[Feature] What would Mario Kart look like if it was “Nintendo Kart” from the beginning?
Posted on April 26, 2015 by Kirara Koneko(@KiraraKoneko) in Features, Game of the Month
Mario Kart as a franchise has been around for a long time– twenty-three years to be exact. Although that seems like awhile, it really isn’t for a series from Nintendo; they have a history of creating franchises that are able to stand the test of time. In 1992 when Mario Kart had its debut on the Super Nintendo, it was dubbed Super Mario Kart. Fast forward twenty-three years and we now have Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, and after five games for home consoles – three on portable, and even three in the arcade released in Japan – I think it is safe to say that Mario Kart has been a successful franchise. But what if it wasn’t Mario Kart? What if, instead of basing the game initially on the Mario series, it was simply Nintendo Kart or even Smash Kart? Is that something that would have seen as much notoriety then as it could today?
Since the release of the Famicom in 1983, Nintendo has been building its arsenal of IPs that could have been used to create a different game entirely. Imagine using all the various titles that were available at the time to create a game that would have been similar to Nintendo Land in idea, but with race tracks and karting instead. For this to have been possible, they would have had to have several different games that they could pull from, and they did! Thinking back to 1992, there were already a few titles that would have been great to use to create a game centered around more than one character or world. The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Fire Emblem, and Donkey Kong to name just a few were all already established games at the time of Super Mario Kart’s release.
So why did Nintendo decide to use Mario, and why do they feel the need to incorporate the Mario world into so many games? Brand and name recognition is a powerful thing, and although I myself associate Nintendo with so many other things that have absolutely nothing to do with Mario, many at that time and today feel that Nintendo equals Mario and vice versa. But how could Mario Kart have been different? For one thing, basing a game off of numerous titles as opposed to one would have given them much more freedom and ability for expansion from the very beginning, and if they were concerned about the name recognition factor, they could have gone for “Nintendo Kart: Featuring Mario & Friends” as its title.
For those of you that have followed Mario Kart through its various iterations, and for those of you that are more new to the series, imagine being younger and the latest Nintendo Kart was being released and there was an entire track based off of a Pokemon game with the ability to race as Pikachu or your absolute favorite Pokemon. What would that have done for you? How many more people could that have brought to the series? The addition of different characters and worlds from the beginning does not affect the overall continuity of Mario Kart – it only enhances it. It would have potentially opened the game up to so many more players and it might have also helped inspire someone to try out a new experience because they enjoyed the character they raced with or the track they raced on. Could this approach have even saved some IPs like Duck Hunt and Gyromite from dying out, or possibly given Nintendo the ability to gauge a certain title’s relevance in the current market so that we would not have had to wait more than 20 years in between games, such as with Kid Icarus?
So what would Nintendo Kart have looked like? Much like the DLC of today, we could have had tracks and characters based on the many games that were popular at the time when Super Mario Kart launched. We might have seen an entire track featuring Duck Hunt, Excitebike, or maybe even Kid Icarus where you could race as Pit or Palutena. You would have even had Popo and Nana race you around a track inspired by Ice Climber. Imagine karting around as Samus on a track inspired by Metroid or even F-Zero. Just pondering these things makes me excited for a game like that. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve enjoyed Mario Kart, but I find myself enjoying it more with the addition of new tracks and characters like in the recently-released Animal Crossing DLC.
In terms of being able to maintain the same longevity that Mario Kart has seen, Nintendo Kart would have been able to manage even better I believe. As time went on and new series were created, they would have been incorporated much in the way that they are today. We might have seen Nintendo create characters and tracks from games like Star Fox, and Kirby, or maybe even Golden Sun. What if they made a track based on the Pikmin world where you could drive as Olimar and instead of throwing shells you could throw Pikmin at your rival racers? With the full power of Nintendo’s franchises as a backing, there is no telling where a game like this could have gone.
All in all, Mario Kart has been quite a successful franchise for Nintendo, but I still wonder if it could have been even better. I myself would have bought every one of the various Nintendo Karts there might have been instead of the few Mario Karts that I own today. Wherever you land on this topic, nobody knows what would have happened if Mario Kart was created as a different title, and even if you aren’t the biggest fan of Mario as a character or his world, you can’t deny that Mario Kart as a game is full of simple good fun for all. Call it what you want – Nintendo Kart, or maybe even Smash Kart, it’s all the same. I myself would love to see a revamp of the series. But being Nintendo, we would have to get very lucky; I guess I will have to leave luck to the heavens!