In today's entry, we won't be going back too far before my time like we did with Miniature Golf, rather we will only go back a single generation. Today we will cover the first Mario Kart you can play on the go, Mario Kart Super Circuit.
In January of 2013 I got my first handheld console, the almighty Nintendo DSi. Although the successor, the 3DS, was out for nearly two years, I specifically asked for the DSi. I really hated analog sticks and circle pads (I still kind of do), and I didn't want to play any games with it. The game I really wanted for my shiny new DSi was the original New Super Mario Brothers. The game I got with my DSi on my birthday was a used copy of Super Mario 64 DS from my uncle. I was very thankful and courteous, though it wasn't the game I wanted for the system and I wasn't that big of a fan of the Nintendo 64 version I had played previously. It's funny how now that's one of my favorite games of all time, second only to Super Metroid.
I got a telescope as well from someone, but since I already had a telescope we returned it at the store. The proceeds from that allowed me to purchase two new DS games. I believe the games were on clearance. It was 2013 and some of these games already predated me! A few day after I got my DSi, my mom and I went to Target to pick out a brand-new DS game, though she would only allow me to pick out one at a time. I was dead-set on buying NSMB, when my mom pointed out that they only had one copy of Mario Kart DS left. The day after my birthday, I believe, we rented MKDS from Family Video (which at the time of writing this is sadly selling all of their movies and games and closing up) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So we picked up MKDS and it quickly became my favorite Mario Kart game of all-time. I did get NSMB about a week later, and both games now proudly hang on my bedroom wall.
Fast forward a couple months. My second grade teacher had a show-and-tell thing every Friday afternoon about a half hour before the school day was over. The kids could bring in things and show them to the class and then play with them until the day was over. Almost every Friday my friends and I would bring in our DS's and play something multiplayer. Sometimes it would be that multiplayer Pac-Man remake on Namco Museum DS, sometimes we would split up and play NSMB battle mode. But nine times out of ten we would play Mario Kart DS.
When we started doing this, one of my friends said he had the game at home and would bring it in next week. He, to this day, is the only guy I know who had a regular OG DS. It seems that most of them either had the DS Lite or some size of the DSi. There were two kids who had 3DS's as well. But this guy had the OG.
The next week he came in with a Mario Kart game on his DS. Though it wasn't the one all of us were playing, no. This was Mario Kart Super Circuit. Or has he liked to call it, "Super Mario Circuit". Obviously he couldn't play it with us, though I stayed a few minutes after school was over and tried it out. Before I got this game last week, the only course I had played on it was Luigi Circuit, time trial mode. This game was weird. It didn't feel like the Mario Kart I was used to. This game was strange, flat, pixelated, and foreign. The characters and items didn't look the part. The voices were compressed beyond belief and didn't sound like their respective characters. I left the game hating it and feeling bad for the kid for being stuck with such an abysmal Mario Kart game.
A few years later I started playing the original Super Mario Kart. I bought it on the 3DS Virtual Console so I could have some racing diversity in my VC collection. I had a blast with it. I have heard lots of negative things about how SMK aged poorly and how the splitscreen was a terrible design choice, but I honestly never had a problem with the game. I loved it. It's a great little game to take on the go with you and offers a much different experience than the more modern Mario Kart games. Maybe two years later my dad's friend was cleaning out the basement and found Mario Kart 64. He didn't have a Nintendo 64 system so he gave it to us. That was a game I didn't much care for after emulating it on my Wii. After I played the physical cart, I realized how bad the emulation for N64 games was on my Wii! Now it's a very close second to Mario Kart DS for my favorite in the series.
After playing these two games and getting a GBA for Christmas of 2019, this game was high on my list of priorities for the system. I tried to get my previously-mentioned friend to sell it to me, but he couldn't find it. So I had to get on the list for it at my local game store. They had a CIB copy for $30, but I wanted to wait a while for a loose cart. Several months later (last week) they finally called with my game. I was pretty hyped to play it again after all these years.
Mario Kart Super Circuit was released for the Game Boy Advance shortly after its launch in 2001. It was the third game in the Mario Kart series. This game plays like a hybrid of Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64, though it adheres much more closely to the former than the latter. The game features twenty new and original tracks in the flat "mode seven" style seen on many racing games on the SNES, including F-Zero. Super Circuit also includes all twenty tracks from the SNES original, making it have the highest track count of any Mario Kart game right out of the box until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe released on Switch in 2017 and included all of the DLC tracks from the Wii U version right from the get-go. Though the new tracks are flat like the SNES game, their design is much more complex and they also seem to be substantially longer than their SNES counterparts. The game controls a bit more like the Nintendo 64 version than the SNES game however. Early Mario Kart games aren't known for their great controls, and though still not perfect Super Circuit is noticeably tighter than the Super Nintendo game. Also returning from 64 are most of the items and the character roster.
