As far as the longevity of games, there are few that can compete with Mario Kart. You would have great difficulty finding someone who grew up in the 90s who hasn’t played it. Many games produced nowadays go along well with our ‘throwaway society’. These games are only as good as their first play through, and not much long after, you’re looking to see how much their trade-in value is. Playing games online against other players all over the world has created a new way to enjoy games longer, but they can be bug-filled and usually don’t stop you from buying the new updated version.
There are, however, games that don’t lose their playability. Only a few select games are capable of being enjoyable for all ages, at any time. You might have one game that is more than special to you, depending on when you first played it, how it appealed to you, or even who you played it with. For me, and for many others, one of these games is the iconic Nintendo 64 version of Mario Kart.
Considering how far technology has advanced, especially in regards to graphics in racing games, to even be able to enjoy a game from this time period is special. Not to say it was prehistoric, but Turok the Dinosaur Hunter was popular at the time. Many other games were attempting to pump out as much detail as they possibly could – which is nothing compared to modern systems. Mario on the other hand, as we all know, took a different path by emphasizing cartoony-characters and environment. Which, in fairness, was a development from their original Mario character. Obviously, that is not to say that the visuals weren’t appealing. Mario graphics are put into a whole different category of their own. Whether you’re going down Rainbow Road or battling in Block Fort, basic was better.
As a side note, a game that gives a good comparison of the development of graphics would be Metal Gear Solid, when one of the newer games in the series included the first mission in the original PlayStation game.
One of the things that allows Mario Kart to remain enjoyable is that it can be played by people of all ages. There are few games that can so easily be picked up by kids, yet also be complex enough to be enjoyed by teenagers and adults. This is obviously why so many people still play it, and why it is continuously getting rediscovered by adults. N64s are still sold at swap-meets, Craigslist, or found in bulk at your local University dorm rooms. There still is a market for these systems – and a demand.
Another great part about Mario Kart was, and is, the multiplayer mode. From playing the Grand Prix to the Battle mode, the competition can become pretty heated. At the time, N64 was one of few systems to offer the capability of 4 players. Of course, the televisions back then weren’t always the largest, but just like 2 players is better than 1, 4 players was better than 2. This theory holds true, even today, where most current systems rely on four-player compatibility.
Everyone has their favorite character. If you’re lucky, you can play with someone who doesn’t like the same character as you … or you’re going to have a bad time. For me, it always seemed to be a race for Yoshi, but depending on the match, it never hurt to pick a heavier character to throw some weight around. Although the weight of the characters were pretty obvious, there has always been a debate about who the fastest character is – and if there even is one. The newest Mario Kart game includes stats for all the different characters, however, as we all know, there never was any true identification of speed in the N64 version. Everyone has their own opinion, as biased as it may be, about who was the fastest racer. But it’s obviously Yoshi – mystery solved. All these characters have their own story-lines through the history of Nintendo, and can mean something different to everyone.
I was first introduced to Mario Kart through a friend of mine whose house I went to after school. He was lucky enough to be graced with a N64 when they were new, so pretty much most of my childhood revolved around a strict competition varying from racing to battling. There are a lot of good memories from that, and of course, a lot of disagreements and arguments. Even after I moved away, he still remained one of my close friends, and still is to this day. I still play Mario Kart on an emulator on my laptop, and regardless of how technology evolves, it will always be a go-to classic.
Feel free to share your story of a game that has never gotten old for you.