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Get Up to Speed With These 15 Facts About Mario Kart

Maybe you were partial to Toad’s speed or to Bowser’s bulk, or perhaps chucking massive eggs at other high-speed vehicles, à la Yoshi, was more your style. Whatever your Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 preferences were, the all-around awesomeness of the franchise’s first two installments likely didn’t escape you as you whipped around Rainbow Road—some of the games’ best-kept secrets, however, just might have. 

1. THE GAME’S STAR WAS FIRST IMAGINED AS “A GUY IN OVERALLS” (WHO WASN’T MARIO). 

In an interview with Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, Shigeru Miyamoto and Hideki Konno, two of Super Mario Kart’s creators, explained that their original aim for the 1992 game was to make a two-player racing game with simultaneous on-screen display for both players. During development, Konno said, the game’s prototype had “a guy in overalls sitting in the kart” as the team worked out racing mechanics. For several months, none of the developers specifically identified this blue collar driver as the company’s famous plumber. 

2. BUT MARIO WAS TOO HANDSOME TO BE DENIED. 

Miyamoto added, “At first, no racing was involved. It was just two karts moving around freely. Then we noticed that it looked neat if you stopped one car and looked at the other car flying by. We decided to see what it would look like with Mario in one of the karts, and everyone thought that looked even better. Who knows, maybe the designer who drew the overalls on the earlier guy intended that it be changed to Mario all along!” 

3. IT WAS THE FIRST NON-PLATFORMING GAME FOR MARIO’S ENTOURAGE. 

Super Mario Kart was Nintendo’s first title to let players take on characters such as Princess Peach and Yoshi outside of a platform-based game. This move turned out to be wildly popular among fans, which has led to a small galaxy of Mario Kart sequels, but also a wide variety of sports and fighting games. It also likely set the stage for Mario games to become the best-selling game franchise of all time.   

4. IT SPELLED THE END OF DONKEY KONG JR. AS WE KNEW HIM. 

Many video game universes have the kind of tangled character and timeline webs commonly associated with soap operas, and Mario’s realm is no exception. One particularly tortured lineage belongs to Donkey Kong and his primate brethren, which over the decades grew to include Donkey Kong Jr., Diddy Kong, and Cranky. Donkey Kong Jr. had his own arcade game in 1982 and a math game for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the mid-’80s, played smaller roles in later games (including Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64), and was, for a time, said to have "grown up" into the lead character of Donkey Kong Country (a detail that was quickly revised for later versions). 

After being one of eight playable characters in Super Mario Kart, however, Donkey Kong Jr.’s flashing star began to fade. In addition to being dropped from subsequent Mario Kart games, he was gradually replaced by (or, depending on who you ask, morphed into) Diddy Kong and/or Cranky when it came to filling Nintendo’s primate-shaped roles. 

5. IT KICKED OFF—AND SET THE STANDARD FOR—THE KARTING GENRE. 

Not long after Super Mario Kart was released, a tsunami of character-packed kart-racing games hit the market (including Sega’s Sonic Drift, the four-player game Street Racer, and even Wacky Wheels for PC). However, few series have enjoyed, even briefly, the kind of success that Mario Kart-related games have. As the site IGN put it, “The balance was perfect, the racers were perfect, and the courses were oh so perfect.” 

6. SUPER MARIO KART BROUGHT CONSOLES CLOSER TO 3D GRAPHICS. 

Along with its racing predecessor F-Zero, Super Mario Kart used Mode 7 graphics to give the game an almost 3D feel, paving the way for the kinds of immersive gaming graphics players came to expect in years to come. The gaming site 1UP.com described Mode 7 as “being the most impressive due to its ability to take its entire background layer and rotate or scale it freely, essentially turning the layer into a texture-mapped 3D plane.” 

7. THE MANUAL ENCOURAGES PLAYERS TO CHEAT FOR THE WIN. 

Specifically, the Super Mario Kart handbook advises players to look at their opponent's screen view for the advantages it offers. (Normally, to do so would be to violate an unspoken, cardinal rule of split-screen gaming.) As the Huffington Post discovered, the manual’s last piece of advice for winning in Battle Mode is, simply, to “Always keep an eye on your opponent’s screen.”

8. PEACH AND BOWSER CHUG CHAMPAGNE IN JAPAN, BUT SKIP IT IN THE U.S. 

In the 1992 Japanese Super Mario Kart release, an animation shows Princess Peach and Bowser celebrating post-race with bottles of champagne (leaving Peach a bit flushed). Nintendo of America reportedly didn’t allow depictions of drinking in its games at the time, so the scene was dropped from the U.S. release.

A prototype version of the game contained even more champagne hijinks that didn’t make it stateside: After a championship game, Super Koopa and Koopa Paratroopa figures show up and hover around the second- and third-place racers, only to be knocked out of the sky by champagne corks. 

