My god, it's full of BUGS!

The Mario Kart series of games has had some glaring bugs. In addition to the common use of "bug" to mean "a program behavior contrary to the documentation," I also use "bug" to refer to flaws in game design that affect balance. I've taken into account the suggestions of fondue and Rancid_Pickle below.

Super Mario Kart

Published in 1992 for Super NES.

Probably implementation mistakes

  • In Battle Mode, if the loser holds down the gas while being hit, she can sometimes drive around on the LOST! screen.
  • Turning on some controllers' slow motion (rapid fire on Start button) feature will disable music in two-player games. These controllers include the SN ProPad and SN ProgramPad, which both bear the Official Nintendo Seal of Quality. Heck, I've done it even with a standard controller (see also torture). (Fixed in Mario Kart 64.)
  • Though like all PAL Super NES games, the PAL version of Super Mario Kart (released in Europe) runs 16% fewer frames per second than the NTSC version (for Japan and North America), Nintendo changed some physical constants to compensate for most of the differences. However, partly because of the limitations of Euler's method of numerical integration used in console physics engines, this correction was not perfect; water slows the player more on NTSC, while grass is thicker on PAL, and PAL times are about 2 percent slower overall (source: http://www.geocities.com/smkplayerssite/; thanks mcai7et2).

Potentially justifiable design decisions

  • GP computer has items human players never get, such as egg, shrinking mushroom, etc. (Fixed in Mario Kart 64.)
  • Unlike human players, the GP computer can fire off more than one attack per set of ? blocks. Specifically, GP computer has unlimited feather (jump) and mushroom (nitro) powerups to avoid your attacks and catch up. (Essentially fixed in Mario Kart 64.)
  • Player can't use an item that just stopped spinning. Though this affects all human players, it does not affect computer players because of the previous bug. (Fixed in Mario Kart 64.)
  • GP computer opponents do not pick up coins on the track.
  • Hitting GP computer opponents with items or your kart does not knock their coins away. (Excusable because of Super NES's limited sprite capability.)
  • No CPU opponent in match race. (Fixed in Mario Kart Super Circuit and called Quick Run.)
  • No CPU opponent in battle mode.
  • No in-car camera view. Yes, this is possible in mode 7 by moving the virtual camera down 2 squares and forward 8 squares.
  • No mirror matches. This is academic because there are as many characters of each type as there are controller sockets.
  • In Battle Mode, if you jump out of the course, the other player can see your balloons but not you. (The opposite behavior could, however, be viewed as a bug in MK64.)
Sources include http://www.classicgaming.com/tmk/smk_bugs.shtml

Mario Kart 64

Published in 1997 for Nintendo 64.

Probably implementation mistakes

  • Big Peach touches little Wario: Wario is squished but Peach spins.
  • Two small players who touch squish each other.
  • Can drive straight into corner in Block Fort and fall into the water.
  • Non-determinism contrary to documentation: Tactically driving off bridges in Block Fort will kill your starman... SOMETIMES.
  • Frame rate problems, especially in the PAL version. Possibly some overall game speed problems as well.

Potentially justifiable design decisions

  • GP computer players have faster karts than human players.
  • 150cc or EXTRA mode with more than one player will lay invisible banana peels that have higher pitched squeal before spin-out than normal banana peels.
  • Regression: Lack of balance in battle mode. Wario can attack Toad with his kart, but Toad must use an item to attack Wario.
  • No in-car camera view. This should have been even easier on N64's arbitrary triangle hardware. This is the sequel to Super Mario Kart.
  • Regression: Rear-view mirror was removed.
  • Regression: Battle mode music sucks ass compared to SMK's.
  • Item luck is too much of a factor.
  • Regression: Can no longer retry a GP race without completing it first.
  • It's 64-bit and 12 times the memory size of SMK, but they STILL haven't added characters. For example, if there's Kinopio (upper right corner; known as Toad in USA), where's Pinocchio?
  • Can no longer drop shells on the track behind you.
  • Can't fire triple shells or red shells backward.
  • Starman still lasts too long. This wasn't a problem in SMK, but MK64's battle mode lets a player sit on a ? block and stay invincible for several minutes at a time collecting ghost and star powerups and shooting off green shells into the lower levels of the board.
  • GP computers no longer cheat as intensely (making lack of match race CPU less of an issue), but there's still no cpu in battle mode.
  • Still no mirror matches. More important because there are four players and three lightweight characters. Also important because all previous Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and Clay Fighter releases on Super NES have had some mirror match capability.
  • Wario Stadium's 7-second lap (jump over the first wall on the left to the hilly area, then jump over the wall again near the left side of the end of the hills) is too cheap.
  • Regression: Can't use most items when small.
  • Running into Koopa Troopa Beach's trees or DK Jungle Parkway's coconuts will squish small players and kill time trial ghosts.
  • Regression: Can't control 1player game from joy2.
  • No defense against blue shell of death.

Mario Kart Super Circuit

Published in 2001 for Game Boy Advance.

Probably implementation mistakes

  • MKSC doesn't compensate for the Game Boy Advance display's gamma of 4, making the Boo Lake track too dark in practical indoor lighting environments.
  • GP computer opponents do not pick up coins on the track.
  • Hitting GP computer opponents with items or your kart does not slow them down and does not knock their coins away.

