Mario Kart 8 – Livin’ That 200cc Life

Mario Kart 8‘s been out for a year now and it’s by far my most played Wii U game. Over 500 hours of swearing, exploding, green shell betrayal, banana intimacy, and blue shell disappointment. It’s been fantastic. I’m here to talk about the new 200cc mode, which has completely changed the online scene and revitalised the racing, almost more than the amazing new tracks. It’s a challenge when you’re first exposed to the speed, but that’s definitely not a bad thing in a competitive racing game. I’m gonna break down in 5 points, Mario Kart TV infomercial style, why it’s worth making the lifestyle change to 200cc.

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1) BALANCE IS RESTORED

Before 200cc was added, Mario Kart 8 online had become infested with Mortons and Bowsers trying their hardest to be relevant. They are the Funky Kongs and Metal Marios of Mario Kart 8, sacrificing their identity for a slight stat advantage. To be fair on these people, I actually made my Mii fatter just to fit into this club of fast racers too, as top speed was the most desirable stat in the game by a comfortable margin. If you’ve learned the basic layout of the tracks, you simply don’t need grip or handling because every corner is manageable. Therefore, the heaviest characters had completely taken over the top tier Global scene, with Baby Mario showing up once in a while only to be bumped off the track and sent home crying. 200cc has completely crashed the heavyweight party by making top speed setups undriveable. The top speed has increased so much that you have to scale it down to be competitive. As a result, instead of the usual club of clones we now have massive variety down the roster, with babies and small-mid class characters finally being competitive. When I was first getting used to 200cc I pretty much had to use Baby Mario to stay on the track. Now I’ve “upgraded” to Yoshi in the Blue Falcon which has a good balance of speed in this mode for me. There are still tracks where top speed shines, but it’s come down to personal preference which is a great thing. All 3 weight class groups are represented and viable in 200cc, which means every character in the game. I believe 200cc exists as Nintendo’s creative solution to the balance problem, and have to commend them for such a great implementation.

2) NEW LIFE IN OLD TRACKS

While I was still having a great time online before 200cc, some tracks had become a bit stale. Looking at you, Moo Moo Meadows. I can only wave to the Toads on the barn windows so many times before I want to burn the place down. With 200cc even the simplest layouts have some challenge to them and the approach to many corners has changed. In some areas where you’d be used to double boosting, it’s better to just get one now, and sometimes you don’t want to be boosting at all. Some corners you can hold single drifts for longer and a lot of small adjustments have to be made between corners to stay balanced. Tracks like Mario Circuit and Mario Stadium have gone from being random clusterfucks, to absolutely amazing Indy 500 style displays of extreme speed and skill. The sense of speed also makes the tracks look better as all the beautiful colours fly by and blend to create a very Nintendo-heavy sensual overload.

3) MORE FOCUS ON DRIVING

We all have a different relationship with Mario Kart’s item balance, and let’s be honest, it’s usually influenced by how our last race went. I personally don’t mind the luck factor, it forces you to adapt and I think playing the hand you’re dealt is the most important skill in Mario Kart and a very real one. It defines Mario Kart. However, I feel 200cc gives you a bit more control over the outcome. Usually a race will come down to a shell battle or small bump at the end, but with 200cc I’ve had a lot of races that were won simply by driving around the other player who messed up their corner apex or braking point. By raising the skill ceiling, it’s actually given me a more optimistic approach to races because even if I’m last, there’s a very real chance everyone in front of me is going to make a mistake. Despite feeling comfortable with 200cc now, I still make mistakes, mostly when taking risks. It’s refreshing to feel like there are more variables in a race and makes me feel more of an active participant. You can’t blame anyone but yourself when you mushroom sideways off the track.

4) SUPPORT F-ZERO

Nintendo is watching. They know how many people are playing 200cc, and how many people are sticking to 100cc Global Granny Kart. The Mario Kart director himself said he would like to make an F-Zero game. This is a purely selfish reason because I love F-Zero but I think everyone should have this mindset of wanting to go faster and better. People have suggested this IS Nintendo’s answer to a new F-Zero in a negative way, but I disagree with that mindset too. F-Zero’s exposure has never been higher with a significant presence on Wii U. It’s featured heavily in Wii U’s top selling games, Kart and Smash. It has 3 games on the Virtual Console, including F-Zero GP Legend which is fucking amazing and I have to keep bringing up, because nobody’s buying it. It has a game in Nintendo Land which isn’t great, but hey that’s still an extra few million people discovering F-Zero. What does all this have to do with 200cc Mario Kart 8? Going down Big Blue in 200cc is a pretty damn close feeling to F-Zero GX for me. Obviously the physics are different but I feel a similar sense of speed and sense of purpose. This is our chance not just to prove to Nintendo, but to prove to ourselves that we are better than we thought we could be. We can go faster. Embrace the speed and a whole new world could open up.

5) IT FEELS FUCKING AMAZING

This is the most important one because it’s why videogames exist and why they are awesome. Going fast is a LOT of fun. Heading into the S section of Dragon Driftway at full speed, lining up the corner apex on the right, giving the brake a small tap so you can fling back into the left corner, and finishing the top of the S with a double mini-boost drift to explode into the next long sweeping corner and enjoy the anti-grav boosts in the middle with a perfect line. There is no greater feeling on Earth when this happens. With more at stake I feel like people focus too much on what they have to lose, rather than gain. It is such an immense feeling when you do a good lap at 200cc. It is worth dozens of bad races for the good ones. Even when you mess up it’s just an incredible feeling to regain control of the kart and push on. If you think it’s undriveable then you’re quite simply wrong because people are doing it. We’re all good enough.

Wow, I’m convinced! But how do I play 200cc online?

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Global > Custom > 200cc Grand Prix will get you fresh players to fuck over every time. If you’re too specific with the rules (for example, bananas only) then the chances of finding players drops significantly. It seems that nobody used this search feature until 200cc debuted, so it’s not so fleshed out and populated, but it has become the go-to place for pure 200cc madness. An advantage this has over the normal “Race” mode in Global is that when the room isn’t full, CPU players will fill in the gaps so you always have a full race going. One more thing you’re going to need in 200cc is the brake drift. Press the brake button during a drift for a sharper angle turning in.

That’s everything you need to know, and if you’re not sold on the 200cc life by now I want you to ask yourself, what are you living for?

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