Super Mario Kart Display Only Box Art
Despite being released to critical acclaim and taking full advange of Mode 7, Super Famicom launch title F-Zero was missing one key feature. It wasn't a two player game! Shigeru Miyamoto, the games senior producer was more than aware of this and work immediately began on a sequel. There were limitations however. Racing along at 400km an hour like F-Zero just wasn't an option in a two player split screen senario so new surroundings were necessary. The concept of kart racing was adopted fairly quickly as the seemingly obvious/only alternative. Next they needed an instantly recognisable character, one that you wouldn't mistake from behind. In fact they didn't just need one, they needed eight.
Mario and Luigi, already wearing overalls, looked well on screen and it was easy to differentiate between them. Yoshi, Peach, Bowser and Toad were another four that stood out. It was the tenth anniversary of Donkey Kong Jr. and he wore a shirt, something his dad didn't. The eight choice wasn't as straight forward but they finally settled on a koopa troopa. Now they just needed to refine the game.
All platforming titles involving Mario to that point had one thing in common, Power Ups! Mario Kart was to be no different. Banana peels (originally oil cans) were added as something only Donkey Kong Jr. could throw, there was a feather from Super Mario World to allow you jump higher, red shells that could home in on a target, mushrooms made you faster, stars gave you a small boost but also made you invunerable, ghosts that could steal your oponents item, lightning that shrinks all racers except the user and more. There were even coins you could collect that would increase your overall top speed.
Now they just needed to make the game fun and accessible to all. They definitely succeeded. Even the worst of drivers when given access to the dreaded lightning or homing red shell now had a chance to level the playing field, with these items more likely to appear for the player racing in last place. The design team put a lot of time and effort into creating just the right balance and it really shows. The finished game was and is nothing short of an outstanding use of the technology available to them at the time. The fourth best selling Super Nintendo game ever, it's fair to say it was nothing short of a critical success and has become the longest running racing game franchise of all time