hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Mario Kart 7

Review: Mario Kart 7

2:01 AM on 11.29.2011 // Jim Sterling

The more a game has the word "new" printed on the back of its game case, the better the chances are that the game inside will feel older than time itself. Mario Kart 7 has the word "new" printed on the back of its game case no less than four times, and true to the theory, its contents are less fresh than the contents of Joan Crawford's underwear.

At this point, it's customary with a Nintendo game to mention how that's not a bad thing, to highlight how nothing was broken and didn't need fixing. In Mario Kart 7, however, I don't think that's appropriate. For once, sticking to tradition has not worked in Nintendo's favor.

Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
Developer: Nintendo EAD, Retro Studios
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: December 4, 2011
MSRP: $39.99

Describing Mario Kart 7 is going to be almost pointless for anybody who has played most of the series, especially since this one ignores the more gimmicky aspects of Double Dash!! and Mario Kart Wii. The seventh iteration of the venerable kart racing series truly returns to the series' roots, keeping things free of complications and delivering the kind of "pure" karting experience fans have played for years. Usually, such a simplistic return to form can be a good thing, but with Mario Kart 7, the roots have aged to the point where they may well have become rotten.

Indeed, Mario Kart 7 is the same Mario Kart you've fundamentally played six times before. There are 32 courses (16 new, 16 remixed versions of old courses) littered with obstacles and power-up boxes that boast familiar, luck-based items. Homing red shells, slippery banana skins, and vision-obscuring squids are all back, joined by three fresh items -- a Tanooki Tail that can swipe players and obstacles, a Fire Flower that rapidly tosses projectiles along a straight path, and a big red Seven that gives players seven previously established items to choose from. The fire power is great at annoying other players and the Seven is definitely cool, but I must say that the Tanooki Tail is fairly useless -- obstacles are easily avoided and the power-up rarely appears when you're close enough to other racers to strike them.

Other fresh additions include gliding equipment and underwater sections. Although these new elements provide something aesthetically different, they don't actually change the game. Underwater racing is a little slower and air gliding is a little floatier, but their impact on the gameplay is minimal at best, appearing merely as vapid contrivances that exist to provide the illusion of variety rather than actually altering the core experience.

It takes seconds for all the familiar problems with Mario Kart to surface. Rubber banding and fixed races are still an integral part of every course, and victory in a race yet again hinges hugely on the element of basic luck, with items such as the Blue Shell returning to punish players who commit the sin of maintaining success. These are long-standing issues with the series that many will likely have gotten used to but really ought to have been dealt with by the seventh installment. Simply put, these problems have grown incredibly tiring, and items like the Blue Shell stopped being funny several sequels ago.

Familiar problems would be bearable if not for the other big issue with Mario Kart 7 -- it's just too damn slow. Even budget kart racers like Jimmie Johnson's Anything With An Engine are faster and more exciting than this. The game's casual pace goes hand in hand with the fact that it hasn't changed one bit, and each separate issue enhances the other, exposing Mario Kart 7 for the weary and humdrum affair that it is. When even budget racers realize that the genre needs shaking up with fresh ideas and/or at least a measure of energy, it's almost depressing to see the world's leading kart racer trudge out of the starting gate with such a dismal, sluggish, outdated little offering.

Fact of the matter is that kart racers are old news, and this is one of the most routine kart racers on the market. Even series like Dynasty Warriors and Madden boast fresher features with each iteration than those found in Mario Kart 7, and as someone who usually has no problem with sticking to a winning formula, not even I can justify how formulaic Mario Kart has become. Nintendo has truly played it safe with Mario Kart 7, but it's done so to such a degree that the game could be accused of cowardice. Something bolder needed to arrive, something that shook up a very tired style of game. Nintendo shockingly chose not to take that brave step this time around.

Outside of races, the time trials have returned, as have coin dash and battle modes -- the former a series of arenas in which players must collect and keep the most coins and the latter a series of arenas in which players must use items to pop balloons on opposing karts. Unlike in Mario Kart DS, the rather neat ability to blow into the microphone to inflate balloons is no longer included. This is a straight old-school mode like everything else.

The only vaguely compelling element is the new kart customization feature, but it is about as streamlined and restricted as you could ever hope to get. You basically get to unlock and swap new kart bodies, wheels, and gliders by collecting coins in the various races. Each new add-on has its own set of statistics to help with speed, turning, and acceleration, but ultimately, you won't be spending much time on creating a personal vehicle since there's very little to play with. Same can be said for the new roster of racers, which doesn't really bump the character count up due to quite a few having been taken out. I'd rather have Dry Bones back than the uninteresting bee queen from Mario Galaxy.

