Eighth time really is the charm
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still selling. And not just a little, but a whole heck of a lot. Over 26 million so far, and that’s just the Deluxe version on Switch. Over 8 million more were sold on Wii U. That’s a lot of copies of this game being played. The thing is, Mario Kart 8 released on Wii U in 2014. That means an awful lot of us have been playing the same Mario Kart game for 6 years, and that’s entirely too darn long.
Previously, the longest wait for a Mario Kart game was 5 years, between Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Super Circuit. On average though, Mario Kart releases are 3-4 years apart. That means that even if you assume the majority of those 26 million people who bought Mario Kart 8 on Switch were playing the game for the first time, we’d be getting pretty close to ready for a fresh entry in the franchise.
Now, there are a couple of other factors to take into account. First, Mario Kart Tour is a thing that exists. It’s the mobile Mario Kart game, and it’s honestly a bit of a different animal. It’s getting all sorts of fresh content, which we’d all love to see show up in a proper Mario Kart game someday, but it isn’t exactly scratching the itch. Second, there has never been more than one Mario Kart game on a single platform before.
This isn’t to say that Nintendo can’t buck that trend anytime they want, but it's something to think about.
Either way, the fact of the matter is that while a lot of folks are still buying Mario Kart 8 in droves, there’s demand for a Mario Kart 9 out there in the world. It’s probably an unlikely thing with Nintendo putting resources into Tour, the current iteration selling as well as it is, and an eventual Mario Kart 9 standing as an excellent selling point for Nintendo’s eventual next new piece of hardware, but with the Switch being the monumental success that it is, it’s hard to deny that the platform deserves its own new Mario Kart game.
So what could that game be?
The Ultimate Karting Crossover
Perhaps the easiest answer comes when you look at one of Nintendo’s other smashing success stories, Super Smash Bros. The latest entry in the Smash Bros. franchise aimed at being the Ultimate version of the game, with every single fighter returning, nearly every stage and song as well, a whole slew of new characters and stages to boot, and it’s truly a fantastic game. So what if Mario Kart went that route?
Mario Kart Ultimate could be killer. Not only could it be great to see characters like Donkey Kong Jr., and even the unreleased Kamek racing in full HD, but having all those courses in one place would rule. Retro courses have been a thing in Mario Kart games since Super Circuit on Game Boy Advance, and the way they were reimagined for Mario Kart 8 was stunning. That level of approach gives me chills just thinking about it. Toss in the content from the arcade games (including the Namco racers) and Mario Kart Tour and you have a new MK game that could possibly topple Mario Kart 8 in sales.
Another Smashing Idea
A different inspiration they could pull from Smash Bros. could be to just do what they did, except instead of fighting, it’s racing. Mario Kart 8 already introduced Inklings from Splatoon, Villagers and Isabelle from Animal Crossing, Link from the Legend of Zelda, and a pair of courses from F-Zero. Why not go full swing and just make an all out crossover racing game. Mario KArt rules, but add items and courses from all Nintendo’s franchises. You don’t even need to go as crazy with the 3rd party stuff as Smash does.
Look at how great Sonic and Sega All Stars racing was. There’s a Panzer Dragoon stage, Opa Opa is a racer, it’s nuts. Now imagine Nintendo taking that approach. Zipping through a Kid Icarus themed track as Samus chucking a red shell at Pikachu. It’s such a natural evolution, and while it wouldn't necessarily make sense to keep the Mario Kart branding, I'm sure they could figure it out.
Double Dash 2
One of the more divisive entries in the Mario Kart franchise was the GameCube entry, Mario Kart: Double Dash. It features a unique system where each kart had two characters on it at the same time, and it was absolutely brilliant. Mario Kart has come a long way since then, so applying all that franchise evolution to the basic premise of Double Dash would be spectacular.
The thing about Double Dash was that characters came in pairs. You could mix and match, but picking a duo like Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong meant you had a heavy and light character on your team. With The ways the roster has expanded over the years, the depth of potential strategy is astounding. It’s an unlikely one, but an exciting one nonetheless.
Something entirely new
Of course, Nintendo is really good at giving us games we never knew we wanted, and that would be my best guess at what an actual Mario Kart 9 would be. The anti-grav mechanic didn't really feel like it added much in Mario Kart 8, but the actual effect of it where you gained boosts from running into other racers while in anti grav mode was pretty darn cool. Maybe play with that somehow? Seriously though, where do they even go from here? I don’t know, and that’s what makes it so exciting, and frustrating that it’s taking them so darn long.
Mario Kart 8 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But someday, when the Switch is on its deathbed and whatever insanity Nintendo cooks up is getting ready to hit store shelves, a new entry in the Mario Kart series is bound to surface. Mario Kart Tour may not exactly be the most creative point for the brand, but I’m convinced that’s just because of its nature as a mobile game. When it comes time to give the people a brand new proper console Mario Kart game, Nintendo will dazzle us, and I can’t wait. (But I’m going to have to).