Some of my fondest gaming memories revolve around Mario Kart. From playing through the original Super Mario Kart campaign on SNES with my dad and younger brothers in the 90’s, to playing Mario Kart 8 drinking games in college, these frenetic kart racers have been an integral part of my gaming identity and I know I’m not alone.
So, to hear that Nintendo is working on Mario Kart 9 comes as no surprise. Mario Kart has been one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises over the years. Its previous iterations, Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, have thrived on both the Wii U and Switch, consistently selling like hotcakes almost a decade after release.
But now, it seems it’s finally time for something new.
Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming Mario Kart sequel.
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In a recent article on Gamesindustry.biz, Dr. Serkan Toto hinted that even though Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still selling like hotcakes, Mario Kart 9 is currently in development. While this alone is exciting news for Nintendo fans, it’s not an earth-shattering surprise that Nintendo wants to create a sequel to one of its best-selling games across two platforms.
While no official release date or vague window has been given, there is plenty to speculate.
The Mario Kart team has had some time since Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was released on Switch, so a sequel isn’t necessarily too far off. It wouldn’t be unprecedented to tease a new game and release it in the same year.
If this is the case, the earliest we would see Mario Kart 9 would be Holiday 2022 in my opinion.
If we look at the most recent Mario Kart game announcements in relation to their release dates, they tend to reveal their games a year ahead of time.
With this release data in mind, I would imagine a more realistic guess for Mario Kart 9’s release date would be Spring 2023. However, with development struggles we’ve seen in 2020-2021 I wouldn’t be surprised to see this release Holiday 2023.
Currently, there is no official trailer or even teaser available. We only have the recent article regarding Dr. Toto’s quote as a reference. Toto did confirm that a teaser would be very likely given in 2022, so a trailer, an official title reveal, or even just an image could be coming soon.
Now that Nintendo has opted for digital-only Nintendo Directs to announce new content, this is likely where we will get to see anything regarding a Mario Kart 9 trailer. Unfortunately, there seems to be no direct schedule or pattern for these Directs, and Nintendo announces these showcases days before they are live– so fans will have to wait to be surprised by this announcement.
It stands to reason Nintendo will make this announcement no later than Summer 2022. Especially if they want to release it by Spring 2023.
Arguably the most exciting part of this leak is what Toto included in his quote:
Mario Kart 9 will have a “new twist”.
Like many of you, my mind is reeling with realistic and fantastical ideas of what this twist could be for the future of Nintendo's Karting franchise.
Based on trends and how Nintendo has been releasing games, here are some predictions.
Mario Kart is far removed from racing sims like Gran Turismo or Forza. Nintendo has an eye for fusing racing with uncanny gimmicks that add the joyful flavor we associate with Mario Kart.
In recent titles, Mario Kart has included gimmicks such as:
Some of these gimmicks are forgettably simple, and some are game-changing.
For Mario Kart 9 we may see a simple gameplay change added into the tried and true core Mario Kart formula. This could be something like:
Additional characters from Nintendo IP. (Squidling, Link and Animal Crossing characters were added into Mario Kart 8 and this could be expanded upon.
While a simple change like this is most likely the “twist” we will see, I think it’s worth speculating some cool possibilities…
It’s been far too long since Nintendo's beloved alter-ego kart racer Diddy Kong Racing graced the Nintendo 64 back in 1997. Despite it being the 8th best selling game on Nintendo 64 it has never seen more than a Nintendo DS remake.
In this crossover, you would get everything you know and love from a polished Mario Kart with a wonderful mashup of features from Diddy Kong Racing:
Characters: You’d get familiar faces in Conker (hopefully pre-Bad Fur Day version) and Banjo, along with forgotten buddies like Bumper the Badger and Timber the Tiger. There was even a Foghorn Leghorn lookalike and a driving clock in there somewhere.
Abilities: I’d love to see the iconic DKR balloons and power-ups mashed into the Mario Kart 9 arsenal. The aesthetic touch would be nice to the traditional style of Mario Kart, with interesting strategic possibilities with the ability to choose your perk by running into a color coded balloon, while adding a life-saving shield and magnet abilities.
Vehicles: The addition of planes and hovercrafts would make things interesting in a full-fledged Mario Kart.
Overworld: While not fully open world, this crossover would include a nice explorable hub-world to find tracks, arenas and bosses. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Nintendo game without plenty of secrets and collectables to discover.
Bosses: A new take for Mario Kart would be to include boss and challenge stages akin to Diddy Kong Racing. Taking on Tricky the Triceratops and Wizpig are memorable knuckle-whitening experiences that I would love to see translated into the Mario Kart universe.
While this seems too good to be true, there’s a slight chance Mario Kart 9 could include a crossover into Diddy Kong Racing. While Microsoft bought the rights to Rare back in 2002, Microsoft has been playing nice with many of its competitors as of late. In particular, rumours are floating around that Nintendo and Microsoft are even teaming up. So, it’s not too far fetched to think they’d loosen their hold on their IP.
The premise of Mario Kart + Diddy Kong Racing also nicely echoes their Mario + Rabbids branding that has been catching steam with fans. And, with excruciating titles like New Super Mario Bros. Wii U in Nintendo’s catalogue, a title like Mario Kart + Diddy Kong Racing Switch can’t be out of the cards.
Nintendo has broken tradition for several linear games recently, opting for more open-world experiences. Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, and the upcoming Pokemon Legends: Arceus are all games that changed core gameplay dramatically to reflect modern gaming trends. Why not Mario Kart?
Even though it’s a racing game and not an open world friendly adventure game, there is plenty of precedent for this.
Mario Kart 9 could emulate an open world hub like the one used in Diddy Kong Racing. Of course, with 20+ years of game development evolution, this world would be much more expansive.
Forza Horizon is another shining example of what Mario Kart could look like in 2022-2023. Characters could explore a huge space with events and challenges aplenty.
With Nintendo's polish and creativity, having more freedom to drive around could be a pioneering experience for the franchise.
Mario Kart has always nailed the pure racing mechanics in their titles, however, besides completing various Cups, unlocking characters and destroying time trials, there isn’t much reason behind the racing.
Adding in even a small narrative element with cutscenes, challenges and levels could go a long way into making Mario Kart even more engaging.
Films like Ford vs. Ferrari and docuseries like Formula One on Netflix show that people indeed are interested in the stories revolving around racing. Even if it is revolving around nonsensical Nintendo characters.
And finally, my pie-in-the-sky dreams for what Mario Kart 9 could be. Here are a few car-related games that I would love to see Nintendo emulate. Some of these could potentially be an added game mode, and some are so unrealistic that a dedicated game would be the only possibility.
Crazy Taxi- Mario and co. have to deliver toads and toadettes all over a chaos-filled New Donk City or Mushroom kingdom. Sign me up.
Grand Theft Auto- Mario can explore a world in which he can alternate between climbing and platforming. He explores and terrorizes Bowser and his baddies, stealing their vehicles and gradually growing into the baddest Mario in town.
Monster Truck Rally- Mario Kart gets big-wheeled monstrosities and players have to perform stunts, navigate obstacles and drive in style in addition to racing.
Twisted Metal Clone- The most robust and over-the-top battle mode Mario Kart has ever seen. This is retribution for Mario Kart 8 not having a battle mode until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Despite having few quality sources at the moment, there is plenty to predict regarding Nintendo’s new kart racer based on their history and the trajectory of the games industry.
In any case, Mario Kart 9 will be a welcome sign for fans and is sure to be a staple game on the Nintendo Switch regardless of how much they put a “new twist” into their classic recipe
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