First released: Game Boy Advance (2001) Now available for: 3DS (Ambassador 3DS download)
Although now somewhat of a forgotten entry, Mario Kart: Super Circuit was notable as the franchise's first appearance on a portable platform. The Game Boy Advance was the first of Nintendo's handhelds to make this possible, thanks to SNES quality hardware capable of Mode 7 graphics, as well as the addition of shoulder buttons that made items and drifting viable. Visually it was compatible with Super Mario Kart, but it was given an extra sheen and polish, with more on-screen colour and range of track scenery, making it one of the best-looking handheld games released at the time.
Releasing after Mario Kart 64, it borrowed all kinds of ideas from the N64 multiplayer favourite. As well as the standard array of shells and bananas, Boos would choose another player and steal their items, while Blue Shells (known as the more intimidating Spiny Shells) made an appearance, zipping through the course and hunting down whoever was in first lead. Thankfully, they appeared far less frequently then later Mario Kart titles, so didn't impact play too heavily.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit also had a heavy focus on coin collecting, a mechanic that has only been re-introduced recently with 3DS title Mario Kart 7. Littered throughout each course, the more coins you had at any one time the faster you'd go. Hitting obstacles and items would see you drop coins, and having none in your possession would put you in a 'danger state', where a single nudge by another racer would spiral you out of control. They were also important for grades in Grand Prix, and thanks to the high tendency to get stung by enemy items, made it one of the toughest in the series to notch up the highest scores.
It also introduced a concept that has been used from Mario Kart DS onwards, and that was Retro Courses. Once the standard 20 tracks were complete, the game would then open up Super Mario Kart's complete roster of tracks. While they were missing certain elements, such as on-track obstacles such as pipes, the inclusion of such classic courses and having them playable on the go was a real winner with fans.
As you required a link cable to play with friends, Mario Kart: Super Circuit garnered less of multiplayer following then other titles in the series, even if it did feature a neat Time Trial ghost swapping feature. Regardless, it still plays as great as it did back then; there is still something to be said about racing around on those 'flat' courses, with a sense of speed and precision that later fully-formed 3D games haven't quite captured. Nintendo 3DS early adopters can now download it for free through the Ambassadors programme, and hopefully it will be purchasable from the eShop for a small fee in the near future.
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