There are a whopping 48 Mario Kart 8 tracks. This amount of depth and content, combined with fantastic gameplay, makes it the best Mario Kart game to date. Seeing as the game is still a runaway success almost a decade after its initial release, it may also be the last Mario Kart game to be made. As unfortunate as that would be, it also wouldn’t be the end of the world. Mario Kart 8 is genuinely that good.
Part of the game’s strength lies within the tracks and circuits that round out its roster. Most are incredibly enjoyable and pleasing; only a handful I groan in response to their selection during online play. With that being said, there’s a definitive ranking to be found here, and I’m ready to unveil it. So without further ado, here is, from worst to best, a ranking of all Mario Kart 8 tracks.
By definitive, I, of course, mean my personal opinion. You may agree, you’ll probably disagree, but you’re also mistaken if you do. If you’re questioning my credentials, allow the (approximately) 1,000+ hours I’ve played this game to do the talking.
I don’t just hate Baby Park; I absolutely loathe it.
It’s a cruel joke and an abomination of a circuit and absolute chaos in the worst possible way. Baby Park is a concise 7-lap course. Due to said length, it bothers me when you don’t pull away from the pack of racers. Typically, this would be good, but Mario Kart is not an average racing game.
I sure hope you enjoy being in the line of fire because that’s what Baby Park is all about. Shells, Bananas, Bullet Bills, Star-Powered karts; they’re all coming for you, and they’re always in the thick of things. Even if you’re lapping slower karts, they’re still in the mix of things. Because of this, any semblance of a plan of attack needs to be thrown out the window. I legitimately despise anyone who picks this track online.
Seriously; Please know that I hate you for selecting the worst of all Mario Kart 8 tracks.
A Nintendo 64 classic was wrongfully neutered. Part of what made Toad’s Turnpike so enjoyable was the required weaving in and out of traffic. Especially in reverse, no lead felt safe because a big 18-wheeled semi-truck was waiting for you around the bend.
On Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, however, Toad’s Turnpike is nothing more than a figure-eight that contains vehicles that are, at worst, a minor inconvenience. Even in reverse mode, you still race with the flow of traffic, not against it. To call this a disappointment is honestly an understatement. Any and all challenges you remember from Toad’s Turnpike are long gone.
If it wasn’t for Baby Park, this would easily be the worst track in the game. I just hate Baby Park that much.
You’d figure that in a franchise like Mario Kart, a circuit named “water park” would be filled with twists, turns, hills, drops, and excitement. Sadly, that’s not the case. The track is pretty pedestrian, with the highlight being a huge curve that lets you get a super boost while also bouncing off of the anti-gravity bumpers.
Then you watch people with mushroom boosts speed through the off-road shortcut as you navigate the S-turn and fall behind them because you got a coin from the item box.
Water Park is definitely a circuit designed with beginners and accessibility in mind. It takes place at a water park, but that’s where the fun ultimately ends. Track design is beyond bland and leaves me wanting so much more. Not even being able to fly through a Ferris wheel cabin can salvage this.
We’ve reached my wife’s least favorite track. To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan either.
The track weaves through multiple paths constantly, yet fails to make your decisions matter. No matter which way you go, you don’t feel like you’re at an advantage or disadvantage against other racers. The big oval at the start of the course, too, throws off any and all timing and rhythm. Having to deal with opposing racers while also navigating and, at times, the unforgiving track isn’t fun.
There are also the Dry Bones creatures that walk at the end of the circuit. They sure do love coming for me when I’m attempting to mount a comeback or finish off a race. I really don’t like them one bit.
But I still prefer them to Baby Park.
Piranha Plant Slide
On paper, this is an incredibly cool track. You’re traversing through what appears to be the inside of a giant piranha plant pipe, navigating your way through twists and turns before exploding back to the surface. In execution, it absolutely falls flat on its own face.
Piranha Plant Slide is a frustrating experience that is, at times, super unforgiving. What should be a really cool and fun concept just doesn’t work for me personally. I’m often frustrated by navigating through chaos underground. Upset I can’t mushroom boost the shortcut at the end (I’m going to end up talking a lot about this on tracks, I can already tell). Piranha Plant Slide does a great job of killing my inner child every time I race it.
