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Mario Kart facts for kids

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Mario Kart
Mario Kart logo.png
Logo since Mario Kart DS
Genres Racing
Developers Nintendo EAD (1992-2014)
Nintendo EPD (2017-present)
Intelligent Systems (Super Circuit)
Retro Studios (Mario Kart 7)
Namco/Bandai Namco (Mario Kart Arcade GP
Velan Studios (Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit)
Publishers Nintendo
Creators Shigeru Miyamoto
First release Super Mario Kart
August 27, 1992 (1992-08-27)
Latest release Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
October 16, 2020 (2020-10-16)

Mario Kart is a series of go-kart racing video games developed and published by Nintendo, as a spin-off from its flagship Super Mario series. Its characters include those from the Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Animal Crossing series, competing in races while using various items to gain advantage.

The series was launched in 1992 with Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, to critical and commercial success.

The Mario Kart series totals fourteen games, with six on home consoles, three on handheld consoles, four arcade games co-developed with Namco, and one for mobile phones. The latest game in the main series, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, was released on Nintendo Switch in October 2020. To date, more than 150 million copies in the series have been sold worldwide.


Mario kart first logo
The series logo until Mario Kart Arcade GP 2

The first game in the Mario Kart series is Super Mario Kart for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992. Its development was overseen by Shigeru Miyamoto, the Japanese designer of many successful Nintendo games including Super Mario Bros. Darran Jones of NowGamer suggests that the success of Super Mario Kart resulted from the Super Mario characters, and being a new type of racing game.


MK8 Mario Circuit
Mario driving upside-down using the anti-gravity mechanic introduced in Mario Kart 8.

In the Mario Kart series, players compete in go-kart races, controlling one of a selection of characters, mainly from the Mario franchise. Up to twelve characters can compete in each race; the exact number varies between games.

Gameplay is enhanced by power-up items obtained by driving into item boxes laid out on the course. These power-ups include mushrooms to give players a speed boost, Koopa Shells to be thrown at opponents, banana peels, and fake item boxes as hazards. The game chooses an item based on the player's current position in the race. For example, players lagging far behind may receive more powerful items, such as Bullet Bills which give the player a bigger speed boost depending on the place of the player, while the leader may only receive small defensive items, such as shells or bananas. Called rubber banding, this gameplay mechanism allows other racers a realistic chance to catch up to the leading racer. They can perform driving techniques during the race such as rocket starts, slipstreaming, and mini-turbos.

Each new game has introduced new gameplay elements, such as new circuits, items, modes, and playable characters.

  • Mario Kart 64 introduces 3D graphics, 4-player racing, slipstreaming, playable Wario and Donkey Kong, and seven new items: the Fake Item Box, Triple Red Shell, Triple Green Shell, Triple Mushroom, Banana Bunch, Golden Mushroom, and the infamous blue shell. In addition to the three Grand Prix engine classes, mirror mode is introduced (tracks are flipped laterally) in 100cc.
  • Mario Kart: Super Circuit introduces Super Mario Kart unlockable tracks, as both games use the same mode 7 principle.
  • Mario Kart: Double Dash features co-operative LAN play and two-player karts. It introduces eleven new playable characters: Princess Daisy, Birdo, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Paratroopa, Diddy Kong, Bowser Jr., Waluigi, Toadette, Petey Piranha, and King Boo. It features character-specific special items, and introduces unlockable characters and karts. Mirror mode is upgraded to 150cc.
  • Mario Kart DS features dual-screen play. It introduces online multiplayer mode, mission mode, retro tracks, playable Shy Guy (exclusive to DS Download Play), Dry Bones, R.O.B., and Blooper and Bullet Bill items.
  • Mario Kart Wii introduces motion controls, performing tricks, 12-player racing, and motorbikes. It introduces six new playable characters: Baby Peach, Baby Daisy, Rosalina, Funky Kong, Dry Bowser, and two Mii outfits. It introduces three items: the Mega Mushroom, Thunder Cloud, and POW Block, the last two of which are exclusive to this game. This game is the final appearance of the Fake Item Box.
  • Mario Kart 7 features stereoscopic 3D graphics. It introduces hang gliding and submersible karts, an alternate first-person perspective, and kart customization. It introduces playable Metal Mario, Lakitu, Wiggler, and Honey Queen. It re-introduces collectible Coins for a small speed boost.
  • Mario Kart 8 introduces 200cc mode, anti-gravity racing, ATVs, uploading highlights to YouTube on Wii U, up to four local players in Grand Prix races, downloadable content, and HD graphics. Mario Kart 8 introduces the Koopalings, Baby Rosalina, Pink Gold Peach, Tanooki Mario, Cat Peach, Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing, and Link from The Legend of Zelda as playable characters. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe adds the Inkling Girl and Inkling Boy from Splatoon, and "Renegade Roundup", a new battle mode similar to cops and robbers.
  • Mario Kart Tour is the Mario Kart debut on non-Nintendo devices, and introduces a points-based system for certain racing actions. It introduces Peachette, Pauline, Hammer Bro (and their boomerang, fire, and ice versions), Monty Mole, Dixie Kong, Nabbit, and King Bob-omb. Alternate outfits for certain characters are rare items. It introduces Frenzy Mode, gacha and loot box mechanics, and continuously-renewing character outfits and karts. Character-specific items and increased item probabilities have been re-added. It reintroduces the Mega Mushroom.
  • Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit uses a combination of augmented reality (AR), remote-controlled karts, and cameras, to create tracks using markers in the physical world, on which onscreen opponents are raced.


