Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Tracks Ranked: Part 1

By Matt Gibson

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a smashing game. Whilst on the surface it may seem like a straight port of the Wii U version, this Switch title boasted all of the DLC from the original, in addition to a total rework of the somewhat lacking Battle Mode, as well as many more welcome new features.

But what is staggering about this game are the tracks. Many are brilliantly designed, and there are 48 of them to boot, the most of any Mario Kart title! To mark the anniversary of what is probably the best Mario Kart experience, I’ve created this list ranking each and every one of them. So, let’s get stuck in!

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48. GCN Dry Dry Desert

This probably wouldn’t have been much of a shock, but Dry Dry Desert is likely no-one’s favourite course. It’s not flat-out terrible, it just doesn’t do much for me personally.

The oasis does bring some life to the course, a neat change for those that were accustomed to the track on Mario Kart: Double Dash, and the pillars that fall over the race’s duration provide some opportunities for tricks.

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47. Water Park

Coming from the first cup of the game, Water Park has a pretty cool premise, being set in, well, a water park. Unfortunately, it’s more often than not always in the back of my mind when it comes to Mario Kart 8’s circuit roster.

Whilst it serves as a welcome introduction to the underwater mechanic for players that didn’t play the 3DS installment, the track doesn’t do a whole lot to make you go 'wow'. Hitting the Ferris wheel on the final stretch is rather sweet though.

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46. N64 Toad’s Turnpike

What I like about this one are the cars and trucks that drive alongside you, including those that grant some sweet gliding sections.

But at its core, it’s just a figure of eight, and whilst the bigger vehicles prove to be decent obstacles, as long as you don’t hold a drift too long they can be easily avoided.

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45. Sweet Sweet Canyon

Another one from Mushroom Cup early on in this list, Sweet Sweet Canyon does supply some eye candy in the form of its sugary landscape. Plus, being able to pass through the big doughnut to overtake others on the final turn can be satisfying.

Yet this is all that the track has going for it really. This track doesn’t feel as good to play on as it tastes (or looks, rather).

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44. N64 Yoshi Valley

Everyone likes Yoshi, right? I can’t think of a single human being that dislikes the lovable green dino, so a track in his honour is always welcome. The theme of multiple paths, this being a ‘Wild Yoshi Sanctuary,’ and the country-like music all contribute to Yoshi Valley’s charm.

But, the multiple paths thing really loses its charm once you have found the fastest route, which is troublesome for newcomers when they race against seasoned racers. As such, it can sometimes be quite boring: the giant egg doesn’t help much either.

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43. 3DS Koopa City

What sets Koopa City apart from the rest, is its relatively thin roads, which are nothing but an invitation for chaos. The setting is also quite distinctive, with the rain providing neat visual effects alongside the neo-city setting. Yet, for some reason, it's just not as memorable as other courses.

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42. Mario Kart Stadium

At first glance, Mario Kart Stadium is relatively bland, with a basic track design and no real obstacles. However, it deserves more credit for being the opening stage of the game. No starting course has ever been as vibrant as this one.

It presents the player with a nice and simple introduction to the title’s new anti-gravity feature, all the while the feeling like this is a proper racetrack for a legitimate sport.

Throw in a remix of Mario Circuit’s theme and you have a great opening stage.

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41. Bone Dry Dunes

Even though the word ‘dry’ is in its name, Bone Dry Dunes isn’t that bad. The sunset paints the track in a unique colour that differentiates it from other desert levels, and its series of winding routes makes for quite an interesting match.

The final portion can be quite fiendish too, as you have to land from the air in such a way to maximise your drifting potential, alongside avoiding the Dry Bones serving as obstacles. It’s not everybody’s favourite, but it’s not shabby either.

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40. Thwomp Ruins

Thwomp Ruins sports quite an interesting theme, seeing as it is dedicated to the spikey enemies. The middle section of the course, where it splits into two halves with an underwater section in the center, is the most exciting part.

There aren’t many distinct features about the stage, but the glider section that is created in the second and third laps (only third if you’re fast enough) and the shortcut towards the end for the risk-taker means that this course’s quality shines through.

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39. N64 Royal Raceway

Royal Raceway’s design is more on the basic side. Nevertheless, it is a course fit for Princess Peach herself. The many blossom trees and general style of this track make it a treat to look at.

Furthermore, the soundtrack to the stage evokes a sense of familiarity by being quite similar to the Mario Kart 64 original. Royal Raceway may be simple, but it's still great fun.

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38. Twisted Mansion

Twisted Mansion is the Halloween-esque course of this installment. Some neat nods to some lesser-known enemies like new Super Mario Bros. 2’s Boohemoth and the spooky setting in general contribute to a fitting aesthetic.