Shortly after her least favorite, we’re going to touch on my wife’s all-time favorite course in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Excitebike Arena is what Baby Park wishes it was. Pure and constant chaos filled with high-flying action. The kicker is that despite the relatively simple layout, you’re still able to pull away from stragglers getting better items than you.
Excitebike Arena would honestly be higher on my list if it wasn’t for an impressive roster of tracks throughout the game. The biggest knock against it is that it’s a simple track that’s difficult to manipulate. Other “easier” layouts in the game still contained advantages that can be found through learning and skill. Excitebike only has them at the turnarounds of the dirt track, being able to drift or boost your way past your competitors. The rest of the time, you’re flying through the air.
It’s definitely the track I’d want to race in real life though if that counts for anything.
Rainbow Road – Nintendo 64
Like Toad’s Turnpike, the Nintendo 64 Rainbow Road saw some pretty massive changes. Instead of a marathon three-lap circuit, it’s now been split up into three sections. This was undoubtedly done for the sake of time, but its length was one of its best features. As the “last” course in the game, it was a fitting end to one of the best Nintendo 64 games ever made.
The balancing that exists within Mario Kart 8 is vastly different than Mario Kart 64. I have many memories of AI racers leaving everyone, myself included, in the dust. There was zero chance of catching them. That’s not the case in today’s Mario Kart, which could lead to some pretty epic marathon battles.
Sadly, that’s never going to be the case. The Nintendo 64 Rainbow Road is a great circuit that got some nice love in the newest version, but trimming the length of the race is just a major disappointment. As a result, it earns a spot on the lower end of the list
Super Bell Subway
Another cool concept that just falls flat. Unlike Water Park, Super Bell Subway has you go through the actual subway and interact with trains, so it gets kudos for that. In addition, unlike Toad’s Turnpike, you have to combat the trains that will travel both with and against the flow of traffic. Double kudos there, too.
Where Super Bell Subway falls, though, is its track design. It offers a simplistic layout with high-risk high-reward alternative routes, more often than not the risk isn’t worth the reward. It’s disappointing to traverse above the train tracks on a cat-walk type shortcut, only to fall further behind.
There’s another track that manages to perform the concept of racing through a transportation hub better on this list. Sorry, Super Bell Subway.
Dry Dry Desert
Dry Dry Desert is a track that feels like it simply exists. It’s in a desert, there are unique sections to the course, but it’s not really doing much of anything. Of course, given its age as a Gamecube game, it’s easy to understand its simplicity. The issue, though, is that the actual track layout doesn’t inspire.
There isn’t much room to optimize your racing here. The layout is essentially a rectangle with a couple of S-turns at the top of the track. There are some hot spot geysers you can boost of, but at the end of the day, it’s a track that exists and I’m pretty sure most of you completely forget it existed.
Sweet Sweet Canyon
Blasting through a cannon before traversing down and around a mountain of desserts is, yet again, more fun in theory than practice. It’s a common theme with some of these Mario Kart 8 specific courses: cool ideas that don’t work out.
Sweet Sweet Canyon is able to differentiate itself, though, with an enjoyable second half. The split-track through (what I presume is) ribbon candy sets up for a thrilling finale each and every lap. The timing of item boxes before the final stretch is absolutely perfect, especially considering the shortcut to burst through the off-road shortcut (through a donut hole!) instead of performing the final turn.
Normally I’ve expressed frustration with these off-road shortcuts requiring boosts, but I think it works here. The difference between this track and, say, Piranha Plant slide, is that the layout is more favorable to be able to hold onto any mushrooms you accrue. You’re able to catch up and keep the course by simply racing.
Cheese Land is just a better version of Dry Dry Desert. The fact that it’s still this far down on the list shows how uninspiring it still is. The track layout is better, giving it the advantage, but it’s still ultimately forgettable in the end.
The one thing Cheese Land does have to go for it are its “craters” or cheese holes. These can allow for some easy air boosts, but ultimately it’s not enough to make for a memorable experience. In the end, it’s still one of the more forgettable Mario Kart 8 tracks.
