It's been two weeks since E3 2021 and for Nintendo fans, I'd say it was (mostly) an excellent time. Between The Legend of Zelda news, Metroid Dread, Mario Party Superstars, WarioWare, and a surprise Advance Wars reboot, few can argue against the presentation's wider quality, but Mario Kart fans were missing out once again.
Excluding 2017's Deluxe - as it's an enhanced Wii U port - we've not had a main entry since 2014's Mario Kart 8, but since then, we've had two spin-off entries. One was Mario Kart Tour, a mobile entry still receiving regular updates. The other? Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, which used augmented reality with remote controlled karts.
Mario Kart 9 Is An Appealing Thought, But I Just Want New Tracks
While both have been successful in their own ways, Tour especially has become a sticking point with fans. Every two weeks, a new
event tour goes live, often implementing new tracks or characters. As it currently stands, they've hit 60 racecourses and 121 playable characters, though that includes variants of existing characters.
While fantastic for Tour fans, there's been undeniable frustration from console players about the lack of content. Not everyone has space for Home Circuit's physical requirements, and every time Tour updates drop, the same comments always appear: "YES, NEW MARIO KART CONTE... Oh, it's for Tour", "Why are they not releasing MK8 DLC?", "Where is Mario Kart 9?" and so on. It's like clockwork, and I don't mean Tick-Tock Clock.
At this stage, I'm not surprised Deluxe isn't getting updates, Nintendo's basically finished with it. Considering it already included the Wii U version's DLC, new characters and a new battle mode, we'd not seen any updates for over two years, aside from a small bug fix last month. Most were smaller updates too for further fixes, alongside Nintendo Labo "VR" support and Breath of the Wild content for Link.
It's not hard to see why Nintendo's focused elsewhere, at least publicly. Tour continues being profitable and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe remains a big seller four years on, becoming the most successful Switch game at 35.39 million copies sold. It's an evergreen title and they've not had to do much since launch, beyond basic updates.
By all counts, strong sales would normally warrant a sequel to keep that momentum going, but recent years has proven otherwise. Grand Theft Auto V reached incredible sales since launching in 2013 but even then, GTA Online's seen regular updates that's kept players coming back. Rockstar hasn't been rushed to release a new entry, and in a similar manner, neither has Nintendo.
However, I'm not sure I'd even want a new entry at this point, but that's because Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is (arguably) the finest entry going. Packed with solid racing mechanics, a strong roster that introduced wider Nintendo characters like Link and Isabelle, entertaining battle mode and some incredible multiplayer, I'm still loading it up even in 2021.
As such, I think that's why I'd be just as happy with an expansion, rather than a brand-new sequel. I love tracks like Mount Wario, Sunshine Airport, Cloudtop Cruise, Mario Circuit, Excitebike Arena, Ribbon Road, Royal Raceway and Moo Moo Meadows, they're all fantastic courses. But I've been playing them for seven years now, I want something new.
Part of this wait seems to be Nintendo's continuous need to innovate within sequels. Many first-party series have faced long hiatuses because Nintendo don't know what to do with them, F-Zero being a prominent example. I respect why they take this approach, but sometimes all fans want is a modernised take on existing ideas.
In that regard, I find it hard to see how Nintendo could improve on Mario Kart 8's formula even further. Deluxe already did that job nicely and while I'd say yes to Mario Kart 9 in a heartbeat, I'd equally settle for an expansion with new tracks and characters. Knowing Nintendo, they may be working on MK9 as we speak, but it won't stop me wanting some new tracks until then.