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Top 10 Mario Kart Tracks of All-Time [top ten]
Welcome, and thank you for checking out my list of the top 10 Mario Kart tracks of all-time (at least, up until this moment.) I want to start off by saying it was difficult, incredibly difficult, to pare this list down to just 10 tracks. My ďshortlistĒ was over 20 tracks, and I had to cut many excellent tracks to make it to 10, including a few that I was certain were going to be shoe-ins before I really started trimming down. So if one of your favorites is missing, rest assured, it probably pained me to leave it out as much as it pains you to not see it on here.

My experience with Mario Kart goes way back to the Super Nintendo, the home of the original Super Mario Kart. It is no exaggeration to say that Super Mario Kart was one of my favorite games for many, many years, and it definitely remains one of my most played games of all time. I used to play the ever-living heck out of it, and I prided myself on my skills, which, looking back on it, Iím sure were probably pretty mediocre... but hey, I could beat everyone I knew (which was all of like 5 people) so I was the best. No one can take that away from me.

And I have played every single Mario Kart ever since. Of course, members of Negative World, especially those who happen to be in the chat room on Mario Kart 7 tournament nights, know that I have a love / hate relationship with some of the more recent Mario Kart games, and have been known to express the hate side of that relationship in somewhat venomous terms, especially when, much like in a recent contest, I am finally in a comfortable 1st place lead and then get hit with a blue shell, slide off the edge of the track, and get set back on to immediately get knocked right off again, ending up in a not-so-comfortable 8th place. I feel like the racing / item balance in Mario Kart has shifted strongly to the item side over the years, and Iím not entirely comfortable with that shift. Or maybe I just suck. Iíll get off of my soapbox now.

And whatever the case, there is the love side of the equation as well, where every new release of a Mario Kart game is a reason for me to get excited, and even when Iím frustrated, Iím still pouring hours into them. I could write about the greatness of Mario Kart until your eyes bleed, but that would be an entirely different article. Letís just get to the list, shall we?
10/27/12, 05:11   Edit:  11/10/14, 00:46
Sky Garden (Super Circuit, DS retro)
Admittedly, I have not spent much time with Super Circuit. I got into handheld gaming late into the life of the GBA and never got around to purchasing it at the time. I played a bit of Super Circuit here and there on other peopleís copies, including a copy I bought for my girlfriend about 2 years ago, and more recently I played some on the ďfreeĒ Ambassadorís copy I downloaded onto my 3DS. However, my experience with the game remains fairly limited.

With that said, Sky Garden stands out for me in a couple of ways. First, it has an awesome setting... who doesnít want to race way up in the clouds? Secondly it has just enough turns in just the right places to keep you on your toes without being ridiculous. You can really get into a nice groove on Sky Garden. Finally, it has some pretty sweet shortcuts, including one that requires a couple of well timed hops onto the clouds themselves. Throw in a great retro version of the track on the DS, and it makes my list.
Music Park (7)
When I first fired up Mario Kart 7, I didnít know quite what to expect, and admittedly a few of the early tracks were a bit underwhelming. Then I came to Music Park. Music Park is one of the first tracks that stood out for me in Mario Kart 7, and it is still... well, you will have to read the rest of the list to find out if it is my favorite track from Mario Kart 7, or just one of my many favorite tracks. Suspenseful, huh?

As a musician I really enjoy the musical theme, and the little touches like the piano notes sounding off as you slide across them or the drums smashing as you bounce off of them are very, very neat. The track itself is short but varied, and includes a couple of shortcuts, both obvious and not-so-obvious, as well as a big (optional) flight corridor near the end with huge bouncing notes to avoid. Itís the perfect kind of simple, yet fun track that will get me every time.
Baby Park (Double Dash, DS retro)
The Gamecube era was a tough time to be a Nintendo fan especially on a certain forums. Nintendo had just lost a ton of market share and 3rd party support in a short amount of time, and many former fans turned into haters and hung out on Nintendo forums trolling and inciting and who knows what else. One of the big complaints of that era was that Nintendo was getting ďlazyĒ with their major IP games, a complaint that I often argued vehemently against. There was a moment though, a brief moment when I fired up Double Dash and saw Baby Park for the first time, that I had to question what the heck Nintendo was doing.