Moo Moo Meadows
My headcanon states that this is the sequel of the Nintendo 64’s Moo Moo Farm. This is probably true, but even if it’s not, you can’t convince me otherwise.
Still a simple and accessible track, the layout allows for ample room for shortcuts, min-maxing, and risk-taking. Those fortunate to be blessed with mushroom boosts from item boxes will find ample space to shave seconds off their time or blast past other racers.
The animals are still a focal point of the course, with cows deciding it’s time to graze through the dirt track. The moles found in the original are still present, but now you can use their track as a boost jump.
Moo Moo Meadows is one of those Mario Kart 8 tracks that I’ll never be upset to play, but I won’t go seek it out, either.
Cheep Cheep Beach
Like the previous track, I’m ignoring anyone who refuses my headcanon of Cheep Cheep Beach being a sequel to Koopa Troopa Beach.
Cheep Cheep Beach is how you take a simple and easy course and fill it with countless ways to maximize your potential. Do you drive straight through the twists and turns at the end of the course, or would you rather drift? Do you stay on the sandy beaches or bee-line it under the ocean? Do you use your items right away or save them for maximum potential through shortcuts?
These are all questions that are asked of the racer. The result is, like Moo Moo Meadows, a course I’m never upset to play on. Also like Moo Mo Meadows, I’m just not sure if I’m seeking this one out.
In terms of everything, Rainbow Road is supposed to represent, the Mario Kart 8 version does a great job of hitting the marks. It’s a challenging layout through the cosmos, filled with shortcuts that greatly benefit risk-taskers. I, sadly, am not always a risk-taker, which means I err on the side of caution.
As a result, Rainbow Road is often more frustrating than enjoyable. It’s a shame that its layout is dwarfed by one of its predecessors, also found within the game. The Mario Kart 8 Rainbow Road is filled with sights, sounds, and wonders that we all expected, but the fact that it falls short of the Super Nintendo version is what keeps it down on the list.
Ice Ice Outpost
If you ask me, this is a little too much Outpost and not enough Ice Ice. The dual-track does make for some neat racing, though.
Ice Ice Outpost consists of two roads that swerve in and around each other throughout the entire circuit. You’re not isolated to them, either. The ability to swap between the yellow road and green road allows for plenty of strategic drifting and item acquisitions.
I just wish it did more with the theme. Like Water Park, you can’t help but wonder “what if.” It would be really cool to traverse through the elements, but instead, it plays it safe. That’s an ongoing theme with the more disappointing Mario Kart 8 tracks: they all play it soo safe.
Grumble Volcano, on the other hand, does not play it safe. The Wii track gets a much-needed facelift visually while retaining the stressful racing it’s known for.
I’m sure this will be a shock, but Grumble Volcano takes place in and around a volcano. On top of that, the volcano is actively exploding, changing the track with each passing lap. So why does it rank around the middle of the pack for Mario Kart 8 tracks? It leaves me wanting more. While the track looks fantastic in HD, you can tell the design choices were a bit dated. This is one I wish they gave a full makeover for Mario Kart 8.
Thwomp Ruins is what Grumble Volcano could have been, only without the active volcano.
And the decaying map.
While new paths do open up as the race goes on, it’s nowhere near as impactful as Grumble Volcano. Thwomp Ruins makes up for that, though, with a myriad of alternate routes and shortcuts. Even with one said shortcut requiring a mushroom boost to get through the grass, the track is good enough to overcome that personal grievance of mine.
It’s weird that a map that ultimately does less with theming can be ranked better, but its a testament to both the frustrations that occur on Grumble Volcano as well as the solid racing that takes place in Thwomp Ruins.
I have a love-hate relationship with Cloudtop Cruise.
On the one hand, it’s a well-designed and incredibly varied map that features several unique elements and terrains. I love the decision-making involved when it comes to hopping through various shortcuts: is it worth it, especially after getting the boost? Am I just going to run straight into a wall and end up losing ground? These are the moments that help make Mario Kart, especially the online multiplayer, so great.
On the other hand, I really hate that tight turn on the actual ship.
