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Are 200cc Karts Supposed to Make Mario Kart Better or Worse?

200cc is uncomfortable, and therefore perfect for racers hoping to get out of their comfort zone.

by Zack Kotzer
Apr 30 2015, 10:00am

Image: Nintendo

With the 200cc karts released in a new, faster Mario Kart 8 mode by Nintendo, stalling feels like a full stop. And stalling happens a lot because there are a lot of walls to hit. It's hard to tell if 200cc is something that makes Mario Kart better or worse.

It doesn't matter if it's a wall or a rock or a Piranha Plant, hitting any obstacle feels more devastating than usual in Mario Kart, like coming down from a high. This isn't even the same sour feeling of getting clonked by three red shells in a row.

All those shortcuts you've memorized? All those jumps you've mastered? You think you know these tracks better than the back of your hand? Throw out that knowledge, throw it all away. That experience is no good, you're a rookie again.

Despite having little history with downloadable content, Nintendo has been generous with DLC for Mario Kart 8. New racers, karts, and courses have been dropping in bundles, including characters and worlds based on other franchises, such as Zelda, Animal Crossing and Excitebike.

While being given the opportunity to pop a wheelie in Hyrule or giving Waluigi the Mercedes-Benz he always deserved were big surprises, 200cc is somehow more shocking, especially considering the 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc modes have been standard since the beginning. Nintendo announced the new mode around a month ago as part of its second major DLC pack, letting players know that if 150cc wasn't satisfying, they would soon be able to go exceptionally faster.

Booby traps aren't fast enough anymore. At least that's how it feels. Maybe the animation cycles weren't fully tweaked, but every time I see a Thwomp ahead aspiring to smoosh me I feel a little bit like Road Runner to Wile E. Coyote 's anvil on a rope. It's just one of the many ways most courses feel like they're not tuned to accommodate this new insane speed, though it's probably the only way that makes 200cc easier.

Special ramps are less special when your own velocity bounds you over the second jump pad, or sends you flailing off the other end of the course. I now know what happens when you hit the starting line sign, because a jump in Shy Guy Falls launched me so high up I managed to glide over a third of the track and smack it with my face. For the record, it swings back and forth.

You can still try to drift a lot of turns, but even the ones that aren't too sharp will require you to stutter on the brake like a student driver. Some advance techniques, such as the controversial "firehopping," are now useless. The penalty time between hitting the side of the track and completely falling off it seems negligible. Even for average players, many courses can be beaten in under a few minutes, and the infamous seven-lap Baby Park feels more like a rapid descent into the seven layers of a polka party hell. In some of the denser stages, like Mount Wario, it can feel like your perception of events is lagging behind what is happening in the moment.

So things are unquestionably different. Even if the tracks are the same, stepping on the gas a bit harder has reinvented Mario Kart's wheels. The question then becomes, if things feel unruly, unfamiliar, and at times uncontrollable, is the game better for it?

A Nintendo Life poll shows 50 percent of voters "love" 200cc, but that only 18 percent say 200cc is the best part of the DLC pack, taking a back seat to the new courses. There's a thin weird line between 200cc being "better" and "more."

Nothing makes sense anymore. Image: Nintendo

When I played with my friends, who had been at the mode for a few days already, they had become addicts. 150cc was too slow, and even as hazardous as 200cc is, it's the only thing that could satisfy their speed lust. When one friend called another to ask if we wanted to come see a show, he thought we were joking when they told him Mario Kart had introduced a faster speed. "Bullshit," he said over the phone so loud I could hear it.

The shortcuts you knew may be burning in a pile of rubble, but there are new windows to exploit when you're breaking new Machs. Die-hard players have already begun recording new ways to cut ahead. And though many of the older tracks don't run the smoothest at this speed, some newer tracks, with thrilling breakaways and more manageable turns, feel like they have this speed in mind. Appropriately, some of them are based off tracks from the similarly blisteringly fast racing game F-Zero.

200cc is uncomfortable, and therefore perfect for racers hoping to get out of their comfort zone. Welcome to the fast lane. Try new characters, new combinations with karts and wheels. Test your limits in time trials. Be the discoverer of new records. Look in horror when you see the pitiful amount of time it took to demolish a three lap course, and try to stomach just how fast you were going.