Sunday, August 5, 2012

Nintendo should port the Mario Kart Arcade games to the Wii U

by Steve

Mario Highway course in Mario Kart Arcade GP

Mario Kart Arcade Grand Prix was released in 2005, to little fanfare. It is, by most accounts, an awesome experience, but almost no one played it because, as we all know, arcades have been practically dead for years. I think it's safe to assume that the majority of you have never played it before. If Nintendo were to port the arcade title to the Wii U, it could do wonders for the system's image crisis.

Mario Kart Arcade GP is a completely original entry in the wildly popular Mario Kart series with 12 unique tracks never featured in a console version before or since. The tracks can also be raced through backwards, giving you two ways to experience each one. There are 11 playable characters with specialty items that only certain characters can use, much like the system employed by Mario Kart: Double Dash!! If specialty items don't get you excited maybe this will: there are more than 100 items in the game. No doubt about it, Mario Kart Arcade sounds like a truly great game.

Even though it didn't see much playtime and made very little money, a sequel was made, and it too was released exclusively as an arcade game. In comparison with the other entries in the series, there is relatively little information online about these two games. Not even could provide me with all of the information I wanted while writing this article. That should give you a pretty good idea of just how under-appreciated these games really are. As far as I can tell, the sequel is pretty much a rehash of the first game with four new levels, one additional playable character, and some extra bells and whistles. Because of this, I think it would be best for both games to be ported as one package.

Why Nintendo Should Port the Mario Kart Arcade Games

Reason 1: Very few high-profile titles

The big N's E3 presentation was lackluster, to say the least. I have never seen such a lack of enthusiasm for a new Nintendo console. While I can say with conviction that New Super Mario Bros. U and Pikmin 3 will be great, there doesn't seem to be much else on the horizon. Retro Studios is hard at work on something, but judging from their absence at the annual expo, whatever they're working on was in such an embryonic stage of development that it wasn't even presentable. Mario U, Pikmin 3, a handful of new IPs, and ports of third-party games, many of which are a year old, are all there is to look forward to in the immediate future. The announcement of a Mario Kart game that would be available at launch, or even shortly afterward, would win over a lot of people who are currently on the fence about the new system. Mario Kart is one series that shifts units.

Reason 2: Quick And Easy Job

Mario Kart games usually make it to stores one to two years after being announced. Nintendo said that they are "considering" a new entry, but so far, there has been no official announcement. It's a safe bet that we won't be karting on Nintendo's new console anytime soon.

Enter Mario Kart Arcade GP. It is a highly-polished quality game that received very good reviews. More importantly, it is a finished product. Porting the game to the Wii U would be a very easy job. The arcade board the game runs on, the Triforce Arcade Board, is little more than a souped-up GameCube. It has the same processor, same GPU, same architecture...for all intents and purposes, it is a GameCube. As much as we Nintendo fans hate to admit it, the Wii is also little more than a souped-up GameCube. But in this case, that is a positive.

Comparison of Triforce arcade board and Nintendo GameCube hardware

Now try to follow my logic here. As we all know, the Wii U can play Wii games. The Wii is a souped-up GameCube. Mario Kart Arcade ran on GameCube hardware. Connect the dots. Getting it to run on the Wii U could be done easily and in a timely manner. If they were to convert it, the turnaround time would be very short indeed.

Reason 3: Online Play

Mario Kart Arcade GP is, like all entries in the series, a multiplayer game. Four players can link up and play together, which might not sound all that impressive. However, with the impending launch of the Wii U, that number could be doubled or even tripled, courtesy of the Nintendo Network. There were a lot of complaints about Nintendo's current online service, Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and the new service is supposed to be a huge improvement. Just imagine playing a game like Mario Kart on a decent online service, rather than the laggy mess that the big N offered for playing Wii games over the Net. Sounds enticing, doesn't it? Seeing as how Super Smash Bros. 4 is just barely getting off the ground, a Wii U version of Mario Kart Arcade could be the perfect showpiece for Nintendo's new and improved service.

Image showing how Nintendo Network could enhance multiplayer in a Wii U Mario Kart game

Reason 4: Offline Multiplayer

With the extra screen provided by the new controller, 5 players can play on one Wii U at the same time, and Nintendo made sure to emphasize this during their demonstration of New Super Mario Bros. U. With a home version of Mario Kart Arcade, 5 player offline play might be possible. And with the announcement that 2 Wii U Gamepads can be used simultaneously, even 6 player offline isn't completely out of the question. Another thing to consider: unlike Internet play, there is no lag whatsoever when playing offline.

Mario Kart Arcade on Wii U
Please make this happen, Nintendo.

Reason 5: Internet Ranking

Mario Kart Arcade GP used an Internet ranking system that allowed players to see how they stacked up against one another. Nintendo has launched the Nintendo Network. Interesting...

Reason 6: Built in Camera

Mario Kart Arcade GP and its sequel featured a camera that would take a picture of each player and display it next to their character in-game. It just so happens that the Wii U Gamepad has a built in camera. Need I say more?

