Just bought a Nintendo DS Lite purely on the strength of one title; Mario Kart DS. The original on the SNES was released way back in 1992 and since then, there have been several iterations of the franchise on different Nintendo hardware.
This one on the DS though is the best yet and an absolute hoot, especially when playing against your mates. A combination of classic retro tracks from previous Mario Kart’s together with all new inventive and fiendishly clever tracks makes this a compelling title with sublime gameplay that has been honed and fine-tuned to perfection since the first release. Must mention the music and sound effects too which are fabulous!
Having tried all the characters, I think my preference is for the heavier drivers like Wario and Donkey Kong who have good top speed and can bump others off the road which is a quick way of getting rid of the karts around you. However, Yoshi has great handling and acceleration and I tend to manage quicker times with him.
As for courses, there are plenty of those to choose from!
The first circuit is a bog standard affair with no hazards, shortcuts or large runoffs but with long straights and big wide corners ideal for practising your powerslides.
This is basically a good looking but conventional oval shape track with right hand curves, some of which can be cut by driving across the waterfalls.
Cheep Cheep Beach
A nice, long and fast beach circuit with plenty of variety and opportunities for sneaky overtaking across the water.
Marvellous track with a few long straights and a dastardly shortcut if you have a mushroom. The hairpin bend at the first corner inside the mansion is a great place to litter with banana skins.
Set on a sandy track with high banking corners and dunes, Desert Hills is one of the few circuits that I always seem to struggle with. The combination of blind corners and flaky drifting requires a character with good handling but going off-road for even a second slows you right down to a crawl.
This is a favourite with lots of players and it’s easy to see why. A fast street style circuit with a wide sweeping corner at the beginning that soon narrows into a small road which splits in two before rejoining. Although both routes are of equal length, I prefer taking the left hand one as it gives you a longer straight until the next corner. A tiny alleyway off the pier provides a great shortcut if you have mushrooms and nerves of steel.
A fast, flowing circuit with a colourful psychedelic feast for the eyes as you race along a giant pinball machine with twisty banked corners. The rolling balls are handy for shoving your opponents into whilst nudging them into the bumpers will bounce them all the way back up the track.
A cheeky soundtrack accompanies the first of the courses with other traffic, this has a number of tight corners with one long straight. You can bump the other drivers into the oncoming traffic or knock them off the side of the precipice.
A snowy track with slippery conditions, winding corners and a yawning precipice to one side. The second half of the circuit gives way to a glorified ski run complete with giant rolling snowballs and grinning snowmen.
You need to keep your eyes peeled for this circuit which is one of the most innovative in Mario Kart DS. Knowing which way to drive around the cogs (they change direction with every lap) is key and although the track itself is not difficult, the traps and hazards can be annoying if you get caught.
A deceptively tricky asphalt circuit with a number of hairpins. Mario circuits tend to be quite short but this one is longer than most and winds about quite a bit so powerslides are the order of the day to maintain speed.
Long fast straights and pesky Rocky Wrenches to deal with here along with the mother of all powerslides.
Set on a dirt track with a cheering crowd and popping flashbulbs, this circuit reminds me of the monster truck races you see in the US. There are plenty of bumps and muddy sections to negotiate along with a few rotating fire hazards and the walls are high so you take most of the corners blind.
My favourite course in Mario Kart DS, this is set in the beautiful lush grounds of a palace garden. There are several places where you’re presented with a number of alternate routes and need to make a split second decision. Excitingly, there’s also a full blown maze complete with Chain Chomps lurking in the bushes. Fantastic!
One of the longer tracks, this industrial themed circuit has a narrow but ingenious revolving cog thing that you must drive across and which is most useful for bumping your opponents off. I tend to mess up near the finishing line in my eagerness to clip the corners and often end up powersliding into the lava.
A horrid cack-fest of a circuit with a psychedelic theme on what is just a ribbon of rainbow coloured track suspended in space. Tiresomely narrow with blind corners, steep banks and few barriers, the main focus here is to avoid getting bumped off the road or overcooking a powerslide. The only good thing I can say about Rainbow Road is that it has a lovely uplifting soundtrack.