Baby Park is a tiny loop that you race around for 7 laps (5 in the DS retro track.) Thatís it. For a short period of time, I thought it was the laziest, most ridiculously stupid Mario Kart track that Nintendo had ever invented. And then I saw the light. You see, Baby Park isnít about the track design so much as the sheer lunacy that comes about by cramming 8 racers into such a tiny space and giving them plenty of items to throw around. Baby Park races often always involve banana peels and fake item boxes littering the track while turtle shells are bouncing all over the place and every other item imaginable is in play. And there is really nowhere to hide from attacks, as 90% of the time you are on the same straightaway everyone else is on. Although, as stated in my introduction, I do have some complaints about the racing / item balance in newer Mario Kart games, I donít mind some item insanity in a track built specifically for item insanity, and Baby Park is just that.
DK Mountain (Double Dash, Wii retro)
There are a lot of awesome DK tracks in the Mario Kart games, a fact that was brought to my attention while creating the shortlist for this top 10. I donít want to spoil which other DK tracks may or may not appear in the rest of this list, but suffice to say, DK Mountain is one of the best. And hey look Anand, two Double Dash entries in a row! Double Dash isnít one of my favorite Mario Kart games, but credit must be given where credit is due. It definitely had some great tracks.

Near the start of DK Mountain you race up into a huge barrel and are blasted through the sky, way, way up to the top of a mountain, an idea that has popped up in various forms in other Mario Kart tracks since, but was very novel at the time. The rest of the track is a twisting, turning race down the mountain, complete with huge rolling boulders to avoid, and ending with a long, skinny, and very shaky bridge to traverse, which has killed many racerís hopes for victory. Itís intense.
Tick Tock Clock (DS)
Tick Tock Clock is unique to my list as it is the only track I chose from a past Mario Kart game that has not had a retro remake in any fashion (I guess that spoils the rest of my list a bit?) Furthermore, it is one of the 12 tracks from the DS game that was not playable online. So, as awesome as Tick Tock Clock was, it kind of came and went without much fanfare, and I think that it deserves a bit more attention than it has gotten.

I love this track for a lot of reasons, the first one being that it is from one of my favorite areas in one of my favorite Mario games, Super Mario 64. Thatís nostalgia for you. But itís also a very creative, well designed track. Tick Tock Clock has you riding on gears (both horizontally and vertically), and dodging clock hands and a giant swinging pendulum. I think that it is about time see what I did there? to bring this track back. Get on it, Nintendo!
Rock Rock Mountain (7)
Diddy Kong Racing debuted back on the Nintendo 64, a Mario Kart clone with the catch being that, in addition to ground racing, it also involved flying and hoverboarding mechanics. It was a neat combination, and in some respects it was a precursor to the gliding and underwater mechanics of Mario Kart 7. However, I found the full freedom of the flying in DKR a bit too awkward for a racing game, whereas the gliding in Mario Kart 7 is the perfect compromise.

And Rock Rock Mountain is one of the best tracks for gliding in Mario Kart 7, with a mid-track section where you glide above and down into the trees. But thatís not all, Rock Rock Mountain is also one of the most breathtaking tracks in a Mario Kart game yet, seamlessly integrating intense racing on the edge of a mountain / through caves and the aforementioned gliding, with Super Mario World-esque blue skies and colorful mountains painting the background. And the ending sequence, a series of turbo strips up the face of a very steep cliffside with huge boulders crashing down around you, holds the kind of last second game-changing intensity that excellent Mario Kart tracks thrive upon.
Airship Fortress (DS, 7 retro)
I may be a bit biased when it comes to Airship Fortress, because I basically decided that I loved this track back when it was first announced, knowing absolutely nothing about it other than the fact that it was a track based off of the airships from Super Mario Bros. 3. Honestly, can you blame me? What more do you really need?