Picture of cameras on Mario Kart Arcade and Wii U GamePad

Reason 7: The 20th Anniversary of the Series

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Super Mario Kart, the first game in the series. The folks at Nintendo have apparently decided to let it pass without any sort of tribute or ceremony. Seeing as how the anniversary coincides with the release of their latest console, why not take advantage of the timing and repay their loyal fans by giving them a home version of a game that went largely unnoticed? Who knows, given the hardware it was designed for, a port could be finished by year's end. If you were to ask Reggie or even Iwata himself why they aren't doing anything for the anniversary, they would probably counter that Mario Kart 7 was released less than a year ago. If you wanted to be a wise guy, you could then point out that Mario Kart 7 is actually not the seventh Mario Kart game, but the ninth. Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 was the seventh. And, not that it matters, the first Mario Kart Arcade GP was the fifth. Anyway...

20th Anniversary of Mario Kart

Reason 8: The Nintendo-Namco Alliance

If you don't already know, both of the arcade Mario Kart games were designed by Namco under license from Nintendo. Namco even included some of their own characters in the game, including Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Blinky the red ghost. Some gamers have speculated that, due to Namco's role as developer, along with the existence of two Pac-Man-themed tracks, there might be some sort of legalities that stand in the way of any potential port. I can see that this might be a problem. However, it just so happens that Nintendo and Namco have entered another agreement, and the two gaming giants are working together to create the new Super Smash Bros. games for the 3DS and Wii U. The two companies' ties may be at an all-time high, and if there are any sort of legal problems, what better time for the two big Ns to come up with some sort of compromise? There are millions of dollars to be made from a Mario Kart Arcade port, and I'm surprised neither company has thought of this yet.

Nintendo and Namco are working together to create Smash Bros. Wii U
The two companies have reunited. Perfect time for a port!


Two Games, One Package

As I mentioned earlier, the sequel is basically a rehash of the first game with one new character and four additional tracks. Because of this, I would suggest Nintendo and Namco simply port the sequel, as there doesn't seem to be any real reason to port the first Mario Kart Arcade. Let me put it this way. If Capcom had released Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV as arcade-exclusives, would you really care if they ported the former?

If I am mistaken and there are serious differences between the two, they could port both games and include them on the same disc, a la Super Mario All-Stars. Either way, there isn't enough material to justify two separate ports.

Mario Kart Arcade games on Wii U

Make it a Budget Title, and Offer it as a Downloadable Game

There are only sixteen tracks in Mario Kart Arcade GP 2. All twelve tracks from the first game return, plus four new ones. Even though Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! each had sixteen tracks, I don't think the game should have a full-blown retail price, especially since Mario Kart Wii had twice as many courses. Because of this, I would recommend the game be sold as a budget title. Selling it for $25 would be great, and even a $30 price tag seems reasonable. Better still, they could make it available as a disc and a download for those who prefer digital over physical copies. With only half the content of most Mario Kart games, it would definitely be on the small side, making it an ideal candidate for digital distribution. If Nintendo were to do so, it would be a brilliant move.

Mario Kart Arcade for Wii U artwork
 MSRP $29.99

Closing Comments

Currently, there are only two ways to play the Mario Kart Arcade games. One, you can go to an arcade, provided there's one within driving distance. Or two, you can buy an actual arcade cabinet, and they are not cheap. I have not seen any that sell for less than $15,000.

The release of a Mario Kart game, either at launch or shortly thereafter, could do miracles for the Wii U's image crisis. I have seen a number of comments on forums and various websites from gamers who think the two arcade games look better than what NintendoLand has to offer, and the big N could definitely use one more high-profile name to help them market their new console. Considering everything I have laid out in the preceding paragraphs, Nintendo would be foolish not to port the games.

So those are my thoughts. I would love to hear from our readers in the comments section below. Would you be interested in a home version of Mario Kart Arcade?

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  1. that would be epic!!! I've never played this game, but it would be a shame for a development like this to go to waste. this is the best idea I've seen to make the Wii U a day 1 must have. Nintendo-Namco please make this happen.

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you liked my article! It really is a shame that not many people played the two Mario Kart arcade games and I will never understand why Nintendo didn't release home versions of them. Here's hoping it might happen someday.

  2. completement d accord avec toi!!! j en reve depuis longhtemps, mario kart gp enfin accessible sur console nintendo, la wii u s y prete a merveille, faites un effort s il vous plait la maison nintendo, pour vos fan et pour celebrer comme il se doit l anniversaire de mario kart, avant la sortie de mario kart wii u special de la mort qui tue, s il vous plait ecoutez nous, c est une demande qui vient du fond du coeur, thanks my friends

    1. Thank you! Nice to hear from someone who agrees with me.

  3. I would preorder it tomorrow

    1. I'm sure there are plenty of other gamers who feel the same way. I've been hoping for a console version for years.

  4. I want this SO much! I love the Wii U, but I currently don't have enough quality games for it! I felt the same way about the 3DS for a while, but Mario Kart and Super Mario 3D Land saved the day, along with many other great games. I hope Nintendo decides to repeat this with the Wii U and give us this arcade port! Mario Kart 64 was my first game ever, and this would really bring back fond memories, all the while creating new ones...

    1. One idea I forgot to mention: Nintendo should release this as a full retail game, but with HD versions of Sherbet Land, Luigi's Circuit, Wario's Stadium, Rainbow Road, Banshee Boardwalk, Moo Moo Ranch, and other courses from the other games, maybe a new track or two as well.


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