When the Game Boy Advance hit, the portable arm of Nintendo was starting to create more complex games. Those that had been more akin to their home console brethren and one of the main examples of this is GBA title, Mario Kart: Super Circuit.
As the first portable Mario Kart iteration, Mario Kart: Super Circuit was mechanically quite different to those that you may be familiar with on Nintendo’s later handhelds. If it was similar to anything that came before, then the strongest comparison would be with SNES original Super Mario Kart. As such, many mechanics such as jumping exist, and the power sliding is completely different. The tracks are also completely flat which can be somewhat of a disappointment but is ultimately understandable given the level of technology in the GBA.
Like most Mario Kart games, it has the standard features that we’ve now come to expect. Progress is made through the Grand Prix option, which comes in 50cc, 100cc and 150cc options. There are five Cups as standard, each with four tracks with players rated on their performance based on their rank as well as the amount of Coins accumulated in races. Time Trials and standard Quick Run races are also served up for you to test your karting skills on tracks against the CPU.
Unfortunately, like all other GBA and Nintendo DS titles, Mario Kart: Super Circuit completely lacks multiplayer functionality. This is a damaging omission to the series in general, but Battle Mode is exclusively multiplayer-only which means that you have no access to it whatsoever. It’s particularly gutting for those that enjoyed it first time around.
To top that off, the number of unlockables is minimal. There are no unlockable playable characters outside the eight-strong starting roster, but there are tracks waiting to be unlocked taken from SNES classic Super Mario Kart. This adds to the game’s replayability and was the first instance where the series welcomed returning tracks, although there isn’t much to keep you coming back after you have done the bulk of it.
It controls well, however. While you may have to adjust your play style if coming directly from Mario Kart 8 or other later iterations, it’s sharp and responsive – a must in these games. It also includes features that later games lacked, such as being able to potentially recover from being hit by a banana or in-stage obstacles that added an extra level of skill to the experience.
The spritework in Mario Kart: Super Circuit is particularly nice, and are an attempt to reach a pseudo 3D feel to everything. It’s colourful and the tracks all have a unique feel to each other, which is something that the game’s SNES predecessor lacked due to repeating styles. It looks great when upscaled, but doesn’t require the Virtual Console’s smoothing filter as, due to how the game works, it doesn’t have much of an effect.
The soundtrack blends a mixture of classic and memorable tunes to go with each of the tracks, whereas the sound effects from the engines and items work well on the GBA’s limited sound capabilities. It’s a true testament to the time it was released.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit is a decent enough game. While many would argue it’s the worst Mario Kart, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is fun, and that’s what matters. For those that can swerve around the issue of limited replayability, this a Mario Kart entry that you should certainly check out.