Mario Kart 64
North American box art
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Hideki Konno
Producer(s) Shigeru Miyamoto
Composer(s) Kenta Nagata[1]
Series Mario Kart
Platform(s) Nintendo 64, Nintendo iQue, Virtual Console
Release date(s) Nintendo 64
  • JP December 14, 1996
  • NA February 10, 1997
  • EU June 24, 1997
Virtual Console[2]
PAL 20070125January 25, 2007
NA 20070129January 29, 2007
JP 20070130January 30, 2007
Genre(s) Racing
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Mario Kart 64 (マリオカート64 Mario Kāto Rokujūyon?) is a Mario racing game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64 video game console. It is the successor to Super Mario Kart for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and is the second Mario Kart game. It was released first in Japan on December 14, 1996 and in North America and Europe in 1997. In January 2007, Mario Kart 64 was released as a downloadable Virtual Console title on the Wii.[2]

Changes from the original include the move to polygon-based true 3D computer graphics for track design, and the inclusion of four-player support. Players take control of characters from the Mario universe, who race around a variety of tracks with items that can either harm opponents or aid the user. The move to three-dimensional graphics allowed for track features not possible with the original game's Mode 7 graphics, such as changes in elevation, bridges, walls, and pits. However, the characters and items remained 2D pre-rendered sprites.

The game was critically well received and was a bestseller. Mario Kart 64 was one of the first games in the series to feature Charles Martinet as the voice of both Luigi and Wario.



There are sixteen tracks that are based on different locations seen in Mario video games. Each track has a unique shape, containing various obstacles, hazards, and short-cuts.

Items are picked up by players when they drive through item boxes. Each item has an effect such as launching shells at opponents, consuming a mushroom to gain a temporary boost in speed, or placing bananas on the ground for opponents to later slip on. AI-controlled racers are able to use all the items except for red, green and blue shells.

Game modesEdit

There are four different forms of play in the game: Grand Prix, Time Trial, Versus, and Battle.

In Grand Prix mode, one or two human players compete against computer players in a cup that takes place over four courses with three laps each. At the end of each race, points are awarded based on what order the player finished in. Getting 5th or under will restart the race but getting 4th or above will allow the player to move on to the next race. These points are added up and at the end of the cup, the three players with the high scores will receive a trophy; bronze for third, silver for second, and gold for the winner. There are four cups in the game: Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special. Difficulty level is measured by engine size: 50, 100, or 150 cc. There is an unlockable difficulty called 'Extra', allowing players to race on mirrored tracks. This is the first game in the series to provide this feature.

In Time Trial mode players race around the track by themselves in an attempt to improve their time and set a new record for the course. Players start their run with three mushrooms (speed bursts) and cannot obtain any additional items. During time trial, players may select to race alongside a 'ghost' who will mimic the movements of the player from his/her previous run. The game allows the player to save ghost data on a N64 Controller Pak.

Versus mode entails two to four players racing head-to-head on a single track without any AI characters, with mobile bombs as hazards.

Battle Mode is a multiplayer game with a last man standing objective, where the players attack each other with items. There are four arena-like courses available to compete in each match. Each player begins the match with three balloons attached to their kart. Each time a player is damaged by coming into contact with one of the other players' offending items, the player loses one of his or her balloons. When a player loses all of them, he or she is out for the rest of the match. The match ends when one player remains, who is declared the winner. In three or four player matches, the first two players' characters eliminated from play will transform into bomb karts. Bomb karts can still be controllable by the player and can be used to inflict damage on the remaining players' characters as a last resort.[3]

Playable charactersEdit

Mario Kart 64 features eight playable characters. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, Yoshi, and Bowser appeared in Super Mario Kart while the remaining two characters, Wario, and Donkey Kong are new to the series. The characters are divided into three weight classes: lightweights, whose karts have high acceleration and lower top speed; heavyweight, whose karts have low acceleration but high top speed; and middleweights, who have balanced acceleration and top speed.


Production of the game began in 1995 under its original title Super Mario Kart R,[4] and was intended to be a launch game for the Nintendo 64, but more resources were given to Super Mario 64's development.[5] An early prototype of the game was showcased at the Shoshinkai Software Exhibition on November 24, 1995.[6] The prototype featured the Feather item from Super Mario Kart and a Magikoopa as one of the eight playable characters, who was replaced with Donkey Kong in the final game.[4][7]

The player's driving controls were designed to be similar to operating a radio-controlled car.[8] While Mario Kart 64 features tracks that are fully rendered in 3D, the game uses billboarding to display the characters and items. Game director Hideki Konno stated that, while rendering the characters in 3D was not impossible, the limited processing power of the console would not have allowed all eight characters to appear on the screen at once. Instead, the characters are made up of pre-rendered sprites that show the characters from various angles to simulate a 3D appearance.[5] Rare Ltd., developer of the Donkey Kong Country games, provided Donkey Kong's character model.[9]

