Review: Mario Kart 8 Soundtrack

I always figured that Mario Kart would be the last hold out from Nintendo, doomed to host cheesy synth sounds for its soundtracks for all eternity. We’ve seen Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda get the orchestral treatment, but Mario Kart is a party game, so when Mario Kart 8 was announced, I didn’t expect anything new on the sound front.

I was mistaken, however, as Nintendo has really gone all out once again for this score. Given the time and attention that the large sound team at Nintendo put into the game, including contributions from Shiho Fujii, Atsuko Asahi, Ryo Nagamatsu, Yasuaki Iwata, and direction by Kenta Nagata, I thought we should dig in and take a look at what they’ve accomplished.

Read impressions below.

Right out of the gate with the opening theme, there’s slap bass, wailing electric guitar, string stabs, and big brass. There are elements of jazz, blues, and big band found throughout, but what really offered a pleasant surprise is a big brass rendition of the main theme from Super Mario Kart, a throwback that I found particularly special.

Nostalgia is a big element of this soundtrack. Not only are there many original courses with new music, but many old courses from past titles make a reappearance with arrangements of their original music. These range from the tropical “Cheep Cheep Beach” with its lovely steel drums and the upbeat and intentionally synthy “Wario Stadium” from the Nintendo DS, funky big band jazz in “Mario Circuit” from the Game Boy Advance, the strongly thematic dessert-flavored “Dry Dry Desert” and “Sherbert Land” from GameCube, a lovely jazz-organ infused “Donut Plains” from Super Nintendo, an energetic fiddle-laden “Moo Moo Meadows” from Wii, and a large host of tracks from the Nintendo 64 that includes the rambunctious “Royal Raceway,” the deep electro “Toad’s Turnpike,” and my favorite of the bunch, an explosive “Rainbow Road” with great use of brass and electric guitar.

Standouts from the original sections include the rock-fest that’s “Bowser’s Castle,” the majestic Super Mario Galaxy-esque “Cloudtop Cruise,” the funky electronic “Electrodrome,” a gorgeous rock ballad in “Mario Kart Stadium” with a fantastic chorus section, and the bright pop-flavored “Sushine Airport” and “Toad Harbor” (one of my favorites!). But don’t forget the powerful “Rainbow Road,” which combines electric guitar riffs, deep electronic bass, celestial bells, and sticky-sweet synth pop melodies right out of Ragnarok Online. Even the deep house music that accompanies the online waiting room is good!

Nintendo has done a fantastic job with this soundtrack. It’s great to see them giving audio the attention it deserves. While there isn’t current a soundtrack available, I’m fairly certain we’ll see it hit Club Nintendo in Japan at some point. Keep your eyes peeled, and continue to let Nintendo know that you’d like to see these kinds of rewards on the North American Club Nintendo as well!

In the meantime, enjoy the soundtrack in-game. It’s a fantastic game as well, and amazing in high-definition for the first time as well.

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