All of these courses have appeared in previous Mario Kart games and I find them harder than the Nitro Mode tracks.
Mario Circuit 1 – Super Nintendo
The first circuit from the first ever Mario Kart game, this is an easy track to start with but the fun is over far too quickly so you need to be quick to get ahead.
Moo Moo Farm – N64
A wide and fast flowing dirt track that’s roughly oval shaped but a real blast. The only hazards are Monty Moles so winning requires inspired use of items and a taut racing line.
Peach Circuit – Game Boy Advance
Similar to the Mario circuits, this is a quick track with generous corners, some of which can be cut with a mushroom. There are no hazards so keep an eye on your opponents for dirty tactics.
Luigi Circuit – GameCube
A fast wide figure-8 type circuit with banked corners that’s popular with the kids. You can end up facing the oncoming karts going in the opposite direction if you stray over to the wrong side of the track.
Donut Plains 1 – Super Nintendo
Fairly tight and twisty, this is depressingly similar to Choco Island 2 but without the mud and bumps. Lots of shortcuts across the grass if you have the mushroom.
Frappe Snowland – N64
A snowy, slippery circuit littered with grinning snowmen. A few tight bends here and there with wide run offs but this is a long track that gives you lots of time to catch up.
Bowser Castle 2 – Game Boy Advance
The Bowser tracks have always been fast and great fun to drive and this is no exception. Long straights are littered with boosts and thwomps and there are ample overtaking opportunities by threading your way through the lava pits. My second choice choice for best track in Mario Kart DS!
Baby Park – GameCube
Charmingly simple, this mini track is the shortest in Mario Kart DS and consists of 5 laps instead of the usual 3. Pill shaped and with no hazards, you ca
n powerslide the hairpins in one long glorious drift to really pick up speed.
Koopa Beach 2 – Super Nintendo
Straightforward roundish beach circuit that runs counter clockwise. The inner sides are lined with seaweed that slows you down whilst ploughing through the water has the added hazard of jumping fish and deep puddles.
Choco Mountain – N64
Few powersliding opportunities on a fairly narrow track. You have to watch out for the falling boulders and with heavier characters, you can shove your opponents over the side of the precipice. The home stretch has a series of high bumps that are ideal for ambushing with banana skins.
Luigi Circuit – Game Boy Advance
A rainy asphalt circuit with puddles on the racing line that will spin you off if you drive over them. A few wide powersliding corners and grass cutting shortcuts make up the rest of this fun track.
Mushroom Bridge – GameCube
A nice wide street circuit to finish the cup with, there are no hairpins but plenty of traffic and also drifting to ramp up the speed. A single shortcut is available if you have a mushroom and you can find a good racing line by sneaking between the vehicles on the inside of a bend. I like this track a lot and it ties with Bowser Castle 2 for second favourite circuit.
Choco Island 2 – Super Nintendo
I bloody hate this circuit! A horrid dirt track affair with copious amounts of chocolatey syrup that reduces traction whilst mini ramps send you all over the place and are very effective at making you miss an item box. Powersliding is tricky to pull off and going off-road will get you bogged down in thick mud that takes forever to escape from.
Banshee Boardwalk – N64
Another great fast flowing track with plenty of long straights and a few right angled corners. No real hazards to worry about here and powersliding through the room with the bats to just the clip the corner and gain a few seconds will have you cheering for more.
Sky Garden – Game Boy Advance
Suspended in mid-air, you can bump your opponents off the track with heavier drivers. A few tricky corners but if you have a mushroom, there are two frankly audacious shortcuts that you can take to cut out huge chunks of the circuit.
Yoshi Circuit – GameCube
So called because the circuit is Yoshi shaped, I find this the hardest asphalt track because of the challenging hairpins and snapping Piranha Plants that are deviously placed at the apex of the corners. Surprisingly, this course is far more enjoyable in mirror mode.