I'm a sucker for Nintendo, I always have been. Give me a good Mario, Zelda, or Donkey Kong game and I'll be a happy camper even if they don't shake things up too much. To me these games have always been the best example that a game doesn't need to redefine a genre to be enjoyable, it just needs to be fun. Mario Kart 7 is not a big step either forwards or backwards for the Mario Kart series, but it does so many things well that it's impossible not to enjoy your time with it, even if it's brief.
It took me about 2 days to beat every tournament on 100cc while earning 3 stars for each track and although that may not seem like a lot of time, there definitely doesn't feel like there is a lack of content when playing through. All in all there are 8 tournaments with 4 tracks each so a total of 32 possible tracks to play which is pretty extensive. 4 of those tournaments are comprised of old tracks from all the other iterations of Mario Kart and trust me the devs made the best decisions when deciding which tracks to bring back! You'll see some of the old school favorites like Kalimari Desert, Koopa Beach, old school Rainbow Road and more. The new tracks are almost all incredibly fun as well. Adding some new features like hang gliding and driving underwater give the tracks the opportunity to be more versatile and memorable. Some tracks, including the new Rainbow Road which is my favorite iteration of the popular course to date, are simply one huge lap comprised of three sections rather than a smaller course with three laps. All in all the variety and creativity that can be found in the different courses give Mario Kart 7 the best track list in a Mario Kart game to date.
Another aspect from MK7 that I have absolutely loved is the opportunity to race online against people from across the world. Joining an online match is simple and the 3DS does an incredibly nice job of grouping up 5-8 people within a matter of minutes. Not once have I been in a group where less than 3 countries are represented and it's pretty fun to know you're racing against people from Japan, Australia, Europe, etc. The online mode is simple and you simply get VR points for finishing well in races so there's nothing too in depth. But for so long the best part about the Mario Kart games was racing against our friends and now we can do that almost anytime.
The character selection in MK7 may be one area where the game is lacking. Initially there are only 8 drivers to choose from with 4 more available for unlocks. This is still a decent amount but I've come to expect somewhat of a larger lineup from the more recent iterations of MK, Super Smash, Mario Tennis, etc. However, it seems that MK7 has improved the disparity that often existed between characters. Choosing DK or Bowser will no longer make you infinitely slower than the competition although there is still a difference; and driving as Koopa (my personal favorite) will not condemn you to being knocked off the course each time you bump into Peach. When I play online there is always a wide variety of characters selected and it's nice to see people being able to play as whoever they want and still have a chance to win.
All in all I think Mario Kart 7 has to be looked at as a massive success. Coupled with Super Mario 3D Land, this Christmas season has seen a resurgence for the 3DS and has made the future look bright for the once "doomed" handheld. A wide selection of maps, brilliant use of 3D, some new items, online play, hang gliding and underwater sequences have all come together to make a Mario Kart that is different enough to feel fresh but not different enough to feel like a whole new series. Although there are some things that people won't enjoy about this iteration, for the most part it's everything we love from Mario Kart and it represents just one more reason to get out there and buy a 3DS!
My Rating: 8.5/10