As dads, we want our kids to be winners. Usually. The main exception being when we play them in Mario Kart. It’s written in The Dad Law that dads are never to take it easy on their kids in Mario Kart. EVER. Life doesn’t work that way, and neither does Bowser on his Wild Wiggler on Rainbow Road. So pick up the sticks and try not to cry when you get lapped, son.
For the 2nd event in The Dad Gaming League, we’ve teamed up with Planters to throw an all-star, all-dad Mario Kart tournament! On Friday, September 18, we’ll have a 150cc tournament, a 200cc tournament, and possibly even Battle. Reminder, you do not have to be good to play any event in The Dad Gaming League. (In order to play this tournament though, you need Mario Kart 8, a Switch console, Nintendo Online and the will to take your child’s optimistic spirit and crush it without remorse.)
To sign up, click here. Whether you’re competing in this tournament, or you want to level-up your skills in order to impress/destroy your kids, we’ve got you covered. So, pop your favorite Planter’s Pop n’ Pour and join us on a spin through The Dad Gaming Bootcamp.
These tips progress from easiest and most essential, to more advanced. So be sure you master the first ones, and then move on through the list to become a Mario Kart esports pro. LET’S-A-GOOOOOO.
Don’t go in the grass, dirt, or hit the walls
So this one is unbelievably obvious and basic. But as I most often shout to my kids whilst trying to coach them, “Stay in the middle of the track! Go in a straight line and quit swerving all over the place!”
The first goal is to keep Basic Max Speed, which you achieve by not getting slowed down by obstacles or the path. As soon as you touch a non-track surface such as grass or dirt, your speed drops dramatically. In 150cc (the 2nd fastest kart in the game) or below you can basically hold the gas down the whole time. So stay on the track and you’ll keep at the basic max speed. Beyond that, you’re going to need boosts.
Speed boost at the start (just after 2)
The earliest boost you can get is right at the start! Here’s a protip: Watch the start countdown. “3… 2… 1….” Start holding down the gas immediately after “2.” This will give you the most boost. If you’re a little late, it’ll be a little less boost. If you are a little early, you will burn out. This is relatively easy to master and starts you off right, and teaches the most important lesson: timing is everything.
Jump on bumps
In Mario Kart 8, there are ramps all over the place. Right at the top of a ramp, hit the jump button. Your guy will do a little flip and get a speed boost. This move can quickly become a habit and you’ll do it even without thinking, and because, again, there are ramps all over the place. It can help a ton.
Actually, try it off of any bump you see. It doesn’t just have to be a proper ramp. Any track object that gets you airborne for the slightest bit can be used to get a jump boost. These can add up quickly!
Hold an item behind you for defense
Now that you’ve got a good start and are getting a little boost for every jump, you’re going to quickly find yourself out in front of the pack, especially if playing my children, who are notoriously trash at this game. To maintain your lead, it’s time to play a little defense.
You gain items in this game by driving through the multi-colored question boxes littered around the track. Certain items you can hold behind your cart by holding the “use item” (L) button. You can do this with bananas, green shells, red shells, and bombs. While driving, you’re holding gas anyway, if you have one of these defensive items, you will hold L as well and it’ll stay behind you. It may feel weird at first, but it’s worth getting used to. Now, if someone fires a red shell at you, the item will deflect it!
When you release the L button, the item gets released. If you hold back on the joystick while releasing, it will shoot the shell, banana, or bomb behind you. This all makes it difficult to snag some snacks, so keep your Pop & Pour nearby for quick-crave release.
IMPORTANT: If you hold a bomb behind you and it gets hit, you’ll get caught in the explosion! So best to release those back behind you if anyone is approaching.
Holding items behind you does not save you from a blue shell! Only a Super Horn can help with that. (You may also use a mushroom to speed away just before the blue shell drops, but it’s gotta be perfectly timed!)
Get 10 coins as quickly as possible then don’t worry bout more
Coins are dramatically misunderstood by many Karters, especially my kids, who are just so, so bad at this game.
Coins increase your base speed. More coins you have, the faster your core speed. Great! But the max effect is 10 coins. So try to get 10 coins quickly, then don’t worry about ‘em.
Drifting – turn boosts
Drifting is absolutely essential to being competitive in Mario Kart. The only reason it’s so far down this list is that it’s a little tricky for noobs, like my kids, who are terrible. But give it some practice and you’ll be drifting on every turn in no time.
