Starring Wendy O. Koopa
When Nintendo said the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pass would last until the end of 2023, it meant it. It’s been nearly five months since the first wave of DLC was released, and while I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent driving through the likes of Coconut Mall and Ninja Hideaway, I’m ready for something new. With the release of Wave 2 of the Booster Course Pass, new is exactly what we’re getting.
One of the courses featured in the Turnip Cup and Propeller Cup is new to the Mario Kart franchise, making its debut here before it pops up in Mario Kart Tour. I like the idea of Booster Course Pass players getting early access to these new tracks – because lord knows I’m never going back to MKT. But these tracks have their work cut out for them if they want to stand out from some of these returning classics.
Just as I did with the first wave of DLC, I’ve ranked the eight tracks of Wave 2 below. Unlike last time, this ranking wasn’t so cut and dry.
8. Mario Circuit 3 (SMK)
Don’t take this track’s placement at the bottom of this ranking as a sign that I don’t like it. I adore Mario Circuit 3 and have since first playing it back in 1992 in Super Mario Kart. That 180º turn at the center of the track was always a great test of my ability to hop around corners. It’s far more devilish than the one in Mario Circuit 4, which featured a much wider driving area that greatly reduced the challenge of such a turn.
While the transition to 3D racing hasn’t been kind to the difficulty of this track, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s addition of Ultra Mini-Turbos and 200cc help make this track relevant and a joy to play. Sure, it’s still as flat as it was back on the SNES, but when you add in those speeds and drift mechanics into a track that is this tightly compact, it’s able to hark back to its original difficulty.
Would I have loved to see it given a more complete makeover? Sure, I want that for all of the SNES courses. But it doesn’t need it because Mario Circuit 3’s layout still works today, 30 years after it first debuted.
7. Kalamari Desert (MK64)
Like with most of the tracks from Mario Kart 64, Kalamari Desert is far more enjoyable as a returning retro course in subsequent Mario Kart games than it was back on the Nintendo 64. The N64 version of this track was just too wide and too slow to really be that enjoyable. The course has drastically improved over the years with each iteration. Its addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe comes by way of Mario Kart Tour, where a version of the course known as Kalamari Desert 2 has you driving on the train tracks for the second and third laps.
Back in the N64 version, the train tracks acted as a possible shortcut if you had some booster items at the ready. Here, they’re mandatory as you have to make your way through that tunnel, potentially playing chicken with the train. It’s just a smart revision of this track that, coupled with its wonderful music and dusk-soaked sky, make this the best version of Kalamari Desert that Mario Kart has ever seen.
6. Snow Land (MK:SC)
Much like Wave 1’s Sky Garden, Snow Land is another track from the oft-forgotten Mario Kart: Super Circuit that’s been given a full 3D makeover in Mario Kart Tour. Super Circuit has already seen some of its best tracks remade in 3D with Mario Circuit appearing in Mario Kart 8 and Cheese Land and Ribbon Road being added in as DLC. So I guess it’s time we get some of the less-than-great tracks from the game.
Snow Land is a perfectly fine 3D update of the Game Boy Advance track with tight corners, sliding penguins, and a few smart shortcuts. It’s certainly beautiful to look at, but it’s also rather flat. The entire track is basically one long road of ice with no little bumps or snow piles to contend with. The penguins are also a bit too small for the width of the 180º turn they appear on.
Still, as a short track, it’s exceptionally fun to play at high speeds. Because of its diminutive length, the track is a bit of a battleground when you enter those final few turns. It’s a great drive on 150cc, Mirror, and 200cc, so I can’t wait to see how the Mario Kart community takes to it when it finally hits the online mode.
5. New York Minute (MKT)
New York Minute was one of the first tracks revealed for Mario Kart Tour. It represented a massive change in direction for the franchise with Mario and his karting crew visiting versions of real cities for the first time. In my review of Mario Kart Tour, I noted the layout and design of the original tracks such as New York Minute would probably be better suited for a Mario Kart game with proper controls.
Surprise, surprise, that is exactly the case here. New York Minute’s appearance in Wave 2 is a great showcase of the course’s design. The track combines three different versions of New York Minute from Mario Kart Tour that take players on an incredibly quick tour of NYC. You’ll drive through the park, down Broadway, into Times Square, and under the Empire State Building.
What I love about this track in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is it is a great test of your drifting capabilities. There are so many opportunities to hit those Ultra-Mini Turbos, and when you take to the track in 200cc, it can be a real nail-biter. There are a few designs I don’t care for here, including the stationary taxi cabs in the final stretch, but overall, it’s another example of why all original tracks from Mario Kart Tour need to find their way into a proper Mario Kart title.
