Mario Kart: Super Circuit Review

Mario Kart: Super Circuit

Though every Nintendo console and handheld since the SNES has had its own iteration of Mario Kart, the Game Boy Advance’s Mario Kart: Super Circuit is the only entry that plays like a direct sequel to the SNES’ Super Mario Kart. If you’re a fan of the original, then Super Circuit may be worth a revisit. Just know that it hasn’t aged quite as well as Super Mario Kart, and its transition to the Wii U Virtual Console has removed some key features.

Super Circuit retains the play style of Super Mario Kart, where courses are mostly flat and straightforward when compared to the other sequels in the series (though they retain the fun Mario themes). Much like the original game, it feels more like the tracks are moving instead of the character, which can take some getting used to, especially when one realizes the turns are much sharper and the vehicles more slippery than in Super Mario Kart. It doesn’t feel as immediately fun as the SNES game, but for those with the patience for it, Super Circuit ends up being a similarly entertaining experience.

There’s also a good sense of balance with computer AI and the items. Playing on 150cc will still prove incredibly difficult, but playing on lesser difficulties make things feel more fair and less random than in some entries of the series. The items consist of all the basics like bananas and shells, and lack the more overpowered weapons of later Mario Karts.

Mario Kart: Super CircuitThe character selection is identical to that of Mario Kart 64: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Bowser, Toad, Donkey Kong and Wario are all playable, with no secret or surprise characters making the roster. Even back in 2001 when the game was first released on GBA there was no shortage of Mario characters to work with, so the recycled selection is a minor bummer.

The visuals are the aspect of the game that have been most affected by age. Though the game is colorful and the game’s merging of Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64’s art styles is interesting, it looks neither as lively as the former or even as visually pleasing as the latter (normally you’d expect an early 3D game like MK64 to have aged worse visually than a 2D game like Super Circuit, but somehow the exact opposite is true). The game’s Virtual Console release is also better suited for off-TV play on the Gamepad, since playing on the TV stretches the visuals and exposes its datedness all the more. Some of Super Circuit’s rotation effects might even prove bothersome to those with sensitive eyes.

The single biggest drawback to the Virtual Console release, however, is that it no longer has a multiplayer option. That’s right, it’s Mario Kart without multiplayer now. If you can track down an original GBA copy of the game and a couple of link cables, you can still have some multiplayer fun. But without a means to replicate the link cables, or a split-screen option to make up for it, the Virtual Console version of the game lacks the series’ defining feature.

Still, there’s fun to be had with the core gameplay. And additional single player modes like Time Trial and Quick Run (a more customizable VS. mode) ensure that there’s more to do than the Grand Prix mode. You can even unlock all twenty tracks from Super Mario Kart on top of the twenty tracks introduced here, giving Super Circuit more courses than any entry in the series up until Mario Kart 8 introduced DLC into the mix. So despite the limitations, there’s still plenty to do for solo players.

If you cherish the gameplay of the original Super Mario Kart, then Super Circuit is still worth a spin, though preferably in its original GBA incarnation. For those who feel the series has improved for deviating from the SNES game’s blueprints, you may want to hit the brakes before downloading Super Circuit.

 

6.5

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3 thoughts on “Mario Kart: Super Circuit Review

  1. Red Metal

    While Mario Kart 64 was a very early 3D game, and therefore its visuals seem outdated, the only thing two-dimensional were the sprites, so the developers knew what it wanted to be. Meanwhile, Super Mario Kart is fully 2D and was released on what many consider the best 2D console of all time, so it still looks fine even if the gameplay it’s portraying is decidedly 3D. I think the visuals in Super Circuit haven’t held up so well because it’s a 2D game that desperately tries to replicate 3D. What I feel sticks out more than anything is when a game doesn’t know what it wants to be.

    At any rate, Super Circuit always struck me as one of the weaker Mario Kart installments. I think it was meant to show off the graphical capabilities of the Game Boy Advance, but it hasn’t aged well as far as both visuals and gameplay are concerned. This game was okay when it was released because at that point, there were only three games in the series (including itself), but it didn’t take long for it to become obsolete. It also doesn’t help that there really weren’t many memorable tracks compared to both later and earlier games.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. themancalledscott Post author

      I definitely agree. I always found Super Circuit to be the weakest Mario Kart, and I stand by that (though I still gave it a good rating because Mario Kart gameplay is always solid). The visuals just clash too much with their indecisiveness.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Matt

    Yeah, it is the weakest entry of the Mario Kart series, but – as you have mentioned – it is nice to those who want an experience that is close to what Super Mario Kart offered.

    Liked by 1 person

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