Still, there’s enough to enjoy here. Kudos, too, for having that extended indoor portion not overstay its welcome by being able to swap between active boost pads. Going fast is fun and Cloudtop Cruise understands this.
Wario’s Gold Mine
Part of what makes Wario’s Gold mine enjoyable is the sense of speed that exists throughout.
You’re racing up, down, and all-around in and out of the mine caves. The anti-gravity sections don’t offer anything extreme in terms of the track layout, but being able to bounce and boost off of the actual carts is definitely enjoyable.
What isn’t enjoyable, however, are those darn bats. I hate them and they always kill my momentum. There’s a fine line between feeling like you are out of control and actually being out of control. Wario’s Gold Mine doesn’t always successfully tow that line.
Like Wario’s Gold Mine, there’s a constant sense of speed throughout. Unlike Wario’s Gold Mine, you always feel control of your actions.
The constant twists, turns, jumps, and boosts do a fantastic job of allowing you to get an edge by driving instead of relying on items.
The only thing holding this Mario Kart 8 track from being top-tier is the mushroom-required boost jump at the end. It’s beyond frustrating and the only blemish on an otherwise perfect map that takes you through a high-speed tour of the woods.
Mario Circuit – Game Boy Advance
The Game Boy Advance version of Mario Circuit is everything you could ever want from a simple track. Its layout is basic enough to where anyone can perform well. The edges exist, though, for more veteran players to excel.
Precise drifting going into the anti-gravity turns allows you to utilize the boost before returning to the “traditional” track for its second half. Yes, there are examples of mushroom boosting past off-road shortcuts, but they don’t carry the weight they do when compared to other examples.
Mario Circuit is one of the pure Mario Kart 8 tracks that makes you realize why you fell in love with the game.
Mario Kart Stadium
If Mario Circuit represents everything pure about Mario Kart, then Mario Kart Stadium is the same with extra style and pizzaz.
There’s something about the atmosphere, the music, and the fireworks that help make this track succeed so well despite its simplicity. The sense of accomplishment people get when they discover various shortcuts or the fact that they can boost through the warp pipes at the end to shave some time off their time.
Like Mario Circuit, Mario Kart Stadium reminds us why we fall in love with this game.
The Mario Kart 8 version of Mario Circuit does more than act as a simple and accessible entry point for the series. It also highlights more of the advanced features to help you race faster than before.
The large drift turns, boosting over the Goombas at the finish line, and bouncing off the anti-grav bumpers are subtle tricks that exist on the map. There’s no neon-lights flashing in your face that scream “HEY, THESE ARE HELPFUL.” It’s all a natural part of the track and experience.
Mario Circuit is where I obtained many “firsts” in the game. It’s where I was able to successfully get my first purple drift boost. I was first able to hone my skill to bumper boost. Where I was able to realize maybe it’s a good thing to hoard mushrooms sometimes. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
I also didn’t intend to rank the “Mario” tracks together like this, it’s one big coincidence. I swear.
A track that greatly benefits from the transition from handheld to the big screen, Music Park is filled with constant choices.
Do you jump boost? Do you float in the air after the ramp or stick to the ground as you pass through the jumping music notes…things? Which pathways do you take on the turns?
The previous three tracks I discussed, the Mario “trilogy” if you will, are all easy and accessible. Music Park requires practice and knowledge to master. Once you learn its secrets, its intricacies, then you’ll be able to perform well. Music Park rewards a skilled player.
That’s not to say that those who are more novice will falter; it balances the line well to ensure that anyone can have a good time.
There are some that place Wario Stadium at the bottom end of a tier-list for Mario Kart 8 tracks. I honestly don’t know what they’re thinking.
It plays like a “fixed” version of the Wario Stadium from the Nintendo 64. It’s nowhere near as long or giant, with a much more cozy and intimate feeling. N64’s Wario Stadium was huge, not just in length, but the literal track was huge. Sure, that added some absurdity of small karts on a huge dirt-bike track, but it hasn’t aged well.
