The goal of the games is to traverse multiple racetracks based on Mario game locations. The player can choose their own character, vehicle, and kart parts (open in certain games). Adding to the mayhem and competition is a large selection of items that players can use to either speed them up or take out opponents.
Super Mario Kart is the very first Mario Kart game, released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It's the only game that has Donkey Kong Jr. as a playable character, and the only one where Donkey Kong and Wario (not created yet) don't appear.
Mario Kart 64 is the second Mario Kart game, released in 1996 for the Nintendo 64. It replaced Donkey Kong Jr. with Donkey Kong and Koopa Troopa with Wario, the two characters have been much more popular than the characters they replaced. Kamek was also scheduled but was scrapped from the final product. It's the first game of the series with 3D tracks, including hills, slopes, and tunnels. This wasn't possible due to the Mode 7 graphics of the SNES.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit is the third Mario Kart game, released in 2001 for the Game Boy Advance. It retains the Mario Kart 64 roster, although there was a rumor that Waluigi would've been an unlockable character. (His real first appearance as a playable character in the series was on Double Dash!!). This is the first game to feature Retro Stages, namely all the SNES tracks since this game reverts to Mode 7. However, the much more powerful hardware allows dedicated tracks, much more complex backgrounds and much larger tracks (Rainbow Road GBA using the space of SNES Rainbow Road, squared)
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is the fourth Mario Kart game, released in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube. It earns the name Double Dash!! for having two players on the same kart, working as a team: the Driver and the item thrower. Therefore, instead of the usual 8 starter characters, this game doubled the number to 16. It also is the first game in the series to have unlockable characters: Toad, Toadette, Petey Piranha, and King Boo, which boosts the total up to 20. It also sees the return of Koopa Troopa. This is the first Mario Kart game in 100% 3D.
Mario Kart DS is the fifth Mario Kart game (sixth including Mario Kart Arcade GP). This game was released in 2005 for the Nintendo DS. It is the only game in the series that features R.O.B. as a playable character, and the very first one including a bike as a usable vehicle (Waluigi's Zipper). This game also featured emblems, for use on the vehicles for online play.
Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 is the second Mario Kart arcade game (seventh including the whole series).
Mario Kart Wii is the sixth Mario Kart game (eighth including the arcade games). This game is for the Wii. It includes bikes into the gameplay along with Karts, each with their own strengths and differences. This game's also the first one which pits twelve racers in each race instead of eight. Unlockable Mii's were introduced, for outfit A, players must win the 100cc Special Cup, for outfit B, players must get ALL 32 fast staff ghosts.
Mario Kart 7 is, as its name implies, the seventh Mario Kart game (ninth including the arcade games) Released in 2011, this game is a 3DS exclusive. It introduced the characters Metal Mario, Honey Queen, Wiggler, and Lakitu. It also introduces gliding and underwater driving to the Mario Kart series, as well as kart customization. Miis return to this game, to get it, players MUST win either the 50cc, 100cc or 150cc Lightning Cup or the Special Cup. It is also the first game in the series to include open circuits.
Mario Kart 8 is the eighth and current most Mario Kart game (eleventh including the arcade games), released in May 2014 for the Wii U. Anti-gravity is the brand new feature of the game, allowing the racers to drive on tracks that are upside down, vertical or sideways. Bikes, Gliding, and underwater features return, as well as kart customization. Miis return to this game and can be unlocked if the player wins any cup on the 50cc, 100cc, 150cc or 150cc mirror. It is the first game in the series that features the Koopalings from Super Mario Bros. 3 as playable characters, along with Link, Pink Gold Peach, Tanooki Mario, Baby Rosalina & Cat Peach...
Mario Kart 8 is the first game to include :
- downloadable DLC packs, which comes with 3 new characters, vehicles, parts, and 8 tracks.
- live band-composed music
- 200cc mode
- Mario Kart TV
- Miiverse community.