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37. GCN Sherbet Land

Sherbet Land has a brilliant Christmas theme going on, and as a fan of snow-themed environments, I like this one. This is the first retro track on this list that I feel has had a change to its core track design rather than just a simple facelift.

What were once hazards in Mario Kart: Double Dash are now alternate paths in the form of underwater sections, giving a new challenge for veterans.

36. Ice Ice Outpost

Originally part of the DLC on the Wii U version, Ice Ice Outpost isn't the standout offering from the pack. That said, whilst the dual-path feature sets it apart, the true gimmick is the shortcuts.

They require an extra amount of risk compared to other sneaky passages in the game, and the one right before the finish line can make or break your race. 

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35. Wii Grumble Volcano

I have grown to like this course a bit more over time. As you progress, the course cracks and crumbles, making each lap slightly more varied and difficult.

The music and the dark environment, illuminated by the glowing lava, gives a real sense of danger too. Grumble Volcano may come across as a bit dull, but it can be rather exciting with the right crowd.

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34. GBA Mario Circuit

Simplicity can be a great thing, and Mario Circuit from Mario Kart: Super Circuit demonstrates this quite well. Its straightforward layout is great for newcomers, and seeing a portion being lifted for anti-gravity before the race begins is a cool treat.

What I love is how much it feels like a traditional circuit: from the tires and oil spills, to the pit-stop at the end and a leaderboard in the background. This track proves you don’t need wacky ideas to make a course enjoyable.

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33. 3DS Melody Motorway

Melody Motorway shines with its instrumental theme. From the spiralling piano keys to the sneaky shortcut on the final turn, the course is bursting with the motif of sound, and the HD upgrade from the 3DS finally does the course justice too.

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32. Rainbow Road

Rainbow Road is a Mario Kart staple, always offering a nice end to the game’s cups. Whilst this one certainly does, it’s quite lack-lustre in comparison to previous versions; it just doesn’t feel like a ‘rainbow.’

This Rainbow Road is man-made, incorporating elements of Mario Kart TV and integrating technology into the scenery. But as a result, it loses its charm a slight bit. Previous tracks of the same name (the one on the Wii being my favourite) can be quite challenging, but Mario Kart 8’s doesn't quite live up to the pedigree.

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31. SNES Rainbow Road

This is arguably better than the previous choice. Although just a flat surface, the original Rainbow Road grants racers a decent challenge due to the lack of walls that would otherwise prevent players from falling off.

The relatively retro-centric song also adds to the track’s experience, and there's a couple of cheeky shortcuts for those brave enough to attempt them.

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30. Mario Circuit

As a course for beginners, and as a demonstration for anti-gravity action, Mario Kart 8’s Mario Circuit doesn’t disappoint. It is vanilla in contrast to other courses, but the Mobius strip concept puts a different twist on the typical figure-eight design.

It won’t cause cheers in the lobby, but it’s hard to be too saddened when you have to race this circuit online.

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29. Toad Harbour

Toad Harbour is one of those nice, de-stressing courses. The somewhat chill soundtrack helps to establish a town setting, alongside the cable cars and a long hill seemingly inspired by San Francisco.

There are no gob-smackingly defining features about the course, but there’s nothing to hate about Toad Harbour either; it’s just a good track.

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28. DS Tick-Tock Clock

The various clockwork and other technology tidbits are the defining feature of Tick-Tock Clock, both in terms of looks and gameplay.

The rotating cogs and gears provide some nifty speed-boosts, but the great visual facelift it’s been given from Mario Kart DS (which was my first game in the series), makes it a great track to compete on.

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27. 3DS DK Jungle

With its lush environment and funky music, this track should be a treat for fans of the great ape’s platformers on various Nintendo consoles.

The gorgeous jungle-scenery can be great to look at, and the remix of Jungle Hijinx from the original Donkey Kong Country adds some novelty to the course. DK Jungle rarely fails to provide a good, solid match.

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26. Cloudtop Cruise

Serving as a brilliant start to the game’s Special Cup, Cloudtop Cruise is simply a fun time. Racing atop clouds is pretty neat, but it’s not until you head into the storm where the race picks up.

You have to be careful with which speed-boosts to use (or suffer a shock), with the added electric guitar in the music bringing an exciting atmosphere.

Toss in a sweet cover of Gusty Garden Galaxy from Super Mario Galaxy and you have more than enough ingredients for a cracking course. 

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25. GCN Baby Park

If there's one word to describe Baby Park, it's chaos. The simple and short oval design works wonders, as racers overlap others, and that’s not to mention the constant stream of items.

It's next to impossible to avoid everything in a race on Baby Park, and it’s this mayhem that can make this a favourite for a lot of people.

Despite how much fun this can provide, I find it to be too short, even with the seven laps. Best played on 200cc for more chaos.  

We’re going to end it here for now, as this article is already meaty enough! If you want to see what made the top spot, check out part 2!