Explaining why the Mario Kart series is popular requires some context: The Mario Kart franchises is a series of racing games on Nintendo home video game consoles that feature the Super Mario canon of characters. The Kart product was launched on the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), following the massive success of Super Mario and his heroics on the earlier, 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) that began with the smash hit Super Mario Bros. platformer, which just about single-handedly resurrected the home video gaming industry. With such an impressive pedigree, there were only a few further ingredients necessary to ensure the success of the Mario Kart story.
Quite simply, when Super Mario Kart was released on the SNES, it likely sold many thousands of copies simply because it bore Mario’s face and hosted a cast of characters that was already familiar to Nintendo players worldwide. Although Nintendo was expanding the Super Mario brand beyond just the two-dimensional platformers, they were still keeping their plotline intact with popular characters like Bowser, Toad, Donkey Kong, and others in the mix.
No matter how popular the starring cast is, the product will suffer if it is just not any good. Fortunately for a retrospect on why the Mario Kart series is popular, the Mario Kart games are so popular because they really are good games. The original entry on the SNES introduced players to a fast-paced racing genre example with a speed that neared that of the flow of F-Zero, yet with quirky new mechanics, like using items to fire at other vehicles, and all taking place on remarkably innovative level designs and interactions.
To explore why the Mario Kart series is popular, and why the Mario Kart series has remained so popular throughout its iterations, the question has to be asked: Why do gamers keep purchasing Mario Kart video games despite them all having the same basic formula? The key for Nintendo has been, with each release, to introduce creative new gameplay aspects that provide incentive for purchase and exploration yet without changing the foundational draw of the series. Whether it was the two-character duos in Mario Kart Double Dash or the wireless online multiplayer in Mario Kart DS, Mario Kart games continued introducing new components for gamers. Hopefully for their collective experience, some good ideas remain.
The Mario Kart series is popular because its games are fun, original, and boast a popular cadre of characters. If there is any hope for why the Mario Kart series will continue to be popular, it will lie in Nintendo continuing to stretch their team to discover what more the tracks can provide players that they have not yet seen before.