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Mario Kart is one of the best multiplayer franchises ever created, which is what makes its recent dip in form so sad. In fact, it’s fair to say that the series peaked in the 90s, and since then has struggled to regain the quality promised by those first two titles (for the SNES and N64). For too long, Nintendo have been content to add only some new maps, throw a few more characters into the mix, introduce one negligible feature and call it a sequel. Which simply isn’t good enough (unless you’re Fifa). So, with a new title inevitably heading to the Wii U this year, it’s time to consider how Nintendo can return the family fun racer to its rightful place as the king of multiplayer gaming.

6. Story Mode

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In many ways Diddy Kong Racing, for the N64, was superior to Mario Kart 64. In almost every way, in fact, (except for Battle Mode) – Diddy Kong Racing had 3 vehicle types (car, plane and hovercraft), a great item system and (most importantly) a fully fledged story mode. An island acted as a central hub, and you earned balloons by race results, which in turn let you unlock new races and ultimately boss battles. Keys cunningly hidden on the courses added to the fun, and further challenges (such as winning a race while collecting 8 silver coins scattered around the track) added great replay value. Oh, and did we mention it included cooperative game-play?

Now, Mario Kart has an amazing universe to work with in the Mushroom Kingdom, and is just crying out for a Story Mode like Diddy Kong Racing managed 15 years ago. At the moment, the 1 player game is very much an unfortunate task one feels compelled to complete in order to unlock vehicles for the multiplayer component, and that shouldn’t be the case. A lot of the current characters would work better as bosses than karters (imagine a race through a haunted mansion against a giant flying King Boo, or a huge piranha plant chasing you through a maze of underground warp pipes) and the game is just far too easy to complete at present. Which brings us to…

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This article was first posted on January 13, 2013