Mario Kart mainly features characters from the Mario franchise, such as Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Koopa Troopa, and Donkey Kong Jr. The Mario Kart Arcade GP series features Bandai Namco characters from the Pac-Man and Tamagotchi series. The DLC for Mario Kart 8 added Link from The Legend of Zelda, and Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has 42 characters, including the Inklings from Splatoon.


Many recurring course themes are based on the Mario franchise, such as Bowser's Castle. Unique courses inspired by the Mushroom Kingdom include Rainbow Road, above a city or in space. Each game after Super Mario Kart includes at least 16 original courses and up to 6 original battle arenas. Each game's tracks are divided into four "cups", or groups in which the player has to have the highest overall ranking to win and they are the Mushroom Cup, the Flower Cup, the Star Cup, and the Special Cup. Most courses can be done in three laps, except in the original game where all circuits required five laps to finish, seven in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! when racing on Baby Park, and two in Double Dash!! when racing on Wario Colosseum as well as in Mario Kart Tour. The first game to feature courses from previous games was Mario Kart: Super Circuit, which contained all of the tracks from the original Super NES game. Starting with Mario Kart DS, each entry in the series has featured sixteen "nitro" (brand new courses introduced for said game) and 16 "retro" tracks (reappearing courses from previous Mario Kart games), spread across four cups each with four races. The four Retro Grand Prix cups are the Shell Cup, the Banana Cup, the Leaf Cup, and the Lightning Cup. In Mario Kart 8, sixteen additional tracks are available across two downloadable packages, eight for each package downloaded, including seven retro courses, four original courses, and five courses based on other Nintendo franchises, including Excitebike, F-Zero, The Legend of Zelda, and Animal Crossing divided into four additional cups; the Egg Cup, the Triforce Cup, the Crossing Cup, and the Bell Cup. Mario Kart Tour introduced courses from around the world including New York City, Tokyo, Paris, London, Los Angeles, Berlin, Vancouver and Sydney, and variant courses raced in reverse, with additional ramps and elevation, and a combination of the two.


Each game has a variety of modes. The following five modes recur most often in the series:

  • Grand Prix – Players compete in various "cups," of four courses each (five in Super Mario Kart) with difficulty levels based on the size of the engine, larger engines meaning faster speeds. Before Mario Kart 8 there were four difficulties: 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and 150cc Mirror (courses that see their circuits flipped horizontally; originally 100cc Mirror in Mario Kart 64). Mario Kart 8 added a fifth difficulty level: 200cc. Players earn points according to their finishing position in each race and the placement order gets carried over to the next race as the starting grid. At the end of the cup, the top three players with the most points overall will receive a trophy in bronze, silver, and gold.
  • Time Trials – The player races alone in order to finish any course in the fastest time possible. The best time is then saved as a ghost, which the player can race against in later trials. Mario Kart: Double Dash introduced Staff Ghosts, members of the Nintendo development team that set challenge times.
  • VS Race – Multiple human players race on any course with customized rules such as team racing and item frequency. Super Circuit has a similar Quick Run mode.
  • Battle – Multiple human players use in-game offensive items (shells, etc.) to battle each other in a closed arena. Each player starts with three balloons and loses one per hit; the last player with at least one balloon wins. Various battle types have been added to the series, and single-player battles with CPU controlled players. Since Mario Kart Wii, there is a time limit for each battle. For Mario Kart 8, the battles take place on race courses. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe reintroduces dedicated arenas.
  • Online Multiplayer – Players compete in races and battles through online services, such as Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, Nintendo Network, and Nintendo Switch Online. Players can share Time Trial ghosts, and participate in tournaments. In races and battles, players are matched by VR (VS Rating) and BR (Battle Rating) respectively, which is a number between 0 and 99,999 (only 9,999 in Mario Kart Wii). Players gain or lose points based on performance in a race or battle. The game attempts to match players with a similar rating.