The DS Wario Stadium, however, has a far more compact layout, leading to more mayhem and paint scraping. The final act is where the track truly shines. Climbing the course at a full 90-degree angle before jumping into the underwater lake and flying towards the finish line never gets old.
Every track from here on out is going to be great. There’s no denying it; Electrodome is no exception. It’s able to combine simplicity with excellence. There’s nothing “special” or “unique” about the track’s layout, but the gimmick of Mario Kart 8 truly shines here.
Being able to drive parallel or above/below other parts of the track never gets old. The giant turn that sets you up for those anti-gravity moments is always super cool, setting you up for a more frantic second half of a lap. The branching paths that lead into an aerial finale always manage to set up for dramatic moments.
Electrodome is one of those Mario Kart 8 tracks that simply works. It knows what it wants to do and is able to accomplish it.
The aptly named Dragon Driftway is a drifter’s paradise. Twists, turns, jumps, and boosts galore await the player as they race in, out, and all around the track.
Like previously mentioned courses such as Wild Woods and Wario’s Gold Mine, Dragon Driftway features an insane feeling of speed throughout. Like Wild Woods, it manages to balance that feeling while still allowing players to remain in control. What takes it over the top is the circuit’s incredibly tight course design.
There is never a dull moment to be found here. If you’re not drifting, it’s because you’re boosting.
Donut Plains 3
It’s remarkable to see how some of the well-designed Super Nintendo tracks were held back by Super Mario Kart’s poorly aged controls.
The original Donut Plains 3 features plenty of twists and turns on top of other obstacles to encounter: you’re often traversing through a lake and dealing with moles that love to pop out of the ground.
In Mario Kart 8, however, Donut Plains 3 is filled with underwater shortcuts, molehills to boost over, and shortcuts through its outer walls. It’s a textbook example of how to improve a track that was hindered by a prior game’s technical limitations, not to mention probably the biggest “sleeper” circuit in the entire roster.
Donut Plains 3 didn’t have to go as hard as it does, but we’re better off for it.
Neo Bowser City
Originally appearing on the 3DS, Neo Bowser City gets the respect it deserves in Mario Kart 8.
The sci-fi noir-themed city landscape sets the tone for a rainy, soak-filled track through all the twists and turns the course has to offer. This is actually one of the few times I don’t feel like I’m missing out by not exploring the city properly. Considering we’ve done a track like that in the past, it goes to show you how impressive Neo Bowser City is.
The only thing holding this back compared to other Mario Kart 8 tracks is the difficulty. This is not an easy course. In fact, you’re going to hate it on 200cc. On the other difficulties, though? It’s still a challenging circuit that is ultimately an absolute treat.
It’s a circuit in the shape of Yoshi.
That’s not going to be enough for my editor, though. Let’s dig deeper into a marquee track from one of the GameCube’s best games.
Double Dash always felt like a game that prioritized speed. Even if other Mario Kart 8 tracks that were updated from Double Dash don’t give that impression, you can still feel its presence. Yoshi Circuit’s main course is speed, 100%. The constantly drifting, turning, and precise drive lines are an absolute treat. It’s one of the few courses with an off-road mushroom boost required shortcut that doesn’t make me angry.
I’ve noticed too that it’s a very demanding circuit. The better you are at Mario Kart 8, the better you’ll do. It’s no surprise, then, that as I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing the game, my opinion on the course has changed for the better.
Personally, I’d prefer DK’s Jungle Parkway, but we already saw that remade in Mario Kart Wii.
DK Jungle, originally released in Mario Kart 7, feels like a spiritual successor to the Nintendo 64 track. We’ve traded in the big blast ramp for a smaller one, as well as the ability to boost off the giant flower as well. Where it truly shines though are the shortcuts and boost ramps.
You can seriously fly through DK Jungle, even without taking advantage of the hidden ramp halfway through the course.
While I’m always going to jump at the chance to complain about any mushroom boost required shortcut, the short turn at the end of the track is a great way to shave precious milliseconds off your time. It’s a path that feels more high-risk than it actually is, meaning it’s a viable option for most players, giving them a sense of accomplishment.
