There is no doubt in the world that the Mario Kart Franchise is extremely popular. The Mario Kart series was born during the Super Nintendo era and was a pioneer in the usage of the FX chip. When Nintendo developed this game they automatically knew they had a winner in their hands. Nintendo has since then started a tradition of releasing one Mario Kart game per generation of consoles. However, while the Mario Kart series has tended to be formulaic, it does not mean Nintendo never experimented with it. Mario Kart Double Dash was this experiment, and it shows by virtue of its unique mechanics.
You see Mario Kart Double Dash was a tag team racer where players could swap out characters. On paper this mechanic sounds pretty awesome since you could now have both Mario Brothers in one kart. But, on execution the idea did nothing to improve the core mechanics of Mario Kart, and lost its luster rather quickly. This is because the karts controls were rather loose and the weight of both characters affected the maneuverability in a negative fashion. Thankfully Nintendo corrected this mistake and every sequel since has had tighter controls. But, in the meantime Double Dash was all we had and there were more changes which negatively impacted this game. An example of those would be the terrible Blue Shells of Doom (or BSODs).
When Nintendo designed the blue shell in this game they decided to give it some Red Bull and a mini-nuke. The Blue shell in Double Dash does not only home in on the first racer, it also flew there and exploded. This meant that depending on the distance, only the first player would suffer the repercussions of the blast. Any racer hit by the explosion would be grounded anywhere from five to ten seconds. Now, I was never a fan of the blue shell, but at least the original hit everyone in the way towards the front. In this incarnation only the second and third spots saw any benefits from the last racer (only losing racers can get the drop) launching the BSOD. Essentially Nintendo tried fixing what was not broken.
Finally, Nintendo tried fixing another mechanic which didn’t need alteration. The exclusive item drops which rendered some characters overpowered and others as useless. Every single character had an exclusive drop (some were shared by similar characters, but it was still exclusive to them). This essentially made the Koopas and the Toads extremely overpowered as their items were very useful in every circumstance. Toad and Toadette could use the golden mushrooms and the Koopas had triple green/red shells respectively with either of these on your team you were unstoppable. I’m certain all of the ideas sounded great at the time Nintendo were developing them. Double Dash while certainly not the best Mario Kart game did have its own identity and that alone gives it an unique place in history.
I’m just glad Nintendo didn’t recycle any of these ideas for the subsequent games in the series. I hated Mario Kart Double Dash because of everything I mentioned in this review. While I agree that experimenting is good at times, there are some limits. Mario Kart Double Dash just didn’t know when to stop, look both ways and cross the Rainbow Road.
On a great note it’s fantastic final stage did bring us this fabulous song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuX5_OWObA0