Were you expecting Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door from me? Pffft. You silly goose! (Note to self: Hide undisclosed Paper Mario-related documents until further scheduling) If you’ve been following my content on The Inner Circle Games Network, then you would possibly know that I like to pin the spotlight on the obscure and trivial aspects of a franchise, if not overlooked games entirely. The Mario Kart series is obviously an extraordinarily popular subseries of the Mario franchise, but how likely is it that one would frequently call upon the arcade installments?If you thought Mario Kart: Super Circuit on the Game Boy Advance was the oddball of the series, then you haven’t played or even seen Mario Kart Arcade GP! The former was at least wise to play on the original Super Mario Kart‘s formula to compensate for the GBA’s limitations. THIS game was co-developed by Namco, and they made it pretty darn clear they designed it. Pac-Man, his wife, and Clyde join Mario and the gang as playable racers (coincidentally, this game was released during Pac-Man’s 25th Anniversary), complete with their own Cups to drive in. The gameplay itself is radically different from the average Mario Kart game.
To start, this was the first game in the series to feature not only a steering wheel, but also brake and gas pedals to simulate a real go-kart. Even with Mario Kart Wii pushing the wheel idea for home territory, it arguably still wasn’t done as well as the arcade cabinet’s more firmly implemented wheel. There’s also a camera built-in, where the game would take a photo of the player before the race begins. It doesn’t affect play at all, but it does use your face as your icon. So that’s… something, right?
Anyway, the game is divided into several Cups. Unlike the regular Mario Karts, the tracks all follow the same theme that the Cup wears. For example, Rainbow Cup (pictured above) has all of its tracks on a rainbow road, and Pac-Man Cup is full of tracks set in Pac-Village. For the most part, I think this is just fine, but what does suck is that latter half of the tracks in each Cup are reversed duplicates of the first half, which is undeniably lazy. Granted, the item selections are always different every race, and kids are likely to not care much as they may move on to another game in the arcade, but it can be a bother when marathoning Cups.
But, how about we talk about them items for a moment? Mario Kart Arcade GP has a CRAPTON of them, even if only three different ones are used per round. Some of them are the typical series items, but then there are creme pies, Boss Galagas, rain clouds, thunder sticks, Dr. Mario viruses, inexplicable magic that alters the tires, Koopa shells that explode, Power Pellets in place of Stars, and need I say more?? With this and the camera function, it’s evident this game is hardly meant to be taken seriously, even for Mario Kart‘s usual standards.Can you believe that’s not all that is different about the gameplay, though? Along with there being those items, the track structures, and that there’s a timer like in most arcade racers, the controls themselves have a different feel to them than in the home console installments. I mean, it’s obvious how steering works, but drifting is a bit of a different story. The brake pedal allows the character to jump, and jumping while steering triggers a drift. The drift ends when the player steers away from the direction he or she is heading, but while drifting, the player is briefly shielded, allowing for items to be a non-issue during that small period of time. It’s overall a pretty fun diversion from the typical Mario Kart formula while still keeping a lot of the familiar elements in there….
…Which leaves to my opinion as a whole on the game, really. It isn’t as perfectly refined as the console games, but it has a uniqueness to it that people can easily appreciate, myself included. For what it’s worth, it’s certainly a fun time in the arcades. In fact, it’s so fun that there are two sequels! Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 is actually a worsened expansion, with only two new Cups, and an announcer that can be annoying. However, there’s also the more-recent Mario Kart Arcade GP DX, a game that actually has all-new tracks, an announcer that doesn’t annoy, and Pac-Man’s character design from the crappy Ghostly Adventures cartoon.
Yet, the unfortunate thing about these games is that they are exclusive to arcades. I mean, duh, but that means they’re doomed to be played less and less as arcades continue to fade away. How many people even still go into arcades anymore? I believe Nintendo and Namco should seriously try and port the Mario Kart Arcade GP games onto consoles someday. After all, Namco wasn’t reluctant to include Pac-Man Battle Royale with the Pac-Man Museum compilation of games. However, if you do manage to get the chance to play it, I recommend checking this one out. It’s fun, it’s fresh, and it’s a neat curiosity to say the least.