Imagine that you want to spend a cozy and fun evening at your home with a few friends (of course, keeping a distance and with a constant supply of fresh air). You are a gamer, a friend you invited as well, but the two other buddies in the round of four have absolutely nothing to do with gaming. But you are in agreement: you want to gamble together. So it has to be accessible, local multiplayer has to be supported and of course you want to have fun and compete against each other. Because: The winner can decide where to order food. Which game do you think you'll choose?
There are a few choices that meet all the desired criteria, but of course (at least we think) you should choose Mario Kart! Playing together was the focus of the first series on the Super Nintendo, the multiplayer mode has always been the strength of the Funracer series. With Super Mario Kart, the fun on Super Nintendo was still limited to two players. That changed a few years later with the second part for the Nintendo 64, because it is well known that the four connections for four controllers were one of the highly praised features of the 64-bit machine. Since Mario Kart 64 at the latest, the Funracer series from Nintendo has been a popular permanent guest on the screens in living rooms around the world when friends, family, acquaintances and co. Come together to play games together. And we want to take a closer look at that Mario Kart 64.
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In Europe and Germany, Mario Kart 64 was released on June 24, 1997, a Tuesday, and the second in the series has already been around for 23 years. The Mario racing game was developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development, or Nintendo EAD for short, and published on a classic gray N64 module with 96 Mbit storage space – that's just 12 megabytes! For comparison: A single modern 3-minute song is roughly this size as an MP3 file in good quality or a high-resolution photo from a high-quality smartphone camera – or sometimes even significantly larger. But in the mid-nineties that was enough to combine a total of 16 different routes in four cups, four game modes in single and multiplayer, 14 different items and eight different drivers in a single, fun game. And even with great technology for the time!
While developing the SNES predecessor, only two-dimensional graphics were used and numerous tricks were used to make the routes appear three-dimensional, Mario Kart 64 made the leap to real 3D graphics. Like many Nintendo series on the Nintendo 64, for example Mario with Super Mario 64 or Zelda with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. For the curious about Super Mario Kart and Fake-3D, I would like to add: In fact, you actually move the entire game world, i.e. the tracks, and not your own character. It always stays in a fixed place in the middle of the screen. A brilliant concept. But back to Mario Kart 64. While the tracks were actually displayed in three dimensions, this was still not the case with the drivers in their karts, because the N64 Mario Kart are also traditional 2D sprites. But since you are actually moving the figure and using other clever tricks, this is not so noticeable. And above all, it doesn't reduce the fun of the game.
Anyone who has actually never played a Mario Kart – there should be and among the readers there are certainly a few newbies – should be explained at this point in a very fundamental way. At its core, Mario Kart is a racing game. So you are competing to achieve the best possible placement on various routes. Nowadays there are usually twelve drivers (for example in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch), in Mario Kart 64 there were still eight opponents at the same time. The technical performance of the console simply wasn't more than that, but it was enough. But of course Mario Kart is no ordinary racing game and certainly not a realistic one. Just as the drivers come from various Nintendo series, but primarily from the Mushroom Kingdom, this also applies to the slopes. They therefore lead over golden beaches, through wild jungle, over motley underground through space and to other unusual places that you would not see in a classic Formula 1 race on television, for example.
As if that wasn't enough, you can collect various items using question mark boxes that are placed all over the route. These can give you an advantage, for example the mushroom accelerates you strongly for a short time, the star makes you faster and invulnerable. Much more often, however, you can use the items to wipe one out of your colleagues. The red tank, for example, chases the driver in front of you and thunders him into the kart, the lightning lets all opponents shrink and become particularly slow. While pure racing also with Mario Kart depends solely on the individual skill, the items provide a luck-based element in the game – one of the reasons why Mario Kart is so accessible. Even the best driver can only partially defend himself against most items. Depending on the mode, some rules, driver constellations or the number of races to be completed differ.
As already mentioned, there are eight different drivers to choose from in Mario Kart 64. It is the title hero Mario, his brother Luigi, the pink princess Peach, the cute Toad, riding dinosaur Yoshi, the good old Donkey Kong, the devious Wario and Mario's eternal adversary Bowser. The drivers have different characteristics in terms of speed, acceleration and handling, depending on whether they are classified as light, medium or heavy figures. Toad and Peach, for example, are light drivers, meaning that the acceleration is high but the maximum speed is low. The opposite is true for heavy characters like Bowser or Wario. So it is not only possible to select a driver that suits your own taste, but also to specialize. In addition, light drivers are particularly suitable for newbies and occasional gamers, while experienced Mario Kart gamers tend to use heavy warriors.
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