This year it’ll be a staggering eight years since Mario Kart 8 was released for the Wii U. It was subsequently updated and re-released as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch but Nintendo’s newest console is yet to see a standalone entry of its own. That could soon change if reports are to be believed that Mario Kart 9 is in the works.
At this point, Nintendo could probably just paint a ‘9’ on the box and it would still sell millions, but according to those same reports, the game will feature a “new twist” on the formula. But what could that be? A Double Dash-style reinvention or something more subtle?
Here are five things that could make their way into the next instalment of Ninty’s classic kart racer…
More guest characters
Perhaps the most obvious update Mario Kart could make would be to expand its character roster to include those from across the wider Nintendo universe.
It has expanded slightly thanks to DLC (downloadable content) inclusion of Link, Splatoon’s Inkling and Octoling, and Animal Crossing’s Isabelle and Villagers, but it does seem a little strange that other Nintendo favourites haven’t made their way across too.
Characters such as Kirby, Fox McCloud and Samus would be great additions to the roster, but the possibilities are nearly endless. We could have Sonic show up, the Ice Climbers could make an appearance, and any number of Pokémon could be included. It’s obviously worked a charm for Smash Bros Ultimate, and the release of new characters has somehow become an actual event.
Many have called for a ‘Nintendo Kart’ for some time, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see this finally happen.
New track locations
If you’re going to add a whole host of new characters, then the next logical step is to give them matching tracks to race on. Of course, we want all our favourites such as Rainbow Road and Toad’s Turnpike to return, but there’s so much potential to branch out into other locations as well.
We got a glimpse of how this could work with Link’s and Isabelle’s home tracks in Deluxe’s DLC, as well as a couple of F-Zero tracks, but why stop there? Let us navigate the fauna of Pikmin’s PNF-404, or zip through the Kanto region as Pokémon pop their heads out. Again like Smash Bros it could get even more creative and have tracks themed around more leftfield titles like WarioWare or Game & Watch.
If tracks did stay closer to the Mario universe then a more diverse selection of games could provide some new flavour. How about a Paper Mario course that switches to 2D sections or a Mario Sports Superstars track that sees you scoot through golf courses, tennis courts and more. What about a Mario Artist course where the environment is painted in around you as you race?
Maybe there’s a reason Nintendo doesn’t pay us for our ideas, but you see what we’re getting at!
The previous couple of suggestions would represent an evolution rather than revolution for the series, but a fully open world Mario Kart would be a complete departure from everything that’s gone before. And it’s one that could genuinely work based on racing games that have already done it.
That big spooky house in the distance? That’s Luigi’s Mansion. And that ominous castle over there is Bowser’s famous hideout. Maybe those skyscrapers belong to New Donk City and that lush forest is home to the Kongs. Being able to drive from location to location taking part in races on the way could be a real game changer.
The various coloured shells, banana skins, and lightning bolts are a mainstay of Mario Kart games, but power ups specific to each character could add an extra element of strategy to character selection. Regular power ups would remain but, like Smash, perhaps each character could have an ‘ultimate’ power up.
Luigi’s power up could see him use his Poltergust to suck racers towards him or unleash a gaggle of ghouls on opponents. Bowser could toast other racers with his fiery breath, while Yoshi could gobble them up and lay them as eggs.
If characters from the wider Nintendo universe were introduced then it could get even more interesting. Ash Ketchum could use any number of Pokémon for his power up, whereas Fox could call in air support from Peppy and the other Star Fox gang.
New modes and race types
Grand prix, time trial and battle modes are Mario Kart’s bread and butter, but perhaps it’s time we got something new to freshen things up. Obviously the idea of an open world would certainly do that, but how about some kind of actual story mode?
Could each character have a Soul Calibur-esque story that sees them race against rivals or on specific courses to service some sort of overarching story? Surely Nintendo could cook up some narrative reason why everyone has to race each other to save the world or something.
Other potential race types could include new vehicles (planes or jet skis, anyone?), longer endurance races or maybe even a stunt or rally-style gymkhana mode. It’s hard to say the Mario Kart formula has become stale considering it’s more popular than ever, but adding some new modes or race types would definitely give it a new lease of life.
Although the next game might be a while away, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is available for the Nintendo Switch.