I was very fortunate in mid-2013 to attend a press event for the Wii U game Mario Kart 8. Well before the full game would launch in 2014 I got a brief opportunity to get my hands on the latest edition of Nintendo’s genre-defining kart racer, which scored me pretty significant bragging rights at the company I was working with at the time! The game blew me away with its improved visuals while retaining the exact same feel of playing a Mario Kart game that had been present in every iteration since Super Mario Kart on the SNES. Super Mario Kart, by the way, is one of two racing games I owned back in the SNES days – the other being Nigel Mansell’s World Championship Racing. I wonder if anyone besides me (and presumably Nigel Mansell) remembers that one!
So I’ve been a Mario Kart fan since the series debuted, and in that time I think I’ve played every iteration of the series. I didn’t own a GameCube in the early 2000s, but I played Mario Kart: Double Dash with friends when I was at university. I think that’s the only title in the series that I didn’t own at one point.
Nintendo usually releases one Mario Kart game per console, and with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch at the moment – where it’s been one of the console’s best-sellers since it launched – perhaps there won’t be a Mario Kart 9 any time soon. But Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is really just a port of the Wii U game; it isn’t a title unique to the Switch. That provides us a tentative glimmer of hope that Mario Kart 9 may still be coming sometime soon!
Recent Mario Kart games have recreated tracks from older entries, changing and upscaling them to fit the new game’s theme. With that in mind, here are some of my favourite racetracks from past games that would be amazing to see return whenever Mario Kart 9 comes around.
Number 1: Kalimari Desert (Mario Kart 64)
Mario Kart 64 might just be my favourite game in the series. It had an amazing set of tracks, including the definitive version of Rainbow Road. But we’ll come to that in a moment! Kalimari Desert is a western-themed track, and while its skewed oval shape is pretty basic, it features a train constantly going around on its own railroad – which can be used as a shortcut if you’re willing to take a chance!
I like the aesthetic of the American west. The desert, the mesas, the cacti; it’s all here in Kalimari Desert. The track has been recreated twice already: in Mario Kart 7 on the Nintendo 3DS, and again in Mario Kart Tour.
Number 2: Vanilla Lake 2 (Super Mario Kart)
The Mario Kart series has some great snow or ice themed tracks. The first tracks to have this kind of wintry theme were the two Vanilla Lake tracks in Super Mario Kart. Vanilla Lake 2 isn’t an easy track in its original incarnation, with lots of obstacles and no clear racing line. It’s easy to fall into the large central lake with its jagged and uneven edge, and because of its basic square shape, Vanilla Lake 2 can be deceptively simple to new players.
The track was recreated once, but hasn’t been used since Mario Kart: Super Circuit on the Game Boy Advance.
Number 3: Wuhu Island Loop/Wuhu Loop (Mario Kart 7)
Beginning in Mario Kart 7, a handful of tracks were longer than others, and instead of racing three laps, players race from a start line to a finish line. For the purposes of the game, tracks like Wuhu Island Loop are still split into three sections – the sections replacing laps. Mario Kart 7 is a game I had a ton of fun with, and Wuhu Island Loop is one of its better offerings.
When I worked in a large office in the early 2010s, several colleagues and I would sometimes get together and use the 3DS’ wireless networking function to play Mario Kart 7 during breaks and downtime. It really was a blast!
Number 4: DK’s Snowboard Cross/DK Summit (Mario Kart Wii)
Another snow-themed track here, but this one is based on a winter sports resort. Toward the end of the track is a really fun section based on a snowboard half-pipe, complete with snowboarding characters and patches of deep snow to avoid! It’s brilliantly done, and while it isn’t the easiest track it’s a ton of fun.
DK’s Snowboard Cross (a.k.a. DK Summit in North America; Nintendo seem to love arbitrarily changing names!) has only been seen in Mario Kart Wii, which I think makes it overdue for a return!
Number 5: Rainbow Road (Mario Kart 64)
As I mentioned above, Mario Kart 64 truly has the definitive version of Rainbow Road. Everything about the track is perfect: its complicated layout, the clever placement of obstacles, and the starry, atmospheric background featuring characters from the Mario series lit up as neon signs. The music that accompanies the track is phenomenal too, making the whole experience strangely nostalgic.
Rainbow Road has been recently recreated for Mario Kart 8, but for some reason Nintendo cut it short and players only get to enjoy one lap instead of three. The original Nintendo 64 version remains the best, and I’d love to see it return in its true form!
