Developer(s) – Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director(s) – Takashi Ando & Yukio Morimoto
Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto & Kenji Miki
Handing over development of the series to Intelligent Systems, Mario Kart: Super Circuit marked the first time that the series appeared on a handheld console, and was well received by critics upon release, and went on to become the fourth best selling game on the system behind Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, Pokémon Fire Red & Leaf Green and Pokémon Emerald. Speaking as a long-time fan of the series, the contenders for worst game in my opinion was this and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! But after having replayed both of them in recent years, I’ve come to the conclusion that Super Circuit is indeed the worst game in the series. But still, this is not to say that it’s a bad game; it’s just worst of an excellent series.
Graphics – 5/10
One of the worst things about it is most definitely the conceptual design, which track by track, ranges from good to barely passable. A lot of the ideas Nintendo tried for new track designs outside the usual tropes of the series are pretty poorly designed, such as Cheese Land and Riverside Park, but at the same time, many tracks that go along with the motifs of the series, such as Peach Circuit and Mario Circuit, are also quite poorly designed. The best kinds of tracks in the game are those following the themes of Bowser’s Castle and the haunted house courses. The uniquely themed tracks also get fractionally better as the game progresses, but the best in conceptual design throughout the series would be yet to come.
Gameplay – 7/10
The game plays out like a mixture of both Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64, and for the most part, the courses do provide a fair level of challenge. But again, there are courses that can be criticised in this respect too. Mario Circuit is a prominent example, since it was placed in the Flower Cup, yet I personally found it easier to win on than Peach Circuit in the Mushroom Cup, which goes against not only the tradition of Mario Kart, but that of gaming in general, since games are supposed to get harder as they progress. Otherwise, it plays out just as well as any other game in the series.
Controls – 10/10
By proxy, there are also no issues with the controls. Both the prior games in the series had been largely a test of trial and error, since they were both drastically different from the other (with both of them passing that test), but somehow, the controls feel a lot more smoother than Super Mario Kart with elements of the control scheme of Mario Kart 64 thrown in. It seems easier to make narrow turns and easier to accurately aim weapons than in the original game.
Lifespan – 8/10
If players don’t have another gamer to partake in multiplayer with (which would make the game last for as long as their own interest in it), it can take fractionally longer than the original two games to complete, since it has five tournaments as opposed to the traditional four. There are also additional game modes to add to the title’s longevity in the battle mode, quick run and time trial modes, so fans of the series will have more than enough to do throughout.
Storyline – N/A (10/10)
The Mario Kart series has never had a story attached to it, and it never should, I don’t think. At this point especially, I believe that trying to add a story to a Mario Kart game would be a pretty bad move on Nintendo’s part, unless they can do it in such a way that it does nothing to hinder gameplay to any kind of extent. It worked particularly well in Diddy Kong Racing, so if Mario Kart were to ever become an open-world kart game, a story may work.
Originality – 2/10
The Mario Kart series would later become quite innovative, including a number of new features with each instalment, but in Super Circuit, there is next to no innovation, as it was indeed largely influenced by the two prior games. Nintendo tried to create a game that was more evolutionary rather and revolutionary, but due to the mixed quality in track design, I didn’t find it to be the evolutionary experience that Nintendo intended it to be.
However, much as I’ve complained about Mario Kart: Super Circuit, it still remains a solid gaming experience, and much better than any generic racing game that was either out at the time, or what had been released prior; or even that has been released since. To me, it’s acceptable since it plays out like any Mario Kart game should, but other games in the series have since gone above and beyond what was on offer here.