Potentially justifiable design decisions

  • Cannot choose which character gets copied to all systems in single-pak mode. (Yes, I'm assuming that RAM limitations required that all systems get the same character.)
  • Does not allow one player to enter Battle Mode against a computer opponent. This is documented on page 11 of the manual, but imagine if Mario Bros. in Super Mario Advance were multiplayer only.
  • Still does not allow two players to select the same character except in Single-Pak mode. This is documented on page 12 of the manual, but mirror matches are now possible in many multiplayer games, including games in the Super Smash Bros. series.
  • Same character lineup as Mario Kart 64. If they're going to be adding a lot more memory (MKSC's 4 megabytes is eight times SMK's 512 kilobytes), why not add Kamek the Magikoopa in the center square of the player select screen? Before you answer "Nintendo added a lot of sound and background detail", note that in the Japanese version, each character's graphics take about 90 KB uncompressed, and I counted at least 64 KB of completely blank space in the ROM. Even RLE compression (like Contra for NES uses) would have killed the big transparent areas around the character graphics, allowing for a new character.
  • No option to zoom the camera out (as in Mario Kart 64) or to add a rear-view mirror (as in Super Mario Kart). This makes it nearly impossible to line up banana peel placement or backwards green shell shots.
  • No in-car camera option. Doing this would be about the same as doing it on Super NES, as GBA's Mode 1 resembles Super NES's Mode 7, and the hardware multiply in the GBA's ARM7TDMI would make it even easier.
  • Multiplayer communication protocol has a region lockout making Japanese cartridges incompatible with American cartridges.
  • Still no way to avoid the blue shell of death.

Mario Kart: Double Dash

For Nintendo GameCube.
  • I'll get to you later.

questions? comments? /msg me

fondue says Damn you're thorough. I mean, knowing how the Snes SMK clock is timed? The camera offset? me Ph34rz j00
As a Dad who was hijacked into playing this game until I had nightmares, there's some additional glaring bugs that my esteemed fellow noder Yerricde missed.

The biggest problem with Mario Kart 64 is the poor game A.I. If you knock someone out, instead of falling behind, they suddenly appear next to you. Timing is seriously flawed. If you get hit with something, they happily speed away, which takes you ages to catch up with them again.

Additionally, in Wario Stadium, there's a spot in the wall when you first start that you can jump, landing you at the 3/4 point in the track. It should reset you at the spot you left the track.

These games were designed for kids, but adults play them too (whether they want to or not). Having such poor game design is very frustrating. Luckily, other companies decided to come up with a kart game, and they did it right. Compare Mario Kart 64 with Diddy Kong Racing by Rare, Inc. The A.I. plays smoother and has better timing, not to mention the addition of nifty things like hovercraft and planes. Nintendo's blunders are more common than their accomplishments, which leaves the door open for better game companies to produce quality games.

To allow Shigeru Miyamoto to escape this node with at least a shred of dignity, here are some rebuttals. And some additions. Personally I think that they got the balance just about right in the GBA version, but dissenters at least have the choice of at least two other decent racers on the machine.

SNES Mariokart

Player can't use an item that just stopped spinning: This is fair enough surely? And because it affects all human players, surely the handicap cancels out?

No key binding editor: This is basically an issue of house style and (possibly) memory constraints. Remember that the Big Deal of Mariokart is that the SNES can handle it at all, presentational bells and whistles were not high on the agenda.

No mirror matches: You expect me to believe that there is more than one Mario, Bowser or Donkey Kong? This is really a historical trait: few games at the time (not even Street Fighter II) had mirror modes.

Turning on some controllers' slow motion (rapid fire on Start button) feature will disable music in two-player games: And would such a controller bear the Nintendo Seal of Approval? Yeah, OK in some cases it might. But it's still cheating.

Interestingly yerricde doesn't mention that the PAL conversion of Mario Kart is so sloppy that:

  • there are massive borders (as usual);
  • because the game runs more slowly, your lap times will actually be worse!
Just one of the reasons why European gamers are bitter towards Nintendo.

There is probably no first-person mode in SNES Mario Kart for some or all of the following reasons:

  • Time and effort required to implement it was deemed uneconomical.
  • It was held back for inclusion in a speculative sequel.
  • The viewing angle (unlike that in Konami Krazy Racers) is fixed at all times - inclusion of a first-person cam would likely require the ability to switch between the views mid-race.
  • The foreshortened horizon inherent to the Mode 7 effect used would be too obvious.

N64 Mariokart

I've only played this game a little, as even cursory inspection reveals it to be a travesty of the original. In multiplayer mode (and again this may be the European version) is dips below 10fps with alarming regularity. Of yerricde's specific complaints my only rebuttal would be that the game doesn't really need any more characters, although mirror mode should have been available as a secret option at the very least.

Mario Kart Super Circuit

More characters: Again, not so much of a problem. The extra memory is instead guzzled by the flashy front-end, obligatory stereotypical speech samples and multi-layered parallax backgrounds.

Everyone having to use Yoshi in 1-cart mode sucks royally though.

Mobile GB mode has been removed: so European and US gamers are paying a higher price for a smaller, less functional cartridge. Thanks Nintendo!

Game is not compatible with MarioKart Advance (Japanese version): Let's not beat about the bush here: Fuck you, Nintendo! You're the reformed alcoholic wifebeater of the games industry - you keep coming back promising that this time it'll be different. Why do we listen to you? Why? Motherfucker...

Ahem.

Mario Kart 128

Who cares? The Nintendo GameCube can handle real racing games. (Just kidding... sort of.)

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