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Mario Kart 8 Tips - Items, Characters, Kart Customizations, & More

Posted on Thursday, May 29 @ 16:00:00 PST by

Nintendo’s latest go-karting title sends the company’s cast of characters up walls, upside down, into the air, and underwater but Mario Kart 8 will prove one of the most engaging and entertaining games the publisher has ever made for one reason: multiplayer. Racing with friends and family has always been at the center of Mario Kart’s design philosophy and now you’ll be able to hit the track on Wii U. We awarded Mario Kart 8 a 5/5 earlier this month, so read our full review for more details but if you’re planning on picking up the game or the new Wii U bundle tomorrow read on for tips that’ll get you a first place finish every time.

Mushroom Cup Tips

The four tracks in the first Grand Prix cup feature relatively easy curves and plenty of opportunities for trading positions with other racers on the field, but you need to keep a few big twists in mind. First, the loop in Water Park sends racers up vertically on magnetic wheels before bringing them back underwater for a twisting turn that launches everyone out and into the air. While the tram in this sequence features bumpers to give magnetic carts a quick speed boost, it’s better to stick to the inside lane as drifting outside will waste a lot of time. The same can be said of the big loop on Sweet Sweet Canyon, just after the cannon launches you to the mountain. The frosted sweets on the inside turn won’t slow you down so don’t be afraid of drifting towards the inside for an early lead. And look out for the big wheel in Thwomp Ruins as getting flattened could result in a last place finish if item boxes don’t give you favorable tools to close the gap.

Flower Cup Tips

Mario Circuit is one of my favorite race tracks in the game because of the flipped lighting on half of the track. Remember to trick off of jumps to get a small boost by hitting the right trigger for a hop just as you go off the ledge. It’s much more important to watch out for hazards and pillars in Toad Harbor where a trolly could interrupt your lead if it runs you over or if you take the inside turn and happen to rear-end it. Twisted Mansion and Shy Guy Falls feature some big turns that could either give you an early lead if you take the inside or force you to fall behind if the pack pushes you off the beaten path. Just make sure you don’t skid off a cliff in Shy Guy Falls.

Star Cup Tips

Players will likely come to hate Mount Wario for its dastardly one-run finish to Star Cup. I love Sunshine Airport’s huge gliding sequence and the airborne platform featuring bumpers for magnetic carts will prove a lot of fun for players who like hanging in the pack, but take the inside turn for a first place finish. Also, look for a stray mushroom to have busted out of the terminal’s boxes on your right side when you near the finish line. Electrodome might also frustrate players, but don’t hesitate when paths split. Choose whichever side you like, but make sure to time your drifts carefully or you could fall off of the track.

Special Cup Tips

Cloudtop Cruise and Bone-Dry Ruins both feature sequences where you can take magnetic wheels for a spin, but it might be faster to stick to the ground and take the inside turn. There’s a big launch and gliding sequence in Bone-Dry Ruins where racers on the magnetic part of the track can land on an upper platform with coins. Don’t concern yourself with those. Take the far path at the split and use the tighter turn to your advantage. You’ll be able to drift and boost around the ground floor towards the finish line. When you get to Bowser’s Castle, pay careful attention to the lava-Bowser near the middle of the track as getting smashed by his flaming fist will almost always ruin your chances at a first place finish. Mario Kart 8 also features a space-station Rainbow Road, but the numerous turns allow for a ton of drifting and boosting. I would advise racers to hold their boosts for longer in order to maintain control through the turn and in the end it’ll give you greater speed when the sparks change from blue to orange.

Shell Cup Tips

This Grand Prix gathers tracks from Wii, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 64 versions of Mario Kart. Fans will love the vertical U-turn in Mario Circuit and Cheep Cheep Beach’s underwater sections mean you don’t have to stick to the sand strictly, but Toad’s Turnpike will likely prove the greatest challenge for new racers and old. The vehicles in Toad’s Turnpike alternate directions at higher difficulty levels, but pay careful attention and try to use the ramp trucks to launch into the air and cut to the inside lane when possible. The track in Toad’s Turnpike is really wide, but the hazards will determine how often you can stick to the best possible driving line.