The original Ribbon Road appeared on the Game Boy Advance, but the only thing it has in common with the Mario Kart 8 version is the name. While staying true to the original works for Donut Plains, it didn’t here. The full-blown remake of the old track was one of the best decisions Mario Kart ever made.
Ribbon Road feels like an 8-year old’s homemade version of Rainbow Road. You’re constantly hitting turns, dodging toys, and boost jumping over hills before the final act takes you into a ribbon-y (pun intended?) finish as you fly through the air, dodging through even more toys, and jockeying for position.
Then at the final stretch, there’s one of those mushroom boost required shortcuts, but Ribbon Road’s layout means you can hold onto those power-ups until you need it.
That’s not the only shortcut to be found, though. There are a ton of secrets hiding in Ribbon Road, adding to its legend as one of the best Mario Kart 8 tracks the game has to offer.
More often than not, I mistakenly call Twisted Mansion “Luigi’s Mansion.” Given its theme of a haunted mansion with ghosts and Boos, you can understand where I’m coming from.
Twisted Mansion nails the aesthetic perfectly. The environment, music, and characters are all top-notch. What really takes Twisted Mansion a step above is the track layout: it understood the assignment. You’re weaving and floating through a mansion before diving into an underwater basement and flying back into the courtyard. It’s an absolute blast to play and race through.
This was originally lower on my list, but to be perfectly frank, the more I thought about it, it deserves a higher spot on the list. It really is one of the better tracks available in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Like the Mario Circuit tracks, Animal Crossing is all about simplicity. The biggest difference, however, is theming.
The layout is amongst the most basic of Mario Kart 8 tracks; it’s essentially a figure-eight. However, it takes you on a tour of all things Animal Crossing. From the shell-filled sandy shores of the beach, traversing over the cobblestone bridges, navigating through fruit-filled trees, flying your way through town, and driving by the iconic characters, Animal Crossing has more charm than you could ever dream of.
Like most Mario Kart 8 tracks, there’s a lovely little mushroom-boost required shortcut at the end, but this one doesn’t quite feel as impactful. Being able to boost off the final turn is almost more than enough to make up for not being able to access it. Plus, you’re getting item boxes right before the finish, meaning you don’t necessarily have to hoard your mushrooms.
Dolphin Shoals is everything Water Park wishes it was. You’ll experience everything a location named Dolphin Shoals has to offer: jumping through hoops above the water alongside dolphins, traversing on the back of an underwater creature, boosting through geysers, and an incredible saxophone solo.
I’m 100% serious about that solo; it slaps.
It’s one of the Mario Kart 8 tracks that are truly magical. Whereas some of the simpler, accessible courses make you fall in love with the game, Dolphin Shoals truly grabs a hold of you. The constant drifting, boosting, and item grabbing is everything Mario Kart is about.
Not even one of those darn mushroom-boost-required shortcuts can put a damper on how much I enjoy this track.
Tick-Tock Clock is my personal favorite course from our favorite Nintendo DS game. It’s a showcase of how creativity in environmental design can elevate a course beyond its modified figure-eight layout. Unlike Animal Crossing (which is a fantastic track, mind you), there are no pre-established feelings to draw from. People don’t love clocks as much as they like K.K. Slider.
What people do love, however, is Mario Kart. Like Dolphin Shoals, the environment is your friend here. Constant drifting, boosting jumps, short cuts, alternative paths; Tick-Tock Clock really does have it all.
There are some out there that may disagree with this ranking. They’re wrong.
Shy Guy Falls
While simplicity is something that most Mario Kart 8 tracks use to their advantage, Shy Guy Falls doesn’t necessarily adhere to those rules.
Sure, the track is a (highly) modified figure-eight, but it’s so much more than that. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even realize this until I looked at the actual track layout. The course truly takes you on an adventure not just in and around the falls, but through them as well.
It’s an example of using every mechanic and idea in Mario Kart 8 to the fullest. Anti-grav boosting up the literal waterfall, hidden high-risk high-reward shortcuts, brake drifting off a jump boost to not slam into a wall, it’s all here and accounted for.
