Mario Kart 8’s second round of downloadable content is out, and it’s beautiful — but the real star is the free bananas-crazy 200cc mode.
Yesterday, Nintendo released a set of new characters, tracks, and vehicles that you can use in Mario Kart 8. This was the second of the publisher’s two-part DLC plans for its colorful racer, and it features some of the best content yet. The tracks are beautiful — especially the new F-Zero and Animal Crossing courses. And while I love that stuff, none of it changes the game quite like the new, eye-blistering 200cc mode that bumps up the speed of the karts to a level we’ve never seen before in this franchise.
200cc is a free addition to Mario Kart 8 that anyone can get by downloading the latest patch for the game. And holy crap, is it fast.
It’s too fast! Just watch me fail in the first part of the video below. I keep sliding off of the course because I cannot control my vehicle:
And while 200cc is fast, that’s not really what’s different here. The difference is that the speed forces you to play differently. If you want a chance to win, you absolutely must use your brakes. Nintendo even tells you that when you first start it up.
Use your brakes! As silly as that sounds, it’s a novel concept for Mario Kart. I say it in the video, I don’t think I’ve used brakes in a Mario Kart game ever. You’re supposed to perfectly power-slide through every turn without ever touching that useless B button.
But 200cc just won’t work if you’re not braking, and it’s a revelation.
I knew going into 200cc that I would need to brake, but that turned me off at first. I thought that meant that I would need to slow down instead of power-sliding. But that isn’t the case at all. 200cc is so fast that you can actually brake while power-sliding to better navigate sharp turns.
This adds a whole new layer to the driving in Mario Kart. You can no longer mindlessly just whip around corners while thinking about how to best use whatever item you last picked up. Instead, every corner is a challenge that requires your full attention. Some will have you just lightly tapping on B to course-correct your trajectory. Other, more difficult curves will require you to fully slam on the brakes in the middle of your power slide to essentially do a 180 so you can stay on the track.
It’s a new kind of challenging for Mario Kart and for the racing genre in general, since few developers are still making games like this.
So if you were looking for a reason to get back into Mario Kart, this is definitely it. Just be prepared to relearn everything you think you know.