Banana Cup Tips

This cup features one of the more frustrating tracks in Mario Kart 8 and that’s Mario Kart: Double Dash’s Dry Dry Desert. This track features a lot of twisting roads and a large sinkhole that could suck your racer in like quicksand so try to stick to the outside until you get to at least the half way point. Other racers might try to bounce you off the track, so remember that it’s better to hug the inside and suffer a small drop in speed by cutting across the outer edge towards the middle of the track again. Donut Plains 3, from the Super Nintendo era, has a few half-finished bridges. Try to stay above water in those sections because falling off will set you back quite a bit. Mario Kart fanatics will recognize DK Jungle from Mario Kart 7, so don’t let the big turns or the enemies impede your speed.

Leaf Cup Tips

Mario Kart 7’s Music Park is a fan favorite and the track looks amazing on Wii U. Don’t forget to hop when the notes near the end of the track land in order to get a slight boost from the bounce. Sherbet Land doesn’t pose that big of a challenge, although racers shouldn’t let a drop to the bottom floor shake them. You can still excel if you fall through, but it’ll take a concentrated effort to maintain a lead after a rough transition through the ice. This cup finishes with Yoshi Valley from Mario Kart 64 where multiple pathways might lead the pack astray. Try to stick to the left side for the inside track, but it’s more important to use items wisely when they won’t drop to the canyon floor or get blocked by the big egg towards the end.

Lightning Cup Tips

One of my favorite race tracks, Tick-Tock Clock, features multiple spinning gears. Go with the flow to clear that sequence quickly and make sure you don’t fall through the middle of a clock face. In the next track, Piranha Plant Slide, don’t get bitten or you’ll lose a few places needlessly. Adjust your drifts around Piranha hazards to ensure your lead sticks and make sure to do the same on Grumble Volcano. One false turn and you’ll land in the lava. The Nintendo 64 Rainbow Road has been remade for Mario Kart 8, but there are a few changes to accommodate the game’s new magnetic wheels. Make sure you don’t fall off the track as even Lakitu won’t be able to save you fast enough. The general lay out should be familiar, but don’t get too comfortable because Rainbow Road will always prove challenging if you don’t take every turn seriously. Don’t be afraid to slow down to ensure your wheels stay on track.

Kart Customizations

As you play Mario Kart 8, you’ll pick up coins on every race track. You can carry a maximum of 10 coins and earn a small speed boost by doing so, but you can keep picking up more as you lap the competition. The more you gather, the more kart customization options you’ll unlock. You can unlock new frames, new wheels, and new gliders that affect speed, weight, handling, acceleration, and traction, but how exactly you tune your kart should be reflective of your personal racing style and not so much the competition or the track you’re about to hit. The truth is that Mario Kart 8 is one of the most balanced multiplayer games I’ve ever played and the debate between bikes and go-karts doesn’t really exist because each offer different but similar abilities. Just experiment as you see fit, but look out for a few specific items:

Mach 8 - You’ll unlock this kart frame fairly early on. It feels totally different from the standard kart but it offers better speed and weight for lighter characters like Toad.

Tri-Speeder - This frame lays the speed, weight, and traction on thick, making it a perfect ride for anyone who wants to start the race fast and scream toward the finish line like their single rear tire is on fire.

Prancer - This horse-led carriage might make you the laughing stock of the circuit, until you bounce the competition off the track and into the abyss with its well-balanced weight and handling.

Mr. Scooty - This awkward looking two-wheeler might not give gear heads the goosebumps they want from a sweet Mario Kart ride, but its acceleration will ensure that a red shell doesn’t keep you down for long.

Monster Wheels - These wheels also feature a big focus on speed, weight, and traction, but combining them with a frame that focuses on acceleration will give racers a great mix of stats.

Roller Wheels - If you want to add acceleration to a vehicle, try on the Roller wheels but watch out for the competition as these reduce your overall weight.

Off-Road Wheels - These tires will give your kart a bit more speed and if you’re focusing on fine adjustments to your stats, they won’t throw off your racer's other strengths.

Hot Monster Wheels - This set of tires will certainly make you a commanding force on the race track, although I don’t recommend use if your kart or character already has a high weight stat.

Cyber Slick Wheels - I like these wheels a lot because they get to the blue drift boost faster than others. They do take some getting used to thanks to lowered traction, but finesse racers will have fun carving paths around the competition.