While rubberband AI was used to prevent all the racers from easily separating, the Blue Spiny Shell item, which targets and attacks the player in first place, was added in order to keep each race competitive and balanced. The item was included in all subsequent Mario Kart games.[10]

Music and SoundtrackEdit

The soundtrack for Mario Kart 64 was composed by Kenta Nagata, which was his first work on a Nintendo game.[1] The game's soundtrack was released several times in different formats including compact disc and audio cassette.[11] Four different versions of the album were released: Race Tracks and Greatest Hits Soundtrack in North America; Original Soundtrack and Club Circuit were released in Japan. It was later released in a three disc collection, along with the soundtracks of Star Fox 64 and Super Mario 64.[12]


Almost 10 years after the original release, Mario Kart 64 was re-released on the Wii's Virtual Console in January 2007 for 1000 Wii Points. However, due to the lack of a Controller Pak and the lack of updates to support the Wii's internal memory or SD Card, it is impossible to save ghost data, as was possible in the Nintendo 64 version.[2]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 87%[13]
Metacritic 83 of 100[14]
Review scores
Publication Score
Edge 8 of 10[15]
Electronic Gaming Monthly A[16]
GamePro 5 of 5[17]
GameSpot 6.4 of 10[18]
IGN 8.1 of 10[3]
Nintendo Power 4.33 of 5[13]

Mario Kart 64 received generally positive reviews. The game has an average review ratio of 87% on Game Rankings, including reviews from IGN and GamePro, and magazines such as Electronic Gaming Monthly.[13] IGN stated, "Though the single-player mode is a bit of a step back from the SNES original, Mario Kart 64 still offers one of the best multiplayer experiences to be had on Nintendo 64."[3] GameSpot insisted that though the graphics and sound of the game are impressive, the gameplay is too easy and lacks depth.[18] In GameSpot's re-review of the Virtual Console release the reviewer criticized its sound, lack of ghost-saving, and graphics, saying the latter had "aged rather poorly."[19] The game placed 17th in Official Nintendo Magazine's 100 greatest Nintendo games of all time.[20] Mario Kart 64 sold approximately 5.5 million copies in the United States and 2.24 million in Japan.[21][22] Joystiq reported in February 2009 that the game had sold over nine million copies worldwide.[23]


Mario Kart 64 included a line of action figures that were released worldwide in 1999 as part as the Video Game Super Stars line created by Toy Biz. Series one included Mario, Bowser, and Yoshi, while series two included Ghost Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, and Wario.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Kenta Nagata". Square Enix Music Online. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Mario Kart 64 on VC". Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Schneider, Peer (1997-02-20). "IGN: Mario Kart 64 Review". IGN. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Super Mario Kart R [N64 - Beta]". Unseen64. 2008-04-04. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "It Started With A Guy In Overalls". Iwata Asks: Mario Kart Wii. Nintendo of America. Retrieved September 25, 2012. 
  6. Liedholm, Marcus (1998-01-01). "The N64's Long Way to completion". Nintendo Land. Archived from the original on 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  7. Knight, Rich (August 21, 2012). "7. Magikoopa". The 10 Greatest Wizards In Video Games. Complex Gaming. Retrieved October 7, 2012. 
  8. Nintendo Power 92. 1997.
  9. "Mario Kart 64 Game Credits (USA)". The Mushroom Kingdom. Retrieved September 25, 2012. 
  10. Totilo, Stephen (March 9, 2011). "The Maker Of Mario Kart Justifies The Blue Shell". Kotaku. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  11. "Mario Kart 64 Race Tracks cassette tape release information". Video Game Music Database. 1873. Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  12. "Nintendo 64 Trilogy Music From The Greatest Nintendo 64 Games". Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Mario Kart 64 Reviews". Game Rankings. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  14. "Mario Kart 64 (n64: 1997): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  15. "Edge Online: Search Results". Edge. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  16. "Mario Kart 64 N64 Review Index, Mario Kart 64 Reviews:". Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  17. Doctor Zombie (2000-11-24). "Review: Mario Kart 64 for N64 on". GamePro. Archived from the original on 2010-04-10. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Ward, Trent (1997-02-06). "Mario Kart 64 for Nintendo 64 Review - Nintendo 64 Mario Kart 64 Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  19. Mario Kart 64 for Wii Review - Wii Mario Kart 64 Review
  20. "20-11 Official Nintendo Magazine". Official Nintendo Magazine. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  21. "The Magic Box - US Platinum Chart Games". The Magic Box. 2007-12-27. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  22. "The Magic Box - Japan Platinum Chart Games". The Magic Box. 2007-12-27. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  23. Ransom-Wiley, James (February 26, 2009). "Guinness pours out its Top 50 Games of All Time". Joystiq. Retrieved February 22, 2010. 

External linksEdit

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