Shy Guy Falls is definitely the type of track where everything can go wrong in a heartbeat, but it’s also one that demands the best from the player. It’s one of the few circuits where I also enjoy playing it, even if I’m finishing poorly.
None of the other Mario Kart 8 tracks manage to make you feel like you’re Link.
On a serious note, Hyrule Circuit manages to capture not just the distinct look of The Legend of Zelda, but also its gameplay. Hear me out:
The map encourages exploration, diving deep into a dungeon, frantically dealing with enemies and terrain, flying victoriously before heading out to the next adventure. That’s what you experience in each lap of Hyrule Circuit. There are shortcuts aplenty, too, but they all come with their fair share of risks.
Do you boost through the grass and into a jump while risking smashing into a wall? Will the Master Sword boost ramp be up when you’re driving towards it? Is it worth it to drive through the hairpin turns at high speeds when you can easily lose control and crash?
Whenever I think of Bowser’s Castle in Mario Kart, I think of this absolutely insane, over-the-top, play place. A sprawling adventure that takes you directly into the heart of Bowser’s intimidating home.
Mario Kart 8’s Bowser’s Castle is not only the best version but also one of the best Mario Kart 8 tracks period. It’s a true showcase of everything that makes Mario Kart 8 such a masterpiece. Exiting the castle as you’re racing underneath your opponents during the anti-gravity track before flying over the pit of lava is truly a sight to behold. The fact that it sets up a finish as you dodge items, opposing racers, and oncoming boulders through the final twist and turns makes it even better.
While most often refer to Rainbow Road as the “grand finale” of all things Mario Kart, Bowser’s Castle deserves to be in the conversation. The Mario Kart 8 version of the course only further emphasizes this.
Rainbow Road – Super Nintendo
I’ve said many times on this list that simplicity helps make the best Mario Kart 8 tracks. The Super Nintendo version of Rainbow Road is a textbook example of what I’m talking about.
Everything that made the original challenging is still there: the imposing thwomps and the constant threat of falling off the track always loom large. The makeovers that were introduced in Mario Kart 7 are even better on the big screen.
This also has the prestigious title of being one of the few courses that do not make me want to kill myself on 200cc.
Mario Kart 8’s version of the SNES Rainbow Road is pure fun. It has a perfect balance of racing and item utilization that is a constant joy to play.
There’s nothing challenging or “advanced” about Toad Harbor. It’s a pretty simple and basic track with an open-map concept that works wonders. A great example of how important it is to actually take you through the nap’s namesake instead of showing it to you (looking at you, Water Park).
Toad Harbor doesn’t waste any time by traversing through the actual harbor. From there, you’re drifting and boosting your way up the hill into the village, doing your best to avoid trolleys and navigate a circuit with multiple branching pathways. That’s putting it lightly, too; every section of the track has multiple options to choose from, none of which are “wrong” or “incorrect.”
The track is an absolute delight that will please every Mario Kart fan out there.
Like Toad Harbor, Sunshine Airport’s strength is the fact that it takes you through the airport, not around. Theming is front and center here as you’ll spend plenty of time navigating through runways, around aircraft, and literally blast off through the big ramp into the landing pad.
Unlike Toad Harbor, the terrain definitely plays a factor here, especially at higher speeds. Careful navigation is required, but the theming and on-point track gameplay more than make up for it.
Most of all, though, Sunshine that “it” factor to it. It’s not the only track to race through a transportation system, but it has a certain charm that other courses lack. For that, and the Koopa Troopa Beach easter egg, it gets the nod as one of the best Mario Kart 8 tracks.
While it retains the heart of the original Yoshi’s Valley, the Mario Kart 8 update includes a handful of improvements, all of which are great for a quality of life change. Navigating the track is a little easier thanks to a wider layout. The updated visuals add plenty of charm and personality to the environment, especially the jumping Yoshi’s at the start/finish line.
For those unaware, Yoshi’s Valley is a labyrinth of a course, offering several paths for the players to take. These include taking a tight turn across a narrow bridge, flying out of a canyon, traversing underground into the cave, or several other sprawling pathways through the valley. In the Nintendo 64 version, players were kept in the dark from their placement and position; instead of their avatar, a “?” was listed for all placements.