Release timeline
1992 Super Mario Kart
1995 VB Mario Kart (Cancelled)
1996 Mario Kart 64
2001 Mario Kart: Super Circuit
2003 Mario Kart: Double Dash
2005 Mario Kart Arcade GP
Mario Kart DS
2007 Mario Kart Arcade GP 2
2008 Mario Kart Wii
2011 Mario Kart 7
2013 Mario Kart Arcade GP DX
2014 Mario Kart 8
2017 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart Arcade GP VR
2019 Mario Kart Tour
2020 Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit


Year Game Platform Virtual Console/
Nintendo Switch Online re-release
Wii Wii U 3DS New 3DS Switch
1992 Super Mario Kart SNES Yes Yes Does not appear Yes Yes
1996 Mario Kart 64 N64 Yes Yes Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear
2001 Mario Kart: Super Circuit GBA Does not appear Yes Does not appear
2003 Mario Kart: Double Dash GCN dagger Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear
2005 Mario Kart DS DS Does not appear Yes dagger dagger Does not appear
2008 Mario Kart Wii Wii double-dagger dagger Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear
2011 Mario Kart 7 3DS Does not appear Does not appear double-dagger double-dagger Does not appear
2014 Mario Kart 8 Wii U Does not appear double-dagger Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear
2017 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Switch Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear double-dagger
2020 Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear Does not appear double-dagger

  Green check.svg   Available on Virtual Console or Nintendo Switch Online   dagger   Available by using backwards compatibility   double-dagger   Available natively on the console



Canceled games

  • VB Mario Kart was scheduled for the Virtual Boy in 1995. It was revealed in a 2000 issue of German gaming magazine The Big N, but was canceled early in development prior to its official announcement due to the Virtual Boy's commercial failure.


The Mario Kart series has had a range of merchandise. This includes a slot car racer series based on Mario Kart DS, which comes with Mario and Donkey Kong figures and Wario and Luigi are separate. A line of radio-controlled karts are controlled by Game Boy Advance-shaped controllers, and feature Mario, Donkey Kong, and Yoshi. There are additional, larger karts which are radio-controlled by a GameCube-shape controller.

Many racer figurines have been made. Sound Drops were inspired by Mario Kart Wii with eight sounds including the Spiny shell and the Item Box. A land-line telephone features Mario holding a lightning bolt while seated in his kart.

K'Nex released Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart 7, and Mario Kart 8 sets.

LINE has released an animated sticker set with 24 stickers based on Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Nintendo's own customer rewards program Club Nintendo released a Mario Kart 8 soundtrack, a Mario Kart Wii-themed stopwatch, and three gold trophies modeled after those in Mario Kart 7. Before Club Nintendo, a Mario Kart 64 soundtrack was offered by mail.

In 2014, McDonald's released Mario Kart 8 toys with Happy Meals.

In 2018, Monopoly Gamer features a Mario Kart themed board game with courses from Mario Kart 8 serving as properties, ten playable characters as tokens, (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Donkey Kong, Shy Guy, Metal Mario, Rosalina, Bowser, and Yoshi) and a special die with power-ups.

In 2019, Hot Wheels released Mario Kart sets of cars and tracks.

In 2020, for the Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary, Cold Stone Creamery released Mario themed desserts including a Rainbow Road themed ice cream cake, from September 30 to December 15.


Mario Kart elements are a staple of the Super Smash Bros. series, such as the Figure-8 Circuit based on Mario Kart DS, a Rainbow Road stage based on Mario Kart 7, a Mario Circuit stage based on Mario Kart 8, Spirits, and songs.

Mario Kart courses are in F-Zero X, Fortune Street, the Mario & Sonic series, Paper Mario: Color Splash, Paper Mario: The Origami King, and the WarioWare series. Items are in Nintendogs and Animal Crossing.

Rental go-kart dispute

Mario Kart in Japan (27228418683)
Go-karters dressed as Nintendo characters in Harajuku, Tokyo

In September 2016, Nintendo filed an objection against the Japanese company MariCar, which rents go-karts modified for use on public roads in Tokyo along with costumes resembling Nintendo characters. MariCar's English website warned customers not to throw "banana peels" or "red turtle shells". The service is popular with tourists.

Nintendo argued that the MariCar name was "intended to be mistaken for or confused with" Mario Kart, citing games commonly known by abbreviations in Japan, such as Pokémon (for Pocket Monsters) and Sumabura (Super Smash Bros.). In January 2017, the Japan Patent Office dismissed the objection, ruling that MariCar was not widely recognized as an abbreviation of Mario Kart.

In February 2017, Nintendo sued MariCar over copyright infringement for renting unauthorized costumes of Nintendo characters and using their pictures to promote its business. In September 2018, MariCar was ordered to stop using the characters and pay Nintendo ¥10 million in damages.

Theme park

Universal Parks & Resorts and Nintendo have a Mario Kart themed ride within Super Nintendo World at the Universal Studios Japan theme park. This is also to be installed at the Universal parks in Singapore, Orlando, and California. Mario Kart: Koopa's Challenge is at Universal's Epic Universe in Florida.

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