With more content than a Piranha Plant can manage to chomp in one bite, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe perfectly embodies the vision for Nintendo Switch in that the console will let you play anytime, anywhere and with anyone.
The only criticism I have of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is actually that none of these tweaks, changes and improvements are being rolled back to the Wii U original.
"Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is straight-up a better version of the game without compromise".
However, the biggest dose of new content - and possibly reason enough to splash out on Deluxe even if you had the Wii U version - is the addition of proper Battle Modes.
One of the popular speed techniques found in an earlier "Mario Kart" version will not be available in "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe". We mentioned the JoyCon de-syncing issue in our original hardware review of the Switch, and Deluxe is the game that suffers most from the dodgy controller connections because of how heavily you rely on that left analog stick. Being able to instantly jump into multiplayer sessions without having to buy additional kit is so refreshing and this is exactly the game that the Nintendo Switch needed. New additions to the roster come in returning favourites King Boo, Dry Bones and Bowser Jr., Splatoon's Inkling Boy and Inkling Girl, and Gold Mario - with the metallic moustachioed hero being the only unlockable character. And, it's the best multiplayer/party game on the Switch, so bring friends. Combining constant drifting, taking the racing line and jumping off bumps and ledges for extra boost are all fundamentals to guarantee success; this is then combined with clever item management to ensure you've always got a banana or shell (or now, both) to defend attacks from behind, trying to steal mushroom boosts as they circle around your opponents, drafting and remembering the shortest routes. You're unlikely to feel the need to take your DS and Mario Kart 7 any longer. Thankfully, they're provided at a slightly snappier pace here than on the Wii U - one new piece for every 30 coins collected in races, rather than 50.
With so many options and combinations, players will have a fun time mixing and matching until they find the flawless combination that works for them. Players can no longer do "fire hopping", which immediately makes it better than the original game. It looks fantastic while docked, and better than the portable Mario Kart 7 in tablet form (not to mention it has some of that iteration's best levels and mechanics, rendering it essentially obsolete).
To be sure, Battle mode isn't as polished as the normal racing, and I can't really disagree with its detractors - it really is kind of dopey, mindless fun, mostly devoid of strategy.
But being essentially a port of the Wii U game, does Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offer enough to warrant a possible second purchase? Balloons are there if you want them, but so is the cops and robbers-esque Renegade Roundup, the chaotic bomb-only Bob-omb Blast, the currency collection-centric Coin Runners, and the hoard-the-object Shine Thief. Four people huddled over the little Switch in four-player mode is a gameplay challenge, but the fact that it works at all is impressive. It's a way to get more friends playing on the same screen, but it's not a great solution.
With Battle Mode getting a lot better, the next cab off the rank would be more extensive online leaderboardss.
Nintendo's decision to port a few of Wii U's most popular and beloved games to the now content-deprived Switch - which, at the moment, is functioning as little more than an expensive Zelda box for most people - was inevitable. In the fall, when Nintendo's free trial ends, you'll have to pay for the Switch's online services to use this mode.