Despite being decades old, it’s rare to be let down by a track from the Mario Kart series. From the shopping aesthetic and bouncy music of Coconut Mall, to the many lava-filled iterations of Bowser’s Castle, to jungles, deserts, ice worlds, and Rainbow Roads, Mario Kart’s greatest strength is its track variety. Needless to say, there’s a reason the games are often the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “kart racer” or even just the term racer in general. But despite their impressive track (heh heh) record, there are the rare occasions Mario Kart didn’t get it quite right. Here is a very subjective list of the worst tracks in Mario Kart.
10 of the Worst Mario Kart Tracks
Toad’s Turnpike: Originally from Mario Kart 64
You’d think a busy city highway could actually be a really awesome idea for a racetrack, but Toad’s Turnpike is often more frustrating and nondescript than it is innovative or clever. The bulky trucks and slow-moving cars can be frustrating to dodge, and when you get into some traffic you could end up in a pileup that leaves you hit by cars three or four times in a row before recovering. The level also is just sort of dark without much unique color palette or lighting design that helps it stick out. And playing the course’s reverse option takes what was already a frustrating and boring level and adds in the frustrations of attempting to drive down the road that will have you careening into oncoming vehicles. Needless to say, we’d rather not be stuck in traffic on Toad’s Turnpike anytime soon.
Figure-8 Circuit: Originally from Mario Kart DS
While introducing your players to the base mechanics of a game in an accessible environment is important, Figure-8 Circuit is a little bit too bland, even by first-level standards. While other early entries have at least some theming like the blimp on Luigi’s Circuit, or the floating mushroom balloons on Toad’s Circuit, Figure-8 Circuit is a slow-paced 8-shaped track with wide, boring turns and long eventless straightaways. The most exciting part of the track is a small tunnel that carries players underneath another part of the road, which really isn’t helping any arguments for the track. Is it a solid chance to learn the game? Sure. Are we okay never playing it again after that first learning experience? Pretty much.
Frappe Snowland: Originally from Mario Kart 64
A potentially controversial pick, Frappe Snowland is filled with a lot of seasonal winter jolliness. There are snowmen peppering the track and a towering abstract ice sculpture of Mario at one point. But this level’s roadside snow banks can be a major pain, catching players in a drift of slush that can be really tough to escape from. Things like the final snowy valley feel more claustrophobic than exciting, and the track’s one jump is over a pretty unpronounced icy river, which just makes it feel like a lot of this level isn’t as good as it could be. And whether this is fair or not, it’s easy to dock some points off of Frappe Snowland when comparing it to the far superior Mario Kart 64 ice course, Sherbet Land.
Mario Circuit: Originally from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
The second beginner circuit-style level on the list, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!’s Mario Circuit has the opposite problem of Figure-8 Circuit. This track has players racing a simple back-and-forth long oval, but with no barrier in the middle, meaning that players will be able to crash into or attack oncoming vehicles, leading to a cluster of chaos on the straightaway. But because the course is so stretched out, it loses a lot of its potential for enjoyment, leading more to getting tripped up by a spray of Green Shells and other ballistics that have been fired full laps before they finally hit you. And while this sounds like what makes Baby Park so great, its length ruins that sense of revenge and contained insanity, instead becoming more of a frustrating nuisance.
GBA Rainbow Road: Originally from Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Casual Mario Kart: Super Circuit players quickly understand how frustratingly difficult this version of Rainbow Road is. The level has practically no safety barriers, which is tough enough on its own, but those barriers are replaced with jump ledges, which means if you get too close to the edge you won’t have much luck drifting back to safety. Instead you’ll probably flop up and down a few times frantically before taking a dive off the side and being rescued by Lakitu. There is a really neat shortcut that has you go down a narrow side path off a bunch of speed boosts, but landing the final jump that takes players over a huge gap between the track can be nearly impossible to land unless you know exactly what you’re doing. And frankly, most players won’t.
Donut Plains 3: Originally from Super Mario Kart
While the SNES’s Super Mario Kart is filled with plenty of nostalgia, the limitations on the system’s hardware make the series entry feel pretty dated. And nowhere is that felt more than in tracks like Donut Plains 3. It’s a straightforward course with a number of hairpin turns, though there are a few shortcuts in the Mario Kart 8 remake that call for some tactically placed mushrooms. But even in the newest version, Donut Plains 3 just lacks any interesting personality and will have players frustrated at having to slam on the breaks mid-turn or fall into the nearby river. And for lacking any fun unique gimmicks, the track simply just does a lot of what Donut Plains 1 and Donut Plains 2 also did. Needless to say, we don’t think we needed three of these.
Tokyo Blur: Originally from Mario Kart Tour
Mario Kart Tour’s introduction of tracks designed around actual real-world cities has created some pretty timeless courses like New York Minute and Paris Promenade. Unfortunately, Tokyo Blur gets a bit of the first-course treatment, focusing more on a simple track than cool gimmicks — or even cool Tokyo city landmarks for that matter. You can at least spot Tokyo Tower and a few other icons of the city in the distance, and the course itself is entertaining enough. But when compared to the more specialized art design and unique choices made on the other city levels, Tokyo Blur just doesn’t measure up to the competition.
Dry Dry Desert: Originally from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
Another potentially controversial pick, Dry Dry Desert is one of the few tracks on this list that has plenty of unique variety. There are jump mushroom shortcuts, fun Pokeys to dodge, a giant pit of quicksand, and even a water portion in newer iterations. But despite all these neat pieces, Dry Dry Desert feels a bit disjointed, filled more with moment-to-moment gimmicks than an actual exciting race track. Plus, some of these gimmicks actively work against the level, with the large tornado being a pain from the original version and the oasis really slowing down the final rush to the finish line in the newer installment.
Banshee Boardwalk: Originally from Mario Kart 64
The theming of Banshee Boardwalk is immaculate, with creaky boards, Boos fading in and out of view, and plenty of creepy additions to create an ambiance of eeriness. Unfortunately, the track itself is a tough-as-nails monstrosity that requires pinpoint precision to avoid falling into the water below. This is another track where adding in items makes it become nearly unplayable with a full group of racers. Its open narrow planks leave little room for multiple karts, and after you’ve taken your third plunge of the race, you’ll be lucky to still finish in the top 4. If you widened this out it could be one of the best, but as it stands now, it’s unfortunately tough to enjoy the environment when you can’t take your eyes off the dangerous road.
Yoshi Falls: Originally from Mario Kart DS
We’re finishing out our list with this bland entry, particularly the Wii version. Yoshi Falls has some nice jungle trees and a couple waterfalls, but that’s about it. The track is a large O to represent a Yoshi egg, with a wide array of track posing few obstacles on the course to potentially take players out of a cruise control stupor. This wide track also means there’s a little too much room for all the racers, so there’s no sense of jockeying for position during the race. In many ways Yoshi Falls is the polar opposite of a track like Banshee Boardwalk, but we like a happy medium of fun and engaging elements to wide-open overly simple roads on our tracks.
That’s what I think are the worst Mario Kart tracks. Do you agree? If not, be sure to let us know what you think the worst Mario Kart tracks are in the comments!