Stellar track design and gorgeous art makes Mario Kart 8 a surefire party hit and earns it a place in our favorite games of this year.
It's easy enough to pass this off as yet another franchise entry. The "eight" in its title already reaches well past the point that most franchises would abandon numbers and start using subtitles. While Mario Kart 8 certainly does owe large swaths of its identity to the games that came before it, Nintendo gave it the care it deserved to make it a standout hit. The racers are a large and diverse blend of Mario favorites. The tracks are by-and-large among the best of the entire series to date, perfectly taking advantage of the physics and new anti-gravity mechanic. The art style is vibrant and colorful, and even stacks up favorably with more dark-and-dour games on more powerful consoles. Nintendo consistently shows that a little art design can go a long way.
Nintendo is also starting to dip a toe into downloadable content recently, which hints at an exciting direction for the series. With the addition of characters and karts from series like The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, and Metroid, Mario Kart is becoming more like Smash Bros--a celebration of all things Nintendo. Wii U has struggled this year, but with games like Mario Kart 8 on the platform, console owners should be happy that they're getting some of the best Nintendo has to offer.