A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Kids can learn to practice their communication skills and build friendships as they engage in friendly competition in this all-ages kart racer. Local multiplayer modes for up to four players encourage kids to socialize with one another while playing. They'll also experience friendly rivalries with other players, locally and online, pushing each other to figure out strategies to improve, excel, and succeed. Mario Kart 8 clearly aims to entertain rather than educate, but it still makes for a healthy social and interactive experience.
Played in groups of two to four, this game may foster healthy socializing and can facilitate friendly competition among peers.
Positive Role Models
The racers emote happiness, anger, and disappointment in appropriate situations. They're generally pretty good sports, celebrating victory without poking fun at losers -- though they do occasionally taunt their rivals by waving at them as they pass by.
Ease of Play
Getting started is a snap thanks to Mario Kart's famously simple controls and a trio of difficulty levels denoted by engine power and speed. But mastering the mechanics takes time and patience. Inexperienced players won't have much success online.
Violence & Scariness
Players can fire off cartoonish weapons at other racers; weapons include turtle shells and lightning bolts. Characters appear dazed but are never seriously injured.
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Products & Purchases
This game is part of Nintendo's popular and long-running Mario Kart series of games and features a large cast of beloved characters kids will recognize from various games outside the franchise.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mario Kart 8 is an all-ages racing game starring iconic game characters driving cartoonish karts around fantastical tracks. A bit of comic mischief exists in players' ability to use items to interfere with other racers -- you can launch shells to send competitors for a tumble or zap them with lightning to make them momentarily shrink in size and slow down -- but no one ever appears seriously injured. Online play is safe, since communication with strangers is restricted to a small selection of preset text messages. But parents should know that this game connects to Wii U's Miiverse network and that it facilitates video-sharing via YouTube.
Is It Any Good?
Mario Kart 8 is fun straight out of the gate, offering accessible all-ages racing within graphically sumptuous environments. Kart handling is terrific, allowing racing rookies to experience success right away while encouraging more experienced players to take the time to learn how to finesse corners with drifts and boosts. The high-definition tracks are cleverly designed -- some are twisty enough to provide a real challenge when racing more powerful karts -- and a delight for the eyes, with bold colors, shifting scenery, and plenty of nods to Nintendo games past. Occasional stretches of antigravity track don't alter the racing action as much as you might think -- kart wheels simply transform into antigravity engines -- but they occasionally create a pleasantly discombobulating effect.
Still, as with past Mario Karts, it's not a flawless racing experience. Although there are some 30 characters, many of them are baby versions of primary characters or relatively unknown members of the Koopa family -- disappointing. Plus, the Battle mode is a complete miscalculation, swapping out open arenas in favor of circuitous tracks, forcing players to drive long stretches without seeing anyone to battle. And, of course, there's still the problem of running perfect races only to be struck down at the finish by a random blue shell, potentially falling from first to fourth in the blink of an eye. Mario Kart 8 is a ton of fun -- especially when played in groups -- but this storied racing series still has room to improve.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.