January 11, 2023

The Coca-Cola of Video Games.

The Coca-Cola of Video Games.

Mario Kart is the Coca-Cola of Video Games. We see it everywhere. We know it’s popular. We know that there have been countless copycat competitors who have tried to mirror its success. Likewise, if you’re drinking a soda, it’s likely you’re drinking a Coke. And if you’re buying a Nintendo console, it’s likely you’re buying Mario Kart. It’s hard to imagine a world without Coke, or Mario Kart. Though few really talk about how popular it truly is.

Is there any series more ubiquitous? Ask anyone you know: your grandma, your mailman, your Uber driver–it doesn’t matter. I’m willing to bet they have played or at least watched someone play a Mario Kart game. And given the right moment, who isn’t willing to play a circuit or two? It’s a game for casual and competitive players alike.

Enter the game ruling the industry’s sales from the shadows: Mario Kart 8.

How is it that an 8-year old Nintendo Console exclusive that typically retails for full price sold 20 million copies in the last two years? In an age where AAA Live Service games burn through their lifecycle within a few years–or less–how does Mario Kart 8 Deluxe receive a 48-course DLC pack almost a decade later?

Let’s get more of the picture:

  • Originally released on Wii U in 2014, then re-released on Nintendo Switch in 2017.
  • The Nintendo Switch has roughly 107 million users.
  • Total Mario Kart 8 sales: 51.81 Million Copies between the Switch and Wii U
  • Typically retails for the full MSRP: $50–60USD
  • Best selling Nintendo Game of all Time (Wii Sports, a free game, technically sold more)
  • Best selling–or second best selling–game on every Nintendo console and handheld since the Gamecube.
  • 7th Best Selling Game of All Time

It seems we’ve taken the game for granted. You buy a Nintendo console, you buy the Mario Kart title on the system. Of course it’s a no-brainer. We have seen it in the top 10 best-selling games in the US every year since its release, except 2018 where it was 12th. But rarely does anyone acknowledge its sales. Does it really go without saying that Mario Kart 8 was going to be one of the most successful games ever?

Instead, we have rightfully heard how quickly Elden Ring or Pokemon Legends: Arceus reached 10 million in sales shortly after release early this year. These are both new, super-hyped releases afterall. One of which is the highest grossing media franchise of all time, and the other is a new title from the beloved and critically-acclaimed From Software.

Yet, Mario Kart 8 keeps selling.

Nobody will be surprised, let alone take much notice, if it is on the bestseller list again for 2022.

There’s something special about the Mario Kart games that makes them so popular. They are carefully crafted from a magical mix of accessibility, game-feel, and unpredictability that elevates them above virtually every other Nintendo release. After 30 years, the series has certainly hit its stride with the 8th entry.

In an interview with Nikkei, courtesy of Nintendo Everything, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC Pass Producer, Kosuke Yabuki, said this on why Mario Kart 8 is so popular:

“It’s both an accessible and deep game. There are people who only play the game on Christmas or New Year’s, while others work to improve their skills every day…”

“We wanted the game to be a fun experience for everyone. It can be frustrating to lose, but there’s plenty that happens during races to make players crack a smile or want to play another round. The hope for players to experience emotions beyond the outcome of race. We designed the game in such a way where unthinkable things like slipping on a banana just before the finish line happen one after the other.”

It also helps that the Switch is unique in that it comes with the ability to play multiplayer games out-of-the-box, thanks to Nintendo Joycon technology. Naturally, players are going to pick up the go-to multiplayer title that everyone loves.

Nintendo Joycon can be individually detached and used as separate controllers. (img: Nintendo)

Who knows whether or not it is the racing-game design or the Nintendo IP itself that gives a lot of additional weight to the entertainment-factor of Mario Kart’s design, but accessibility and unpredictability as an aspect of fun is an area that developers can look for inspiration when it comes to their own games’ success–even if they aren’t copycat Kart racers or contain globally-recognized Nintendo characters.

With Mario Kart 9 rumored to be in the works, it remains to be seen if Nintendo can continue the success of their low key Prince of Multiplayer games or not. But we do know that we will probably buy it.

Good Luck Have Fun®