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Marcunio avatar 6:33 PM on 12.19.2012  (server time)
The Twelve Games of Christmas: Day Six

It's that time of year again, folks. The days are short and cold, the nights are long and even colder, and one of the best places to be is in your nice warm house. Since you're there, you may as well break out the good ol' videogames and make those chilly winter evenings go by a little faster.

In honour of this, I'm going to be posting about one game each day in the run-up to Christmas, finishing on the magical day itself. Keep in mind that these aren't necessarily going to be games that feature Christmas (although some do). Rather, they're going to be a mix of winter warmers, personal nostalgic favourites, and games that echo some traditional Christmas pastimes. I'm sure other people will have their own winter favourites, but this is my unique list and I'm going to do my best to give a little history on each game and explain why they're featured here.

So, without further ado, onwards with day six!

Super Mario Kart

History: Released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo, Super Mario Kart created a whole new genre of game that would come to be known as the franchise kart racer. The concept was simple: Take some of Mario's most loved characters, throw them all together on a selection of fantastical go-kart tracks, and let the fun begin. It seems so obvious and almost clichÚd now, but at the time it was revolutionary.

Gameplay was also very simple. Win races by driving well and using power-ups such as shells and bananas to hamper your opponents. Players could compete in races against AI controlled characters in order to win the now famous Mushroom, Flower, Star and Special Cups. The unique difficulty system, that was represented by the karts engine sizes of 50cc, 100cc and 150cc, was also in place right from the start.

But everyone knows the real meat of any Mario Kart game is found in its multiplayer, and this was no different for the first title in the series. Options were limited to two players in either race or battle modes. Despite this apparent lack of variety, though, people poured hundreds of hours into the game. The unique and well balanced selection of power-ups provided endless opportunities for spoiling your friends fun. This rendered the small selection of modes obsolete as a problem, because the real fun was how you played, not how the game told you to play.

Wrap all of this up in the stunning-for-the-time Mode 7 graphics, and it's no wonder that Super Mario Kart went in to be one of the best selling and highest rated games for the SNES.

Why It's Here: Christmas is all about bringing people together, and what better way to celebrate this than playing a few rounds of Mario Kart. I had a few games in mind for this spot, being the first multiplayer focused entry on the list, but Super Mario Kart won out in the end. It's combination of timeless, simple gameplay and an atmosphere that oozes innocence, just seems like the best fit for a bit of Christmas fun. It's lively and engaging, but is unlikely to end in the kind of high pitched screaming and gamer rage that other perennial multiplayer favourites sometimes lead to (I'm looking at you Smash Bros).

I'm a little ashamed to admit that I never actually owned a copy of this classic, back in the day. Shocking, I know. But I did go to a friends house to play it. A lot. I distinctly remember sitting crossed legged on a rug, in front of a flickery old 14" CRT TV, and playing battle mode for hours. Every match would yield new and exciting results. Miraculously dodging red shells, nailing a particularly difficult shot with a green shell, the humiliation of slipping on your own banana, all moments that are forever burned into my gaming consciousness. I just get the feeling that this is one of those rare games that has the power to get people down on the floor, huddled around the TV, and relive their childhood experiences.

Bringing people together and making them feel like kids again, it's what Christmas is all about.

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