Number 6: Animal Crossing (Mario Kart 8 DLC/Mario Kart 8 Deluxe)
With Animal Crossing: New Horizons performing so well and becoming one of the Switch’s top-selling titles, I have no doubt that Nintendo will reference it in some way if there is to be a Mario Kart 9 this generation. However, the Animal Crossing track featured on Mario Kart 8 (originally as DLC on the Wii U) was based on Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It’s a very sweet track that really captures the essence of the sleepy Animal Crossing village perfectly.
Like the Animal Crossing village it’s based on, the track has four seasonal variations and looks different in each. It’s random which one will be chosen every time a player selects the course, which adds another small element of fun!
Number 7: Mushroom Bridge (Mario Kart: Double Dash)
Having not been a GameCube owner (I had an Xbox instead in those days) I’m less familiar with Mario Kart: Double Dash than other entries in the series. However, one track I loved to play with friends was Mushroom Bridge. Toad’s Turnpike on the Nintendo 64 introduced traffic as moving obstacles to race around, and Mushroom Bridge is in a similar vein.
Because the other vehicles on the track are moving, it can be difficult to predict where they’re going, adding an element of complexity to the race. And it’s great fun to sabotage an opponent, sending them careening into traffic!
Number 8: Toad Harbour (Mario Kart 8)
At the press event I mentioned at the beginning of the article, Toad Harbour was the track I got to play for myself. I believe there was one other track available, as well as one battle course – but I can’t remember what those were! Toad Harbour was a great choice to show off the Wii U’s greatly-improved graphics – the course is bright and sunlit, and there’s plenty of detail in its San Francisco-esque scenery.
If Mario Kart 9 opts to drop the anti-gravity racing that premiered in Mario Kart 8, Toad Harbour could be a great choice to adapt as its one anti-gravity section is optional.
Number 9: Bowser Castle 3 (Super Mario Kart)
Super Mario Kart had some very fun and interesting tracks, despite the limitations of the SNES. Bowser Castle 3 (which I always thought was called Bowser‘s Castle 3, with an -s) snakes around like a normal racetrack for the most part, but then there comes a point with the track splitting in two. The jumps lead to a number of smaller islands in the lava, and there are several possible routes across, adding an extra element to what was already a fun track.
The music for Super Mario Kart’s Bowser Castle tracks was also great! The track hasn’t been seen since Mario Kart: Super Circuit, so it’s a great candidate to bring back.
Number 10: Lakeside Park (Mario Kart: Super Circuit)
Lakeside Park is a pretty clever track. The first lap is normal, set in a jungle beside a lake. The intimidating-looking volcanoes seem like just a part of the background… until lap 2, when the sky goes dark and the volcanoes erupt! Chunks of lava then rain down the track, peppering it with additional obstacles.
Considering this was a Game Boy Advance title, there are some pretty clever things going on in Lakeside Park. The track would make a wonderful addition to Mario Kart 9.
Number 11: Peach Beach (Mario Kart: Double Dash)
When my friends and I used to play Peach Beach, we rather immaturely called it the “cock-and-balls” track… because c’mon, what else could that giant rock formation possibly look like? It’s even vaguely flesh-coloured. I’ve known many animators and developers having once worked in the games industry, and I guarantee that was done on purpose.
But we’re off-topic! Peach Beach is a fun track with some interesting obstacles and different terrains to get stuck into, and although it reappeared on the Wii I’d love to see it back again.
Number 12: Shroom Ridge (Mario Kart DS)
Another track featuring traffic, similar to Mushroom Bridge above, Shroom Ridge was one of my favourites from Mario Kart DS. Weaving in and out of oncoming traffic is difficult to master, so I think this track would be perfect for a more challenging grand prix.
It’s also one of the few Mario Kart DS tracks that hasn’t been seen since that game debuted in 2005, making it due for a comeback!
Number 13: Maple Treeway (Mario Kart Wii)
Maple Treeway is a beautifully atmospheric track with an autumnal setting. It has a fantastic musical accompaniment too, and a couple of more challenging parts. There’s nothing too tricky, however, and I just adore the setting, the music, and the whole layout of the track. It’s easily one of my favourites from Mario Kart Wii.
Mario Kart 7 brought back Maple Treeway on the 3DS, but I’d still like to see it return one more time – upscaled in full HD!
Number 14: DK’s Jungle Parkway (Mario Kart 64)
DK’s Jungle Parkway was a clever track when it debuted on the Nintendo 64 – straying off its fairly narrow track onto the grass verge would result in being hit with objects from the jungle background, further slowing you down! This feature meant it was a challenge to avoid oversteering and understeering to stay on the track – and meant it could be a lot of fun to push an opponent off!
