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Published May 27, 2014
Does Mario Kart: Double Dash!! deserve its black sheep status? Consider DK Mountain, one of its standout tracks…


From the moment Lakitu waves the starting flag, your two-man kart launches off the starting line, hurtling towards a barrel-shaped cannon at the summit. The track is tighter than anything you’ve seen in MK Wii or 7, and you trade paint with your opponents all the way up. From there, you’re fired to the mountain’s frowning peak. The rest of the race is a mad dash back down, with falling boulders and some of the tightest turns in the Mario Kart series. And if you’ve played your fair share of Double Dash!!, you undoubtedly know that last bridge before the finish line all too well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bumped off on the third lap.

Sounds pretty intense, right? And yet for many, Double Dash!! is regarded as the “weird one,” a strange experiment that alienated fans of MK64 and Super Circuit‘s simpler mechanics. But as we get ready for this week’s gravity-defying, loopy extravaganza, maybe it’s time to take a second look at the GameCube entry.

mario-kart-start1MK8 seems to be all about competition, with more balanced weaponry and (hopefully) fully-functional online tournaments. But back in 2003, there was no fiercer battle than a 7-lap run around Baby Park. At first glance, this simple oval looked like a throwaway, even with its Poochy background cameo. But then the race starts, and you quickly realize you’re driving through the bumper car rink from Hell. Because that track is so tiny, the sheer volume of “stuff” – multi-colored shells, bananas, fake item blocks – flying around turns the race into a candy-colored gauntlet.

But if you’re the kind of Mario Kart purist who recoiled at MK Wii‘s overabundance of blue shells, know that Double Dash!! is considerably more balanced. You’ll see the dreaded blue shell maybe once every couple races, and item blocks aren’t quite as prevalent. Plus, this is the one game to have character specific items; Mario and Luigi have their fireballs, Wario and Waluigi have bob-ombs, and so on. Sure, the Yoshi/Birdo eggs are pretty crummy, but these are generally well-balanced, as well.

Picking the right special item for you is just the start of the little strategic choices throughout the game. (Keep in mind that you can ignore much of them if you’re a newcomer!) This was the first game in the series to let you pick your kart – and two characters, of course – but more importantly, you can also have your backseat driver hold onto items, adding a layer of simple inventory management. Whereas more recent Mario Kart games have streamlined – or dumbed down – power-sliding so that it’s basically automatic, Double Dash!! also gives you much greater control over the angle of your turns. Getting those “blue sparks” still feels great years later, and though I like how the newer games handle, I can’t help but miss the sharper turns.

Oh, and if you’re driving cooperatively with another human in the backseat, you have even more to think about! Whether or not your buddy takes to the more passive role will depend on the two of you, but it’s a much appreciated detour after so many games with the typical Grand Prix/Time Trial feature set. And these co-op races highlight the much tighter tracks, with lots of bumping against the seven other karts.

I realize that these additions may have been seen as complications in the eyes of many, and being on one of Nintendo’s less successful platforms probably hurt its reputation further. But Double Dash!! dared to be different, and mostly succeeded. It’s the forgotten bridge between the straightforward SNES/N64 versions and the part selections and transforming karts on the 3DS and Wii U. So if you have time between now and Friday, dust off your copy of Double Dash!! and give it another chance.


  1. Aaron Aaron

    Wait, since when is Double Dash a black sheep? It’s the best game in the series.

  2. Believe me, that opinion is out there. Not sure why, but there are plenty of people who really don’t enjoy it. And plenty more people who outright ignored it!

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