But my blind love was justified, and once I got to race on this excellent track, I knew that it would always be one of my favorites. It starts you off weaving back and forth between huge bullet bills, and proceeds to sections including wrench throwing (and aptly named) Rocky Wrenches, huge columns of flame and a wicked jump to a more wicked corkscrew that, incidentally, no one but me seems to know how to approach, and always helps me make up lost ground. Super Mario Bros. 3 nostalgia aside, Airship Fortress is a darn fine track, and Iím glad that we finally get to race it online in Mario Kart 7.
Koopa Cape (Wii, 7 retro)
One of the ways that a new Mario Kart track can really grab me is by introducing an element that we havenít really seen in the series before. And sometimes the best of these elements are not the flashiest ones, but the simple ones that donít necessarily sound amazing on paper, yet really change the feel of a track.

In the case of Koopa Cape, racing down a flowing river, while letting the momentum of the water push you to faster speeds than you are capable of alone, is one such element. I loved it. And then you dive underwater inside of an F-Zero-like pipe, battling with others to stay on that small thread of water in the middle to keep up your speeds until you burst out of the other side. Classic. Oh, and the retro track in Mario Kart 7 added some neat gliding stuff that you can exploit as a big shortcut. And I also love turtles, so it has that going for it.
Bowserís Castle (64, Wii retro)
Man oh man, we are getting into some tough choices here. Truth be told, the Bowserís Castle tracks are consistently some of the best tracks in Mario Kart games, and I had to think long and hard about which one was my favorite. When it came down to it, I had to go with the Nintendo 64 track. Admittedly, Mario Kart 64 is, from a racing standpoint, one of my least favorite Mario Kart games (though battle mode was amazing.) Bowserís Castle in Mario Kart 64, on the other hand...

Bowserís Castle on the N64 was the first Mario Kart track I remember that really had a sense of ďplaceĒ. You werenít just racing on some track in the middle of nowhere, you were racing through a freaking castle. You started off outside on the walls, went across a bridge and through a courtyard and into the castle itself, raced through various rooms and hallways, across more bridges, down stairs, etc. all while avoiding Thwomps and other perils. It was an adventure wrapped up in a race track, and it was unlike anything that Mario Kart had ever done before. The Bowserís Castle tracks since have all been excellent as well, but I feel like they got a bit cluttered over time. The original N64 track is not only the best Bowserís Castle track, but one of the best Mario Kart tracks period, in my humble opinion.
Rainbow Road (Super, Super Circuit retro, 7 retro)
You had to know this was coming, right? For all that I talked about the original Super Mario Kart, it wouldnít have made sense to close out my list without a single track from that game. And nothing defines Mario Kart more than Rainbow Road, the final track of the Special Cup in every single Mario Kart game to date. Rainbow Road tracks are often some of the most challenging (unless you are playing Mario Kart 64, where the only challenge is to stay awake), due to the tight and twisty nature of the tracks (unless you are playing Mario Kart 64) and the almost complete lack of any guard rails (unless... forget it, god, I hate Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 64) to keep you from flying off of the track.

The SNES track, however, holds a special place in my heart. As stated above, I used to play the heck out of Super Mario Kart on the SNES, and Rainbow Road was easily the standout track. Rainbow Road SNES is made up of deadly 90 degree turns (180 when you powerslide), tight strips without rails, heart-pounding thwomp dodges, a daring late-track shortcut, and it makes me feel alive. Eventually I got to the point where I could speed through the track without letting off the gas at all, weaving in between falling Thwomps, other racers, and stray banana peels, taking every tight turn with near-perfection, without ever fine, rarely falling off of the edge. Rainbow Road on the SNES is extreme, and it only got better in Mario Kart 7, with tighter controls, more shortcuts, and online play. Sometimes everything comes full circle, and the best track in Super Mario Kart is now the best track in Mario Kart 7.
I was going to list my runner-ups here, but I think it would be more fun to leave them off for now, and see what you guys and girls come up with. With that said, what do you think of my list? Any tracks that I should have added and didnít, or should not have added yet did? Better yet, why not just use this Mario Kart track list to create and post your top 10 for us? Do it!