4. Sky-High Sundae (MKT)
Speaking of original tracks from Mario Kart Tour, Sky-High Sundae is technically making its debut in Wave 2 before it launches for mobile on August 9th. In the reveal trailer for Wave 2, much ado was made about the fact this track would be completely anti-gravity. None of the tracks from the first Wave contained any anti-gravity portions, so for this entire track to be anti-grav is kind of a big deal. Or it would be if it wasn’t so obvious that anti-gravity was tacked onto a track that, in Tour, doesn’t feature the gimmick.
Still, it’s nice to have anti-gravity represented in at least one of these DLC tracks. And there is a benefit to having anti-gravity with all the little boosts you can get when hitting other drivers or the poles of the staircase handrail in the first turn of the track. It’s a little disappointing that Sky-High Sundae is just a long oval, but the developers did manage to squeeze a lot of different track features into the short course. There are two huge drifting turns, a quick gliding sequence, and a portion of the track that honestly feels like it dropped out of Fall Guys.
Sky-High Sundae is bright and colorful, reminding me of the Coney Island minigame from Mario Party 5 meets Super Mario Galaxy 2‘s Rocky Road. I just wish the track wasn’t so floaty or that the final section of the course, where you’re driving on ice cube trays, was a bit more inventive.
3. Sydney Sprint (MKT)
Sydney Sprint might be the best “real-world” city course from Mario Kart Tour to appear in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Not only is it a long race, which has been something of an issue with these original tracks, but it features great implementation of Sydney Australia’s different dynamic features into the track design and not just the scenery. Case in point, a long portion of this course is inspired by the Bay Run Sydney, a waterfront walking and biking course that creates great opportunities for drifting and mini-boosts here. You also drive into the Sydney Opera House, through a Toad-ified version of Luna Park, and across the Sydney Harbor Bridge where Toads and Yoshi throw coins onto the track from the Tangara trains.
Like with New York Minute, Sydney Sprint combines multiple versions of the track from Mario Kart Tour into a single race. Unlike New York Minute, Sydney Sprint might have the best music we’ll see from any Booster Course Pass. Seriously, take a listen to this. That saxophonist understood the assignment. Be sure to listen to that link before Nintendo hits the video with a copyright claim.
2. Waluigi Pinball (MKDS)
Waluigi Pinball is one of the all-time great tracks from a game that is full of all-time great tracks. There really isn’t much to say about it that hasn’t already been said over the past 15 years. The track is still a smartly designed course with blistering turns and a lot of risk/reward opportunities. I don’t think Waluigi Pinball needs any alterations to its track design, but it could use some changes to the section where the pinballs are bumping against the bumpers. It’s too predictable, and while other players will make this section hell for you, it would have been nice if the developers had changed up how the pinballs act in this final section.
Otherwise, it’s still one of the best courses Mario Kart has ever seen and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that several other tracks from Mario Kart DS will appear in later waves of the Booster Course Pass.
1. Mushroom Gorge (MKWii)
I didn’t realize how much I loved Mushroom Gorge until I played it in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. The original version back on Mario Kart Wii was a fine adaptation of the Super Mario franchise’s signature toadstools. The bouncy red toadstools certainly gave players a lot of opportunities to pull off trick jumps, which was then a new feature of the franchise. But the toadstools also slowed down the pace of the race, and their haphazard placement in the cave section of the track was not very intuitive.
The track has appeared in a few games since its debut, and each time, the developers have made changes to the layout. The toadstool shortcut at the very beginning of the race disappeared for a few iterations while the placement and design of the toadstools in the cave have changed over time. Mushroom Gorge in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe alters the design even further, combining all of these different track layouts into what I can only imagine is the best version of Mushroom Gorge we’ve ever seen.
This is a phenomenal track now. Not only does it move far faster than it has in the past, but, like Kalamari Desert, this is the most beautiful this track has ever been. In fact, and I know this is going to be controversial, I’m glad this course was not remade using the art direction of the native MK8D courses. I really think the Mario Kart Tour style of graphics fits this course to a T.
All-in-all, I think this is a stronger selection of tracks for the Booster Course Pass than we saw in Wave 1. There isn’t a single dud here and no track has seen changes that take alter how they play in a negative way. As good as these courses are, it’s not an exciting grouping as the Turnip Cup or Propeller Cup lack that one knockout course that is the clear standout of the bunch. But considering some of the best Mario Kart tracks are already in MK8 Deluxe, I think I’ll be satisfied if all future waves of the Booster Course Pass are able to meet the standard set here.
[This review is based on a retail version of the DLC purchased by the reviewer.]