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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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Nintendo Is Releasing a Special Gold Famicom Mini, Which Will Come Pre-Loaded With 20 Games

Nintendo’s renewed focus on retro gaming continues as the company is slated to release a manga-focused edition of the Famicom Mini in Japan on July 7. The Famicom—short for Nintendo Family Computer—is the Japanese version of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and this new device will come with 20 games pre-loaded onto it.

Back when the NES Classic hit U.S. stores in 2016, Japan got its own Famicom Mini, which featured a slightly different selection of games from its Western counterpart, including Mario Open Golf and Downtown Nekketsu Kōshinkyoku: Soreyuke Daiundōkai. This new edition of the Mini will be gold-plated and is being released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the manga magazine Weekly Jump, according to Kotaku.

To go with the theme, the games on the system will be ones based on the popular manga at the time like Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, and Fist of the North Star, as The Verge reports. These are games that most Western audiences would have never experienced for themselves in the late '80s and early '90s as the manga/anime culture had not yet spilled over into the States much, and companies would rarely waste the time and money on localizing them for an unfamiliar fanbase.

In the rare instances that these games did come stateside, they were usually altered to appeal to a different culture—the most famous example is Dragon Ball on the Famicom arriving in America as Dragon Power in 1988 with box art looking more like something from The Karate Kid than a manga series.

Now that American audiences have embraced manga, there might actually be a market for this tiny package of retro gaming in the States. Unfortunately, there's no word on a U.S. release, meaning you’ll likely have to head to eBay or your local boutique video game store in order to have a shot at landing one. If you want a consolation prize, the original NES Classic will be heading back to stores on June 29—though if history is any guide, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get your hands on that, either.

[h/t: The Verge]

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5 Smartphone Games That Let You Tend Plants and Chill Out
Ice Water Games, YouTube
Ice Water Games, YouTube

Being in nature is naturally relaxing, but city-dwellers don’t always have an opportunity to get outside. Gardening can be therapeutic for mental health, but you may not have access to a garden—or even the space to tend a houseplant. You can still have a few moments of horticultural meditation every day. It will just have to be digital.

Over the last few years, video game developers have released a number of mobile games that revolve around the simple act of tending to plants. These games are, for the most part, slow-moving, meditative experiences that focus on beautiful graphics, calming soundtracks, and low-key challenges. They’re a great way to de-stress and pursue your gardening dreams, no watering can required.

Here are five relaxing, plant-centric phone games you can download now.

1. VIRIDI; FREE

Viridi is like Neopets for plants. The game is dedicated to nurturing a pot of succulents that grow almost in real time. You can plant a variety of succulent species in your virtual pot. Spritz your plants with water when they’re thirsty and wait for them to grow. Each week, a new seedling will be available for you to plant. The game moves slowly by design. You can let it run in the background, and your plants will do their thing, just like a real plant would. These ones are even harder to kill than real succulents, though.

Find it: iOS, Android

2. TOCA NATURE; $2.99

Toca Boca makes games for kids, but honestly, Toca Nature is pretty fun no matter what your age. You can create your own natural landscapes, adding trees, water features, and mountains. Different natural features attract different animals, and the type of landscape you make shapes whether you’ll get bears, beavers, or birds living there. You can collect berries, feed the animals, or just enjoy planting trees.

Find it: iOS, Android

3. BREATH OF LIGHT: RELAXING PUZZLER; $1.99

In Breath of Light, your job is to bring a garden to life by manipulating a stream of light. Move rocks and mirrors around your zen garden to harness and direct the life-giving light emanating from a single flower. When the light hits another flower, it causes that plant to grow. The very simple puzzles are designed to help you chill out, and the award-winning soundtrack by the audio designer Winterpark features binaural tones that are naturally relaxing. “As a unique, gamified version of guided meditation, Breath of Light helps you enter a state of calm serenity without you even noticing,” according to Killscreen. Sorry, Android users—the app seems to have disappeared from Google Play, but it’s still available for iPhone.

Find it: iOS

4. PRUNE; $3.99

Prune is a puzzle game with a horticultural twist. The object is to plant a tree, then as it grows up, guide it with careful pruning, helping the branches reach the light while staying away from the cold shadows or hot sun, both of which will kill the tree. As the levels rise, you’ll need to contort your trees into ever more complex shapes.

Find it: iOS, Android

5. EUFLORIA; $4.99

If you like your gardening to be a little more high-stakes, Eufloria is out of this world. Seriously, it’s about colonizing asteroids. Your mission is to grow trees on far-off asteroids, sending your seedlings out to turn gray space rocks into thriving landscapes. Your seeds hop from asteroid to asteroid at your behest, creating a chain of fertile life. Sometimes, alien enemies will attack your flourishing asteroid colonies, but don’t worry; you can beat them back with the power of more seeds. The game can be fast-paced and competitive, but there’s a “relaxed” play option that’s more meditative.

Find it: iOS, Android

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