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The 7 ages of Mario Kart

A history lesson in multiplayer mastery...

In 40 years' time, the bowl-haired teenagers who first sampled the delights of Mario Kart on the SNES in 1993 will start finding themselves in old people's homes.

Age will have wearied them, but you can guarantee they'll still be sitting there in highbacked chairs firing Red Shells at each other, swearing and occasionally (arthritis allowing) throwing a pad against the wall in mock anger.

Mario Kart is now a gaming touchstone through every different stage of our lives - people who discovered it as a child are now beginning to play it with their own kids. It s basics may not change, but we do - and so do the ways we play the game together.

Join us, then, on an adventure through time and space. Just how did we, the people of the past, once Banana our way to victory? Let's find out...

This feature is taken from Games Master Presents Mario Kart. You can purchase the full magazine in stores or order it online and have it delivered straight to your door. It's also available digitally through Apple Newsstand as well as Zinio. Also read CVG's Mario Kart 7 review.

THE AGE OF INNOCENCE

Game: Super Mario Kart
Year: 1993
The perfect recipe for Mario Kart's first incarnation included a living room with an old-style boxy television, two sweaty pads and the faintest whiff of body odour.

The young gamers of the '90s could put up with the squeezed letter-boxes of two player Grand Prix races and Battle Mode. Their eyes may have watered as they squinted to see the rogue Green Shells bouncing off in the distance, but this was a small price to pay for some of the greatest videogaming duels of all time.

From the ver y first boost-start, Mario Kart's reflection of Eastern gaming habits (in the way that many Japanese gamers prefer to race in a crowd together, rather than have better players tearing off into the distance from the word go) struck gold with teenage twosomes the world over.

It didn't matter how good you were with the game, you could still compete on an even playing field - and point fingers and laugh directly into your friend's face when a stored-up Red Shell stole their victory mere metres before the finishing line.

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Short, simple courses still make the original Mario Kart the purest, simplest Nintendo nectar going - while its Battle Mode was never quite topped. Battle Course 4 was perhaps a little too vast and labyrinthine, but the feeling of spotting your mate motoring away behind a wall, then swooping in with a shell attack as he swerved out from behind cover was amazing.

Likewise the feeling of averting certain Red Shell disaster by neatly hopping over a barrier with a Leaf power-up, or sashaying past the outcrop of a corner to block a shot, could produce yelps in even the most surly of teens.

Most important, however, was the character you chose to play as. This, after all, would go on to fashion your Mario Kart gaming for the rest of your life. (Unless you were weird and chose to go with the Koopa Troopa). Your correspondent? I was a Yoshi, I am still a Yoshi, I will die a Yoshi. Some things just never leave you...

SNES MEMORIES

Host with the most
Ah, Lakitu. Your finest race-start moments came in the very first Mario Kart, though we're still angry about all those coins you stole whenever we drove somewhere that wasn't sensible...

Stuck in the mud
The secret of success on Choco Island was to never stray onto the darker, rougher and muddier track. Many intrepid racers became bogged down here, some might still be there...

THE AGE OF ADOLESCENCE

Game: Mario Kart 64
Year: 1997
Cartoon karting afficionados were older, but not much wiser. That same living room was now filled with lumberjack shirts, a stray copy of Loaded and, if the parental units were elsewhere, a few tins of Hooch or some beer that ever yone was pretending to like. Rivalry was, however, now at a fever pitch.

The reason? The way that the newly-three dimensional tracks had ramps - and because a well-timed dose of shrinklightning or a heat-seeking Red Shell could wreck your rival's jump, restarting them far back up the track.

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This was way, way, way uncool (and strictly banned in the Wario Stadium) but still entirely hilarious. Four players could now mash it up in Battle Mode, and now the only map that mattered was Block Fort.

Four separate peaks, a multitude of maps and bridges - and perhaps the most hardcore gameplay that Mario Kart has ever conjured up. Red Shells and Green Shells alike could come unstuck on its walls, creating the most intense and accurate duels that Mushroom and Plumber could muster.

Some moodily bemoaned losing the happy simplicity of SNES Mario Kart in exchange for this bright new threedimensional future, but that was mainly because their last balloon had been picked off from behind by a rogue Green.

N64 MEMORIES

Hot hot heat
When we weren't delicately balanced in Block Fort we were speeding around in ever-decreasing circles, edging closer and closer to Big Donut's fiery lava. Plumber eyebrows were singed.

Shrinking violence
Beware the Wario Stadium jump! Clever use of shrink-lightning up this ramp could result in disaster. The greatest moments came through deft Boo-usage, after which that stolen lightning bolt would make them suffer...

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