I guess that is about all that I have to say. Before I go, I will leave you with these words of wisdom:

ďMy mother, she's blind in one eye and she can drift better than that.Ē -Some lame movie that I never saw

Mario Kart is awesome, and as much as I complain endlessly, I will keep coming back for more. When all is said and done, I need my fix.

PS. Check out my Top 10 Smash Bros. Stages of All-Time list as well.

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10/27/12, 05:11   Edit:  11/10/14, 00:46
Why not sign up for a (free) account?
True, the friend leaderboard still showed only the top 10 even though you could have 30 people on your roster. It did show each friend's time, but you'd have to figure out the ranks yourself.

And I don't think "universally praised" needs to include absolutely everyone. ;)
10/27/12, 21:50
Ha ha fair enough. I couldn't get enough of the DS game at the time, although I did enjoy many tracks in Double Dash, I felt like DS was the first Mario Kart with consistently great tracks since the SNES game. Except for Figure-8 Circuit, which was lame and boring unless you snaked, but then again snaking is lame and boring, so it was still lame and boring either way.

I actually popped in Mario Kart DS last night to try it out, and despite the fact that I sucked (it definitely "feels" different than 7, so I'm not used to it anymore) I still love that game. It's weird though, it did feel a bit cramped and I was wondering why and then I finally realized oh yeah, the 3DS top screen is wider than the DS top screen. Such a tiny thing makes a huge difference.
10/27/12, 22:05

Not sure of my Top 10. I am a big fan of the Ghost Valley stages though. And I always liked Bowser's Castle on SNES. N64 would have a pile of tracks. I generally prefer the throwbacks on the Wii game to the Wii courses. I know that Luigi's Raceway tracks get a lot of flak for being "simple," but I really like the long straights, and yes, it speaks to my affinity of NASCAR. Where some people feel that the long straights take away from the racing, I think just the opposite. That INCREASES the need for you to do better in through the turns, and also gives you the chance to draft (where applicable) or really execute with those Mushrooms.

Rainbow Road on the SNES never captured my love. I think it was just "too hard," though I really haven't run it as an "adult."
10/29/12, 00:40

How could you not like snaking in Mario Kart DS? That's the ultimate way to grief other people in the game. And isn't griefing others the way of CHICAGO STYLE?
10/29/12, 02:28

Snaking is totally CHICAGO STYLE.
10/29/12, 02:33

10/29/12, 02:41
Good god snaking is not CHICAGO STYLE, you're not even interacting with the other player.
10/29/12, 03:34
@Zero You are if they're doing it too! Bumpin' and grindin' all over the track with the snakeage.
10/29/12, 04:13
But it's stupid. Chicago style is throwing out the rules to find more fun ways to play, not incredibly stupid, less fun ways to play.

God, you guys don't get Chicago style at all! I guess you have to live here.
10/29/12, 04:52
No Moo Moo Farm? Kalimari Desert?

This list sucks.
10/29/12, 13:07

Throwing out the rules? Having more fun?

Totally sounds like snaking. You don't even understand CHICAGO STYLE. Are you sure you even live in Illinois?
10/29/12, 15:27
This is a great top ten that I can mostly agree with. I'm not the biggest fan of DK Mountain after MKW (I preferred DK Summit), but the rest are excellent in my eyes. Definitely agree with...well, take a look at my own top 20!

20. Luigi's Mansion - Some good variety and really has that "adventure" feel Zero was talking about. The track is fairly straightforward but you go through all sorts of places--the mansion itself, the graveyard, the swamp, and the woods. Makes for a refreshing closer to the DS Mushroom Cup.

19. Bowser's Castle (DS) - This track really stands out to me, partly because of the nice verticality of the section near the end. The rolling bar was a neat way to test players.

