Nobody can deny the fact that the Nintendo Wii is stirring everyone's imaginations. What once was a systematic progression within each game series and console in the video game world, with each succeeding game and console getting a little more complex and better visually than the last, has now been disrupted by Nintendo's newest console- and for the better.
The Mario Kart series progressed much like any other game series. Each installment featured new courses, a couple of new characters, new items (or old ones taken away), and slightly superior graphics. Consider this: The only major change in gameplay between Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 was the control stick, which enabled boosting (which is now referred to as "snaking" by Mario Kart DS players) by turning and moving the control stick around. Mario Kart on the Gameboy Advance was simply an upgrade of Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, aside from having two people in the kart, was essentially the same as Mario Kart 64, and Mario Kart DS is essentially Mario Kart 64 without the control stick.
Now I'm not saying that the Mario Kart series is getting stale- I've logged in over a hundred hours online on Mario Kart DS and have unlocked everything in Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Double Dash!!- but it could be changed. Here are a few things Nintendo could do to spice up their next Mario Kart game, in order to really make it stand out:
1. Change the way we think about the karts
When I think of a kart in Mario kart, I think of a goofy car, a contraption that by real world standards technically should not be able to move an inch, or a standard go-kart. Adding even crazier vehicles (like the Crane in Mario Kart DS, or the Gold Car in Double Dash) is not going to be enough. What Nintendo needs to do is really make the karts an integral part of the game. Now Mario Kart DS was heading in the right direction with respect to this- each kart has its strengths and weaknesses in a variety of categories, ranging from acceleration and drifting to speed and items. But they can take it a step further by giving the karts themselves unique attributes- features that only one kart might have. For instance, one kart could be the "Paratroopa kart", and would have the ability to fly (or hover) over the other players for a few seconds. There could be a special bar on the top right of the screen, for instance, that tells you when you can use the special move. If it's fully charged, then you can use it. The bar could be affected by how many banana peels you slip on, or how many shells hit you. If you drive flawlessly throughout the race (maybe give added bonuses for drifting and other driving techniques), the bar would fill up and allow you to perform your special move.
2. Change the way we think of Mario Kart courses
On the surface, it seems ridiculous to complain about the courses in Mario Kart, right? There are a myriad of Mario Kart courses, each with its unique features and obstacles that make it difficult. The lack of walls on Rainbow Road in Super Mario Kart make it one of the most challenging courses, while courses like Figure-8 Circuit (Mario Kart DS) and Luigi's Raceway (Mario Kart 64) allow for a lot of snaking. I especially like the Air Fortress level in MK DS, Choco Mountain in MK 64, and DK Mountain in Double Dash!!. But all these courses are missing one important element: They're not destructible environments. In other words, if I was to hit the wall with a green shell in, say the Daisy Cruiser level (Double Dash!!), nothing would happen. The levels should in fact be destructive, adding a new element to the game that has not been seen in any previous Mario Kart game. Imagine you throw a bomb in the middle of a course, but you fail to blow up your enemy. Your mark will still be felt because of the hole you created in the middle of the course! Three green shells could knock down part of a thin wall, three red shells could flip over a small vehicle, and so on. I understand that the star power-up is destructive, but any damage that it does to the course is not permanent.
3. Nintendo only characters
Although I'm all for expanding the character list in Super Smash Bros. Brawl to such characters as Sonic, I don't feel that Mario Kart should go down that path. For one, the title implies that this is a Nintendo only game. Secondly, Mario Kart works well with a small cast. Where as fighting games benefit from having thirty or so characters, Mario Kart really doesn't. I say twelve characters are perfect.
9. Shy Guy
4. Expand online play to eight players, and make it better than WiFi DS
When buying a home console, I expect more bang for my buck. I expect eight player games, with an enforcement of rules on players signing out during matches. There should also be a lobby, where you meet friends and start tournaments. These features will serve only to enhance Nintendo's image as "with it" in the online gaming realm.
5. Use the Wii controller to the maximum
This is the most important aspect of a Mario Kart game on the Nintendo Wii. Players will presumably hold the Wii controller like the NES controller. Only now, when making a left or right turn, players simply have to turn their controller left or right. But what about snaking and using items, and the special for each kart that I talked about earlier? How do you incorporate all these elements into the game without complicating the gameplay, which would ultimately go against Nintendo's philosophy of simple gameplay?
With the Wii-mote, you only need one button: the Z button. The Z button would be used to fire items by clicking once, and, if held for two seconds, to charge up the kart's special move. So how would you snake? Theoretically, the sharpness of your turn is dependent upon how you angle the Wii-mote, correct? The more you angle it, the sharper your turn is. Now, in order to snake you need to do a series of sharp turns, and then by moving the D-Pad (as in Mario Kart DS) or control stick (as in Mario Kart 64 and Double Dash) left to right quickly, you perform a boost. With the Wii-mote, however, all you'd have to do is flick your wrist to perform a boost! Try putting your TV remote in your hand and do the following: Tilt the remote at a 45 degree angle, as if you're making a sharp turn. Now, quickly go left to right with the remote once, and then turn the remote 45 degrees in the opposite direction. The back and forth motion would create the boost.
If these changes are made, Mario Kart will undoubtedly thrive on the Nintendo Wii.