With Nintendo planning a digital presentation for next month’s Electronic Entertainment Expo – more commonly known as E3 – rumours abound as to what they could talk about. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2? A new 3D Mario game? A new Donkey Kong title? Those are all contenders, and I would posit that Nintendo would be unlikely to put out a major E3 broadcast unless they had something big to say! But there’s still the prospect of a new Mario Kart game – something I’ve discussed on a couple of occasions already.
Super Mario Kart was released for the SNES in 1992, which means that next year will be the Mario Kart series’ 30th anniversary. In recent years we’ve seen a number of anniversary-themed events from Nintendo, and I can’t help but feel that they’ll do something to acknowledge Mario Kart. E3 would be the ideal time to announce Mario Kart 9, then, in time for the title to be released in the first half of next year!
Maybe I’m wrong about that, though – and as I always like to say, I have no “insider information!” But regardless, it’s always fun to talk about the Mario Kart series and the prospects for a new title. Having already talked about a number of older racetracks I’d like to see come back, a roster of Nintendo characters who could be drivers, and even a handful of non-Nintendo characters who could join the fun, this time I want to talk about the possibilities for new racetracks – specifically, what theming Nintendo could use.
Past Mario Kart games had a number of Nintendo-themed tracks – such as Royal Raceway, based around Princess Peach’s castle, DK Mountain, which obviously pays homage to the jungle home of Donkey Kong, and of course the Bowser Castle tracks. But many Mario Kart titles also had more generic or non-Nintendo tracks too – things like Vanilla Lake, Choco Island, Sweet Sweet Canyon, and even Rainbow Road are all based less on specific Nintendo properties than just generic theming. My list will include a mix of both kinds of racetrack!
So let’s take a look, shall we?
Number 1: The museum from Animal Crossing: New Horizons
A racetrack based around Animal Crossing: New Horizons seems like a given considering how popular the game has been since it launched! But rather than a generic island – or perhaps as well as one – I think a racetrack themed around New Horizons’ museum could be neat. I do still check in with my New Horizons island from time to time, partly because I still haven’t collected every last bug, fish, fossil and work of art! The museum is one of the game’s most interesting locations, and would make a fun setting for a racetrack.
Starting in the lobby, players would race through four areas: the bug room, fossil exhibit, art gallery, and aquarium. The aquarium offers the potential for underwater racing – if that feature is coming back in Mario Kart 9 – so there’d be at least two terrains as well as a variety of scenery! The higher levels of the museum would also offer space for jumps and tricks. But above all, it would be a different take on the expected “Animal Crossing island” track that I think would take a lot of folks by surprise.
Number 2: The Last Resort hotel from Luigi’s Mansion 3
I know, I know. My playthrough of Luigi’s Mansion 3, which I commenced in the run-up to last Halloween, still needs to be finished. And I will get around to it eventually! But for now, let’s consider how The Last Resort hotel could make for an amazing racetrack! The Mario Kart series has never shied away from spooky, ghostly racetracks, and given the popularity of Luigi’s Mansion 3 on Switch, incorporating it into Mario Kart 9 makes a lot of sense.
Players could start in the basement garage and race to the top in a one-way route broken into three segments. That would put a twist on several of the similar one-way downhill tracks in Mario Kart 8! Ghostly apparitions could make for interesting moving obstacles, and above all, the track would have the potential to be a lot of fun. There could certainly be jumps or aerial sections, though I’m not sure about racing underwater.
Number 3: A track based on the world of Minecraft
This kind of ties into my idea of having Minecraft Steve as a playable racer! Minecraft has been popular on the Nintendo Switch – just as it has been on practically every other console – and considering that Nintendo and Microsoft have happily worked together to bring Minecraft Steve into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, why not go one step further and have a Minecraft-themed racetrack?
The open worlds of Minecraft have a multitude of biomes and terrains, and there’s scope for anti-gravity racing up cliffs or down deep caverns, underwater sections through seas and rivers, aerial sections jumping off mountains or into the sky – and that’s before we even get to the Nether or the End! There could even be a Minecraft cup with four racetracks based around this game – though maybe that’s a bit much!
Number 4: Bubblaine from Super Mario Odyssey
There’s bound to be at least one racetrack based on a location from Super Mario Odyssey in the next Mario Kart title, so I’d like to propose Bubblaine! The Mario Kart series has previously featured a number of beach-themed tracks, but this would be the first to be based on an actual level from a mainline game. There’s even the possibility for a track based on Bubblaine – or the other water level from Odyssey, Lake Lamode – to be fully underwater, with no above-water sections at all. That could make for an interesting twist!
I like beach-themed racetracks in Mario Kart. They’re relaxing and often have great music, and though Bubblaine wouldn’t necessarily be unique in the Mario Kart series, it could pick up the baton for beach racetracks.
