Mario Kart. A series that has helped establish friendships, ruin relationships and cause many people to yell out in frustration at their TV screens. It's a series that has delighted gamers and their friends since 1992 when the first entry appeared on the Super Nintendo. One of the most iconic parts of Mario Kart, besides being blasted by a Blue Shell, is its courses. Perhaps most iconic is Rainbow Road. It's featured in every game, and is more often than not the course that will cause you to yell in frustration as you drift off a corner or blast off the side.
Rainbow Road has eight main entries with a few of its courses being remade in later versions of the game. Some courses offer more obstacles and curves while others throw jumps and multiple tiers at racers to navigate. No matter which one you're racing on, you're bound to have a good time. Invite some friends over, pick your favorite character, and try not to fall off of Rainbow Road!
Mario Kart 64 (N64)
Mario Kart 64 offers a certain sense of nostalgia. The Nintendo 64 was a landmark console for many gamers, and titles like Mario Kart 64 evoke a sense of wonder. However, Rainbow Road in this entry really only has the nostalgia factor going for it.
The entire course has guardrails so there isn't a risk of falling off and besides a few Chain Chomps, there aren't very many obstacles. It's also the longest course in the history of the series, and that can make it feel like a bit of a chore.
Super Mario Kart (SNES)
While it's certainly a lot more challenging, Rainbow Road in Super Mario Kart on the SNES is just kind of boring. Yes, it's the first entry in the series, but as far as courses go, there are more interesting designs elsewhere in the game, and this one, besides a complete lack of guardrails, is fairly uneventful.
There are a few Thwomps who could cause you to spin out, but otherwise, it's pretty standard fare. It was remade in Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Mario Kart 7, and Mario Kart 8, and while those look better with updated graphics, the courses are still pretty predictable.
Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS)
Mario Kart DS's Rainbow Road is a fine entry. It features a lot of spirals, loops, and curves. There are also well-placed turbo boost pads that can help speed things up as long as you're a good driver and don't fly off into the starlit sky.
There isn't too much unexpected throughout the course, but the rollercoaster-like design helps keep things a little interesting and there aren't a ton of guardrails, so it's easy to fall to your doom and keep Lakitu employed as he hoists you back up again and again.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA)
Mario Kart: Super Circuit was the first handheld Mario Kart game in the series. Because of the limitations of the hardware, tracks couldn't be quite as grand as they are in later entries. However, a fun art design with Bowser's airship looming in the distance and multiple jumps and curves makes this entry a little more fun and challenging.
Again, there aren't a ton of guardrails in this entry either, so prepare to fall off a lot. Gotta keep our boy Lakitu on the payroll!
Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
Mario Kart Wii's Rainbow Road course is frantic. From the get-go, racers plunge down a steep drop-off into oblivion on turbo boosts and get launched into a series of curves with sparse guard rails. There aren't a ton of physical obstacles, but with all the ways you can fall off, they aren't really needed.
Knowing how to properly race with drifts, brakes, and skill is paramount here. Racing in space above the Earth with asteroids abound is also a nice touch and began the series's theme of embracing Space inspirations in the design of Rainbow Road.
Mario Kart Double Dash (Gamecube)
Double Dash is the most innovative game in the series with its inclusion of dual riders and specialty items for each character. Its Rainbow Road entry is mostly made more fun by these inclusions and it also features one of the best songs from the series.
The course itself is good with the expected sharp turns, turbo boost pads, and a levitation pad that shoots you into the air. What makes it even more fun is using Bowser's giant shell, Donkey Kong's huge banana, or Yoshi's Egg while racing and destroying your opponents on an already tricky course. Friendships will end because of Double Dash.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch)
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best-selling Mario Kart game, and with good reason. It brings many iconic characters, tracks, and items and features several Rainbow Road courses. Its original take on the Rainbow Road course is one of the best in the series.
It fully embraces the Space theme and makes Rainbow Road not only a course but a place; it's a space station complete with conveyor belts, curves to make your head spin, and a number of easter eggs to discover.
Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo 3DS)
Rainbow Road on the 3DS is just plain fun. Not only is it the best Rainbow Road course, but it's also the best course in the series's history. Instead of multiple laps, the track is divided into several parts.
The design with moons, planets, and asteroids is a delight to the eyes and racing on the rings of an unnamed planet is a particular highlight of this course. There is a portion where you drive on the moon with craters to jump in and out of and Chomps to avoid. It blends the best parts of many other courses into one and stands as the best Rainbow Road course – even if its asteroids look like potatoes.
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