Getting Better at MarioKart as a Normie

[Written February 6, 2024]

MarioKart 8 Deluxe is the first game in the series that I ever played.  At some point, I decided I wanted to get better, so I tried a bunch of things.  I’ll tell you right up front what didn’t help: looking up YouTube videos.  The people who make those are world-class players who have a lot more finesse with the inputs than I do.  Their techniques were worse than useless for my clumsy hands.

Some of what I lacked was basic technique.  I noticed I was waiting for boosts to finish before starting on the next input.  I’d use a mushroom in a straight line, never turning while it was running.  I had to get used to the mechanics of everything, getting into turns before boosts were finished.

After that, the most helpful thing was playing VS races without items.  Not getting hit by everything gave me the space to work on my handling/control, giving me poise at 150cc and making 200cc learnable.  It doesn’t help to get a triple-mushroom when I’m all over the place just trying to drive!  It’s more like the boost pads on the last big turn of Rainbow Road, that so rudely conspire to throw an out-of-control player over the edge.

I ran some time trials again.  The first time I was there, it was rather difficult to beat Staff Ghosts on 150cc, so I didn’t even bother with 200cc.  When I returned, I could often beat staff with only a couple of tries, and a random kart setup.  Meaning, stats barely matter at my level.  I was able to beat my record for MarioKart Stadium, held by Morton on a YouTube-recommended setup, effortlessly with Daisy on the Varmint and Crimson Slim for style.

Consequently, at my level, coins do not matter.  In my initial attempts, I had followed Nintendo’s lead, trying to collect as many coins as possible early in the lap.  The problem is, that took me so far off the racing line that even with boost pads and all four coins, it was slower!  My first sub-1:50 record was done by following the cleanest lines I could, and taking the intended shortcut (with the jump.)

(My current record for the Stadium is 1:47.701 with Pauline, on the Sport Bike, Slicks, and Paper Glider.  I’m pretty sure my final run just got tighter turns, and maybe one more Ultra Mini-Turbo (purple sparks), on the U-turn before the glider.)

Post-experiment, the only setup that didn’t beat the Staff Ghost on the Stadium was a “maximum Mini-Turbo” run with Baby Daisy, Biddybuggy, Rollers, and Paper Glider.  Though the boost comes on faster and runs longer, there just seemed to be too much straightaway for the turns to make it up.

If I had the online account, I would download ghosts from the internet to watch.  Those might give me more insight than the Staff Ghosts, which can only show “how staff set the record,” not necessarily how to beat staff.  Unless I really wanted to run staff’s tactics, but execute more cleanly.

That pretty much brings us to where I am now: I don’t have 3 stars on all of the 150cc Grand Prix yet, but it’s often effortless to beat the Staff Ghost on 150cc time trials.  I can usually place 1st in each race when doing no-items VS race at 150cc and Hard COM.  I’m just getting good enough at 200cc to place 1st overall in a no-items VS race with Normal COM… if it’s not full of courses like Neo Bowser City and Rainbow Road.  And I’ve beaten a few of the 200cc time trials.

In short, then:

Good luck!