Sadly, that mechanic is gone from Mario Kart 8, but it doesn’t make the track any less enjoyable. Yoshi’s Valley is a fun and frantic affair that’s always an absolute blast.
Mount Wario begins by having racers drive and drop down out of a helicopter on top of a mountain fit for Wario himself. If that’s not enough to get you excited, I’m not sure what is.
The track is split into sections, not laps, but that works to its benefit. Each section has its own theme. The first involves that high altitude and icy peak start. The second takes players through caves, snowy woods, and some sort of industrial facility thing where only Wario knows its secrets. Presumably.
The finale, though, takes you through a ski resort and is where the track takes it to another level. Don’t get me wrong, Mount Wario was already a top-tier track coming in, but the slalom racing, mogul navigating, and high-speed jump make for an absolutely incredible finish.
I’m not sure Mount Wario could have existed until Mario Kart 8. It’s a track that pushes the limits of design and our imaginations. We’re better off for its existence.
Hot take: the Mario Kart 8 version of Royal Raceway is worse than the original.
The fact that it made my top 5 shows how great the track truly is.
The tweaks and updates were minor in Mario Kart 8 and I’m really being nitpicky here: I miss the bouncing the karts do after the big ramp jump. One very welcome change is a far easier final turn section. I had too many countless memories of cutting through grass or falling into the lake because I couldn’t successfully drift my way through the final collection of turns.
What makes Royal Raceway so strong is the fact that it needed very little work to be done. It was already an amazing course that could stand alongside the best of the original Mario Kart 8 tracks back in the day. Its inclusion in the line-up is a very welcome addition.
Nintendo has unfortunately not made an F-Zero game since Gamecube’s F-Zero GX. The closest thing we have are these two Mario Kart 8 Deluxe courses. Since we’re just now getting to them, it’s safe to say that they’re some of the best Mario Kart 8 tracks the game has to offer.
Mute City is a more traditional option, with racers completing three laps around a high-speed course that turns you sideways and upside down. It’s a perfect example and representation of some of the best F-Zero racing has to offer, especially when you consider the generous amount of speed boost pads that exist. The finale does come up a little short, but don’t let that deter you from choosing this track online. Unless, of course…
…Big Blue is available.
The second that iconic song starts playing, you’re in for an absolute delight. My personal favorite aside, this is the best out of all Mario Kart 8 tracks. In my opinion, it’s not even close.
Big Blue is not just a fantastic Mario Kart 8 course, but also an amazing F-Zero track as well. The balance of speed, drifting, boosting, and item utilization is all on showcase here. The anti-gravity hook does wonders as well. You’re going to constantly be weaving in and around your opponents, occasionally bumping into them as well. Earning yourself that mini-boost as you effortlessly bounce off your opponent never gets old.
What makes Big Blue truly remarkable is how much I could gush about it. It does a better job of being Rainbow Road than Mario Kart 8’s own Rainbow Road. The spiraling dual-track allows for seemingly infinite possibilities of shortcuts by jumping and boosting way over air and track. The sense of speed makes you feel like you’re out of control despite being fully capable of performing any necessary turn our drift.
Big Blue is an absolute work of art and the nearly universal praise it has earned makes me wonder where the heck is our next F-Zero game, and no I’m not talking about the Nintendo
Let’s talk about why Serbert Land is the best course the game has to offer.
A lot of times, there are gimmicks people use to hop drift or cheese their way for boosts and extra speed. Sometimes you can cut through shortcuts on the off-road sections of a track, provided of course you have the necessary mushroom boost.
Sherbert Land doesn’t require any of that, however. All it asks is that you’re a good racer and skilled driver.
My wife will strongly disagree with me, but the facts are evident. Sherbert Land is a well-designed layout that also sticks the landing. It offers the best wall-to-wall racing the game has to offer while also not allowing items to greatly affect your experience. That’s not to say you’ll never have a “feels bad” moment; it’s Mario Kart, those are part of the game, but you are more than capable of climbing back from said moments without reliance on catch-up mechanics.
That’s why Sherbert Land is the best Mario Kart 8 track. Period.