"Aw, not this one". The words uttered by many a Mario Kart player when a track they don't like shows up during a multiplayer match.
There is nothing that unites and divides gamers like Mario Kart tracks. Some will swear blind that Wario Colosseum is the most beautifully designed racetrack of all time, challenging even the Nurburgring for sheer devilishness. Others will blow a well-aimed raspberry at that notion, instead referring to it as "a big mess of hatred".
For over 22 years Mario Kart's tracks have encouraged debate and now, with
Mario Kart 8 just under two months away, we've decided to finally draw a line under things and give you the definitive list of the ten best and ten worst courses in the series' history.
It's worth noting we haven't included any of Mario Kart 8's courses in here yet. Though we've played it extensively (read our massive
Mario Kart 8 preview for our hands-on impressions), a player's opinion of a Mario Kart track can only be properly shaped after thousands of playthroughs and tense multiplayer battles. So while, in time, Mario Kart 8's offerings may feature in either of these lists, for now the jury's out.
Here, then, is our definitive list of the ten best and worst Mario Kart tracks ever. You can argue with us and post your own alternatives in the comments below if you like, but do bear in mind you'll be wrong and these are definitely the right answers.
The best Mario Kart tracks ever
Mario Circuit 1 (SNES) It makes sense to start at the beginning. Mario Circuit 1 was many gamers' introduction to the world of Mario Kart, and we spent many a youthful hour perfecting our hop slides on this course in an attempt to improve our Time Trial lap times.
Wario Stadium (N64) The track every Mario Kart 64 player dreaded in multiplayer. Back in the days when the lightning bolt power-up was more common, the act of triggering it just as a rival went up Wario Stadium's massive jump (forcing them to miss the gap and making them drive half an entire lap again) was enough to ruin friendships.
Luigi Circuit (GBA) When Mario Kart Super Circuit was released on GBA, Luigi Circuit was the track that caught most people's eye because it was the first time you could play Mario Kart in the rain. By which we mean both that the track featured a rain effect, and that you could take your GBA out into a thunderstorm.
Maple Treeway (Wii) Easily one of the most entertaining tracks in Mario Kart Wii, Maple Treeway had some lovely big turns for drifting and a section with Wigglers that could be immensely annoying to get past but supremely satisfying if you managed it without a scrape. It looked lovely too.
Bowser's Castle (N64) Thwomps, stairs, the castle roof, that massive curved cylindrical hallway perfect for drifting... Bowser's Castle had it all, and it remained great fun when it was remade for Mario Kart Wii.
Koopa Cape (Wii) The massive river section in this track increases your speed, making it a treat to race along. The underwater glass tunnel and the subsequent cave section made it truly memorable.
Music Park (3DS) Some of the best Mario Kart tracks are ones not necessarily themed on any particular character or area. This brilliant music stage is a perfect example, with the ability to drift along piano keys massive musical notes bouncing you into the air.
Baby Park (GC) As a simple loop, Double Dash's seven-lap track is easily the most basic track in Mario Kart history. However, its extremely short length also makes it the most chaotic, with every racer crammed together and more confrontations taking place as a result.
Royal Raceway (N64) Further confirming that the Star Cup in Mario Kart 64 is probably the best in Mario Kart history, Royal Raceway is the third track from that cup in our list. Considering most gamers had just finished Super Mario 64 when Mario Kart 64 was released, seeing Peach's Castle again was a joy. That massive jump over the river is amazing too.
Tick Tock Clock (DS) The turning gears on the floor in Tick Tock Clock are the perfect embodiment of how, in Mario Kart, sometimes luck goes in your favour and sometimes it doesn't. Every 45 seconds the gears change direction, meaning one lap they're helping you zoom along the track, the next you're struggling to pick up speed.
The worst Mario Kart tracks ever
Lakeside Park (GBA) This volcano track from Super Circuit is nothing more than Nintendo trolling the player. Big balls of lava dropping on the course, a needlessly difficult boost jump.... evil.
Dry Dry Desert (GC) We've never really been fans of desert levels in Mario games, and that extends to Mario Kart too. There's nothing particularly awful about Dry Dry Desert, it's just about as boring as it comes. The name couldn't be more apt, as this is a truly dry experience.
Choco Island 2 (SNES) Sometimes we wonder how many accumulated man-hours we've spent sluggishly rolling our way through that massive lake of chocolate, in what's easily the most depressingly slow section in any Mario Kart game.
Yoshi Valley (N64) Ask people what makes Mario Kart fun and many will agree it's all about battling with other racers and struggling to be first. Yoshi Valley splits into so many different alternative paths that said battles rarely occur, and as for knowing who's first... well, as the question marks show, even the game can't figure it out.
Yoshi Falls (DS) Another rubbish Yoshi-themed track, this mercifully short Mario Kart DS effort gives two options - go the long way across the bridge (which is boring), or take your chances with the waterfall (which is frustrating). It's like choosing whether to be punched in the face or kneed in the delicates.
Vanilla Lake 1 As if racing on ice wasn't tricky enough, Vanilla Lake's scattering of breakable ice blocks across large sections of the track can result in you getting stuck in an infuriating temporary ice block prison.
DK Summit (Wii) For the most part Donkey Kong's Mario Kart Wii track is alright but this half-pipe section can lead to some colourful language if you get the angle of your jump wrong and fling yourself head-first into the thick snow, reducing your kart to a crawl.
Pac-Labyrinth (Arcade) Namco's Mario Kart Arcade GP isn't exactly the best Mario Kart game in the first place, but this track, which is partly designed to look like a maze in Pac-Man, doesn't have the course design to back up the art design.
Wuhu Mountain Loop (3DS) Known as Maka Wuhu outside of Europe, this is an odd single-lap race that goes down the Wuhu Island mountainside from Wii Fit. It's an interesting idea but its final stretch takes out all the excitement of Mario Kart: because it's almost entirely straight, if there's an opponent ahead of you and you don't have a weapon you can do nothing but trail behind for the final 30 seconds, entirely helpless and waiting for it to end.
Rainbow Road (N64) We couldn't not have a Rainbow Road in here, and this interminably long track is the worst of the bunch. It's little wonder why its Mario Kart 8 redesign looks almost unrecognisable because of all the extra bells, whistles and extra mechanics Nintendo's put in there to make it more exciting.