The sound and music in the game are a mixed bag to say the least. The music in the game seems to rely a bit more on 8 bit-esque sounds than the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 games that preceded it. I feel this works in the games favor as the Game Boy Advance has notoriously terrible sound and music. Not that Super Circuit doesn't use sampled audio in its music, but typically it is accompanied by the old-sounding music and there are typically only one or two sampled notes playing at a time. I think that this game, given what it has to work with, sounds excellent on the GBA. The music at least. The sounds are somewhat worse. Again, a heavy reliance on retro style sounds here, such as in the item roulette. The engine sounds okay as well. The voices, however, are quite terrible. I can deal with the bit-crunch voice samples; Super Mario Advance pulled this off quite well on the GBA when it launched earlier in 2001. However, my problem with the game is that none of the characters sound like they're supposed to! Bowser, Wario, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong sound alright, but the other half of the roster is where the problem lies. Mario is the best of these, though he still sounds a bit like someone trying to do a Mario impression. Luigi sounds godawful, like a higher-pitched bootleg Mario. I know in the early Super Smash Brothers games Luigi's voice is just a pitched-up Mario, but from what I can tell the voice samples are different and not just sped up. Again, in Super Mario Advance Luigi sounded fine, and his voice was also normal in Mario Kart 64 five years earlier, so why is it all whack here? Peach also sounds a bit messed up, but that was typical of Peach in that era. Just look at Mario Kart 64, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Advance, etc. Her voice sounded very different in the early days as a different person played her. Maybe I'm just not used to it, but I never much cared for her voice in these games. I can tolerate her in SM64, Advance and MK64, so with a bit more time put into Super Circuit I will probably get a bit more accustomed to her voice. Toad isn't good either. He doesn't sound quite like he did in Mario Kart 64 or Super Mario Advance, where he sounds for the most part like his modern voice. I'm not too upset about his voice not being accurate to Mario Advance (which I'd also like to cover someday) as both games were in development at around the same time and both by different studios (Super Circuit was Intelligent System's child while SMA was developed by Nintendo EAD). Overall, I don't like the voice samples and some sound effects but the music balances it out for an overall pleasant-sounding game.
Overall, would I recommend Mario Kart Super Circuit? Well, it depends on who you are. I have heard people talk about how they love this games while others describe it as gingivitis. If you are used to the Mario Kart games from DS onward to 8 Deluxe, you might not enjoy this game. I consider the original Mario Kart trilogy to be a completely different beast than the more modern games. I can't speak for Double Dash as I have never had the pleasure of playing it, but from what I have seen it appears to be a bit of a middle ground. The more modern games typically have much better controls than the older games and more content with the addition of Retro tracks, but the older games (like the one we are talking about today) are typically a bit more arcadey and skill-based. You can't wait in 8th place for a super overpowered item to shoot you right back up to the pole position; you have to actually have a decent level of skill to climb back up the pack. The item balancing in the older games seems to be a bit fairer; don't expect 43 Spiny Shells in a single race. In the modern games, you can finish in 8th place, but if you get below fourth in the older games you will need to retry the track, and in the SNES and GBA games you only have a limited amount of retries.
My point is the two eras are very different. I mainly grew up with the early modern era (DS and Wii), and I thoroughly enjoyed these older games. I might sound like I'm trashing Super Circuit with my critiques, but in all honesty I'm having a blast with the game. This might become my new second favorite Mario Kart game and beat out 64. I haven't collected too much for the GBA; I've mostly collected GB and GBC games to play on the system, but of the games I have collected so far this game is close to being my favorite. I'll need to spend a bit more time with it, more than less than a week at least, to form a proper opinion and rank it in my GBA collection, but I can see myself playing this game often. I recommend for the best possible Mario Kart experience, get this game, a DS or DS Lite, and a copy of Mario Kart DS. That way you will get a taste of both eras of Mario Kart and be able to take it on the go. I can't recommend both games enough. I love flat, mode seven-style racing games. If you want another great racing game in this style on the GBA, F-Zero Maximum Velocity is a great game to try out.
This game, for the system is on, I rate a 9/10. I think it is well worth the $15 I spent on it.