Seeing the Mushroom Kingdom living peacefully as opposed to in conflict over kidnapped princesses is refreshing. There’s expansion of the lore. Shy Guys work water wheels, generating, it’s assumed, the kingdom’s energy. Toad’s host glamorous celebrations, dotted by gravitating confetti. Trolly cars run the rails down the center of one track, emblazoned with Mario & Luigi’s colors. Oddly, a third trolly features the purple W of Wario. Mushroom Kingdom denizens celebrate everything equally, even villains like Wario.
In a sense, the Mushroom Kingdom is as colorful as a ball pit, and dressed up in a fantasy like Norman Rockwell’s paintings – assuming Rockwell ever painted mushroom people, punk dragons, dinosaurs, and ghosts. Where Rockwell sliced through white middle class suburbia of the ‘50s, always gleaming and perfect, so too does Mario Kart 8. Everything works. It’s pure. The playful racing at the center is a gentle, gladiatorial spectacle. Rivals join together in harmless competition, all of their worries negated into a background, unseen.
It works for Mario Kart. Since the 16-bit era, the series played nicely, unchanging really. Nintendo’s unusual ease with recycling concepts and ideas – forever safe as they are – bleeds into Mario Kart 8. “Deluxe” is stamped onto the title, but this is Mario Kart 8. It’s a do-over, atoning for the general failure of the Wii U, shrunk from disc to cartridge, and pushed into a rectangular plastic case for consumer consumption.
Maybe that’s why the Mushroom Kingdom looks fondly on their not-really-annual karting festivals. It’s a sure thing. Like humans, citizens of Princess Peach’s lands feel safe with normal and the familiar. Certainly, that’s Mario Kart 8, in a “deluxe” repackaging or otherwise. It’s hard not to be taken by the hyper saturated and beautiful trimmings, but it’s plain Mario Kart. A game of chance and luck, sometimes played with skill, yet often for giggles. For that, Mario Kart’s usurpers do more and tweak the genre’s tenants.