I love speculation time. Ever since Nintendo announced the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Booster Course Pass DLC with 48 courses coming to the Switch, my brain went into overdrive mode. The first 8 courses are playable this Friday. As Coconut Mall is among the new courses, my hype certainly hasn’t subsided. There are still 40 more slots to fill over the next 2 years. Although the 40 spots seem plenty for all the best courses that should return in Mario Kart 8: Deluxe to indeed come back, the collection to pick from is massive.
Mario Kart 8: Deluxe is well on its way to becoming the ‘ultimate’ Mario Kart. When this Booster Course Pack DLC is all done, the game will feature 96 courses, more than half of the 170 unique courses across all of Mario Kart. Currently, there are still 114 courses vying for those comparatively few spots. So which ones should it be? In this selection, I present to you the courses that I think have the most to gain from a comeback in Mario Kart 8: Deluxe. These tracks already have solid features going for them, but remasters could offer an even better experience with modern Mario Kart mechanics.
The selection criteria are tight, and the slots are few. That means there were some tough calls to make. I’m so sorry, Maple Treeway.
Curious what we love most about Mario Kart 8: Deluxe? Check out our review!
Banshee Boardwalk (N64)
While I was going through contenders for the selection, I spotted a bit of a pattern in the old spooky courses. Many of them end up in the dustbin of Mario Kart’s history – what’s the last time you thought of circuits like Boo Lake? How about Broken Pier or Ghost Valley? I don’t blame you – these tracks aren’t particularly memorable. Their most distinctive feature is darkness. However, these old ghostly courses have a lot of untapped potential, which the technical capabilities of the late 1990s couldn’t realize. There’s no need to bring all ghost courses back (that’d be a bit overkill) so I’ll focus on my favorite – Mario Kart 64‘s Banshee Boardwalk.
Banshee Boardwalk is more eerie than scary. Players race on a wooden walkway, which is said to be “haunted by the spirits of drivers who’ve fallen to their doom from its barrier-less bends,” according to the official description. All that defines the walkway are lanterns hanging on arches, the darkness around the racers, and the occasional Boo. After a small drive, the racers race into an abandoned building where the floor is riddled with cracks and bats slow the drivers down. Afterward, the boardwalk resumes.
So how could Banshee Boardwalk improve? Modern ghost levels use Mario Kart’s lax adherence to the laws of gravity to their advantage. Just look at a course like Twisted Mansion, which distorts reality while you’re driving there. This twisted sense of reality could serve Banshee Boardwalk very well. Drivers could race over the walls in the abandoned building, the wooden walkway itself could twist in spirals to add to a sense of the supernatural. Part of the course could even be underwater. The foundation is already there. The new Mario Kart abilities are simply waiting to be implemented.
Dry Dry Ruins (Wii)
Mario Kart 8: Deluxe doesn’t lack the desert theme. The two current desert tracks feature the sandy surroundings prominently and complement each other well. Bone Dry Dunes seems set in a nomadic outpost deep in an arid wasteland, where bones of large animals serve as a natural racing foundation. Dry Dry Desert features racers in an Egyptian-inspired desert, full of sphinxes and pyramids. There are already so many courses that should return in Mario Kart 8: Deluxe. Why should it be another desert track? Even with the circuits already present, Mario Kart Wii’s Dry Dry Ruins offers a unique take on the theme.
Dry Dry Ruins features a curvy route through another ancient Egypt-inspired surrounding. What sets the course apart is the actual pyramid itself, which changes every time you enter it. You can trick off the walls everywhere. That’s a bit of a recurrent theme at this level – it allows you to build up a large amount of speed through boosts and tricks. Wherever there’s a turn, and there’s loads of them, you can drift to accelerate. In this course, you dash through the desert as if it were an off-course dirt race, which feels great.
Compared to Mario Kart Wii, the abilities players have to gain speed and experience the rush of racing have expanded in Mario Kart 8. There are not only coins that players can pick up to make them go faster, but they can also trick off each other. This track could benefit from the anti-gravity zones. The pyramid would become a stunt arena, where trick after trick would allow the best players to boost their way through, while drifts and dashes make the track feel like a sandy highway. And that’s not to mention a remake of the tracks’ excellent background music.
