Here at Traxion, we’re not solely focused on the super realistic and extremely serious world of sim racing.
If you’ve been watching John prat about on BeamNG.drive, then you’ll know that we’re still prone to a bit of silly fun provided there are vehicles in the game.
Speaking of silly racing fun, there’s nothing quite like Mario Kart, is there? Perfect to play when you want to sit back and relax, even more fun when you’re with mates and on the piss, and perfect for when you need your loud children to shut up for a bit.
While Nintendo didn’t seem at all bothered about announcing Mario Kart 9 at the most recent Direct, I think we should take a look at the best tracks that Mario’s most recent racing outing has to offer. Every track is eligible for this top 10, even the retro ones, so strap in, grab a banana, and hold down ‘A’ from two onwards to get a good start.
10 – Sunshine Airport
I mean, what else are they going to use airports for? It’s not like we can go anywhere at the moment. The Star Cup’s Sunshine Airport is one of the most inoffensive tracks on this list. While the track layout itself is pretty simple, with a few hairpins and alternate routes, the spectacle of racing beneath both grounded and flying planes is really quite something.
Featuring one of the few scripted flying sections in the game, Sunshine Airport also has an incredibly tense run-up to the finish line. Leaping off the anti-gravity section with your rivals close behind can lead to an exhilarating final straight, with shells usually flying everywhere in the hope of changing the race outcome. Hop over the baggage reclaim, and you’ve scored a pretty sweet victory.
This one’s a great warm-up track for a night of heavy Mario Karting ahead.
9 – Grumble Volcano (Wii)
Jumping straight in with something potentially controversial here, but I love Grumble Volcano. Perhaps this is my sheer adoration for Mario Kart Wii shining through, but this tough cookie for rookie players is a rewarding challenge and guaranteed to piss off at least one person you’re playing with. This unstable, brutal course changes every lap and is only beaten by Rainbow Road for the most number of places you can fall off.
Since Mario and co have no regard for health and safety, racing around an active volcano also brings more hazards than you can shake a stick at. Fireballs, fire snakes, lava plumes, chunks of the track moving about, and the floor quite literally being lava – Grumble Volcano is a track I honestly feel people groan at when they see it come up, but secretly love it really.
8 – Yoshi Circuit (GCN)
I would almost put Yoshi Circuit from Mario Kart: Double-Dash!! on this list for the soundtrack alone. It’s basically the Mario Kart music. The circuit itself is still fantastic though. Yoshi Circuit is one of the few blunt race tracks in the game, but the reason I feel it deserves a spot on this list is the fact it’s such a good training ground for drifting, and it’s second only to Baby Park for the race being incredibly chaotic from start to finish.
It’s incredible to think that a track layout that’s literally just the shape of a Yoshi even works in the first place, and has stood the test of time this well. In fact, it has appeared in more Mario Kart titles than any other circuit! Ridiculously fun and I’ll hear nothing bad said about this daft idea that was perfectly executed.
7 – Hyrule Circuit
Mario Kart 8 expanded the thematic roster into other Nintendo franchises, including playable Inklings from Splatoon, tracks from F-Zero, and fully-fledged Cups for Animal Crossing and The Legend of Zelda. I’m giving Link’s racing escapades a spot on the podium for this list, as Hyrule Circuit is nothing short of brilliant.
Not only do you have an amped-up Zelda score to complement your racing, but the track itself is also gorgeous. From the lush green fields of Hyrule through to the ancient beauty of the castle itself. Even the coins on the track are replaced with Rupees and the item box sounds are changed to fit the theme, you almost forget you’re playing Mario Kart and not Zelda.
With a plethora of shortcuts and a tricky drifting segment to open up the Master Sword route, Hyrule Circuit for me is always going in as my track vote until I get it at least once during an online session.
6 – Big Blue
Speaking of turning Mario Kart into Smash, F-Zero got a look in during the original DLC season for Mario Kart 8. Big Blue is one of only three point-to-point tracks in the game, and it’s a wail of a time.
Not only do you have the gorgeous visuals of the surrounding landscape, but this track also throws everything at you. Copious boost pads, conveyor belts, recharge pads from the F-Zero games, glide sections, split routes, upside down zero-G elements and a water slide. Awesome.