To start a drift, do a little hop right before a turn. You’ll want to hold down the jump button (R). Depending on the direction your guy is facing when landing, your kart will begin turning a bit more in that direction. Keep holding the jump button! Try steering left and right with the joystick. You’ll find that if you turn into the drift, the kart turns EVEN MORE than normal. But if turning against the drift, it’s impossible to even turn that direction, but you can get the kart nearly going straight.
As you keep turning and holding that jump button, eventually colors will appear behind your cart. Blue… orange… pink. The longer you hold a drift, the more powerful the boost when you release. After the turn, let go of the jump button and OFF YOU GO. Boom. That’s it.
The most important skill in the game.
Know it, love it, master it. You’ll find that the mechanics of drifting also help taking sharp turns faster, and you’ll wonder how you ever turned without it.
Now that you’re drifting and boosting all over fools like my abysmal kids, you’re gonna be wayyyyy out in front. You need to start thinking strategy. The differentiator amongst top competitors is often item management. There’s some randomness when it comes to items, but there’s also strategy in how you manage them. Everyone’s style here may be a bit different, but there are some things to know…
If you’re out in front, you really want to have some defense. That is, holding a shell or banana behind you.
When you’re in front, the items will almost always be a coin or a banana. So try to get a double item box so you can at least get something for defense if you need it. This also means that if you have a banana, you can drop it right behind the double item box, quickly replace it, and make that double item box tougher to get for those behind you. Muauahahahaha. Eat it, kids.
Bombs are absolutely destructive if there are karters just behind you and you’re out in front. Drop that bad boy behind you and speed away like you’re in an action movie.
Getting used to the best way to use each item is a matter of trial and error. If you have a big lead and someone overtakes you unexpectedly, how did they do that? What items did they use?
When you get mushrooms or a star, resist the urge to blast it immediately. Try to use it to cut difficult corners or take shortcuts, because the boost item will negate the speed loss of going off track.
Know the courses, time trials, & shortcuts!
Speaking of shortcuts, I guarantee there are more of them out there than you know! In The Dad Gaming Mario Kart we do a different time trial each week. Some people will spend HOURS on a track, sometimes trying to beat their own best time by just tenths of a second. You can’t do this without knowing all of the track shortcuts.
There are lots of videos on YouTube to search for more intel. (You can start with MK8DX Records.) After learning the above tips…. Watch a record time for a particular track on YouTube, note all the shortcuts, and then spend 20 minutes trying to get a good time on your own. Now do that for every track. That is BY FAR the best training you could do in Mario Kart 8.
Know the courses – proper lines!
Time trials and watching record times on YouTube is not just about shortcuts. Also watch the “lines,” or the path you take on the track. Sure, taking a turn on the inside is faster, right? Well entering and exiting turns in particular spots, on particular tracks, can be more efficient and also set you up for what’s next. Getting down to that level of detail is important to be elite, which my kids have no hope of achieving.
If you get right up behind another racer, after a few seconds, you’ll see a wind effect blowing and your Kart will speed up significantly, then you’ll blow by them!
I tend to see this happen the most at the start of a race when everyone is so close together. It doesn’t happen quite as much as you’d expect otherwise, because a few seconds behind someone is kind of a lot. But if you can make it happen, the boost is pretty solid. Just watch out for the guy in front dropping a banana on ya!
Whether you’re attempting a draft of not, you can see the item the person in front of you has. So if they have a green shell or banana, don’t try to trail directly behind them.
200cc, get used to brake drifting
Once you’ve mastered all of the above, and you’re ready to put it to the real test, strap in and kart-up to the start line of a 200cc match. Everything you’ve learned still applies, except faster. You will no longer be able to hold the gas down the entire match! You may even need to press a button you’ve never pressed before: the brake.
You won’t need the brake on straightaways, only turns. And since you mastered drifting, you’re still going to be drifting on almost every turn (holding the jump button). So the main thing you need to know for 200cc is brake drifting. When you’re FLYING around the turn in 200cc, holding down the jump button and drifting, just let off the gas and tap the brake button a few times. In some cases, you may need to press it, not tap, but a lot of the time, simply tapping it will keep you from slamming into the wall.
Get used to holding jump, drifting, letting off gas, and tapping brake. It’s a strange combo. But you’ll have it in no time and destroying peeps at 200cc. Then the biggest difference between 200cc and 150cc is your kids will be crying 2 minutes sooner.
So there you have it. You’re ready to compete with the big boys and bask in the defeat of my children and yours as well. Use their tears to wash down some Planters Pop & Pour and we’ll see you on the tracks September 18th!
This article and The Dad Gaming League are sponsored by Planters. Enjoy delicious snacks without gunking up your controller with Planters Pop and Pour