16 Bits and Licensed To Innovate

Have you ever played Super Mario Kart? If not, you’ve missed the beginning of more than one series.

By Matthew Tidman. Posted 08/24/2010 15:00 3 Comments     ShareThis

Slight disclaimer: Super Mario Kart is probably my second-least played Mario Kart title. It only falls behind Super Circuit– which was released for GBA– because I didn’t know of the existence of that game until after Mario Kart DS was released. My Mario Kart of choice is still Mario Kart 64.

But wait just a second; this isn’t “64 Bits Are Better” week. And this editorial isn’t a love letter to that N64 title. At its core, Mario Kart 64 owes its very existence to a title that has been somewhat forgotten by the players who flock to buy Mario Kart Wii even today. That title is Super Mario Kart.

Yet even that title is a little misleading. You might think that with a title like Super Mario Kart there would have been a regular Mario Kart somewhere back in Nintendo’s past. That is not the case. Rather, the moniker “Super” was the marketing ploy of the day. The current analogue would be adding “New” to Super Mario Bros. in order to draw casual attention to the title months and even years after it has been released. Yet in the ’90s, if it were “Super,” it must have been better.

Regardless, Super Mario Kart, unlike many other games to share the prefix, deserves its moniker. You see, before Super Mario Kart, the thought of a mascot and his friends engaging in a friendly competition of go-kart racing was an unheard of oddity. Super Mario Kart was a super change to Nintendo’s lineup that has had far-reaching consequences. In fact, we really have Super Mario Kart to thank for more than just Kart racing. Without this title, Mario might never have taken up golfing, tennis, or brawling.

The SNES era was a time of adventure and exploration for Nintendo. Super Mario Kart is not just the genesis of one fantastic series, it is indicative of what makes the company still one of the best gaming companies in the world today. It may look outdated by today’s standards, but Super Mario Kart gave Nintendo the license to play with its licenses in new and unprecedented ways, and I think that’s something all of us can be grateful for.

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