This is the second in a series of three posts celebrating the release of DLC Pack #2 for Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U. This time I will be looking at the the worst tracks that the series has given us. For the best tracks go here, and for the best music go here.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I love Mario Kart – the thrill of the chase, the mayhem and some amazing circuits. However, with every rise comes a fall; we’ve enjoyed the peaks of the Terminator 2: Judgement Days of Mario Kart tracks, now we look at the Terminator Salvations.
Either these are good ideas that went awry, complex tracks that just don’t flow or, worst of all, just plain boring (a cardinal sin for a party game). I’d like to say that this list was harder to choose from than the best tracks but that would however be a pitiful attempt at a lie. Though the series is great fun, it has had its share of stinkers…
10 – Ice Ice Outpost (Mario Kart 8)
First in a number of tracks which break Mario Kart’s main rule of fun is Ice Ice Outpost. Stupid name aside, this doesn’t even have the excuse of being a slippery ice track as unless you take one of the two shortcuts, you won’t even ride on the white stuff. Instead you have two connected but weaving paths to navigate through. Unfortunately the paths are near identical, there’s little to no danger ledge-wise and areas which look like they’ll have a satisfying boost payoff just leave you wanting. It’s a shame given the rest of the DLC tracks this came with that one of the new designs would turn out to be so forgettable.
9 – Neo Bowser City / Koopa City (Mario Kart 7)
If there’s one thing Mario Kart has a major issue with, it’s handling on a slippery surface. It’s bad enough on sand and ice, but this time round even the tarmac isn’t safe as you drive through the rain. Barring a single unprotected hairpin, all the turns feel like they’re in the wrong place or going the wrong way and because it’s raining the grip is major issue. There’s a single jump at the end which leads into a glider section solely for someone to take an obvious but boring shortcut, while even the backdrop which sounds like it could be interesting is very static and staid.
8 – Desert Hills (Mario Kart DS)
One type of course that the series has never managed to succeed at is the desert. There are few feelings worse than the slow, sluggish crawl you’re forced into if you stray even a single tyre off track and this track compounds this by having a series of four tight hilly hairpins which feel awful to drift around. The worst part, however, comes after the first lap where the sun starts spitting fireballs randomly across the track, meaning the racing line you’d normally take may end up being compromised – obstacles are fine, but chucking them in at random points of the track while giving you a second to react is just not my idea of fun.
7 – Dolphin Shoals (Mario Kart 8)
Let’s get this out of the way – yes the music for this is absolutely brilliant. However, there’s a separate list for that and unfortunately this track cannot be saved by a saxophone solo. Here, you spend far too much time not on four wheels for it be challenging – jumps through speed boost rings, floating over a few sets of pipes, continuous jumps on the back of an eel (and a slow descent if you end up falling off) followed by a boring glider segment and then another pre-flag chicane, which doesn’t land on this track as it’s just too tight given the speed you carry into it from the glider section.
6 – Rainbow Road (Mario Kart 64)
Rainbow Road is always the finale for the new tracks in any Mario Kart game, where you take what you’ve learned previously and put it to good use in what should be the most difficult track in the game. Not so for Rainbow Road on the N64 – the track has barriers throughout, is horrendously long at around 2 minutes per lap and barring an occasional neon sign or chain chomp, is devoid of life and character. Absolutely the worst iteration of a Rainbow Road in the series and it’s not even close.
5 – Banshee Boardwalk (Mario Kart 64)
Remember when I was talking about Rainbow Road N64 being devoid of life and character? Well you can add in soul here too. Banshee Boardwalk is souless – it’s not just the pitch black surroundings of the pier either as even the castle segment is forgettable and truly insipid. The track is at least challenging and I like what it was trying to do and the atmosphere it was trying to evoke – I thi nk it just failed miserably in execution
4 – Lakeside Park (Mario Kart: Super Circuit)
Another track with a tendency to throw random obstacles in your path at a moments notice, this one gets it even worse by making you tiny and reducing your speed in the process. Obviously Mario Kart is a game based on luck but with this it went too far and although the circuit isn’t actually that bad, the element of chance is unforgivable in this circumstance
3 – Vanilla Lake 1+2 (Super Mario Kart)
Super Mario Kart is a classic game but was obviously limited by the hardware. And though I won’t throw any track under the bus just because the graphics aren’t up to scratch, there is a graphical limitation in this installment which makes the ice circuits particularly awful. These two tracks have ice blocks sitting in the middle of the circuit which you need to avoid – however, you cannot see these at all until it;s beyond too late. It gets to a stage where you actually don;t want to be in the lead so you can watch your competitors bump into the blocks so you can follow through on the now clear path.
2 – Dry Dry Desert (Double Dash)
I really don’t like any of the desert tracks in Mario Kart but Dry Dry Desert is by far my least favourite. The scenery is drab, the course is uninspired and the sandstorm hazards are far too punishing, leaving the laps to feel nearly a minute longer each than they actually are. To its credit, the giant sand pit is actually an interesting and challenging hazard but it comes and goes far too quickly, leaving you alone in the desert with barely an original idea in sight.
1 – Yoshi Falls (Mario Kart DS)
While the scenery in the intro may look colourful and interesting, the course is anything but. At it’s simplest, this is just an oval circuit with no flowing corners, no clever shortcuts and at the end of the day, no challenge at all. The only way to fall behind or get ahead on this course is by the use of items as skill does not come into it. You could probably fall asleep during a time trial and still set an above average time. The sad fact is that there’s so little else to say about it – it’s the epitome of dull in a game about having fun.