Mario Kart

The 10 Best ‘Mario Kart’ Courses That We Love To Race On


The Mario Kart franchise is known for its outrageous racetracks which bend the fabric of reality. Rather than taking place in a realistic racing environment, each original track has its own take on the Mario universe. Some courses are plucked directly from levels in various Mario games, others are a parody of a real world situation, and some of them frankly don’t make any sense in any other context other than in Mario Kart. Finding a bad track in Mario Kart is difficult, as they each offer something original and engaging. The following are 10 of the very best tracks ever made for the series.

10. Music Park (3DS, Wii U)

A level made entirely of musical instruments, Music Park is the epitome of a Mario Kart track, boasting originality and a solid difficulty curve. This track requires precise driving across narrow keyboards and xylophones prior to dodging vicious piranha plants and giant musical notes that are looking to squish all racers. Featuring a giant tambourine halfway through, this course has presentation in spades while also offering clever musical cues. In fact, with every piece of the course interacting with a musical sound, gamers are unable to help themselves from touching a precarious piece of the map they normally would not drift to in order to hear the beautiful sound it makes. The 3DS course returns as a retro track in Mario Kart 8 with improved visuals along with an ingenious additional touch. During the final lap, the metronome speeds up and the behavior of all the interactive elements of the map are faster, making this course even more hectic than before. Via

9. Banshee Boardwalk (N64, DS)

Resembling the ghost valley course from the original Super Mario Kart, Banshee Boardwalk is the ghost house interpretation of a Mario Kart course, with an abandoned shack to boot. Dark and eerie with music that wonderfully suits the stage, the course is a difficult stretch of turns with plenty of opportunities to fall off the boardwalk. While the course opens with guardrails, these barriers quickly disappear and the stage is set for a series of narrow turns without walls. Due to the boardwalk’s limited size, projectiles become extremely dangerous as they will more than likely knock opposing racers off of the course. The track returns in essentially an identical fashion during the DS game, making either version equally thrilling to play. Banshee Boardwalk is an expert racer’s go-to course of choice for its challenging difficulty. With excellent music and atmosphere, it can be enjoyed by everyone despite the frustrating difficulty curve. Via YouTube

8. Moonview Highway (Wii)

Courses with traffic have appeared throughout Mario Kart’s existence but none have excelled as well as Moonview Highway. Taking place in a city at night, the course has an off-road area leading into the busier city section. While the track may appear to be a relatively simple oval, the main draw here is the traffic. Players are controlling their karts directly through heavy traffic as the course goes from two lanes and then widens into four lanes. Driving on the right side of the road leads to driving against oncoming traffic. This danger of driving straight into cars perfectly encapsulates the essence of Mario Kart: a ludicrous concept of driving go-karts in the city and able to weave through traffic. The idea, which began on the Super Nintendo, is so crazy that it works. Via

7. Royal Raceway (N64)

While the course was remade for the latest entry on the Wii U, the N64 original remains one of the greatest courses ever created for Mario Kart. The main draw is a visit to the iconic Peach’s Castle, the biggest landmark to be used in a Mario Kart track. Racers can enter the castle courtyard only to find a dead end; the track branches off and is designed to pass the castle. However, following the footsteps of Mario 64, the inclusion of the castle in one of the Mario Kart tracks was truly amazing. In Mario Kart 8, the entrance is fenced off as racers can no longer enter the courtyard. While this helps newcomers in avoiding the unnecessary detour, the course loses a significant amount of charm by not allowing visitors to this area. Via

6. Maple Treeway (Wii, 3DS)

Taking place in between Wiggler-infested trees, Maple Treeway takes racers through sloping paths and narrow branches. One of the most tactical tracks in the series, this autumn course contains many tree roots acting as edges for speed-boosting tricks. However, these boosts are dangerous as the track is constantly sloping and racers are on the verge of peril at all times. Add in leaf piles that contain surprises (either items or obstacles) and racers must consciously be thinking about their strategic direction. Drifting is essential in this level (yet also quite dangerous) while going around the sides of branches. Finally, the Wiggler area presents a moving obstacle where players may need to brake if they’re not able to drift around them. Mario Kart 7 added gliding sections to several sections of the course but fortunately the course is largely unchanged and is respectfully ported. Via

