Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a must-buy for every Nintendo Switch owner, and since it’s one of the highest-selling video games of all time with over 57 million copies sold, this review of the paid DLC is going to rightfully assume you already own the base game. For those who don’t know, the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass was announced early last year during the peak of online Mario Kart 9 rumours and speculation. The original Mario Kart 8 on Wii U was already eight years old at the time, so the reveal came as sort of bitter-sweet. On the one hand, we’d be getting 48 new courses added, doubling the amount in the base game, but on the other, it meant a successor was still years away. The new tracks were released in six waves over the course of two years, with the last wave seeing release on 9th November 2023. Now that the Booster Course Pass is finally complete, is it worth racing to purchase?
As many were quick to point out on social media upon the release of the first wave, the visuals of the new courses in the Booster Course Pass don’t quite hold up to the same level of quality as the ones in the base game. Some of the textures appear to be more flat and simplistic, as many of them were ported over from the iOS/Android game Mario Kart Tour. However, it’s not quite that simple, as upon closer inspection, it’s clear that more work was put into them than a mere copy and paste job. Unless you do a direct side-by-side visual comparison between the DLC and base game courses, it’s unlikely that the average player is going to notice much of a graphical difference, and the more cartoonish style of some of them has its own charm anyway. While there’s no denying that some courses look better than others, I found that almost all of the 48 new ones still look gorgeous with the impressive lighting engine Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is built on.
One of the biggest differences between the base game courses and the Booster Course Pass courses is that the anti-gravity mechanic isn’t utilised quite as much in the latter, which makes sense considering the majority of them come from Mario Kart Tour. Instead, there is a new gimmick where each lap of the Mario Kart Tour courses take you on a slightly different path than the last. Since Mario Kart Tour had multiple variants of the same course, having the laps represent the variants was a great and unique way to incorporate them into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. With some courses, you can even drive the opposite direction of other racers if you get far enough ahead.
Of the 48 new courses that are split up equally into 12 Grand-Prix cups, 17 of them originate from Mario Kart Tour, 28 are classic courses from across the series (2 from Super Mario Kart (SNES), 2 from Mario Kart 64, 5 from Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA), 3 from Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GameCube), 4 from Mario Kart DS, 8 from Mario Kart Wii, 4 from Mario Kart 7 (3DS)), and 3 are entirely brand new. The variety of courses available are incredibly diverse and nostalgic, with my personal favourites being Coconut Mall and the Wii version of Rainbow Road. Even though almost all of the classic courses are also based on their Mario Kart Tour versions, I found that they all fit into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe perfectly, even when racing on the brutal 200cc. Most of the new music track arrangements/remixes are also incredibly catchy and never get old.
In addition to the new courses, eight more playable racers are also introduced in the Booster Course Pass, including Birdo, Kamek, Diddy Kong, Peachette, Petey Piranha, Wiggler, Funky Kong, and Pauline. Each of their weight classes is pretty much what you would expect for the characters, with half of them being mediumweight and the other half being heavyweight. Their driving stats are comparable to other racers already in the base game, but that’s not something you really have to worry about if you’re just playing casually. Much like the courses, the new racers that Nintendo chose to add use mostly reused assets from Mario Kart Tour, so it’s a bit of a shame that they didn’t include every character from that game, with the notable exclusions being King Bob-omb, Dixie Kong, Monty Mole, Nabbit, Donkey Kong Jr., and the dozens of alternate costumes. Hopefully the next mainline Mario Kart has a more fleshed out roster, but the Booster Course Pass didn’t initially promise any new characters at all, so the eight we got are still a nice bonus. There are also 17 new Mii Racer Suits from Mario Kart Tour that have been added, but the Daisy one requires her amiibo to unlock it for some reason.
Alongside DLC for other Switch games, such as the Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion and Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Happy Home Paradise, The Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass is included as one of the many benefits for Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscribers. If online gaming isn’t really your thing, a library of classic N64 and Sega Genesis titles doesn’t entice you enough, or you just want to own the DLC outright and not rely on a monthly/yearly subscription, the Booster Course Pass can also be bought separately for $24.99/£22.49. If neither of those options sound appealing to you, the Booster Course Pass courses can still be enjoyed online as long as one of your friends has access to it and selects them in your lobby.
As a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe aficionado with over 300 hours logged, the Booster Course Pass is one of the rare cases of paid downloadable content that you can’t live without. I’m practically able to race through the base game courses with my eyes closed, so for me, having a whole new set of 48 courses to learn and master is nothing short of a blessing. Although Nintendo certainly could have done more to make the Booster Course Pass feel more deluxe, such as adding the final few remaining missing characters from Mario Kart Tour, it’s hard to complain too much with the relatively low cost of admission, and it being included as part of the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack makes a subscription much more worth it than it was before.