A look at some of Mario Kart’s most crowning achievements.
It took me several attempts to perfect this list to my tastes. Having played every entry in the series (some more extensively others), I had to sift through a list of 120 tracks and reduce it down to just the ten I love most. Repeatedly I had to start over, unsatisfied with every draft until I finally came up with this one. So without further ado, here it is: my top ten Mario Kart courses of all time!
Actually, before I begin, I would just like to note that there are no SNES, GBA, or DS courses on this list. Not that I have anything against them, it is just that once I had to trim my list down from twenty to ten, some of them just had to be eliminated from the list. Sorry!
10. GCN DK Mountain
There is something exhilarating about DK Mountain that I feel is not replicated in any other Mario Kart course. The track begins with players shooting out from a cannon towards the top of a volcano, then rocketing down the steep slopes towards the base. It resulted in a pure, off-road experience that I wish was more common in the series. The final stretch of the track features a long and narrow bridge – a straightaway that exposes you to the dangers of any stray bananas or shells right before you cross the finish line.
9. Wii Rainbow Road
Even though previous entries in the Mario Kart franchise featured challenging and memorable Rainbow Road tracks, Mario Kart Wii took the concept to a completely new level. Never before was a Rainbow Road so complex in its design; we are not just talking about twists and turns here, but its unique features like the rippling ground, the massive holes in the road, and the multiple routes, et cetera. The addition of Mario Kart Wii’s “tricking” system made the whole track feel like a tricking playground – a dangerous venture that would likely end you up off the road.
8. 3DS Maka Wuhu
The infamous Maka Wuhu in Mario Kart 7 is probably best known for a glitch that, if players jump off the track at a specific point, transported them to another section, effectively skipping half of what the course had to offer. As one of the few tracks that only featured one segmented lap, this meant skipping straight to the third segment not even that long after starting the race. However, that is not the reason why Maka Wuhu is on this list. My favorite of the track is near the end where a massive jump leads to the finish line. It was one of the few courses in Mario Kart 7 that really used the gliding mechanic in a new and unique way, which is why it remains as one of the more memorable tracks in the game.
- Wii Mushroom Gorge
As one of the first courses in Mario Kart Wii, Mushroom Gorge properly showed us just how “tricking” could lead to all sorts of new gameplay ideas. The stage was unique for its bouncy mushrooms that propelled players high into the air, which was something that had not been done before in the franchise at the time. It resulted in racers flying left and right, creating an extremely frenzied racing environment that fed off chaos. It was also one of the first glimpses of the all-around awesome course designs in Mario Kart Wii.
6. 3DS Rainbow Road
Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 7 is one of the three one-lap tracks in the game, and it was done beautifully. The first sections is your typical Rainbow Road affair, complete with several turns and sharp corners, as well as several jumps and even a space mushroom! The second section has players take flight onto the rights of Saturn, power-sliding your way around the planet until you land on a rather large moon infested with Chain Chomps. Then, you get to the final stretch. Players have the option of taking flight yet again, or opting to go for the ground route. Though most would instinctively take the former, the secret is to forgo the glider option and instead “tricking” your way to the finish line – a faster and much more thrilling option that makes this iteration of Rainbow Road one of the best.
5. 3DS Neo Bowser City
There is one track in Mario Kart 7, however, that I love even more than Rainbow Road. I am a junkie for tracks with many twists and turns, mainly because I love the feeling of power-sliding through everything. Thus, Neo Bowser City is my go-to stage whenever I play Mario Kart 7. Though not as visually impressive as perhaps other tracks in the game, it is one of the more fun tracks to drive on – not to mention that I completely dominate at it thanks to my drifting skills. I wish more courses were like this, to be honest, but I guess you simply cannot satisfy everybody.
4. N64 Yoshi Valley
Yoshi Valley is arguably one of the most imaginative courses in Mario Kart 64 – or all of Mario Kart, for that matter, because there really has not been anything quite like it since. Taking place atop precarious cliffs and hillsides, Yoshi Valley gave racers the option to follow dozens of alternative routes, some of the which take ages to master – and they may not even be the fastest path to the finish line! The track is so complex, in fact, that the Nintendo 64 is not even able to track which place everyone is until they crossed the finish line! Another aspect of this track are its very, very deep canyons; once you fall off the track, it may take over ten seconds just for Lakitu to get to you and pull you up to safety. And did I mention that huge Yoshi egg that just spins around haphazardly near the end of the course? I seriously love this track so much.
3. GCN Waluigi Stadium
I have already voiced my love for sharp turns and power-sliding above, but Waluigi Stadium had all that and added another features I love about Mario Kart: jumps. Not only that, but it also featured fireballs, boost pads, and fake Piranha Plants! And did you notice that the signs in the game are alive? I love all these little details Nintendo manages to fit into each game. Anyway, though most of my recollection of this stage is from the remake in the Wii version (it even has Mario Kart Wii’s new half pipe jumps!), it still stands out as not only one of Double Dash’s best tracks but also one of my favorites of all time.
2. N64 Rainbow Road
People complained that Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 64 felt too long and not very challenging. I would agree with that sentiment… except that I believe it to be a good thing. Clocking in at just less than two minutes per lap, Rainbow Road is one of the longest courses in all of Mario Kart. It almost felt like the final stretch of an arduous journey, one that resulted in a sense of accomplishment that very few other Mario Kart tracks could replicate. Of course, you could cut through half of the track with the help of a mushroom and a well-timed jump, but that would ruin what makes this stage so amazing.
1. N64 Wario Stadium
As grandiose as Rainbow Road was, there is one track in Mario Kart 64 that trumps it and every other Mario Kart course to date: Wario Stadium. It features everything you could want form a stadium level, including massive jumps (and I mean massive!) and a ton of tight turns. My favorite part of the track is this one segment where it is literally over a dozen bumps all in a row – so many that you could easily lose control of your vehicle if you are not careful. There is, of course, the dreaded monster jump near the end of the track, the one that pushes you back at least twenty seconds if you do not make it. Among all the tracks in Mario Kart 64, Wario Stadium is easily the most skill-based, and endless hours have been spent trying to perfect every turn and every jump there is.
I hope you enjoyed my top ten Mario Kart courses of all time! What are some of your favorite Mario Kart courses?