the concept of Mario Day was created by them. Although Nintendo recognizes the day, it does not appear to be canon.
The day Super Mario Bros. was released in Japan, September 13th, has also been proposed as Mario’s birthday by some fans. Even so, Nintendo usually just celebrates the anniversary of the game and the Super Mario series on this day. In addition, Mario has made appearances in both Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong. If you want to use the dates of these games’ releases as a yardstick, you could technically say that Mario was “born” in 1981 with the creation and release of Donkey Kong (even though the character in that game wasn’t initially named Mario). That’s just another case of confusing Mario the character with Mario the creation.
Nintendo Games Are Inconsistent About Mario’s Age
If you’ve been keeping up with the chronology of The Legend of Zelda, you won’t be too surprised to learn that Nintendo has been…unreliable…when it comes to Mario’s age.
In Super Smash Bros. Melee, for instance, Mario is supposedly 26 years old. It’s not a huge departure from the 24-25 range Miyamoto suggested, but it is interesting that there would be any variation in Mario’s age given that it appears to be one of the few things about Mario the company has defined.
This estimate of Mario’s age of 24–25 is flatly contradicted by references to his age in other games. Case in point: Paper Mario: Color Splash casually alludes to Mario and Bowser fighting for 30 years. The number makes sense if the developers are merely making a reference to the franchise’s anniversary, but it doesn’t fit with Mario’s suggested age.
We won’t even begin to discuss Baby Mario. Although Baby Mario’s introduction in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island leads one to believe that he is an older version of Mario disguised as a baby, many games have since shown Baby Mario and Mario cooperating. Some games provide an explanation, but Nintendo has largely given up on trying to solve this problem over the years.
Mario’s Actors Are Typically Between 40-60
I’m sorry to break it to you, but the ages of the various actors and voice actors who have portrayed Mario over the years won’t help shed any light on the matter. Here is a look at some of the more famous actors who have played Mario through the years, along with an estimate of how old they would have been at the time.
“Capt.” The Super Mario Bros. Show’s Lou Albano (at age 56)
Mr. Bob Hoskins (The Super Mario Bros. Movie) – 51
In the Saturday Supercade, Peter Cullen placed 42nd.
At the time that Super Mario 64 was released, Charles Martinet was 41 years old.
However, the point remains that Nintendo typically casts older people to portray the character of Mario, with the majority of the voice actors for the character falling somewhere between the ages of 40 and 60. The upcoming animated Super Mario Bros. film will hopefully break that run of bad luck.
Is Mario Older Than Luigi?
Fortunately, Lugi’s identity as Mario’s younger brother has been consistently referenced throughout the series’ history. In regards to how much older Mario is, however, Nintendo has been inconsistent (try to be surprised).
Baby Mario is depicted as an only child for a long time in the 1990 comic Family Album: The Early Years before Luigi is even mentioned. This suggests that Mario is a lot older than we thought.
But it’s hinted in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island that they’re actually twins of the same age. Once again, this game prompts many age-related questions, but Nintendo appears to have stuck with the “twins” explanation ever since. Multiple games feature Luigi calling Mario his older brother, and some games, such as Super Paper Mario, refer to the brothers as “twins.”
Based on what we know so far, Luigi is probably just minutes (or hours) younger than Mario, not years. That would make Luigi the same age as Mario, but younger than him by a few years.
How Old Was Mario Segale (The Man Who Inspired Mario’s Name)?
To fill in the blanks, “Mario” was named after Mario Segale, the owner of the warehouse Nintendo used to rent in the ’80s. According to legend, after Segale yelled at former Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa about unpaid rent, Nintendo decided to rename “Jumpman” in Donkey Kong to “Mario” in the American version of the game.
Segale would have been about 49 years old when Super Mario Bros. was released in Japan. There is no official indication that Mario’s physical attributes were strictly based on Segale, so while that age range is pretty consistent with the actors that Nintendo cast for early portrayals of Mario, this could actually be a dead end.
The Future of Mario Kart
There have been whispers of Mario Kart 9, with some even putting the release date as far off as 2021, but Nintendo has yet to confirm any new installments. There will probably be more installments in this series in the years to come. Simply put, we don’t know when that time will be.
I trust you had fun perusing our Mario Kart game recommendations! Please let us know which episode was your favorite and why you enjoyed playing it in the comments section.
Keep having fun with your games for the time being!