The complete history of Mario Kart

Mario Kart: Double Dash

Let those yellow sparks fly.

Above: Let those yellow sparks fly.

Image Credit: Edge Online

System: GameCube
Release date: Nov. 17, 2003
Number of racers: 20

Double Dash is the black sheep of the Mario Kart franchise. It featured a big gameplay change that never returned in any of the sequels. Each kart actually supported two characters, and you could switch between them whenever you wanted. While one raced, the other would throw items. Each character also had a special weapon that only he could use. For example, Mario could shoot fireballs, and Toad could use an unlimited amount of mushroom boosts for a limited time. Two players could even play on the same kart.

It was a fun, quirky addition, and LAN support actually enabled 16 players to play simultaneously (if you had the extra GameCubes). Also, Double Dash greatly increased the roster size to 20. New racers included Diddy Kong, Daisy, Birdo, Waluigi, Bowser Jr., Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Toadette, Petey Piranha, and King Boo. You could also choose between 21 different karts.

Mario Kart Arcade GP

And you thought buying four controllers was expensive.

Above: And you thought buying four controllers was expensive.

Image Credit: Nintendo Wikia

System: Arcade
Release date: October 2005
Number of racers: 11

Mario Kart Arcade GP was the first entry in the series released (and only released) for arcades. Like other arcade racers, players sit and use car-like pedals and a steering wheel. The arcade version also had a lot more items than the console counterparts, which usually only have a dozen or so weapons. Mario Kart Arcade GP had over 100.

Namco Bandai actually developed the game, which explains why Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Blinky are part of the racing roster.

Mario Kart DS

How could you possibly get lost with a map that big?

Above: How could you possibly get lost with a map that big?

Image Credit: Games Radar

System: Nintendo DS
Release date: Nov. 14, 2005
Number of racers: 13

Mario Kart DS took advantage of the portable’s dual displays by showing a large map of the course on the bottom screen. Players could also race online for the first time thanks to the DS’s Wi-Fi abilities. After some of Double Dash’s experiments, Mario Kart DS was more of a return to tradition. Only one character would race on each kart.

The roster also got a little smaller although it featured the racing debuts of Dry Bones and R.O.B. the robot. The Shy Guy was also playable, but only if you were playing single-cart multiplayer.

Mario Kart Arcade GP 2

While arcades are become rare in the U.S., Japan still has a bustling arcade scene.

Above: While arcades are a rare sight in the U.S. these days, Japan still has a bustling arcade scene.

Image Credit: Emuline

System: Arcade
Release date: 2008
Number of racers: 13

GP 2 was similar to the first arcade Mario Kart, but developer Namco Bandai added new courses, items, and characters. The only new racer to the series was Mametchi, a character from the Tamagotchi toy craze that swept through America in the late ’90s.

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keith maxx
keith maxx

That's an exhaustive list. It's nice to see the franchise's history, and I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I've only played the first title... to date. I'm going to correct that a bit with MK8 this weekend!

Michael Ajibade
Michael Ajibade

Great article.  I have played the second arcade release of Mario Kart via emulation.  I want to experience it in an actual arcade.

Jonny Good
Jonny Good

Super Mario Kart could support up to 4 people. I used to have sleepovers with 2 or 3 of my friends and we'd play all night on the gigantic 24" TV! Oh, those were the days.

Greg Wampler
Greg Wampler

@Jonny Good That's's only a 2-player game. Even with the multitap that could allow 5 players still wouldn't work as there is no 3 to 5 player mode in the game....

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