Mario Kart 8 Game Poster Image

Mario Kart 8

Fun family racer lets kids upload sweet moves to YouTube.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value

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.

Positive messages

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.  

Not applicable

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.  

What's it about?

The first entry in Nintendo's popular racing series to appear in high definition, the Wii U-exclusive MARIO KART 8 seems satisfied to stick with the formula established by its predecessors. Players choose an iconic character from the Mario universe to drive a customizable kart around more than 30 Nintendo-themed tracks. Some are reimagined routes from previous games, while others are entirely new and include new antigravity sections that allow courses to curve upward and over themselves. Cup competitions let kids race through a series of four first-to-the-finish races against the computer and local players in split-screen play, while Battle mode offers a more combat-oriented experience, with players whistling around tracks trying to pop each other's balloons with various weapons and abilities -- such as turtle shells and boomerangs -- harvested from item blocks. Online play supports races with up to 12 players around the world, and players can record and upload race highlight clips to YouTube -- a first for a Mario Kart game.

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. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about safe driving. Racing games are fun but rarely show realistic consequences of high-speed car crashes. What are some safe ways to satisfy your need for speed and competition in the real world?

  • Families also can discuss online safety. What would you do if you met someone in an online game who was bullying you or prying for information? 

Game details

Platforms:Nintendo Wii U
Subjects:Hobbies: sports
Skills:Thinking & Reasoning: strategy
Communication: conveying messages effectively, friendship building
Collaboration: teamwork
Pricing structure:Paid
Available online?Not available online
Release date:May 30, 2014
Topics:Cars and trucks
ESRB rating:E for Comic Michief

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Kid, 11 years old June 4, 2014

Amazing Mario Kart game is beautiful in HD!

Now I'm a huge fan of the mario kart series, and i love everyone of them, and when i heard the announcement of Mario Kart 8 for the wii u, I was amazed by how gorgeous it looked. So almost a year later, I finally got mario kart 8, and oh my gosh, does this look amazing! Beautiful hd in every single course, and the new Mario Kart TV is really fun to play on. So if you have a wii u, i highly recommend this game, and if you don't have a wii u, then just get the bundle with mario kart 8 and you'll see what all the praise is about!
What other families should know
Easy to play/use
Kid, 9 years old June 26, 2014

Mario Kart 8 is awesome!

Mario Kart 8 is awesome! I gave this game a 9 and up because most likely 9 year olds will play it . But really anyone in the family can play. Its partly learning but mostly for fun Mario kart 8 works on coordination.
What other families should know
Great messages
Easy to play/use
Teen, 14 years old Written bySwag Anderson June 20, 2014

A Must Have for WiiU Owners

This game is amazing. With the best graphics on WiiU to date, and intuitive steering mechanics, Mario's latest go-kart outing is, in several ways, the best family game for the home console yet. There's something magical about chucking a random turtle shell at your sister and replaying it in slow motion for everyone to see. I can't find anything wrong/inappropriate with this game except that there is online multi-player in which your Mii's username is shown to everyone you're racing against. Easy solution: give your child's Mii the nickname you call him/her. Overall, I highly recommend this game to families with a WiiU. If you don't have one yet, this is the best time to join the fun. There is a $325 bundle where you get a WiiU, MK8, a Wii Wheel, several accessories for the Gamepad, and a free downloadable game (New Super Mario Bros U, Zelda: The Windwaker HD, Wii Party U, or Pikmin 3). Peace out and God bless!!! - Swag Anderson
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Easy to play/use
Safety and privacy concerns