Super Mario Kart is a kart racing game developed by Nintendo EAD and originally published for SNES in 1992. As the first title in the long-running Mario Kart franchise, it serves as the basic template for all future series entries and popularized the kart racing genre, spawning many imitators with similar aesthetics and gameplay. Players choose from eight Mario-related characters, each with distinct handling characteristics, before racing in one of several competitive modes. Power-up items, a staple feature of the series, typically factor heavily into the outcome of each race.
Super Mario Kart's gameplay takes place from a third-person perspective, and its basic controls resemble those of other Mode 7-based SNES racing titles such as F-Zero. The SNES controller's B button accelerates, the Y button is the brake, and the directional pad steers the kart left or right; however, the karts are not equipped with a reverse gear. Pressing the L or R shoulder buttons causes the kart to perform a short hop. While accelerating and holding Left or Right on the D-pad, the shoulder buttons also allow karts to "power slide" (or drift) through corners at speed. By pressing and holding the accelerator at the correct moment before the start of a race, the player can perform a rocket start for an initial boost of speed. Players will encounter a variety of built-in track hazards during a race, as well as helpful features like speed boost arrows and ramps.
Unlike F-Zero, Super Mario Kart's screen is always split horizontally into two discrete sections during gameplay, allowing two players to compete head-to-head via split-screen multiplayer. For single-player races, the screen's upper section displays a behind-the-back third-person view of the player's kart, while the lower screen section shows each competitor's location on an overhead view of the entire track in real time. Additionally, the X or Select buttons can be used to switch the lower screen section to a rear-view camera mode during single-player races.
Flat question-mark panels are located in static positions throughout each course. By driving across an active panel, the player will receive a random power-up item selected roulette-style in their inventory window. Players can activate their held item with the A button, and certain items can optionally be thrown behind the player's kart by holding Down on the D-pad while pressing A. The player's likelihood of receiving certain items depends on their current position relative to their competitors; for example, players in last place are much more likely to receive powerful items such as the Lightning Bolt, thereby giving them an increased chance for a recovery in position.
- Green Shell - A projectile that can either be fired in a straight line forward or dropped into a stationary position behind the player's kart. Green Shells ricochet off of track barriers.
- Red Shell - A projectile that acts as a homing missile which tracks the closest competitor's kart. Breaks upon contact with any track barrier.
- Banana Peel - This item is fired straight ahead in a high arc before landing stationary on the track. It can also be deployed directly onto the track behind the player's kart.
- Feather - Allows the player's kart to perform a super jump, useful for crossing over certain obstacles or utilizing shortcuts.
- Mushroom - Gives the player a temporary but substantial boost of speed.
- Star - Grants temporary invincibility, causing other competitors to spin out upon contact with the player's kart. A kart's top speed is increased while invincible, but driving out-of-bounds will prematurely cancel the Star's effects.
- Lightning Bolt - Shrinks all other drivers on the course for several seconds, significantly reducing the top speed of any affected karts. Shrunken karts can also be squashed by full-sized racers, leading to a time penalty. This item does not appear in Battle Mode.
- Coin - Separate from the individual Coins scattered along each track, this item adds two Coins to a player's tally when used. This item does not appear in Battle Mode.
- Ghost - Steals an item from a randomly-selected competitor. This item is only available in Match Race or Battle Mode.
- Poison Mushroom - A stationary hazard that shrinks any kart that comes into contact with it. Only usable by AI-controlled Princess Peach or Toad.
- Fireball - Similar to Banana Peels, this deployed item spins around in a small circle on the track, making it more difficult to avoid. Only usable by AI-controlled Bowser.
- Egg - Functionally identical to Banana Peels. Only usable by AI-controlled Yoshi.
Coins can be found scattered around every course. Each Coin obtained slightly increases a kart's top speed up to a maximum of ten Coins; however, the player can continue collecting surplus Coins without further benefit to their maximum speed. Bumping into a competitor's kart causes players to lose one coin. Being hit by a competitor's item-based attack results in a loss of four Coins and causes the player's kart to spin-out. If a player has no Coins, any contact with another kart will result in a spin-out. Karts that come into contact with course hazards like oil slicks or Piranha Plants will also spin-out, but won't lose their Coins. Certain courses contain out-of-bounds zones such as bottomless pits or deep water; driving out-of-bounds results not only in a severe time penalty, but also a fee of two Coins paid to racing steward Lakitu.
Players begin each race with a certain number of Coins based on their starting grid position:
|1st & 2nd||2|
|3rd & 4th||3|
|5th & 6th||4|
|7th & 8th||5|
Players choose their driver character prior to the start of each Grand Prix series or single-course race. Each character comes with their own distinctive driving characteristics, allowing players to choose the character best-suited to their personal racing style. The eight characters' capabilities are reflected in their karts' weight, handling, top speed and acceleration. These characters are also organized into four pairs based on their attributes; for example, Mario and Luigi are essentially clones in terms of relative driving ability.
|Mario & Luigi: The famous plumber brothers represent moderation in nearly all performance areas, with the exception of their above-average top speed. As AI drivers, they will randomly activate Starman invincibility to harass their competition.|
|Princess Peach & Yoshi: An odd pair of drivers who both sport superior acceleration but suffer from poor handling, leading to issues with understeering.|
|Bowser & Donkey Kong Jr.: Super Mario Kart's two heaviest drivers may be slow to accelerate, but their high top speed can give advanced players a competitive edge.|
|Koopa Troopa & Toad: This pair of lightweights can accelerate fairly quickly from a standstill, and their karts' handling is second-to-none. However, their top speed is the worst in the game. Because of their small size, they can also be pushed around by heavy characters.|
Super Mario Kart features several single-player and multiplayer modes accessible from the title screen. Mario Kart GP, the game's primary Grand Prix mode, can be played with either one or two players. In Match Race, two players compete head-to-head in a Grand Prix series without AI-controlled drivers. All Grand Prix courses are also available in Time Trial mode, allowing one player to practice a particular course or attempt to set course records for lowest elapsed time.
Grand Prix & Match Race
In these modes, the karts' relative speed and AI difficulty are chosen by selecting either the "50cc" or "100cc" engine class, with 50cc being the easiest and slowest class. Only the Mushroom, Flower and Star Cup Grand Prix series are initially available to new players. The Special Cup series is unlocked after placing first overall in the Mushroom, Flower and Star Cups on 100cc class. Once the gold cup has been earned in the 100cc Special Cup, a new 150cc engine class is unlocked for all Grand Prix series.
The player must finish in fourth position or better to proceed to the next race in a Grand Prix series; if the player places fifth or lower, they will lose one of their extra karts and must either retry the race or retire from the Grand Prix. Competitors that place fourth or higher at the end of a Grand Prix race earn points based on their finishing position. At the end of a Grand Prix series, the competitors are ranked based on their total number of points.
|5th or lower||0|
Two players duel head-to-head in this arena battle mode. Each player begins the round with three balloons attached to their kart, and the goal is to pop all of the opponent's balloons using item-based attacks. Battle Mode is played exclusively on a separate set of four Battle Courses; unlike the circuit tracks available in Grand Prix and Time Trials, Battle Courses are laid out as symmetrical arenas to encourage encounters between players.