Nintendo has made a lot of Mario Kart games now. They are in the business of making money, and Mario Kart isn’t a broken formula. Mario Kart: Super Circuit is probably the start of Nintendo milking the series for all it’s worth. The game maintains the look and feel of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System original, but was made after the Nintendo 64 title hit the market. Some of the Nintendo 64 game’s stylings made it in Super Circuit, namely the items. Fortunately, multiplayer is included in this package, although I think there’s more fun to be had playing multiplayer on console, with a larger screen. Mario Kart: Super Circuit is an amusing Mode 7 style kart racer on a handheld, but the fun factor falls short due to very simple gameplay.
I said the game has a Mode 7 style look. If you don’t remember the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 graphics, it’s a way of handling 3D with 2D tech. Super Circuit definitely has a Z-axis, and the races take place in a 3D area, but almost everything in that 3D area is a 2D sprite. In fact, I couldn’t find one real 3D polygon in the whole game. It’s a neat trick for getting 3D graphics out of less capable hardware, and I’d prefer they do this, as opposed to, say, a top-down perspective. Still, I think Mario Kart 64 and up on console, with genuine 3D polygons, look a lot better and are more fun to play. The limited graphics make the game pretty darn simple. If you can see the left or right turn up ahead, just press the appropriate button and you’ll be fine. There’s not much need for skill.
Where Mario Kart 64 shows its influence is the available items. Once again, you can shoot ahead or behind with green shells, make a targeted shot with a red shell, drop a banana peel to make an opponent lose control – the list of items goes on. Sadly, the game features zero original items. They are all carryovers from the N64 game. Now if you run over a banana peel and press the B button in time, you can prevent the racer from losing control. From the SNES title, there are coins to pick up which boost speed ever so slightly. Finally, there are boosts on the ground which increase speed, and occasional jumps, too.
Music is a highlight of the series, and actually here that holds true too. The kart racers themselves all carried over from the N64 game. You can play as Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Wario, Toad, Donkey Kong, or Bowser. There is no option to be a Koopa like in the Super Nintendo game. The courses are amusing, but with such simple gameplay, I didn’t find I had a favorite course. Boo Lake and Rainbow Road are noteworthy for sometimes doing away with the guard-rails that keep you on the course. The Bowser’s Castle courses (there’s more than one) are fun because the Thwomps come down and stomp you. But the courses are pretty basic.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit is just too simple to recommend. It’s impressive that Nintendo got 3D visuals out of the Game Boy Advance, but we wouldn’t get a great 3D Mario on portable until Mario Kart DS, which uses polygons instead of sprites. I imagine the multiplayer is more fun than the single-player. It’s always more fun to play a video game with someone else. But there’s just too little that’s remarkable about Mario Kart: Super Circuit, and I suggest you skip it.