5. Yoshi Valley (N64, Wii U)

One of the few redone courses that featured improvements to the track rather than a simple aesthetic makeover, Yoshi’s Valley is best featured in Mario Kart 8, however the N64 version remains a solid choice for nostalgia. Boasting the most paths of any track in the series, Yoshi’s Valley is a hectic race that incites confusion as the game hides the placement of the racers. Rather than show who is leading the race, a question mark replaces the portrait of the standing positions until a racer crosses the finish line. In Mario Kart 8, there are changes to the balance of the course layout. While the multiple-path layout is unique and incredibly fun, in the N64 original there is one path that is shorter than the others. There is a porcupine presenting an obstacle over a narrow bridge but experienced racers will always take this route. The remade version of the course evens out the length of every path and places a barrel cannon in place of the longest route. Now with several equal choices to be made, Yoshi’s Valley becomes a true maze as every racer heads in a different direction without knowing who is in the lead. Via

4. Waluigi Pinball (DS, 3DS)

With the ingenious idea of placing karts in a virtual pinball machine, Waluigi Pinball is a twisted, difficult stage that deserves its ranking here on imagination alone. The unique feel of the course is even represented when racers grab items, as the item roulette makes a unique pinball sound. With bumpers, flippers and a plunger to launch racers into the course, Waluigi Pinball is a flashy level that remains imaginative. There are a significant amount of obstacles as being inside a pinball arena proves to be quite dangerous. The amount of detail presented in this course is astounding as it truly does feel immersive. With engaging music to boot, Waluigi Pinball is a perfect representation of the zany course selection that Mario Kart is known to present. The course is largely unchanged in the 3DS version, making either version a viable option to play. Via

3. Mount Wario (Wii U)

Aesthetically, presentation-wise, strategically, and in terms of pure enjoyment, Mount Wario may very well top the lengthy list of impressive Mario Kart tracks. Not enough time has passed between Mario Kart 8’s release date and the time of this writing in order to give proper perspective on how impressive this track is, but one thing is clear: it is one of the very best ever made. The track begins with racers jumping out of a plane, setting the stage for this unique act. With checkpoints signaling the continuation to the next area rather than a new lap, the course feels fresh and avoids being repetitive. Finally, that final act speeding downhill with dozens of speed boosts tests the accuracy of players in regards to weapons, as their karts have already reached maximum speed and the gains to be made are by shooting shells at opponents and avoiding the bouncing ones already on the terrain. Mount Wario is a thrilling track with challenging turns and obstacles. It can already safely be anointed a classic. Via

2. DK Mountain (GameCube, Wii)

One of the most exciting stages thanks to a huge leap made at the beginning of the race, DK Mountain is a treacherous journey that is difficult to master but so addictive that it will have racers attempting it over and over. When it first appeared in Mario Kart: Double Dash, the opening cannon shot was quite unheard of and presented a cinematic feel to Mario Kart that had not yet been established. This set the stage for one of the greatest courses in Mario Kart history. After being launched to the top of the mountain, racers have nowhere to go but down, as they navigate boulders, an erupting volcano, and an unstable bridge. With hairpin turns and steep ledges ripe for sniping opponents with turtle shells, DK Mountain proves a challenging level where speed must be balanced with precision and boosts must be used at opportune times. With the downhill momentum already present, mushroom boosts may send racers flying too far off the path and into the abyss. Via

1. Rainbow Road (SNES, 3DS)

Remade for the 3DS version, the original Rainbow Road is the greatest Mario Kart track ever made. This Super Nintendo classic arrives with a huge spike in difficulty after gamers had already struggled through some very difficult courses. Rainbow Road removes all walls, meaning instant-death for anyone who falls off the narrow course. Intricately designed with extremely sharp turns at every corner, Rainbow Road is possibly the most difficult course ever made while also being the most iconic. Adding “thwomps” as a hindrance at every straightaway, racers must find balanced speed without getting out of control. This track gets truly hectic during grand prix races when the narrow lane becomes far too crowded. Later iterations of Rainbow Road would ruin the experience by adding walls on each side or by making the track far too long (especially the N64 version), completely erasing the difficulty. Rainbow Road is meant to be short and sweet while being a true test of Mario Kart skill. Via


Colin Anderson

DWitzman has been writing about video games, movies, tv and more for Goliath since 2016.