Cloud Glider - Trade a little weight for a little acceleration with a pair of Mario clouds instead of your standard glider. Most gliders feature nothing more than aesthetic changes and minimal effect on your racer’s stats.


Mario Kart fanatics will waste no time in unlocking the full roster of racers and their own Mii character, but once you’ve got access to the standard cast and all of the Koopas, you might need a little help choosing the best racer for you. Here’s a tip: pick a character you like! Every racer has strengths and weaknesses and no single racer will dominate the track over any other, especially when you’re facing off against a skilled human opponent. I’ll break down the characters into different classes, but remember that customized karts might compliment or enhance certain attributes. If you’re still wondering if your character is ready for the road, hit the plus button to see all of their stats before you head to the starting line.

Well-rounded: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Rosalina, Yoshi, Waluigi, Iggy, Larry

Light: Toad, Koopa Troopa, Shy Guy, Lakitu, Toadette, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Peach, Baby Daisy, Baby Rosalina, Lemmy, Wendy

Heavy: Metal Mario, Pink Gold Peach, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Wario, Roy, Ludwig, Morton

New Items

Even seasoned Mario Kart veterans will need to take a lap with the game's new items. Here's what you need to know to get the most out each new goodie from the item boxes:

Boomerang Flower - This comes from the more recent Super Mario games and while it can prove effective when used in close proximity, I found that I often held onto the Boomerang Flower longer than I needed to. If you're in front of the pack, you can throw it backwards but you'll have a lot more success trying to hit other racers as they pull in front of you. You can use the boomerang three times, but try to make sure you get rid of it or you'll waste other chances at more powerful items.

Potted Piranha Plant - This is easily one of the more powerful new items in Mario's brand of go-karting. When you activate this item, you hold the Piranha plant in front of your kart and it snaps at other racers and coins alike. Every snap gives you a small boost, so don't hesitate to use the item when you get it. It could close the gap between you and 1st place in dramatic fashion, but don't lose control of your go-kart with the added speed.

Super Horn - This is easily my favorite addition to Mario Kart in decades as its the only defense racers have against the dreaded blue shell. While you might be tempted to pick this item up while in fourth or fifth place and hold it on your way to first, you'll waste too many opportunities to pick up new items by keeping it in your inventory. Even in the middle of the pack, use the Super Horn to defend against a red shell and hope you can pick up another one once you've landed in first place. If you get the Super Horn while in first place, do your best to wait for a blue shell attack but don't let a red shell hit you while you wait. It's better to use the Super Horn than to waste your best lap time with it.

Crazy Eight - Nintendo must have gone crazy when they added this item to the game. If you find this in an item box, you'll get some coins, a Bomb-omb, a Mushroom, a Star, a Blooper, a Green Shell, a Red Shell, and a Banana. You can try to trigger each item, but don't wait around for the perfect opportunity. Try to hit the star first so you can toss the Bomb-omb and not worry about the blast as you near it. If you've got any of the Crazy Eight items left, you won't be able to pick up a new item from boxes so don't hesitate when you have an opportunity to stop another racer.

Just have fun!

Mario Kart 8 features tons of competition in both single player and multiplayer, but the important thing to remember is to have fun. If you get caught up in the game’s time trials, you might get really frustrated trying to beat the time of a dedicated Nintendo staffer or another racer online. Don’t get bogged down in this because the more you race, the better you’ll get. It might take a few Grand Prix attempts to get 3-star finishes on every cup in the 150cc class, but the different tracks and how both computer and human opponents react to certain sections is a learning experience.

Let’s say you’ve been playing single-player for a while trying to get a 3-star first place finish on the Star Cup. If you keep getting a second place finish on Electrodome, take your game online and see how others handle the track. You might not even win the online race, but you might see someone carve a perfect inside line on a big turn and that opens up the competition with the computer in your next attempt.

From the game’s first menu it might not seem like there’s a lot to do, but the racing action and track designs are really deep. Set custom rules in a VS. race with the computer or take turns choosing tracks with others online, just remember not to get frustrated and maybe turn the game off every once in a while to ensure it remains fun with both friends and the computer.

Related Games:   Mario Kart 8

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