Both online and local multiplayer are included, with players able to partake in both races and battles. Once again, there's nothing new here. If you aren't sick of Mario Kart then you'll probably find some longevity in the multiplayer, which is at least streamlined and allows for random play without the need for Friend Codes.

Nevertheless, multiplayer doesn't really make the game more exciting, especially online where you can't even have the fun of taunting each other and are instead stuck in a rather dry, joyless atmosphere. You also can't quit out of the game during a certain point in matchmaking, instead having to turn the entire 3DS off if you want to stop. Which is convenient.

To be as fair as possible, one can say that Mario Kart 7 looks quite good. Although the 3D doesn't really factor into the gameplay, it has the best 3D visuals on the system with very little sign of ghosting or eye-straining effects. In this regard, the simplicity has worked in the game's favor. The bright, colorful tracks and entertaining racer animations are fairly appealing as well, while the music and sound effects are all standard with nothing that truly stands out.

Mario Kart 7 is as derivative as a game can get, and while we pour scorn on so many other games for rehashing themselves, something tells me this will get a free pass from many critics and gamers. That strikes me as ironic since Mario Kart 7 is the one game I'd hold up as the least deserving of any kind of leniency. It being an unadventurous and predictable retread, however, is only half of Mario Kart 7's problem. The other half is the fact that it's a lethargic and mundane game, easily outpaced by games that could be considered knock-offs of the formula Nintendo itself perfected.

Mario Kart is in need of a severe shake up. This stagnant, crawling, and indolent effort is not it.



Mario Kart 7 - Reviewed by Jim Sterling
Average - Like a meal of lukewarm water with white bread. It filled my time and my belly, but lacks any discernible flavor or nutritional value. A game that left me no different than it found me. Just passing through.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
I recently beat Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow again, but this time I played on Hard mode from scratch. Outside of dying a few times due to me being an idiot, and enemies hitting harder, it was actually easy. Like really easy.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Today I replated bacteria that I made take up a plamid hopefully stitched onto the genes generatlight. Taken from other dead bacteria and put into a non glowing species, to make it glow. Fucking microbiology is the best.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
It seems fairy farts are a fragrance, a soap, incense, a vaping liquid and a kind of nail polish. I'm clearly in the wrong line of work and need to eat more chili.
Cannibal Steven avatarCannibal Steven
"You gave the Lost Soul a big smile, like you remember she likes to do... For some reason she sort of wants to smile back..." I'm not crying. Not one bit.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Just tried 'The Last Of Us' on PSNow Trial, only to be told... 'Something went wrong. Try again.' Game-appropriate error message or quickie plot-summary?
TheAngriestCarp avatarTheAngriestCarp
I hate when people say crap like "I admit that [thing] in games is problematic, but I still enjoy it" because it's an underhanded way of contradicting your own views while convincing yourself that you aren't a hypocrite.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
Well shit. I knew I was more than likely going to enjoy Star Wars Battlefront (cause you know, giant Star Wars nerd and all) but holy cow, the beta is fucking great! I need the full game like, now.
SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
Anyone here going to NYC Comic Con? Always wanted to go and lived so close, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
Mark Plechaty avatarMark Plechaty
Well I haven't seen any levels like this on mario maker so maybe it's unique the I'd is 55BD000000961CBA GIVE IT A GO and let me know what you think
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Hey Stranger ... wadda you buying ? Want some crack ? Here ya go... [youtube][/youtube]
Sr Churros avatarSr Churros
My brother caught me this Pokémon in our room yesterday. How should I name it? [img][/img]
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Yay, I got off of work early and may have Friday off! I have a sinking feeling I'm going to work 10 hours on Saturday as a result, though :/ We ran out of stuff to make stuff with so they must ship us stuff so we can ship stuff.
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Yo yo I'm Marie and I got dat gangsta flow. High scores ain't no trip, cuz I whip that shit like Sonic quick. I-I mean no! I didn't say anything! Stupidrecordbreakingcombodolt. [img][/img]
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
I'm watching you.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
SkarKrow avatarSkarKrow
Work noooooooooooooooooo D:
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
I had such a awkward time playing Catherine because it shared the same name as my mother....
JayDGee avatarJayDGee
Broforce is coming out of early access on the 15th. I had no Idea it was an early access game.
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
I have now played all 3 Witcher games. My verdict: Witcher 1 - alright, aged badly, lots of sex. Witcher 2 - good, very short, not much sex at all. Witcher 3 - Excellent in every way.
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I really wish MGO had been implemented with free-roam gameplay PMC (clan) setup instead of the standard matchmaking. Imagine roaming bands of PMC's opposing each other on the battlefield. How sexy would that be?
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:
Mario Kart 7

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -