Tracking Shells: Our Mario Kart Memories

3… 2… 1… GO!

TRACKING
SHELLS

Our Mario Kart Memories
From Around the Mushroom Kingdom
And Beyond

Mario Kart has touched so many of our lives. In this collab, we explore twenty stories of how racing around the Mushroom Kingdom has made our lives just a little more fun!

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Better with audio!

Mixed with all the frenetic action, Mario Kart mixes in some of the chillest, jazziest jams in all of video games. Hit that play button, and feel free to stay a while and brighten up your day long after you finish reading.

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Each post contains links to the blogs of the incredible authors of their respective pieces. Please support their work by following/bookmarking them. 

WordPress Reader audience, while we designed with you in mind, the nature of the platform removes some of the functionality of the design. Consider enjoying this work in its pure form on the site.

We recommend you start from the beginning, but you can click each link to jump to your favorite locations if you prefer. The order is meant to mimic the flow of a Mario Kart game. It is thematic, not a representation of quality. In short, they’re all great and worthy of your time!

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Starring:

Mushroom Cup

Yoshi Falls | Matt from Normal Happenings
Toad’s Turnpike | Nikki from Normal Happenings
Waluigi Stadium | Alex aka The Purple Prose Mage
Rainbow Road | Sally from Geeky Hippie

Banana Cup

DK’s Jungle Parkway | Teri Mae from Sheikah Plate
Moo Moo Meadows | Kathy from Krysanthe
Choco Island | Ruubin from My Life as a Quest
Pac-Man Stadium | Victor from The Modern Gafa

Flower Cup

Daisy Cruiser | Matt from 3PStart
Koopa Troopa Beach | Andrew aka The Ink-Stained Mage
Wario Stadium | Justin from TWOTALL4YOUFOOL
Maple Treeway | KT from Wintendo64

Star Cup

Sunshine Airport | Winst0lf aka The Bizzaro Mage
Baby Park | Luna from GamersUnitedGG
Koopa Cape | Shauna from HideNGoShauna
Rainbow Road | Amanda May from Imaginating Life

Shell Cup

Grumble Volcano | Skylar-Mei from gamergal.exe
Dino Dino Jungle | Imtiaz from Power Bomb Attack
Bowser’s Castle | Thomas aka The Off-Centred Earth Mage
Rainbow Road | Alyssa from Nerd Side of Life

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Mushroom Cup

Yoshi Falls

Tracking Shells 13

Mario Kart DS
Matt | Normal Happenings

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Dear 16-year-old Matt,

We need to talk.

I’m fortunate I get to speak to you like this — most are not so lucky to be able to deliver a letter to their past self. Knowing you well, I honestly think the only person you’re going to be able to hear this from is yourself. So here I am for you; a man, a decade removed from you. And I need to tell you something.

You’re the most uptight 16-year-old in all of human history.
I’m not even sure that’s an exaggeration.

When you walked out of that classroom on your final day of eighth grade and your English teacher of all people told you that you were too uptight — a word apparently not in your vocabulary, I recall — something should have registered.

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So Matt, I’ve decided I’m writing you a letter today for one reason only: you need to understand the concept of fun. I bet that word is also not in your vocabulary, but you would do well to learn it right now, rather than intermittently down the road. You see, the ability to have actual fun would have saved you a lot of pain over the next few years. As it stands, without a remote grasp of enjoyment or amusement, you’re setting yourself up for some very lonely years ahead. You’ll be attempting to rebuild your childhood rather than living in the moment — the ultimate irony because the only thing you ever wanted to be was older.

And, you know, I get it. You weren’t given the tools you needed, so I’ll be the one to help in whatever way I can. Because, you see Matt, I really like who I am now. I enjoy the Matthew of 2019. The words I compose, my vendetta against cynicism, my drive to find optimism even in the least ideal scenarios, my capability of making friends, the quirky social interactions people seem to enjoy — you have that somewhere deep inside of you!

Matt, I love you, but right now you are so hard to help. I struggle finding even a frame of reference. To teach you to see the genuine fun in life, to not squander your early years while those around you enjoy those crazy times without regret, I’ve had to really dig deep to see what you’ll understand. I need some way to knock you off-course and into a parallel reality where you’re not the person who haunts the edges of my mind as I’m falling asleep. And, I think I’ve finally figured it out… there is one fun thing you seem to enjoy. Mario Kart.

Stop right there! Don’t reach for that Nintendo DS your best friend accidentally broke and then replaced with his own money quite yet! I know you want to, but you can’t take this as an excuse to hole yourself up and play video games all day. That’s only going to hurt you in the long run, as instead of making memories of staying up all night talking with friends over the campfire, you’ll only have memories of staying up all night learning the lore of some obscure video game. Matt, that’s only practical in limited quantities, and you can have that if tempered with a genuine concern for the relationships of others. It shouldn’t take a graduate education in communications to get it through your thick INTJ skull to be kind and considerate to others. Don’t be a know-it-all — just have fun with them and let your natural leadership abilities speak subtly through you.

Fun. What is it? How can I properly describe a concept so alien to you? I guess the best way to describe it is like when you’re pulling those g-forces going around and around Yoshi Falls — a course that even now makes you yearn for simpler times. The sun-bathed beachside villa is so short. It only lasts two minutes at most, but while you’re racing you feel like it could last forever. Without realizing it you’re laughing and enjoying yourself, trying everything you know to get across that finish line despite everything thrown your way.

So, here’s what I want you to do, Matt: go find that friend of yours that you’re losing touch with. Give him a run for his money at Yoshi Falls. Save that friendship before you regret all the time you could squander. Then do something else for me. I’ve put together 19 of my favorite friends — I guess you say your friends from the future — to reminisce on our Mario Kart fun. You are welcome to join us, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn the meaning of fun along the way.

Oh, and, you’re going to meet this beautiful, amazing girl sometime in the next few months. Take my advice. Don’t play Mario Kart with her…

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Toad’s Turnpike

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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Nikki | Normal Happenings

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Tracking Shells 15

Mario Kart. Where do I begin?

We all do things that we hate to make our loved ones happy. Seeing a film that you have no interest in, or shopping for long hours with your significant other both qualify as things that we all do to appease certain people that mean the world to us. But what if I told you there was something worse than standing in line with your wife to buy that shirt that she doesn’t really need? Or worse than that boring movie about aliens that your husband loves?

Since I met my husband about 12 years ago, I have noticed that we love doing things together. We never really get tired of doing things, and this includes the two activities I mentioned above. Then one day Matt broke out a game that involved racing with characters that are very popular in pop culture today. I recognized Peach, Mario, and Yoshi all in their little race cars, and I thought to myself that this would be a cute game. I was so wrong about this assumption.

This violent game full of cheap tricks makes me erupt with a rage that I cannot control. I watch my smug husband as he races past me in every match that we play. I start to fuel my races with rage-filled attempts at victory, but each game ends with me tossing the controller across the room and calling it a night. Fun fact: we only really do TV-related activities at night.

Whenever he asks me to play it starts out innocently enough. And, often the races will begin with me obtaining a sustainable lead. Then the blue shells start flying, and the red shells come roaring in, and I’m at my wit’s end dodging bananas and explosives from all sides. I can just envision me racing as Peach and almost making it to the finish line, and then I hear the pesky laugh of Toad behind me and he passes me while yelling out his incomprehensible noises. Then I get caught in a fight between Donkey Kong and Yoshi and suddenly I find myself in last place covered in ink. 

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Each time it ends with Matt being gleeful and me being mad. I’ve had it up to here with Mario Kart, and I hope his stupid Yoshi falls off a cliff on Toad’s Turnpike. It probably doesn’t matter anyway — he’d just come back and win at the last possible second.

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Waluigi Stadium

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Mario Kart Double Dash!!
Alex | The Purple Prose Mage

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Tracking Shells 2

Hmm. Well… I suppose it started when I began playing Mario Kart: Super Circuit on my Game Boy Advance. I still haven’t played any of the main Super Mario Bros. games, but the Mario Kart spin-off series has always been my way into that franchise. I like racing games, if my weekly column on the Well-Red Mage, Racing Game of the Week, is any indication. But it’s not like it matters – who isn’t at least familiar with the Mario universe, anyway? The Mario Kart concept clearly worked, because it’s the single reason that I can even say I’ve ever played a Mario game. The lesson here: if any developers out there are wondering why I still haven’t played their series yet, it’s because it doesn’t have a karting-based tie-in.

Anyway.

So there I was, playing Mario Kart: Super Circuit on my Game Boy Advance. I was staying in Pickering, in a static caravan. It was not a coincidence that the rally was in town. Now… England is rainy. England is very rainy. England is very, very rainy. So a lot of time was spent in that caravan. I can still remember it quite well, even the site. The gravel and the grass, the beige seats and the way they smelled, my small bedroom. When you spend an extended period of time in that environment with your immediate family, it’s a great bonding experience. That may have been because this was before smart devices and Wi-Fi were commonplace, but I like to think not. You learn how to entertain yourselves with just each other, and I appreciate having grown up being encouraged to do that. That’s probably one of the reasons I ended up pursuing writing as a primary interest. I used to get a lot of writing done when living away from home. Finding pen and paper was always a priority for me, so I could write down what we did. I just didn’t want the memories to fade, though of course they inevitably have. Yet, I’m still surprised how much I can recall now in spite of that.

One of the ways of passing the time was playing Mario Kart: Super Circuit on multiplayer mode, using the Game Boy Advance link cable. I still have it in my room as I write this and just got it out to look at it. It was covered in dust and hair (eww) so I put it back. I don’t expect to ever need it again, anyway. But if you were in a caravan on a rainy day with your gamer sibling, and you both had Game Boy Advances, linking-them up was pretty much the most interesting thing you could do. And if one of those games was Mario Kart: Super Circuit, why wouldn’t you? That link cable came to represent our entire relationship. When you spend so much time looking at a handheld games console screen and interacting with it, eventually your entire world comes to be represented in it. Everything else fades away from your conscious awareness, and the abyss you’ve spent so long staring into eventually becomes you. So after enough time, a handheld games console will absolutely become an extension of yourself, if not something which you personally serve. All of a sudden, you, the player, are the plaything, your places switched, a physical body which the unit uses to understand itself. So when you’re released from that, a caravan seems quite a large place by comparison.

For those of us who grew up in such a way, gaming has encompassed us. We’ve spent so much time looking at them up close, letting them into us, that gaming never really leaves us. It’s an entire plane of the imagination, whirling around our heads, following us like a balloon or cartoon thought bubble tethered to us, forever, for better and for worse. Something we carry with us. It’s called being an introvert, but it makes our lives so much more interesting than anybody else’s. That’s the special thing about being a gamer. The problem is, not a lot of people can understand it. As a result, there’s an entire generation of introverts who’ve grown up with the link cable as their way into other people. It’s a great metaphor of how gaming can bring people together by physically doing it, literally creating a connection between one paracosm and another. Whole worlds held in the palm of our hands, suddenly being shared. It’s not really much, but for some, it’s sharing your whole self in a very intimate way. I think that it happens because, not only do you discover that you have something in common, but you see each other acting in the same way, so you’re reflected in them. When you’re in the same place doing the same thing, the walls between you come down. Some of us need a video game to do that. We wouldn’t be doing this event otherwise.

I always remember that time in my life fondly. As a writer, I’ve always been a fan of life’s inherent contradictions; how a handheld game can feel like the whole world, and how playing one with someone else can appear to be a purely asocial action by not involving words, yet is in fact the complete opposite of that. It is a very interpersonal experience, in which both participants transcend themselves to a shared third space that only they can access. It is unique to them. And in it, as their characters interact on two screens together, their spirits dance with each other in the air, playing, like free flames. It’s an out-of-body experience that requires no words at all. A form of communication between two people who have the kind of relationship that means some things don’t need to be said aloud.

This is something that I was reminded of this last Christmas. The previous year, I didn’t really have much time to enjoy Christmas because of how much coursework I had, though it was worth it in the end because my dissertation received the highest overall grade of the course. Having graduated in November, I decided to finally take a long-deserved and well-earned break. I indulged myself to the max, playing video games, watching movies, eating chocolate and pretty much having some extreme me time, to the protest of no one, who could all see where I was coming from.

So. We get to Christmas time. My sibling, who had since moved out, comes home for the holidays. I’d also rediscovered my old Game Boy Advance, from all those years ago, in its case. You remember those, right? They had those zippers on the front? Anyway, in its zipper were all my old Game Boy Advance cartridges, including Mario Kart: Super Circuit. I’d been playing it in the days leading up to this, as research and a reminder for a review I’m doing. When I can get round to it, that is. Er, anyway, so I’d been getting a bit sentimental. Remembering the good old days, which apparently I do a lot.

Remember The Games That Define Us? In my piece for that, I wrote about why Warcraft III means so much to me, and how I’d written that post shortly before the announcement of a remastered edition. I questioned whether there was any deeper connection between those two events beyond mere significance, and a similar thing happened in this case. Soon after playing Mario Kart: Super Circuit for the first time in years, I found myself playing Mario Kart again to the same effect. But this time, I linked in two different directions. Both events I’ve already recapped in comments on posts at the Well-Red Mage, but they were only brief and focused on the technical aspects of the games.

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The first, which I recapped in Blue Williams’ post 15 Years of Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, was when I was informed by homecoming sibling that a guest had brought his GameCube round. Now, I’d never played a GameCube before, but I give anything a go. And that’s how I ended up playing Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. At the same time, I was figuring out the GameCube controller and the the gameplay, the way that passenger and driver can be switched-out, swapping power-ups. I still don’t completely have a perfect grasp of it, but what mattered is, I was having fun. And I was playing with the guest, who I was already acquainted with, but didn’t really know much. But the same thing happened. We were playing multiplayer, and it connected us in the same way as a puppy would. Somehow, Mario Kart games just bring out the best in people because they represent pure joy, like Mario himself – always upbeat in the face of the greatest challenge. Christmas Eve wasn’t exactly a good time for me for certain reasons, but this positive experience is the one that stayed with me from that season. Even if our relationship never develops anymore than that, it’s something we’ll always have. Perhaps I’ll never play Mario Kart: Double Dash!! ever again, but the tracks from it – I remember many of them well – will remain in my mind as a piece of that day, and that is a status which can never be erased.

The second, which I mentioned in the Well-Red Mage’s post Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017), occurred toward the New Year. Sibling had gone out shopping and had come home with a Switch. The game that came with it was Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. I have an even worse grasp of the Joycons’ controls because they’re so small, but I enjoyed it in the same way. But the difference is, because of our own personal history, it was very much a metaphor of our lives. We’d played a smaller version of the game growing up with primitive wired technology, and were now playing a modern, evolved version on the game wirelessly.

Entertainment technology, when applied to long-running franchises, becomes a marker for growing up – the cosmetics change and it becomes more sophisticated but the core remains the same. In that moment, as we played together, it was as if no time had passed at all. As if everything in between had just been a mere dream. We’d finally returned to the game, where we were always meant to be. A place that feels more real because it’s where we can truly be ourselves, in the form of big, broadstroke characters and ecstatic, exaggerated worlds. It’s an emotional muscle memory.

As we’d become older, we’d become able to drop the link cable in place of a new, upgraded version. Now, the link cable is made from memories, and, by transcending space, time and physical form, they do the same thing: connect us with each other.

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Rainbow Road

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Mario Kart Wii
Sally | Geeky Hippie

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Tracking Shells 5

It seems a little extreme to say that a video game, Mario Kart, is a huge part of my life. But it really is and more so than any other video game. It was especially important to me in my early teenage years. From the first Mario Kart game I ever played, on my brother’s Nintendo DS, to getting my very own Nintendo Wii and learning Mario Kart Wii off by heart, to now playing it on my 3DS with my partner, it’s always been by my side. A loyal friend.

I love the silliness and the potential for disaster. I love that it involves a lot of luck and not just skill so it’s always varied. I also love that you nearly always have a chance, that rocket is always there to help you out. Mario Kart is just pure joy that can instantly turn to ashes. There’s many a time I yelled in fury as a blue shell detonated on my kart seconds from the finishing line with my brother’s kart sailing past. Nothing gets me swearing like Mario Kart does!

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My favourite character is King Boo. I’m not even sure why but now it’s tradition to play him. I think it must be his malicious expression that matches my own wicked delight when someone is hit by one of our banana peels or green shells. And as a heavyweight character you can get the big cars with him so you can boot everyone out the way.

Picking a favourite track is a challenge, I love them all in different ways and the different challenges they pose. If I had to pick I’d go for Koopa Cape (so much fun with the underwater tunnel and the rushing water) and Rainbow Road.

Alongside the many reasons I love Mario Kart Wii, the dominating reason is that I am really good at it. Ok, I’m not brilliant, I’ve played it online a couple of times and that really did knock my ego down several pegs. But I’m good enough at it that my brother and I were fairly matched. You never could predict at the beginning of a race who was going to win, which made it a thrill and a challenge. So it became the game that we played together all the time. It was a game I also played with my best friend, I’d lug my Wii over to her house every time I saw her. I’m good enough that I always beat my family, my friends and I beat my partner more often than not (which says a lot, he’s the best video gamer I know AND he won a Mario Kart tournament).

I expect for many people reading this (the gamers among you anyway) being pretty good at a video game isn’t all that remarkable. But it is for me.

I was born with dyspraxia, a condition that affects physical coordination and mental processing. It’s not serious enough to be truly debilitating and I’m very lucky it doesn’t affect me as much as it could. In fact it is very difficult to distinguish the difference between ‘me’ and the dyspraxia. The most obvious thing is how clumsy and messy I am. It makes me bad at video games (and many things in life) because I have awful hand eye coordination, spatial awareness and perception. All my life I have felt like there was some invisible barrier holding me back, something that kept me just behind everyone else in everything I do.

I am capable of being good at things, like for anyone, a lot of it is down to practice. But I have to practice so much more and work so much harder than most people to just to be at a similar level to them. Even everyday chores can be a challenge. It took me a long time to learn to walk, to tie my shoelaces, to learn how to tell the time and to learn how to ride a bike. All common signs for kids with dyspraxia.

At school, I’d work on an essay for 4 or 5 hours in the evening, I’d get an A but so would the kids that only spent an hour on it. I’m a natural at horse riding but I’ve been doing that for 20 years since I was 7. I’m very slow at doing everything. It’s like my brain runs at a slower speed. Sometimes I struggle to communicate what I’m thinking verbally (one reason why I love writing!). It doesn’t affect intelligence but by the time I’ve caught up, everyone else is onto the next thing.

Mostly I’m at peace with being bad at nearly everything. But sometimes being bad at something you love doing can be soul destroying. I love board games but I nearly always lose which becomes disheartening after a while. I get seriously stuck in nearly every video game I play which is agonisingly frustrating. I can’t do puzzles. Walkthroughs are my best friend. I’ve given up playing most video games now, settling on things like Fantasy Life, Stardew Valley and The Sims which let me play at my own pace and allow you to play the story without the need to become more skilled.

Mario Kart Wii is one of those few things that I did so much that I actually managed to tip the balance and become good at it. I simply enjoyed playing it so much that it never mattered that I was awful at it. Then one day I wasn’t bad anymore.

I raced through Wario’s Gold Mine dodging carts and bats without falling off the wooden tracks. I sped round the crushing cars in Moonview Highway. I laid my banana traps with precision and shot red shells at the vital moment. I mastered the corners in Bowser’s Castle 3. I laughed in the face of walls, tight corners and sheer drops.

It was a thrill to find a video game I was good at, and actually better at than a lot of people. I could be competitive and cocky. When I’m playing, I feel equal to everyone else for a change. It’s a safe place where I don’t feel like a failure.

It’s also living evidence that I can do things if I try hard enough. When I finally finished Rainbow Road without falling off and later won it on Wii it was the best feeling. I had beaten the boss I could never normally beat. I had mastered and even enjoyed the most difficult race. The race my friends begged me not to choose because they couldn’t do it.

So for me Mario Kart Wii isn’t just another video game I enjoy playing. It’s THE game I can play. It’s the game that, even for a moment, makes me feel like I can fly. Well, at least until I hit a banana peel.

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Banana Cup

DK’s Jungle Parkway

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Mario Kart 64
Teri Mae | Sheikah Plate

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I have some seriously fond memories of Mario Kart, but particularly Mario Kart 64. I grew up playing it, grew up challenging my family to hours of Mario Kart races, and spent days in time trials trying to figure out the fastest routes through different levels. But my favorite memories came from college.

I was a freshman, starting my first year of university, and I had just met the boys next door. I was smitten, obviously, with the dark-haired, gorgeous skater boy studying film. And what did my nerdy self think was a good way to woo said stunner? With Mario Kart tournaments, of course. And lucky for me that freshman boy thought my gaming ways weren’t silly or stupid or too geeky or too weird. He thought they were cool. He and his roommate and I would spend hours playing Mario Kart, the roommate and I usually teaming up with each other to make sure that freshman boy wouldn’t win. There was even one particularly close game where we may have, maybe, broken the futon from our apartment. You see, we were all standing up, everyone neck and neck, playing on who knows which map, and when the race was over (pretty sure I won) we all collapsed back down onto the futon. The combined weight of everyone definitely broke one of the bars on the bottom, something we immediately made a pact to never tell my roommates. So what happened between that freshman boy and the girl with the crazy crush on him?  Yeah, we got married. I think I’m pretty lucky a video game helped bring together my better half and me.

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Now, let’s get on to the recipe, since that’s the real reason you’re here! I really couldn’t decide which track to do. Yoshi Valley, which was my absolute favorite? Or maybe Rainbow Road, the most frustrating?  Or how about Sherbet land, where I have some magical power that allows me to never hit a penguin? Nah. Instead of choosing one I loved the most I settled on the one I hated most – DK’s Jungle Parkway. Man, I hated it. The coconuts throwing you off course, the super tight turns, and that narrow choke-point bridge. But the older I get the more fun it is – the more of a challenge it is. So in honor of a challenge, here’s DK’s Dark Chocolate Frozen Bananas (which, incidentally, aren’t challenging at all).

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It’s pretty basic, actually. Just slice the bananas in half and add a skewer through the length of them. Freeze for at least 2 hours. Right before you melt the chocolate add the shredded coconut and coconut sugar to a plate. Then we temper the chocolate.

Over a double broiler (a simmering pot of water with a bowl on top) melt the chocolate. Use a candy thermometer to heat the chocolate to 115F. Take it off the heat and add the remaining chocolate. Stir until it all melts.

Take the bananas out of the freezer and coat each one, one by one, in chocolate, then roll it in the sugar and coconut. Continue with each one and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Store in the freezer and enjoy!

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DK's Dark Chocolate Frozen Bananas

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Frozen bananas coated in dark chocolate and rolled in coconut and coconut sugar


Ingredients

  • 3 Bananas
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, divided, with 6 oz in one bowl, 2 oz in another
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar

Directions

  1. Slice the bananas in two. Place a skewer through the center of each banana.
  2. Freeze the bananas for at least 2 hours.
  3. Temper the chocolate over a double broiler. Heat the chocolate to 115F. Remove from the heat and add the remaining chocolate. Stir until it melts.
  4. Coat one banana piece in the chocolate using a spoon or spatula. Immediately roll in the coconut and coconut sugar.
  5. Continue for each piece of banana.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep frozen until you serve!

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Moo Moo Meadows

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Mario Kart Wii
Kathy | Krysanthe

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Tracking Shells 14

I’ll be honest, I bought Mario Kart Wii on a whim.

At the time, the family was loving all things Wii. OMG, we loved the Wii. It was the perfect gaming system for families with young children because even the smallest of tykes could manage the controllers to some extent.

So, when I saw there was a game with the lovable Mario characters AND that game had “real” wheels, I bought the game, got some extra wheels, and our Mario Kart adventure began.

Everyone loved Mario Kart Wii. Even my son, who was around 3, loved the colorful tracks and would play happily with us. Sometimes we’d all race. Sometimes we’d watch as someone played solo. We would even connect to the web and play against people across the world. There was so much fun and laughter when we got behind the wheels.

I, of course, always won. BUT that didn’t matter. The kids were glad I was good at the game. They even made it my job to unlock all the characters. A job that I didn’t take lightly. I even spent time when the kids weren’t around to unlock whoever it was they coveted.

They would come back to find they could play as King Boo, Baby Luigi, or their very own Mii… heck eventually they could play as anything they wanted. To them, I was THE Mario Kart Mom.

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To this day, our love affair with Mario Kart Wii lasted longer than any other game we’ve played as a family.

Of course in the world of video gaming new consoles come out, new games are released, and interests change. So, after several years we stopped playing Mario Kart Wii.

That is until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe came out for the Switch. You know we HAD to buy it. We sat down to play, and it was just like old times…the fun, the laughter, the giggles. There was one MAJOR change though…my kids were good!

They could beat their old Mario Kart Mom, and it was divine! Now we had true friendly competition.

They were both shocked and thrilled that they could beat me. I didn’t care though, I loved it. As the Mario Kart Mom, I just loved the quality time we could spend together racing around the colorful tracks littered with all the lovable Mario characters.

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Choco Island

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Super Mario Kart
Ruubin | My Life as a Quest

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Tracking Shells 7

Ready Second Player – The Battle of Siblings

My brother is 11 months older than I am but young enough that my mom was convinced we acted like twins. We went everywhere together – from attending the same classes in school to playing video games together.

The Christmas we turned 6 and 7 was the year we received our first gaming system; the Super Nintendo. If ever there was a moment that was to set my destiny and lead me down my future path it was the moment we turned on our Super Nintendo to play.

With the console, we received four games. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble (1996), Super Mario Kart (1992), Super Mario World (1990), and Star Fox (1993). As much as I loved the Super Nintendo, the one thing I hated was that for most SN games, the second player was in many ways just an alternate. For some games (like DKC3), playing meant that I spent the majority of my play time playing follow the leader (player one). And for other games (like Super Mario World) playing meant waiting my turn entirely. The struggle for Player 2 was real.

However, there was one game we had that allowed me to ditch my player status and rise to the top; Super Mario Kart. While my brother could beat me in just about any video game, I was the reigning champion when it came to Super Mario Kart. I knew the exact moment to drift off trail but still avoiding Deep Water, in Koopa Beach, and the best places to place a banana peel on Rainbow Road that would give me an additional 10-15 second lead. But even with all these tricks up my sleeve, they were nothing compared to all my favorite course Coco Island. I was a master at avoiding the chocolate mud but was equally skilled at pushing my opponent into them.

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However, that reign was short-lived. Many years later as our consoles evolved, my interest in video games changed from consoles to PC games. My primary play time included building elegant homes in Sims and World of Warcraft. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I started playing console games again which mostly consisted of first-person shooter games like Borderlands or adventure games like Diablo and Skyrim.

It was years since I’d gotten in a kart to race and just when I thought I’d never had the opportunity to compete against my brother, the moment dropped right into my lap. It was my nephew’s fifth birthday, and my family got together at Dave and Buster’s where my brother and I were once again presented with the opportunity to race. As I got in the seat of the Mario Kart Arcade DX, I was immediately filled with adrenaline from the many years of being the reigning champion.

Pushing my competitiveness aside, we began the race. We slipped on banana peels, ran off cliffs, and bumped into walls as if it were the first time we’d ever played the game. Okay, so mostly that was me since his son was helping by pushing all the buttons (my brother’s a good dad!). But regardless, we had the time of our lives and even though I lost – as in I got dead last – it was still a fresh reminder of the joy I had playing video games with my brother.

To this day, my favorite Mario Kart remains to be the Super Nintendo Mario Kart because the memories it brings of falling in love with video games.

❤ Ruubin

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Pac-Man Stadium

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Mario Kart GP DX
Victor | The Modern Gafa

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Tracking Shells 18

Growing up, I was never really a Nintendo kid. I had every version of the Gameboy and the first DS, but they were mostly used for JRPGs. I never really got into the extended Mushroom Kingdom. Except for Mario Tennis on the GBC, but that was way more a JRPG about a boarding school and had very little to do with Mario.

I’ve dabbled in a few Nintendo staples here and there, but none of them really stuck with me. I once actually bought a Mario game because it looked interesting, only to discover that I already had it.

Then, on August 15 2015, I walked into Victory Pointe in Pittsburgh and discovered Mario Kart GP DX. You can’t play this on your TV at home or on a handheld of any kind. This is the arcade version we’re talking about here.

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It’s not a great game, it’s not even that good, but it’s the game I have the most fun with at Victory Pointe. While it lacks a lot of what makes the console and handheld versions amazing, the arcade Mario Kart is a spectacle that can’t be beat. The announcer alone is worth it, and nothing beats having your foot on a pedal and your hands on the wheel.

And it’s one of the few games Katrina, my wife, will play with me. Not only on a random day hanging out at the arcade, but also on the most special day of of our lives.

You most people had a First Dance at their wedding. Me? We had a first Mario Kart race. And yes, I won.

As I sit here writing this, Katrina is playing through her first adventure through the bizarrely bizarre Kingdom Hearts. But it was a long road — a Mario Kart track if you will — to get her to this point. When we met, she wouldn’t be caught dead new a video game.

When we got our Nintendo Switch, there was only one game we wanted – Mario Kart. Also The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but that’s a given. Now we play at home together, but we still love to head on down to Victory Pointe to put our feet on the pedals and our hands on the wheels.

We game together. She games by herself. Mario Kart did that for us. From just another date night to our wedding day, Mario Kart brought us a little closer together.

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Flower Cup

Daisy Cruiser

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Mario Kart Double Dash!!
Matt | 3PStart

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I talk about a lot of game series that have followed me around for a while in my many years of gaming. As an only child growing up, there are a lot of single-player games that are story-driven and kept me busy through my school years and in recent years that I focus on. It’s weird to me now that I haven’t talked more about some of the multiplayer games that I’ve clung to over time, though. For instance, Mario Kart has been a part of my life since the first days of its life on the Super Nintendo- and it’s not like I’ve slouched on playing more recent iterations!

I have a virtual trophy cabinet of fond memories from the series. I bonded with my cousin over rounds of Super Mario Kart when we got together. Same with my best friends in grade school (and there were some intense Battle Mode throwdowns in those days, let me tell you). Mario Kart 64 was a marvel that kept me glued to my TV for hours on end. Even the more recent games have been great for me to spend some quality time with various younger relatives over. Absolutely nothing will beat my time with Mario Kart: Double Dash, though.

See, when I went to college, I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in. I barely fit in during high school and arriving on my first day in the dorms with a box of game systems in my arms was a statement: whether I fit it or not, I was going to be myself. Gaming was a big part of that identity. I also moved in early due to scheduling with family so I had a few days to stress and agonize over how well this new “college” thing would go. Thankfully, when my roommate finally arrived, the first box he hefted in had a Nintendo sitting on top of it. At the very least, I knew I’d survive.

The next year, my roommate and I moved into a suite with a few of our good friends we had made. The six of us were all gamers, and we regularly had nights that we lost to Super Smash Bros. Melee, Dance Dance Revolution, and one of our favorites, Mario Kart: Double Dash. Like most gaming groups, our four-way battle royales became proving grounds. They were all in good fun, of course, but they were ruthless. You found the tracks you excelled at and strategies that would get you to the front of the pack for all of the bragging rights you could gather.

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One of “my” tracks, of course, wound up being the beautiful Daisy Cruiser. Not only have I been a fan of the energetic princess since the days of the Super Mario Land comics, making her my prime choice of racer, but the track itself was fun and unpredictable when my friends and I would play on it. When it came time for each of us to choose our track of personal prowess, there was always someone who would pick Rainbow Road, someone who would choose the “whatever I don’t care” option- and the cruise liner was my go-to for a near-guaranteed first place. During those games, those tracks were your identity in a way.

My fondest memories of college are still back in that dorm suite, learning to bank green shells off of corners to take my friends by surprise and watching as temporary alliances were made to send one of us to the bottom of the rankings. The Mario Kart series has always been an unsung hero for my bonding with gamer friends, despite always being just off in the periphery. Whatever bells and whistles the series ends up with, it will always be the good clean fun that has brought my friends and family together. Whenever I line myself up to race around the decks of the Cruise Liner Daisy just off of the shores of Peach Beach, though, I’ll remember those hours of bonding that got me through some of the most unfamiliar waters I’ve swam through in my young adult life.

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Koopa Troopa Beach

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Mario Kart 64
Andrew | The Ink-Stained Mage

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Long before I played Mario Kart 64 for the first time, I was a gamer. I loved my NES, I loved my Genesis, life was grand and video games were amazing. But if there was ever a moment that I could look at that said, “This is when I got the bug,” it was with Mario Kart 64. Specifically, with Koopa Troopa Beach.

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Koopa Troopa Beach is the third level of the Mushroom Cup from Mario Kart 64. It’s marked by a series of ramps, palm tree obstacles, a very unique shortcut, and a rising tide that slightly alters how the course plays every lap. Now, a lot of Mario Kart levels have similar or even identical features. A lot of them are prettier, more unique, and more well known in the Mario Kart canon. But this particular track was one that my best friend and I raced over and over again. It was where I learned to read a track, and to critically assess ideal routes. It was where I learned precision. It was where I was beaten like a Nascar racer in a Radio Flyer for the better part of a year and birthed my love of studying and learning from games.

God it sucked for awhile before it got better.

See the thing about Koopa Troopa Beach isn’t that it’s particularly difficult. In fact it’s probably one of the easiest tracks in the game. There’s comparatively few hazards, the water leaves ample room even when the tide is at its highest, and other than a bunch of ramps and one grove of palm trees not much on the course even presents a static obstacle for you to smack yourself against.

But your opponents, that can make all the difference. My best friend raced circles around me. Repeatedly. To great excess. And so I learned to race like him. I learned the basics of racing. I studied how to get better. I learned the curves and the fastest paths and how to hold an item as a shield. And I learned about the shortcut. There’s a certain ramp that leads to a tunnel carved through the rocky hills that cuts off a significant portion of the course. The ramp is the thinnest on the track. And in my head it was always the key to victory.

Oh…oh sweet summer me.

In the end, it turned out that hitting that shortcut was pretty low percentage, especially since I wasn’t the best driver as a kid. You miss and you end up against a wall and waaaaaay off the optimal path. I learned in the end that the faster and more likely path toward victory, heck toward being more competitive with my best friend at all, was to take the smartest route. Even if I only won once in a very great while, each race was more thrilling, more dramatic, closer. We both had more fun.

And I started studying other games. In RPGs I put in research on different types of character builds. In Smash Bros. I practiced with Fox until I learned how to take on three level nines. To this day learning about the different strategies and ways to play a game, the trial and error, the failures you see until little by little you succeed, those are just as fun to me as playing the game. Those early sessions playing MarioKart 64 made me the gamer I am today. And it was Koopa Troopa Beach that put me on that path.

Because here’s the other thing I learned on that track. Sometimes, just for the fun of it, you can nail that shortcut. And it’s just as thrilling to hit it, as it is to fail and work your way back to the front.

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Wario Stadium

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Mario Kart 64
Justin | TWOTALL4UFOOL’s Gaming and More

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Blogging live to you and yours! It’s your boy TWOTALL4UFOOL! The Mario Kart series has been a part of my video game life since the original one that came out in 1992. I’ve had fun with that one so much that I’ve gone on to play every single Mario Kart game that came out since then. It was even one of the deciding factors that made me go ahead and purchase a Game Boy Advance just so I could play Mario Kart: Super Circuit. There have been great Mario Kart games over the years including the most recent Mario Kart 8 Deluxe which is the latest one in the great series. But the most memorable fun times I had playing any Mario Kart game has to be Mario Kart 64 for the Nintendo 64. I feel weird saying this because the N64 isn’t even one of my favorite consoles (worst controller ever by the way).

Now I don’t think that Mario Kart 64 is the best one in series at all. I think just about every other Mario Kart game that has come out after this one has been better in some form or another. But this game I feel was such an upgrade over the SNES game that it really just blew that game out of the water. If I would ever go back to play my SNES I would never play Super Mario Kart. But I feel that each and every track is well designed and it was a step into the future of what this series has become today. The fact that you could play four at a time was huge too. I think many people forget that Nintendo was one of the first to make the jump from two to four players. That would make things even crazier. As I played this game it I built so many memories among friends and family members.

My younger brother and I would go at it for hours. We would do grand prix and battle mode for the most part. The we would go at it doing battle mode. Match race we hardly ever did unless we had some of our friends over but we also did do time trials as well. This is the game I had the most fun doing time trials on. Trying to beat them ghosts was something else. When we would play the game with four us it would usually be at my uncle’s place. He also got an N64 for himself and my cousins and it would be nothing but hours of fun mischief. Those match races were something else. We would also do time trial competitions. Banshee Boardwalk was one of my favorite places to do time trials. See what time you can get at that place using Wario.

Some of my favorite courses in that game was DK’s Jungle Parkway, Bowser’s Castle, Royal Raceway, Kalimari Desert, Toad’s Turnpike, and Wario Stadium. Royal Raceway I feel was a very well designed course that was an adventure. Plus the Mushroom Castle makes an appearance if you know how to find it. You can never go wrong with Bower’s Castle. That course if full of surprises. DK’s Jungle Parkway is fun course with that boat. If you go off the track rocks are thrown at you and you can’t save your ghost doing time trials. Kalimari Desert be careful not to run into the train. And if you ever did Toad’s Turnpike in mirror mode on grand prix. LOL! So much fun yet so hard. But my favorite course in the game has to be Wario Stadium. I like how huge it is and the fact that it is go karts riding on terrain that dirt bikes should riding on is a bit of a different experience. And if you put your weapons at the right place you could end up dropping back to a place in the course you were already at. I know they’ve had many courses similar over the years but for Mario Kart 9 they need to bring that course back. I don’t think it’s appeared in any of the retro courses in recent games.

When I play any Mario Kart game I tend to always go with the heavyweights. The lightweights I didn’t really mind too much but I like more of challenge. So my main go to racers were mainly Donkey Kong and Wario. I would drive as Bowser every now and then and once in a while I would go between Mario and Luigi. Peach, Toad, and Yoshi I would usually stay away from. But regardless of what character you want to race as in my opinion Mario Kart in general is an easy game to learn whether you are an experienced gamer or a beginner. I feel the key to winning is 50/50. 50% skill and 50% luck. Now when it comes to the case of Mario Kart 64 I really want Nintendo to hurry up and put out this N64 mini. I playing and racing online is cool but it doesn’t match up to the mischief and fun you can have if you are playing locally. I feel that is true with any game however.

Looking back I feel the Mario Kart games of today wouldn’t be great without the success of Mario Kart 64. Definitely not the best but I feel it has had the most impact on the series. If any of you guys out there hasn’t played Mario Kart 64 I definitely recommend you guys do so however you can. And think of your boy 2TALL when you are playing. Blogging live to you and yours. It’s your boy TWOTALL4UFOOL! Remember that TOGETHER EVERYONE ACHIEVES MORE! Thanks for reading and thanks again Matt and Normal Happenings for including me in this fabulous collab!

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Maple Treeway

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Mario Kart Wii
KT | Wintendo 64

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Growing up in a strict Nintendo platform only household, I found myself playing Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. constantly. I have 4 siblings and we all had a competitive and passionate side to gaming, those games could cause literal wars between us. They’ve more or less grown out of their gamer sides now. But when everyone was home for Christmas break we reunited around Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Smash Bros Ultimate for some good old fashioned Nintendo style smack downs.

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Sure, growing up our races through Rainbow Road would get ugly and personal. We’d spend nights staying up to unlock every map and character and beating every time trial. There were insults hurled as we tossed every item attempting to pop each other’s balloons. And there were times we didn’t even care about the race and spent hours just exploring maps and all the different places we could get to. All these moments really did bring us closer.

But my favorite Mario Kart memory didn’t happen in front of a TV; it happened a couple years ago on a family vacation. We had a tradition of going go karting on our vacations, it was my younger brother’s highlight of the trip. But this year, about a year after I started cosplaying, I somehow managed to get all my siblings to dress up as Mario characters.

While browsing thrift stores after Halloween, we were able to pick up several of the costumes for cheap. There were a few pieces we had to make but thankfully nothing too difficult. Some pieces we had to actually make the night before because after months of planning and preparation, my older brother managed to forget his Mario costume. I’ll never let him off the hook for that even though we all laugh about it now.

Cosplaying while go karting was such an amazing and surreal experience. Some of us got way to into it and almost got removed because we were “too aggressive” with our driving, but it was so much fun and totally worth it. It’s not like we were actually throwing turtle shells and banana peels, right?

Looking back, I love this moment not only because of the fun we had. But because my siblings supported my crazy hobby enough to actually participate. They didn’t complain or tell me it was stupid, they went along with it and got enthusiastic about it. At the time I was 14 or 15 and so self conscious about cosplaying in public, but with other people, it was a lot less scary. I got my brothers to wear fake mustaches and everything, and my sisters dressed up as Peach and Diddy Kong, it was beyond amazing and I don’t think back then I appreciated it enough. But as the years go by and I revisit that moment, I realize the amazing support group I’ve had growing up.

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Star Cup

Sunshine Airport

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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Winst0lf | The Bizarro Mage

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Ah, Mario, what hasn’t he done?

He’s been a plumber (supposedly), a doctor, a tennis ace, a golfer, he rescues princesses on a regular basis from a giant tortoise monster, he’s teamed up with a sentient hat that allows him to possess things and he even takes part in the occasional really weird party or fighting tournament, he’s even taken part in the Olympics with his old nemesis Sonic!

Imagine seeing this in the ‘90s…

But of all the intense side hobbies Mario has had, one sticks out head and shoulders above the competition, like one of those big Goomba stacks. I speak, of course, of the almighty Mario Kart series, which has been going since the days of the SNES and has seen entries on almost every Nintendo console since.

Now I must confess that I never been that much of a Nintendo fan, I had a SNES and Game Boy as a kid but they never got much attention due to the fact that the Mega Drive had more games and was easier to buy games for locally. I was too enamoured with the PlayStation and PS2 to bother with the N64 and GameCube and I was never really a fan of the Wii and Wii U.

So it was that I skipped most entries in the Mario Kart series, the SNES debut being the one I played the most until very recently (Koopa Troopa for President). For, after hearing all about just how great the Switch was from all of my fellow contributors over at The Well Red Mage, I simply had to get my hands on one. Which game came bundled with it?

Let’s-a-Go!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

So I got my Switch home, set it up, popped the little cartridge into the console and off I went. As I got to the main menu, my fiancee had a sudden thought: can’t we play Mario Kart multiplayer?

“But my dear,” I said, “we need two pads for…” and then it hit me, joycons!

And so we sat before the TV, teeny tiny controllers balanced like baby birds in our hands, and off we went.

Now it’s important to mention, at this point, that my partner isn’t really much of a gamer. She is generally happy plugging away at mobile games or playing on The Sims, we don’t really do multiplayer gaming. Mario Kart 8 was the first title we had ever really played together, aside from a few games of Worms on the Dreamcast. We quickly smashed out a few Grands Prix, discovering our favourite characters (I like my Mii, my partner likes Toadette), karts (give me the classic car looking one any day) and circuits (that Sunshine Airport, oh my!)

I hope they got clearance to enter that airspace…

At first I was a little put off by the fact that every racer is unlocked from the get go. I’ve always got a real rush from unlocking things in games like this, especially characters (I used to love games like Tekken for just this reason.) Yet over time I have come to appreciate this full, wholesome roster for what it truly is! You want to be Waluigi? Go for it! What about King Boo or Dry Bowser? Yeah there they are! You can even be Mario!

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Now whilst I’ve not really played a massive amount of Mario Kart over the years, I have played enough to be at least half decent in most races (I’m certainly a beast in the lower difficulty 50cc mode). My partner, however, was struggling initially to even stay on track. Yet once again Nintendo had us covered, for MK8 Deluxe features a steering and speed assist mode for less experienced players. Noticeable by a flashing yellow aerial on the back of the player’s kart, this feature helped to keep my living room based nemesis up at the sharp end of the grid, allowing her to directly challenge me (and destroy me with red shells) on many occasions, even winning a good few along the way.

Lock ‘n’ Load!

I guess that what I am truly getting at here, past all of this superfluous window dressing and hyperbole, is that playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has created a new field of friendly battle on which my fiancee and I can duke it out, wheel to wheel, shell to shell, and it doesn’t spill out into real life! If we intend to go to war then it’s on with the Switch, out with the joycons and off we go!

Loser does the dishes!

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Baby Park

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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Luna | GamersUnitedGG

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Growing up my brother and I would have friends over often to play video games and compete to see who was the best. Mario Kart entered into our rotation of games when Mario Kart 64 was released for the Nintendo 64. The best part was that we had 4 controllers to plug in and play at once. We would take turns with the Grand Prix where 4 players would race. If we had more than 4 players, the winner would stay on the controller and the losers would pass the controllers. Let’s take a journey down some of my favorite Mario Kart memories.

Mario Kart Battles

One of my fondest memories is playing battle mode on Mario Kart 64 with my brother. I would always select Yoshi and Kenny would choose Toad. During the battle mode one day, we had a roast session on each other’s characters from me calling Toad a fungus to my brother telling me Yoshi’s going to get abducted by Bowser. Each battle was more intense and funnier than the next and that memory still stands vividly in my mind today.

Wario Stadium Mayhem!

One of my favorite stages of all time is Wario Stadium. This huge dirt bike track caused some of the funniest moments and fondest memories when playing with friends and family. There’s a specific hump on the track that when hit at the right angle, would allow a player to hop their kart over the wall and gain advantage in the race (you know which one I’m talking about lol). I know what you’re thinking, what a cheater…. But I like to refer to this move as a way to use my resources lol.

Wario Stadium was always a madhouse and the map served as more of a battleground than a race to the finish line. Strategic planning of the red shells and lightning bolts would not only take out your opponent, but cause them to curse your name the rest of the race. What do I mean by this, you say? There’s one iconic jump that’s propels your kart over a bottom portion of the map. If you don’t clear the jump, you can easily fall to the bottom of the track and have to traverse that ENTIRE section AGAIN! It’s great! If you’re in last place, I don’t know a better way to get yourself back into the race. Use that lightning bolt when most of the competitors are about to take the jump and secure yourself some extra time to catch up. Just like the character who’s name the track adorns, Wario Stadium allows players to use underhanded tricks to stay in the race!

Baby Park Madness!

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One of my more recent memories takes place on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch. At Christmas, my boyfriend bought me a Switch and I was ready to jump into gaming with my friends and co-workers. One of the first games purchased was Mario Kart 8 Deluxe because… I mean it’s Mario Kart! At this time I hadn’t played a Mario Kart game in a few years and getting used to the backwards controls of the Switch proved a challenge at first race.

** Sidenote: Does anyone else wonder why King Boo, a ghost, is considered a heavy character and has the same disadvantages of a character like Bowser or Donkey Kong? I’m pretty sure if you weigh King Boo and Bowser, they are going to be hundreds of pounds apart. Anyway… I digress lol. **

Going into a match with my friends was sure to be a great time, until unbeknownst to me and my bestie Stephanie, the 4 guys in the group had other plans. If you’re not familiar with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, when you create a private room to play with your friends, everyone in the room votes for a map and the system randomly selects it. ALL OF THE GUYS VOTED FOR BABY PARK!!!!! For 2 hours straight Steph and I were subjected to the same map because somehow, our choices were never picked. The complaints were real as we continued playing this map with hopes and prayers that one of ours would be chosen. Then, the unthinkable happened…. Steph betrayed me simply stating “Well if you can’t beat them….” and all of her selections were now turned to Baby Park. I was the lone ranger with a different map to play, but solace would not come. That entire night I played Baby Park until it was ingrained in my soul lol.

New Memories

As a part of my research for this piece, my friends and I played Mario Kart recently together in the same room and it was super fun. The joy of Mario Kart is how the personalities of your friends change based on the events happening in the game. For example, we were playing Donkey Kong Jungle and on the final lap top 3 were my friend Cassie, the Computer Iggy and myself dashing towards the last half of the map. Iggy hit Cass with a red shell right at the finish line and I was able to boost over to take 1st leaving her in 2nd. SHE BLAMED ME!!! The rest of the night Cass was cutting side looks at me as if I messed up her 1st place. Watching my friend Emily turn her controller in the same direction that her character is turning was priceless and debating the King Boo as a heavy character proved to be a fun night. No matter how stressful the day, coming together with friends to unwind and have. You can’t ask for a better night!

Mario Kart games will always hold a special place in my heart. Some of my favorite maps are Wario Stadium, Bowser’s Castle, Koopa Troopa Beach and Moo Moo Farms! As a gamer we continue to build and associate games with lighter times in life and Mario Kart has been there from the beginning and hopefully will stay until the end. Just another testament to the power behind video games and the video game community. What are your favorite memories? Who are your favorite Mario Kart characters? Which stages do you love? What’s your favorite Mario Kart game? Let’s talk Mario Kart!

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Koopa Cape

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Mario Kart Wii
Shauna | HideNGoShauna

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Mario Kart, in any and all of its forms, is an excellent game for building (or breaking) strong friendships. The fervor and intensity with which it is played inspires insane smack talk on levels that surpass even Mario Party mini games. Playing Mario Kart is a surefire way to see the truth inside a person- whether it’s a first date, a new acquaintance, a reluctant family member, or a lifelong friend- all sense of propriety and restraint fly sky high and disintegrate when you’re targeted by a blue shell or suddenly flattened by a star-powered Donkey Kong.

As I’ve mentioned in our past collaboration, I grew up as a total Sega kid. I did, however, have friends with Nintendo consoles, and as such I had opportunity to play some of the earlier Mario Kart games. My cousin even gave me his old N64 with some classic titles, including MK64. Still, it wasn’t until the Wii came out that I played a Mario Kart game with any real regularity or competition.

I would hang out in my friends’ basements, stuffing chips and mini eggs into my mouth absentmindedly between bouts- as the lights flashed the beginning of the race I’d grip the Wiimote with desperate resolve and take off, eager to leave my friends in the dust.

It didn’t happen though. I’m going to be totally honest here- I enjoy racing games, and sometimes I even have a good winning streak, but for the most part I’d be zipping around behind my friends, nipping at their heels. The confidence I’d won beating my sister at Sonic R so many times (sorry Chy) was dashed time and time again in Mario’s courses, where even when I got a good start my best friends gained on me and mercilessly took me out again and again. Sometimes they didn’t even have to bother- I’d fly off the edge of any unrailed corner and do the work for them (I’m looking at you, Rainbow Road…).

There was one course, though, in which I stood a fighting chance.

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Koopa Cape is an unassuming course- it isn’t overly flashy or particularly memorable compared to some of the other courses. It’s simple and short, with a few ramps, a current of rushing water, and an underground water tunnel.

The thing that really worked for me, though, was the multitude of sharp corners and turns. My style of play relied heavily on drifting around corners- sometimes it didn’t work to my favour, but in this course the number of swift drifting spots gave me an edge.

Once I realized my affinity for Koopa Cape, it became my course of choice- not in aesthetics, but purely for its layout. I even developed a little chant, “KOOPA CAPE, KOOPA CAPE, KOOPA KOOPA KOOPA CAPE!”

In the end though, who cares if you’re winning or losing? Mario Kart is all about the memories, the nostalgia, the release of letting out your tension in a fierce competition where anything goes. Here’s to many more Mario Kart memories yet to come!

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Rainbow Road

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Mario Kart 64
Amanda May | Imaginating Life

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Tracking Shells 11

We all have that one friend who we can be completely goofy with, without judgment. And after knowing this one friend for years, there are still certain moments that are forever memorialized in our brains, to be recalled with warmth and wistful nostalgia. The following is one such memory. This is a tale of two oddball besties… and an evening of tipsy Mario Kart rivalry.

Although my accomplice… I mean friend now lives a few states away, we used to have quite a lot of fun when hanging out. Most Friday nights, instead of going out to bars or other questionable locations, we’d instead take turns hosting pajama parties at each other’s houses. “Girls’ Night In” as we called it. Dinner, wine, and an array of movies, games and random topics of discussion to pass the time into the wee hours of Saturday morning.

One such night, after binge-watching about 10 or 12 episodes of 30-second Bunny Theatre, we decided to move over to gaming. It was my turn to host our self-titled “Girls’ Night In,” and my available console was a limited edition black Wii. (Complete with matching retro controllers and nunchucks, I might add!) What followed was total hilarity…

We had decided to play Mario Kart 64, one of the Virtual Console games I’d purchased (among others, including Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Mario Bros.). Both of us, having younger siblings who we had totally annihilated in other racing games “way back when,” were completely confident in our wine-influenced gaming skills.

Though we were tipsy enough to have fun, we never got drunk enough to forget the fun we were having. A point we both, as responsible adults, made sure to follow. Drink – and game – responsibly, my friends!

As our friendly competition continued, so did our wine consumption… and our increasing lack of fine motor skills. Eventually, instead of trying to race each other properly, following the track as laid out, we started trying to see what shenanigans we could get into. This included deliberately running the track backwards while laughing at the “No-no Cloud Guy” (totally official name) telling us to turn around, purposefully driving out into water or off cliffs, and collecting as many projectiles as possible to shoot at each other just to see what they all did.

Then came the infamous Rainbow Road track. By this time we were so deliriously giddy, moreso with said shenanigans than the wine, that we spent probably the next 30-45 minutes on just this track alone. The pretty colors were just so engaging, just like those psychedelic lava lamps you just can’t look away from. Banana peel after banana peel, I was repeatedly spinning out of control and falling off the road into the black abyss, sometimes intentionally. I didn’t care though, I was having fun!

Me being me, my crazy weirdo brain decided that was the time to break out into song. Which song, you ask? Why, only the bestest 80s synth pop song about spinning that anyone actually (maybe, possibly) knows – “You Spin Me Round” by Dead or Alive (side note: this song had been a sort of inside joke we shared, but I’ll keep that memory for now). My mouth followed my brain’s lead and started blurting out the lyrics (barely intelligible through all the giggles and guffaws).

My friend, having the same crazy weirdo brain mechanics as myself, promptly and excitedly paused our game, switched over to the YouTube Wii channel, and began searching up the video. In case you weren’t already aware, yes, there is an equally cringe-worthy, if not oddly-hilarious video for this song. This video is so classically 80s cheeserrificness you just can’t help but watch the whole thing! Go ahead, look it up. You’re welcome.

I think we must have watched the video at least 3 or 4 times back-to-back just laughing our hearts out. We never made it back to the game, as watching -and drunkenly singing along to – that song brought up many fun memories. Memories we talked about into the wee hours of Saturday morning. Just two oddball besties having a laugh and sharing good times together. As it should be.

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Shell Cup

Grumble Volcano

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Mario Kart Wii
Skylar Mei | gamergal.exe

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I’ve always viewed Mario Kart as a game that’s got a way of bringing people together whether it be family, friends, children, adults or a mixture of them all. Of course you can also play by yourself with bots or online (with the newer games), but there’s something particularly special when multiple people gather in the same room and get stuck into a full on tournament! That being said, it can also be viewed as a friendship tester. I’m sure we’ve all been there at least once.

Although I first started out on the DS version of Mario Kart, my fondest memories are of the Wii version. My parents bought a Wii as a family Christmas gift one year which was a complete surprise! It was also slightly odd as my parents weren’t fans of gaming, yet they’d decided to buy us the most popular console of the year without us even asking!

Unfortunately, I never really got into the Wii and it became more like my younger brother’s console. I was into the PS2 at the time, but he enjoyed all the party and sports games the Wii had to offer. It wasn’t until we got Mario Kart that I really started to take an interest. There came a time when my parents also started to play with us. My dad had played a few games with us in the past, but I had never even seen my mum with a controller in her hand. She was terrible at first, but it was so wonderful that she wanted to try so hard to be involved, thoroughly enjoying herself along the way.

I remember playing through all the racing difficulties, the mirror levels and unlocking all the bonus characters. I guess you could say I got pretty decent at playing, however, I didn’t play it half as much as my brother did. He practised religiously and began to experiment by finding faster ways to complete laps and ended up finding a variety of shortcuts and tricks for each course. He soon became impossible to beat which kind of sucked the fun out of it, but I began to sneakily pick up all the secrets he had found to use for my own advantage… depending on my opponents.

One of the most memorable moments I have is of one of these ‘cheat’ shortcuts. There were quite a few maps where some major route changes / skips could be achieved, but these were nothing compared to a particular trick on a specific map. Have you ever beaten a race in less than 50 seconds? Welcome to Grumble Volcano!

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One night, shortly after I’d signed up this project, I mentioned I’d be writing about Mario Kart over a family meal so I asked my parents and my brother if they could recall anything in particular. My dad instantly replied with “That stupid track that had the small rock right next to the starting line”. I remembered the exact moment he was referring to…

The countdown started for the race to begin. My dad made the perfect boost start and set off into the lead, however, my brother was at a standstill. My dad started to laugh thinking he’d messed up his start somehow, so proceeded to drive with a smile on his face. This could be his first chance to beat the Mario Kart Master of the household. Taking a glance at my brother’s half of the screen, my dad was completely baffled to see him driving in the opposite direction before plummeting straight into the lava. My brother was a bit of a sore loser when he was younger, so my dad thought he was angry for messing up his start and decided to throw the game.

How wrong he was. I’d seen this trick before so I knew exactly what was up his sleeve, but my dad hadn’t the faintest idea, therefore he continued to mock him. Shortly after, my dad then noticed the placement marker flick from 1st to 2nd place. Completely confused, as he was miles ahead, he began to pay more attention to what my brother was actually doing.

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My brother had managed to boost himself onto the small rock to the left side of the starting line and was now driving anti-clockwise around the very tight edge. After a couple more rotations around the rock, the race was over. My dad hadn’t even finished a lap. Unfortunately, the trick doesn’t work on the Nintendo Switch version of the game, but you can still see the rock to the left of the starting line (with the enlarged item block) as shown in the screenshot above.

I will never forget the look of bewilderment on my dad’s face. I don’t think he ever allowed my brother to chose Grumble Volcano again from that moment onwards (for obvious reasons). Despite this being unfair, it’s a strong memory I have of gaming with my close family. Considering it wasn’t just me that remembered this specific race speaks volumes as we hardly ever played video games as a family. Mario Kart somehow filled a space that I don’t think could have been filled by any other game.

Although there have certainly been arguments caused during my time playing Mario Kart, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has experienced plenty of pleasant memories across a variety of consoles with a vast range of differing audiences. I only recently bought Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Switch, but this addition makes Mario Kart the first series of games I own across 3 different consoles! I’m sure there will be many more tournaments and memorable moments to follow.

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Dino Dino Jungle

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Mario Kart 7
Imtiaz | Power Bomb Attack

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Tracking Shells 8

It’s funny I’m writing here, only because despite being pretty much a world wide phenomenon, Mario Kart has been a franchise that I’ve chosen to pass most of the time throughout all the Nintendo consoles. I have nothing against the franchise, it’s just I’ve never had the right combination of people to really enjoy the game with. Yet somehow, Mario Kart still manages to cement itself as part of one of my most enjoyable, and hilarious gaming memories.

Around the time the 3DS came out, I was in a bit of a gaming lul. I had not kept up with gaming nearly as much as I did around when the Wii came out. Hell, I didn’t even know the Wii U and 3DS came out until I stumbled onto one of the odd TV commercials. For me not to know Nintendo released new hardware was an odd thing indeed. This didn’t stop me from owning both systems. Infact, a friend making a trip down to Toronto after a long time helped convince me that I needed to get a 3DS… like now. I quickly whipped up an order of a blue 3DS and some select games.

How does this all relate to Mario Kart? Well, because I was in my so called gaming hiatus, I can’t help but feel that experience Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS with my friends helped remind me how great gaming was. The 3DS has something special I was not aware of, and really experienced in a magical way, for lack of less cheesier words. As I got together with my friends one night, the 3 of us took to a nice 3DS session of Mario Kart following our outing of bubble tea that night. The download play feature was such a nice surprise, as it allowed my friend to effectively share his copy of Mario Kart 7 to my 3DS. This lead to such a fun and hilarious night of passing the 3DS’s around for several 1 on 1 bouts of the good old kart racing game. You know what they say, there’s nothing like local multiplayer gaming with everyone in the same room. Having a couple people huddled around the tiny 3DS screens, with the spectator hopping back and forth between each player was a sight on its own.

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Mario Kart 7 showed me how far the game came since I last played it. The stages were so elaborate. The driving mechanics felt tighter than ever, allowing me to do some serious pro driving. Soaring through the skies past all the dinosaurs in stages like Dino Dino Jungle was such a delight. The night was off to a great start.

The spontaneousness of this really lead to some, well, spontaneous moments. Like my visiting friend deciding he was now going to be our Mario Kart announcer, a feature never yet seen in the series. As we zipped by each other, throwing shells, slipping on banana peels, my visiting friend would exclaim things like “Oh my god! Imtiaz takes the lead with an ultra precise shot with the green shell! I can’t believe it!”. And other things like “Imtiaz, the veteran of Mario Kart, is really honing into his experience to take advantage of the race!”. Meanwhile, the rest of us are trying our damn hardest to concentrate and telling him to shut up several times.

I have to tell you, my stomach was hurting from laughter, my eyes were tearing up, and the 3DS screens were covered in spots of dry spit from all of this. It’s quite amazing that I managed to play as well as I did that night. So well in fact, that by the end of it, my friends weren’t having any more of it. You see, I’ve always been a Nintendo guy, very different from all my friends. They claimed my experience with Nintendo consoles, games and Mario Kart was unfair and because it gave me the upper hand, they decided to make things even more interesting.

If having an announcer wasn’t unique enough, they decided to take the default Shy Guy character I was dealt as part of the download play, and setup him up so he wasn’t so optimal. They spent a good chunk of time picking the karts and wheels so that I’d have the toughest time in the race. They truly did indeed give me a setup that felt clunky, slow and very unfamiliar.

Despite my hardest efforts, I sadly fell in defeat. The race was still close, but I couldn’t overcome the odds by the end of the night. My friends found much amusement that they finally beat me. I still felt good about my performance overall. More importantly, I felt even better that it was such a fun night.

You see, there’s truly something magical about how Mario Kart, and other games like it for that matter really bring people together in the same physical space, and help shape some of your wildest gaming memories. There’s nothing quite like having these games bring out the fun competitive nature of you and your friends for some good sportsman-like Mario Kart races.

This night was a nice reminder why really getting back into gaming was important for me. It’s always been part of my life up to that point. Even though I had stepped away from the idea of gaming for a bit, all it took was a funny night of Mario Kart to really draw me back in. I will always be grateful to Mario Kart for reminding me of this.

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Bowser’s Castle

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Mario Kart DS
Thomas | The Off-Centred Earth Mage

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Tracking Shells 9

To start off, I’m going to give you all a little background to my experience with Mario Kart. Let me start by saying I know that Mario Kart began its journey into that special place in our hearts and memories all the way back on the SNES, but that’s not where my own special journey began. (I’ve since gone back and played every version of Mario Kart, stop judging me Karen.)

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No, my own personal Mario Kart journey began on the Nintendo DS. Here is where Bowser’s Castle became one of if not my favourite tracks in any karting game. Not because it was the most graphically stunning track I’d ever seen, because it’s not. Not because it had tonnes of tricks and turns and shortcuts and hidden mechanics — it didn’t (unless my entire childhood was a cruel, cruel joke). None of that. This track I fell completely and utterly in love with because it was something me and my Dad loved playing together. Bowser’s Castle, no matter what platform you find it on, has always and probably will always be famous for its lava mechanics. Not only that, but with each new iteration of this track, there’s always something new to sink your teeth into. But none of that holds a single candle to the memories I have of me and my Dad playing this track.

The odd time where we could actually get the multiplayer on the Nindendo DS working, we would spend every weekend playing this track for what felt like hours but in reality was what was only forty minutes ago. This carried over to the Nintendo Wii, and now finally the Switch.

I guess for me, this track shows more than any other how people can be brought together with games like Mario Kart. My Dad has never been much of a gamer. He was that type of Dad who was always into the next big shooter or the next big action game or with how much gaming has progressed and changed over the years, he always took interest in sitting with me watching how beautiful and realistic graphics have become. Mario Kart however, it brought us together in a way that I can’t quite describe, but something that I will never forget.

What are things like now? In the effort of transparency, the very first game I thought of getting when I got my hands on the Nintendo Switch was Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Me and Dad are still playing from time to time and our favourite track is still Bowser’s castle. Now though, I play with Alannah, the woman I intend to marry someday. And guess what? One of our favourite tracks to play against each other on is Bowser’s Castle. We’re both particularly fond of that twisty turny bit of the track where the big Bowser statue can quite literally punch you to a little kart shaped pancake. It does me good to watch my girlfriend out of the corner of my eye get ultra-competitive at that part, concentration face in full swing.

I guess what I want to say more than anything is, thank you for the amazing memories. Dad, here’s to the next race.

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Rainbow Road

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Mario Kart Double Dash
Alyssa | Nerd Side of Life

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Tracking Shells 4

I think that no matter who you are, where you’re from, or how old you are the words “Mario Kart” are recognizable. It’s one of those games that can capture you for hours and reel you in until you realize that it’s 1:00 in the morning and you need to be up in 5 more hours. Almost everybody has heard of it in someway and most people have memories and stories to go along with it.

It seems like everyone I talk to can say one thing about Mario Kart, and that is that it brought them together with other people. It made families and friendships closer for the brief time that you played it and my story is no different.

I can’t remember one specific time that Mario Kart made me happy or just one fond memory because in reality I don’t remember them. (The curse of a bad memory is real in my case)

As the only girl among boys in my household, I had to take a liking to video games because my brothers were almost always on the GameCube on our family television in the living room. There were some that I liked to play, and some that I didn’t. The game that stuck out to me the most growing up was none other than Mario Kart, of course.

It was the easiest game for all three of us to agree on to play together. I stunk at Smash, the other game they would play, and I stunk at Mario Kart too. But at least with Mario Kart we would argue less – and even then we still argued a lot. We argued over what track we wanted to use, the boys argued over who got to be Mario and who had to be someone else, we argued when we hit each other with items and most importantly, we argued whenever we lost to each other.

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The worst of the arguing happened whenever we played Rainbow Road. Infamous for being one of the most difficult tracks to play, it was probably the track that we played the most on as kids because we liked seeing who would come out on top. We were competitive and did everything we could to be victors at Rainbow Road.

I was never a victor, for I was the victim of being pushed off the track numerous times. I would often come in last place, as I was not very good at the game, with my brothers battling it out for first place. Then there would be more yelling as my older brother kept pushing me off, mom would get mad that we were yelling, controllers were thrown, console was beaten up; it was a nightmare, really.

We played Mario Kart for hours and hours. We played it so much the disc had scratches and we had to get a new disc. The best part was I wasn’t even playing to win or be the best like my brothers were – I was playing because we got so hyper and into the game that it became chaotic. I liked being chaotic and over dramatic because it was fun to me, and sometimes I could get my brothers to play along.

Fast forward to now and I’m just a little more aggressive when it comes to Mario Kart. I am still not good at it literally at all, and I hardly play it, but whenever I’m with friends and we’re bored I ask “Wanna play a game of Mario Kart?” and nine out of ten times, that’s what we’ll end up doing.

But at least now I usually end up in second place instead of dead last, which is a win for me all on its own.

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Wow, that was a trip! Special thanks to these amazing bloggers for the amount of time and effort put into this collaboration. Each and every one of you deserves special recognition for sharing your memories and feelings in such an artistic way. I never cease to be amazed by the amount of dedication you put into your craft. I’m just in awe.

If you liked this collaboration, please be sure to share on social media so others can enjoy! Additionally, it will help each of these bloggers get the recognition they deserve.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comments. Tell us about your favorite track in Mario Kart, as well as some of the memories you have while racing around the Mushroom Kingdom. And with that, another collaboration comes to a close. Join us on Monday as we finally unveil the 2019 Normal Happenings Blog Awards, where I’m sure we’ll be seeing these fine bloggers again!

Music mix was adapted by YouTuber Commander Jersey based on music across the Mario Kart franchise by Nintendo.
All Mario Kart related images are copyright Nintendo.

If you liked this collaboration, please consider helping us make even better ones down the road! Consider becoming a Patron of Normal Happenings and get early access to our Daily Inklings!

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Published by

Matthew // Normal Happenings

Gump-based Blogger. Graphic Designer. Happily Married. One day I'll actually complete a book I'm happy with. I love pizza, video games, and using way too many ellipses...

19 thoughts on “Tracking Shells: Our Mario Kart Memories

  1. I’ve put a LOT of time into this series over the years. From the SNES original up to Mario Kart 8: Deluxe. And I do think the latter is the best – one of the very best games of this generation of consoles, to be honest. Nintendo has its work cut out to do better with Mario Kart 9. How about Space Mario Kart!?

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