Wave one of the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass is here! The surprise pack was announced just last month during a Nintendo Direct, allowing players to enjoy fresh new Mario Kart content over the next 18 months or so.
The full set of 48 tracks will set you back $24.99. Initially, this price seems steep because you’re basically paying up front. You’ll only receive the first eight courses right now, but the remaining 40 will essentially feel free. Considering Mario Kart 8 Deluxe already comes with 48 tracks, this DLC stands to double that number by the time we’re through, making it the most extensive Mario Kart collection ever.
Let’s talk about the tracks themselves. Wave one launched on March 18, bringing familiar courses and revamped tracks from across five previous Mario Kart installments.
Firstly, I love the new cup names. We’ve had the standard Mushroom, Flower, Star and Special Cups since Super Mario Kart’s 1992 debut. The retro cups came into play in 2005’s Mario Kart DS, bringing us the Shell, Banana, Leaf and Lightning Cups. It wasn’t until the Wii U DLC in 2014 that we saw the Egg, Leaf, Triforce, and Bell Cups join the ranks.
The Booster Course Pass brings us 12 new cups to enjoy. There are some terrific titles, like the Cherry Cup and Moon Cup, not to mention the Spiny Cup. This one, which is set to be the final cup of the pack, looks suspiciously like a blue shell. Hopefully, it will provide some tricky courses for veterans.
Let’s dissect the two cups and eight tracks of wave one.
Golden Dash Cup
Paris Promenade (Tour)
The first track comes courtesy of Mario Kart Tour, the mobile Mario Kart game that’s been doing the rounds since 2019. Tour sends players worldwide, visiting iconic locations like New York, Tokyo, and, yes, Paris.
This Parisian-themed track features landmarks like the Eiffel Tower as you race through cute streets that look like they’ve been plucked straight out of the French capital. But beware, this seemingly peaceful circuit is designed to trick you with various confusing pathways, a little like the N64’s Yoshi Valley. Taking a wrong turn could cost you precious seconds – and first place. Overall, this is a fun course that looks very pretty.
Toad Circuit (3DS)
Toad Circuit is a classic 3DS entry. It’s a relatively simple circuit, a little like the Mario Circuit tracks. It features some quick, tight turns, mushroom-powered shortcuts, and a flying section. I always enjoyed this on the 3DS, and the transition to the big screen is fun.
Choco Mountain (N64)
Chocolate-themed courses debuted in the original Mario Kart, inspired by Super Mario World’s Chocolate Island. The follow-up track in Mario Kart 64 brought more slopes and depth to create a bigger level. Those 64-bit graphics have dated, though, and this revamped version looks much smoother on the Switch. Racing across the chocolate-covered mountainside, from the danger of the long cliffside corner to the triple rises at the end, makes this track an adrenaline rush. It also makes me hungry, mind you.
Coconut Mall (Wii)
Another classic. The Mario Kart Wii was the top-selling iteration of the series until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe stole the crown. It means a lot of players will remember this fast-paced track set in a shopping mall, from its bouncy music to the Shy Guys displaying their terrible parking skills. There are also water fountains to spring over and escalators that change direction at just the wrong moment! It’s a fast and furious track that’s sure to bring a smile to your face, whether you’re playing for the first time or reliving the fun.
Lucky Cat Cup
Tokyo Blur (Tour)
Tokyo Blur is another entry from Mario’s mobile races. This time, we tear through the streets of Tokyo, and I love seeing Mt. Fuji in the background at one point in the circuit. This is a fairly easy track, the twist being that the paths change after each lap, so you’re using a slightly different route each time. It keeps it fresh and interesting and makes it slightly harder to master.
Shroom Ridge (3DS)
This is one of those tracks that puts us on a road, complete with traffic. You know the ones, like Toad’s Turnpike or Moonview Highway. Shroom Bridge occurs in the daytime, with trucks and cars getting in your way when all you’re trying to do is illegally race your go-kart on a highway. Sheesh! There are item boxes aplenty in this stage, if you can successfully crash into them while they’re moving. You can also leap over certain vehicles to get a quick boost; just be careful not to use this enticing mechanic near a tight turn, or you’ll fall off the edge. Erm, not that I did that.
Sky Garden (GBA)
The Gameboy Advance gave us Mario Kart: Super Circuit way back in 2001. This entry could be considered the underdog of the series, since it rated very well but sold the fewest copies overall. It also means this may be unfamiliar to a lot of players. Plus, revamped GBA tracks always look spectacularly different from their original counterparts, like Cheeseland and Ribbon Road. This sky-high course is akin to a simpler version of Mario Kart 8’s existing Cloudtop Cruise, with many cloud-based twists and turns to keep drivers on their toes. It’s also worth mentioning the music in this track, which is simply superb.
Ninja Hideaway (Tour)
Ninja Hideaway is another Mario Kart Tour track. It feels like the biggest entry of the DLC pack, taking players through a huge ninja dojo. There are a few different pathways – both horizontally and vertically – that take you across the rooftops of the dojo itself. These various routes make it easy to lose sight of other drivers, bringing a more strategic approach to the game. It’s also a treat to look at, with fantastic visuals reminiscent of Dragon Driftway.
Mario Kart fans have been waiting too long for new console content. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is constantly in the top ten games sold in Japan each week, showing it still has plenty of life. A large install base also explains why DLC was the way to go, rather than an all-new Mario Kart 9. The first wave of the Booster Course Pass is a fun reminder of why this series is so popular.
Fans looking for completely original tracks may be slightly disappointed. This is especially true when it comes to the likes of Coconut Mall and Toad Circuit, which look and play much like their originals (apart from a few obvious changes like the Miis missing from Coconut Mall). Being able to play MK Tour tracks on a large screen with classic controls is super fun, though, and these circuits shine as the freshest of the bunch.
If the price seems a little steep, you could hold off until more cups are released… but why wait? Wave one succeeds in entertaining us while showing us how much enjoyment is yet to come.
Review: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass (wave one)
The first wave of the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass brings a healthy dose of revamped nostaligia for many tracks previously only available on handheld devices, like Mario Kart Tour. The price seems steep at first, but that’s because you’re paying up front for 48 tracks, to be released over the next 18 months. It’s definitely worth picking the pass up now and enjoying each release as they come!