Shy Guy Bazaar (3DS)
Most Middle-East-inspired courses in Mario Kart are similar. They tend to be set in a desert, usually with pyramids and sphinxes all around – just look at the previous section. Thankfully, there are exceptions. Imagine driving through a 1001-nights style Arabic city, where the locals cheer you on as you dash through markets and boulevards, fireworks erupting all around you. This course is up there among the most immersive and flavor-rich tracks Mario Kart ever produced. The circuit I’m describing can’t be anything but Mario Kart 7′s Shy Guy Bazaar.
It’s hard to overstate the design of this course. Shy Guy Bazaar has an atmosphere to make it fun to drive around in – in fact, it makes me want to park my kart and explore the town. As you enter the Arabic-style settlement, you’ll immediately enter the market where there are market stands, carpets, and cheering Shy Guys. You’ll spend some time making your way through the town, heading towards the roofs of the houses. There, you launch over a ravine, where Shy Guys float around on flying carpets. The colorful and dynamic atmosphere feels similar to Mario Kart 8‘s Toad Harbor, except the latter is inspired by San Francisco.
The difference between Toad Harbor and Shy Guy Bazaar shows how Mario Kart 8: Deluxe could improve the Arabian experience. The problem with the track is that it’s quite slow. After entering the town, you quickly leave the vibrant market square and head to the other portions of the city, before jumping over the ravine. This part would be well-suited for a gravity-free zone, allowing players to pick up speed quickly as they leave the town. It’s this improvement in pacing that would make Shy Guy Bazaar even more enjoyable than the atmosphere already makes it.
Dino Dino Jungle (GCN)
Mario Kart has a lot of outlandish setups for courses. Think of anything, and Mario Kart likely has a track with that setting. A land made of cheese? Yep! Clockwork? Sure thing? Jurassic Park? Absolutely! Mario and dinosaurs combine very well. Going on a prehistoric safari, taking all kinds of twists and turns, makes both the track and the surroundings enjoyable. Mario Kart: Double Dash!!‘s Dino Dino Jungle is too fun and distinctive an experience to leave out of this list.
In Dino Dino Jungle, you race around an enormous friendly-looking dinosaur. You’ll start at the ground – watch out not to get trampled – before making your way to a sky bridge to meet the dinosaur up close. During your trip, players drive through glittering caves, avoid geysers, and drive over a double-helix-shaped bridge to reach higher ground. There are chances to trick and gain speed boosts everywhere. This setup makes the course a fast-paced experience in a thoroughly unique setting.
It’s time for the gravity-free zones again! Here, too, Nintendo could use these zones to make the racing experience faster and more diverse. The double-helix-bridge is a perfect zone to gather even more speed with the new physics. Combined with the gliders Mario Kart 7 added to this track, Dino Dino Jungle is well suited to give players a fast-paced, memorable experience while driving this track. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to frolic with the dinosaurs while racing upside down.
Waluigi Pinball (DS)
I’ll be honest – this is the only course in this list that I never hesitated a second about to include. It combines all the elements that I praised in the circuits above. The unique atmosphere of Dino Dino Jungle, the design of Shy Guy Bazaar, the twisty track of Dry Dry Ruins, the potential of improvement that Banshee Boardwalk has. This course combines my all-time favorite Mario character with one of my favorite settings in games, as well as an admittedly healthy dose of childhood nostalgia. In terms of courses that should return in Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, there’s no course I’d rather see than Mario Kart DS‘ Waluigi Pinball.
When you enter Waluigi Pinball, you’ll find yourself ready to be launched like a pinball. After that, racers make their way down the giant pinball machine towards the actual pinball table, where they have to avoid the bumpers and the flippers to get back to the starting point. During their race, huge pinballs will travel the same path as the drive, hitting everyone in their way. Aside from the fun driving the pinball journey, the stage has beautiful visuals and music to match. Combining Waluigi with the flashy neon of pinball gambling is a match made in heaven.
The track has been remade a couple of times after its initial release. Mario Kart 7 added gliders, and both it and Mario Kart Tour increased the graphics to bring Waluigi Las Vegas alive. Mario Kart 8: Deluxe could go crazy with the track by making the entire area between the launch and the actual pinball table a gravity-free zone. Players could boost and trick their way down the course while a remix of the tracks’ famous music blasts in their ears. I can’t wait.
If I could pick five courses that should return in Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, these would definitely make my list. Do you agree with my selection? Which tracks are you looking forward to racing on (again)? Let me know in the comments!