Best Games of All-Time: Mario Kart DS
Played On: Nintendo 3DS
When looking for a fun party game that you and a group of friends, one of the first games that gets undoubtedly blurted out is Mario Kart. It’s incredibly addictive gameplay matched with Nintendo’s best characters made for easily one of the most beloved franchises under the Super Mario name. Each iteration constantly added more characters, items, and tracks that fans continue to love and, for me, no iteration is greater than Mario Kart DS.
It’s an entry that isn’t talked about much and I can never figure out why that is as it fully encapsulates what makes the franchise so iconic and even adds new things to make it unique. One of the most undervalued things from Mario Kart DS had to be the single-player mode that had players test their skill through different missions. No seriously, I’m not kidding, there was an actual single-player mode for Mario Kart at one time that wasn’t just another time trial mode. In this mode, players would have rivalry races, take down Mario’s most well-known enemies with items, and even taking down bosses at the end of each section.
These missions and boss battles actually added a different kind of challenge that hadn’t been seen in the series up until that point. Through each mission that passed I constantly wanted to achieve the best grade and all of the challenges are fairly achievable with the right amount of skill of course. Not to mention, the boss battles were actually incredibly creative and had players battle it out with humongous enemies with only items and their driving skills at their disposal. These battles were never really just straightforward races either and present an incredibly unique challenge to players.
But players aren’t just able to take down some missions and bosses as Grand Prix mode lets players speed through various tracks and take down opposing computer players. As they climb up difficulty level, players will not only obtain more challenging races, but also some new karts and characters that players can utilize. I actually like the smaller roster as it has some pretty fan-favorite characters and the expansive list of karts is pretty great.
The tracks are also incredibly fun with plenty of hazards and atmospheric aesthetics and music to make each track feel unique. Drifting through Peach Gardens, dodging gigantic pinballs in Waluigi Pinball, and driving through the sands of Cheep Cheep Beach and Desert Hills is legitimately a great time and it’s no wonder why most of the DS tracks returned in future titles. Not to mention, Mart Kart DS was also the first in the series to include classic tracks from the other games from the Super Nintendo, GameBoy Advanced, Nintendo 64, and Gamecube eras. So if you ever wanted to play classic tracks, like Baby Park, Choco Mountain, or Banshee Boardwalk on the go, then Mario Kart DS is the game for you.
The graphics are also pretty solid and decently impressive for a game from the early Nintendo DS era. I’m not going to say that future installments don’t have better graphics or anything like that, but everything in the game feels exactly like what a Mario Kart game should feel like: colorful, fun, and cartoony.
There is also a battle mode where players can duke it out in the classic Balloon Battle mode, where players attack one another to destroy each other’s balloons, and Shine Runner, where players race to collect shines. Balloon battle was easily my favorite mode growing up and going back to it was honestly the best kind of nostalgia. The maps are incredibly fun to drift around and you can even drive on a map designed as a Nintendo DS itself.
The best and most nostalgic part for me, and what put Mario Kart DS so high and above the rest, had to be the DS Download Play feature. With this feature, only one friend needed to have Mario Kart DS in order for a group to play it so if no one else has the game, but has a Nintendo DS, then everyone can still play together. I have so many memories of my friends and I playing on the bus and switching off on who brought the game. It’s such a great way to get everyone to play with one another without needing to own the game. Also, so what if everyone joining, without the game, can only play as Shy Guy? He actually pretty awesome and can strong arm anyone on the track.
Playing through Mario Kart DS again was an absolute blast and has only further cemented my thoughts on why I love the game so much. It’s an entry that actually feels different from the rest and has modes that I would love to see make more of a return to future installments. If you’re looking for a fresh entry to the Mario Kart series that you might have missed in the past Mario Kart DS is truly a great place to look.