9. THE ORIGINAL KART IS STILL AMONG FANS’ FAVORITES (AND GUINNESS’ #1) ... 

Super Mario Kart has received a stream of accolades since its release, including being ranked the 15th-best game of all time by IGN in 2005 (they dubbed it “the original karting masterpiece”), making 1UP.com’s “Essential 50” games list, and taking the top spot on Guinness World Records2009 list of the 50 best games of all time.

10. ... WHILE MARIO KART 64 KICKED RACING INTO AN EVEN HIGHER GEAR. 

When Super Mario Kart’s follow-up for Nintendo 64 hit the shelves, one thrilled critic called it “the hottest thing to hit go-karting since … well, since the original Mario Kart for the Super NES,” featuring “some of the most mind-bending racetracks you’ve ever seen.” It sold over a million units within a few months of its U.S. release and was part of a new generation of racers that, according to one industry expert, had the processing power to “[afford] a realism you couldn’t have before.” 

The game also ushered in a new era for the Mario gang, as it presented, alongside Super Mario 64, the new "3D" versions of Luigi, Donkey Kong, Wario, and Yoshi that would replace their previous hand-drawn selves in the Nintendo universe. 

11. MARIO KART 64’S JAPANESE VERSION HAD (FAKE) SPONSORSHIPS FROM MARLBORO. 

Presumably to avoid legal repercussions (and inadvertently promote teen smoking), the U.S. release of Mario Kart 64 dropped imagery from the Japanese version that spoofed such real-life brands as Marlboro, Mobil, and Goodyear. 

12. THE GAME’S THWOMP CHARACTERS SOUND LIKE WARIO BUT COME FROM JAPANESE MYTHOLOGY.

The Thwomps and Whomps of the Mario universe (the latter first appeared in Super Mario 64) were inspired by Japanese nurikabe spirits that appear to block a traveler’s way. To create the Thwomp sound effect for Mario Kart 64, game developers simply slowed down Wario’s laugh

13. IN MARIO KART 64, A RARELY-SEEN ANIMATION REVEALS DARK DAYS FOR LOSERS. 

Many experienced players aren’t aware of a particularly grim animation within the game that only results from a player character coming in fourth at the end of a tournament. If this happens—an outcome best achieved by placing fourth or lower on purpose throughout a tournament’s races—the character comes into focus after the three winners have zoomed off in glory, drives away sadly while a minor key reprise of the victory theme plays, and, after scooting out of sight over a hill, is blown up by a Mini Bomb Kart.

14. BLUE SHELLS SOLVE BOTH TECHNICAL AND EXISTENTIAL PROBLEMS. 

Speaking to Kotaku, Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 director Hideki Konno explained that his team wanted the latter release to have the dynamic in which “everyone was in it until the end.” Unfortunately, he explained, “processing problems occurred that didn't allow us to do that,” and these issues made it difficult to accommodate having multiple racers all grouped together on a racetrack. 

Their solution: the blue shells, which scatter the racers during moments when they’re likely to be traveling in a clump that would otherwise overwhelm a Nintendo 64 processor. Kotaku also points out in a different article that the item “handily takes care of one of Mario Kart's biggest problems: being in first place is actually really boring.” 

15. MORE THAN TWO DECADES LATER, THE MARIO KART FRANCHISE IS STILL THE CHAMP. 

To date, the kart-racers have sold over 100 million game units, while Guinness World Records has honored this dominance with six separate nods, including “First Console Kart Racing Game,” “Longest Running Kart Racing Franchise,” and “Best Selling Racing Game.”

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"American Mall," Bloomberg
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Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Mario Kart Is Coming to Your Smartphone
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iStock

Nintendo had a lot to boast about during its quarterly financial reports this week. The company’s latest console/handheld hybrid, the Nintendo Switch, has already sold more units (14.86 million) in its first 10 months than its previous console, the Wii U, did (13.56 million) during its entire five-year lifespan. That news was bolstered by the company revealing its two heavy-hitters, Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, were massive commercial successes, with 6.70 and 9.07 million copies sold, respectively.

That’s great if you’re a shareholder, but if you’re just a gamer, the real news came when Nintendo revealed that Mario Kart will soon make its way to smartphones. Titled Mario Kart Tour, this will be the company’s fifth mobile endeavor, following games like Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, as well as the soon-to-be-defunct Miitomo app.

Since debuting on the Super Nintendo in 1992, Mario Kart has been one of the company's most reliable franchises. Even on a system that flopped like the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 managed to sell 8 million units on its way to becoming the console's top-selling game. And when that same title was ported to the Nintendo Switch, it moved another 7 million units. For both Nintendo and its fans, the mobile version is a no-brainer.

So what’s actually known about Mario Kart Tour? Well, it’ll be out in the fiscal year, which ends in March 2019. Other than that, you’ll just have to wait for Nintendo to release its patented slow trickle of news over the next few months (though you can expect it on both iOS and Android, like the company's other mobile titles). Until then, you’ll have to dust off that old copy of Mario Kart: Double Dash or splurge on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to get your fill of blue shells and errant banana peels.

[h/t The Verge]

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