After being introduced to Mario Kart Wii as a child, I was immediately hooked on the game and still steadfastly believe that it, along with modern iterations such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, is one of the best game franchises of all time. At its core, Mario Kart is a racing game featuring various Nintendo characters and often played with friends. Players first select a character to play as, a vehicle to use, and then a themed course consisting of various obstacles such as jumps, cliffs, and giant chomping plants. Within each race, players try to finish first by driving and using power-up items to aid their own performance or hinder their opponents. The mechanics mentioned here include vehicle driving and use of power-ups.
These mechanics work to create user behaviors such as pressure from other players to complete the course faster, strategically banding together against a superior player, and consciously withholding resources from other players. These dynamics, in turn, generate aesthetic experiences for players. Specifically, Mario Kart focuses heavily on the competition aesthetic, and, to lesser extents, fantasy and challenge. Competition between friends and online players is fueled by an innate desire to win. Some players also really enjoy certain franchises within the Nintendo universe, so embodying those characters may allow for extra enjoyment. The challenge aesthetic is naturally introduced by the course design and obstacles that other players may generate during a race.
Mario Kart has also evolved to include other game modes that rely less on competition and more so on team cooperation and fellowship. Using similar mechanics (but removing the race aspect), players can play “battles” on teams. These teams try to use power-ups to achieve certain goals together such as collecting the most coins on the playing field. It’s quite interesting that very similar mechanics can produce a vastly different playing experience, but similar levels of enjoyment.
Overall, these aesthetics contribute greatly to an amazing game that can be played for hundreds of hours without losing its “fun”!