DK’s Jungle Parkway reappeared on the Wii, but that version made a couple of changes (the objects no longer hit you when not on the track, and the big jump across the river forces you to go straight instead of taking a chance and cutting the corner) which I feel took away its uniqueness. I’d love to see it back with those features included!
Number 15: Daisy Circuit (Mario Kart Wii)
A nice, straightforward track that takes players through a town at sunrise (or sunset), Daisy Circuit is a sweet little track set to another great piece of music. There are no major obstacles to speak of, though there are two sections in the middle where a fountain and statue must be circumnavigated. It’s a nice, easy track that someone brand-new to Mario Kart could pick up and have fun with.
Daisy Circuit hasn’t been reused since it was first seen in Mario Kart Wii, which is a great reason to bring it back for Mario Kart 9!
Number 16: Shy Guy Bazaar (Mario Kart 7)
The Mario Kart series has a few recurring settings for its tracks, so it’s great when we get something genuinely different. Shy Guy Bazaar has a definite Arabian theme – almost like something from Aladdin – which is a great spin on the typical desert-themed tracks of other Mario Kart titles.
There are some unique obstacles, and the track has some narrow and wide sections, allowing for varied race strategies. It was one of my favourites from Mario Kart 7 – but I always felt it was underappreciated!
Number 17: Wild Woods (Mario Kart 8 DLC/Mario Kart 8 Deluxe)
Another track that was initially available as DLC on the Wii U, Wild Woods is a ton of fun. As I mentioned above, many Mario Kart tracks follow one of a limited number of themes; Wild Woods is something altogether different with its “deep, dark woods” setting – which is reminiscent of some old levels from the Donkey Kong Country series.
Tracks from Mario Kart 8 seem like they’d be well-suited to be brought into Mario Kart 9, and I’d love to see Wild Woods back.
Number 18: Mushroom Gorge (Mario Kart Wii)
Mushroom Gorge is a gorge-ous track. See what I did there? With both an outside section and a section in a cave, there was already a lot of fun to be had, but Mushroom Gorge also introduces giant mushrooms to bounce on – getting the speed and angle right for your bounce is incredibly important, lest you fall into a bottomless pit and have to be rescued!
The track did make a reappearance on the 3DS, but its fun and unique bouncy gameplay would be great to bring back for Mario Kart 9 too.
Number 19: Choco Mountain (Mario Kart 64)
Choco Mountain in Mario Kart 64, as well as the earlier Choco Island tracks in Super Mario Kart, always seemed to be ignored by players in favour of other tracks. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fairly bland all-brown colour scheme, but that’s one possibility. It’s a shame, because Choco Mountain in particular is a clever track with some difficult sections and unpredictable obstacles.
Choco Mountain was seen in Mario Kart DS as well, but I think it’s a candidate to get an HD makeover for Mario Kart 9!
Number 20: Sunshine Airport (Mario Kart 8)
One of the tracks used to market Mario Kart 8, Sunshine Airport has a lot to offer. Mario Kart 7 had introduced gliding, allowing players to soar through the air, and Sunshine Airport takes that theme and runs with it. The airport setting has some unique obstacles, and as somewhere completely different to race around, it’s lots of fun.
I particularly like the aircraft that sometimes pass you while racing, even though I’m always worried that they’re going to crash into me!
So that’s it. A handful of Mario Kart tracks from past entries in the series that I feel would be great to see given an overhaul and an update for Mario Kart 9. This article shouldn’t be interpreted as me having any “insider information” from Nintendo that a new game is in the works! Just to be clear: I have no idea if Mario Kart 9 is in development, or if it will be released on the Switch. It’s possible that Nintendo may not release another entry in this fantastic series until they launch their next console – whenever that could be! However, I think there is reason to be hopeful of a new Mario Kart title. As I mentioned, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just a port of the Wii U game, and aside from collating the main game and its two DLC packs, doesn’t really offer anything substantially new. Secondly, Nintendo has seemed more open to changing things up this generation, particularly where sequels to its most successful titles are concerned: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is getting a direct sequel, for example.
As long as Dry Bones – the best character in the whole Mario Kart series – is playable in Mario Kart 9, I’ll be satisfied with whichever tracks Nintendo decides to bring back!
The Mario Kart series – including all games mentioned above, as well as all individual racetracks, characters, and other properties – is the copyright of Nintendo. Screenshots courtesy of the Super Mario Wiki. They are used under the principle of Fair Dealing. For further information, see my copyright policy. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.