Number 5: New Donk City from Super Mario Odyssey
New Donk City played a big role in the marketing campaign for Odyssey, and it seems at least possible that Nintendo would want to capitalise on the name and imagery for Mario Kart 9 as well. There have been urban racetracks in the Mario Kart series before but none quite like New Donk City.
Just like how street circuits like Monaco or Singapore are popular in Formula 1, the closed-in nature of New Donk City’s network of roads could make for a fun racetrack. With tall buildings to potentially jump from, and Mayor Pauline’s iconic song forming the basis for the soundtrack, this one has a lot of potential to be a fun – if slightly tricky – racetrack!
Number 6: The Galar Region from Pokémon Sword & Shield
I’ve never played a Pokémon game. Make of that what you will! But Pokémon Sword & Shield have been successful on the Nintendo Switch – despite the so-called “Dexit” controversy the games generated! Although Pokémon has always been a franchise strongly associated with Nintendo, no Pokémon characters or locales have appeared in the Mario Kart series – at least, not yet.
I don’t know too much about the Galar Region other than it’s based on my native United Kingdom, but that in itself could make for a fun concept for British Nintendo fans! There have been some Pokémon characters included in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, so it’s not impossible to think that a crossover between two of Nintendo’s biggest exclusive properties is on the cards.
Number 7: The city of Kyoto, Japan
Now we’re leaving the realm of video games behind to look at some racetrack themes from the real world. Kyoto – which was the capital city of Japan for more than 1,000 years before it moved to Tokyo – is where Nintendo is headquartered. Many of the company’s developers live and work in the city, and know it intimately. It could be a lot of fun for them – and for us as players – to bring the city to life as the basis of a racetrack.
A Japanese-themed racetrack is a win-win for any Mario Kart title in many ways. The game’s Japanese audience would be pleased to see a representation of their home, and there are many in the west who love all things Japanese and would be equally thrilled. Kyoto makes a lot of sense because of its connection to Nintendo, and we could see recreations of famous landmarks like the Imperial Palace, To-Ji Temple, Kyoto Tower, and Teramachi Street.
Number 8: A food-themed racetrack
Choco Island and Choco Mountain, which appeared in Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 respectively, kicked off a trend of Nintendo including at least one racetrack with a food theme in most mainline Mario Kart games. In addition to chocolate we’ve had the likes of Cheese Land and Sweet Sweet Canyon. It would be great to keep this trend going with another foody track, perhaps one based around Japanese cuisine?
A restaurant could make for a fun setting, and would allow shrunk-down racers to drive through the kitchen, into the dining room, across tabletops, past plates of food, and so on. Mario Kart has always been a series which is happy to set logic aside when it comes to theming, so why not?
Number 9: Ice or a glacier
There have been plenty of snow- and ice-themed tracks in past Mario Kart games, and I’m sure the next entry in the series will bring at least one to the table. There’s scope for a track set on a glacier to have an environmental theme, especially if the glacier were melting! Perhaps each lap could see more and more of the glacier melt away, until the final lap has players racing through a track that’s more water than ice.
Regardless, snow and ice are tricky surfaces to race on, and can be made to feel extra slippery under the wheels of players’ karts. This alone makes them fun and challenging in equal measure, and I hope there’ll be at least one track with this kind of icy, wintry theme in Mario Kart 9.
Number 10: An alpine or mountain stage
The famous cycling races Tour de France and Giro d’Italia both run stages through the Alps, and it’s something along those lines that I’m thinking of here. Mountainous racetracks in Mario Kart tend to either be snowy or have some other theming, but I quite like the idea of racing along past a mountain village, pine trees, and the like, in a track with an alpine setting.
The Alps border several countries, including France, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria, so elements from those cultures could be incorporated into the theming of the track. This could also be a one-way track divided into segments instead of a loop to run laps around.
So that’s it. Ten theme ideas for Mario Kart 9 racetracks!
Because Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just a port of a Wii U game, there hasn’t been an original Mario Kart title released for the Nintendo Switch yet. I know that’s kind of splitting hairs, but it provides a small amount of hope that we’ll see another title in the fun kart racing series before this generation is over. The Switch should still have several years’ of life left, so if we don’t get Mario Kart 9 this generation it could be a while before we see it.
I’m hopeful, then, of a new Mario Kart game sometime soon. Whether it will be announced at E3, or whether it will be connected to the 30th anniversary of the series are just guesses on my part – but I think both are educated guesses. It makes sense to me, at any rate!
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is out now on Nintendo Switch. All other titles and properties mentioned above are copyright of Nintendo or their respective studio, developer, publisher, and/or owner. Some screenshots and promo artwork courtesy of the Mario Wiki. Some stock images courtesy of Pixabay. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.