This twisting, bewildering, course is a ton of fun and I’ve given it a spot on this list because it feels like one that’s massively overlooked in the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe roster of circuits. Mute City gets far more attention, and while it’s still a blast, there’s a fantastic novelty of having a point-to-point circuit in Mario Kart. More on that, later…
5 – Bowser’s Castle
The only series mainstay on this list, the big turtle boy that is Bowser has had both playable characters and tracks in every single Mario Kart title. Mario Kart 8’s Bowser’s Castle is arguably one of his best. Not only is the soundtrack for this circuit absolutely poppin’ yo (as the kids say), the track itself is as bombastic as you’d expect for the franchise’s big bad antagonist.
Self-indulgent Bowser décor lines every inch of the track, some of which shoot laser beams, some of which punch the living snot out of you. Swinging wrecking balls wreak havoc, tight right-angled turns come out of nowhere, and there’s plenty of fire and lava for you to hit and/or fall in.
Bowser has not made it easy for you but quite frankly we love the challenge.
4 – Electrodrome
Despite being someone who’d rather be in the pub than the club, I do miss going to someplace with sticky floors and expensive drinks. Luckily for me, while I’m stuck at home, I can race in the Electrodrome over and over again to get somewhat of a similar feeling.
Plastered in neon lights, glitter and smothered in a banging tune you can see Shy Guys and Koopas raving to on big screens, there’s nothing quite like the Electrodrome in Mario Kart 8.
With a glitzy circuit that folds in on itself, effects adorning the periphery of your view and the track beneath your wheels and interactable segments similar to what’s seen in Melody Motorway, the Electrodrome is really quite unique in the Mario Kart track roster.
It also has these guys bopping along with the music. I don’t care if they eat me, I’m just glad they’re having a good time.
3 – Excitebike Arena
Now, some of you might be a little irritated at the idea of me picking Excitebike Arena over Baby Park for this list’s ovular choice, but I have my reasons. While Baby Park is indeed iconic, it’s a chaotic mess, which is both a blessing and a curse. If you want a track that’s simple, fun, and can actually leave you knowing your arse from your elbow, I’ll pick Excitebike every time.
Featuring a sequence of ramps, boost pads and muddy patches that randomise each time you play (there are apparently over 200 variations), as you might expect, not every race is the same. Whilst skill does get you so far in Mario Kart, Excitebike can be just as much of a luck-based track in regards to the items you spin, making this edge toward Mario Party-levels of rage-inducing fury when someone hits you with a red shell on the last corner of lap three – DAMNIT, I WAS IN FIRST!
If you’re looking for the final circuit to separate a close Grand Prix between friends, play Excitebike, and watch this lot no longer be friends.
2 – Mount Wario
I did say point-to-point would be making a return, so welcome in Mount Wario. Nope, that’s not an instruction. I know he’s hot and all but – okay.
It’s the first checkpointed track you’ll come to in a fresh playthrough of Mario Kart 8, but unlike Big Blue and the N64 Rainbow Road, Mount Wario puts you through the most diverse environments of any track we’ve seen so far.
After leaping from a dang helicopter, you drift around narrow cliffs, eventually entering a cave. From there, you head through an industrial area, only to race along the face of Wario’s dam, featuring boost pads cascading down the side. You then enter a snowy forest, packed with trees you were almost certain your perfectly aligned drift wouldn’t hit, onto a weaving ski slope, through to some snowy bumps you can trick the hell out of, and finishing with a big ol’ ski jump.
It’s one hell of a spectacle and a great track for Time Trials. That and ramming your friends off the edge of a cliff in the first section. Oh, what fun we have.
1 – Ribbon Road (GBA)
If you have ever played Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with me, there is absolutely no surprise that Ribbon Road is at the top of this list. Big jumps, fantastic drifts, whimsical obstacles, a punishing zero-g section and a shortcut that can change the outcome of a race at the last minute – Ribbon Road is a pure delight, and should be included in everyone’s VS. Race session on Mario Kart 8.
Everything about it feels incredibly refined, even the seemingly random nature of the blue section of the track flapping about in some kind of indoor wind. Just the idea of playing as miniature characters in some kid’s room sets this track’s setting apart from the rest. Ribbon Road is the best track in the game in my opinion. If you disagree, 1v1 me on Ribbon Road. Green shells only.
That wraps up my list!
Ranking Mario Kart tracks is always a divisive topic, so let me know what your favourite tracks are via social media. You can also watch the video embedded at the top of this article and comment on the YouTube channel. Thanks for watching and reading.