E3 2011: Mario Kart 3DS

By Andrew Yoon, Jun 08, 2011 2:45pm PDT

QUICKTAKE: The Mario Kart franchise has never been synonymous with innovation, and the upcoming sequel for 3DS continues the trend. This untitled Mario Kart follow-up feels familiar, thanks to its tight controls, iconic weapons system, and tired-and-true "blue sparks" drifting. The addition of paragliding and pretty 3D graphics make it that much more enticing for returning fans.

THE DEMO: The demo features a circuit, with a number of races to play through. One track I raced through let me bounce on giant mushrooms, much like in the Wii version, while another tested out the new glider ability for the karts.

DETAILS: While Mario Kart games are generally standard, regardless of what platform you play on, there are always a few differences between each version. I find the handheld versions of the game (GBA and DS) to be a bit more responsive than the console counterparts (Gamecube, Wii). Mario Kart 3DS continues that tradition. As a Mario Kart vet, I found myself immediately jumping in, able to drift and create blue sparks to gain a boost.

The tracks have been getting crazier in each iteration, especially with Mario Kart Wii's wide, branching levels. The design feels a bit more focused on the 3DS, but no less crazy. Obviously, Nintendo is quite ready to hype the addition of paragliding and underwater levels to the game. They're novel gimmicks, but they don't drastically change the formula too much. While paragliding, you'll be able to tilt the nose of your kart, to gain speed while sacrificing altitude. But from the level that I raced in, that subtlety didn't seem necessary to gain the upper hand.

The 3DS game looks terrific, on par with the Wii game, and runs at a silky smooth framerate. Other than the ink power-up (which paints your screen, obscuring your vision), I didn't see many moments that really took advantage of the 3D screen. The effect is far more subtle than other games I've played on the platform.

As with many of Nintendo's other first-party efforts, the game will support SpotPass and StreetPass features, although I'm not exactly sure how. There's also online support for up to eight players. More interestingly, the 3DS version will support Mii characters, so you can play as yourself instead of a Mushroom Kingdom citizen. Like the Wii game, there's also vehicle customization, but on a whole new scale. Accessories, like giant tires, will give you a competitive advantage based on the situation.

Mario Kart 3DS feels like a very safe follow-up for the classic franchise. But given its success, we can see why Nintendo wouldn't want to mess with the formula too much. Mario Kart should be ready for 3DS this holiday season.

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