18. Sky Garden - It's a cool, Mario-y theme for a stage and has a few nice shortcuts. It's also relatively challenging and has a good atmosphere.

17. Yoshi Circuit - The novelty of a Yoshi-shaped track is nifty, but it wouldn't mean much if it didn't play well, and surprisingly, it does! There are plenty of twists and turns to really test players here.

16. Baby Park - Already been touched upon, but the elegant simplicity of this track leads to a lot of madness. It's almost like a combination of racing and battle mode, and that's just smart design.

15. Maple Treeway - Another track with a solid central theme and good variety. Some of the turns are a little more frustrating than necessary, but it's mostly good fun.

14. Royal Raceway - Zero talked about a "sense of place" in the first post, and I definitely felt that with my favorite MK64 track, Royal Raceway. The track itself was fun enough, but I loved the detail of going off the beaten path to visit Peach's castle grounds. It was neat to get an idea of what was "beyond" SM64's walls in that way, and the big jump in the middle of the track was a lot of fun too.

13. Tick Tock Clock - MK's gimmick stages are almost always awesome, and the Clock is no exception. The use of gears as conveyors is very clever, and the obstacles are fun without being overwhelming.

12. Wario Shipyard - This stage is definitely the best use of MK7's underwater feature, with an awesome half-sunken theme that brings players up and down a bunch of wrecked pirate ships. Very cool.

11. Koopa Beach 1 - I love Koopa Beach! The track was quick and fun, with a great atmosphere and one of my favorite songs in the game. It's a blast to shortcut through the middle and end up beating the CPU's time by a minute or so.

10. Music Park - As a musician I can't help but appreciate the little touches in this stage, such as the marimba, xylophone and piano roads all sounding like their respective instruments when you drive over them. Night tracks always have a good feel of their own too.

9. Rainbow Road (DD) - This track was chock full of a great risk/reward element throughout, with the zippers planted dangerously close to the rail-less walls. There's a lot here I like, including the funky music.

8. Koopa Cape - This course is fast, challenging and varied, a great combination for Mario Kart. The jumps at the beginning are enjoyable enough, but things really get rolling when you land in the river and later into the underwater pipe (where you try to stay in the central current).

7. Piranha Plant Slide - The "Koopa Cape" of MK7, with all the nifty elements that entails. The other thing I love about this track is that it's one of the very few in the series to really go all-out with the Mario feel. More stages should pull out the 'stolgia.

6. Waluigi Pinball - Another varied, gimmicky stage that ends up being a ton of fun. I'm a sucker for casino-style levels in games, and this one went all out with the lights and neon. The rolling pinball keeps the track from getting too predictable.

5. Toad's Factory - My favorite of the Wii courses, Toad's Factory is way better than a Mushroom Cup track has any right to be. Right from the get-go, there're conveyor belts, boxes, and turbines that squish your kart, and things just get hairier at the loading dock, steam room, and mud pit. Great stuff.

4. Rock Rock Mountain - And here we are at the king of MK7 courses. Rock Rock Mountain uses the glider potential to the fullest, making for an extremely enjoyable stage of verticality and a drive to stay in the air as long as possible. You go around the mountain, through a cave, up a huge ramp, glide over/into the forest, and then back up the mountain in an inspired, boost-pad-happy section that throws boulders at you.

3. Airship Fortress - A track based on the long-forgotten Mario 3 stages? Yes, please! Keep in mind that by the time MKDS came out, the airships had been a no-show in any Mario game for awhile (unlike now where they've been in most of the major ones lately). And there's a ton to this level, from the initial boarding against a barrage of Bullet Bills, to dodging Rocky Wrenches on the deck, going around the torch obstacles in the cabin, and then blasting into the spiraling tower at the end. It's dark and stormy and good fun.

2. Delfino Square - I enjoyed this one on the DS, but its true genius showed online in MKW. It's hard to really describe why this track works so well for me, but it has just enough tight turns, alternate paths and shortcut opportunities to make for my favorite track in my favorite set of tracks (MKDS's). Races are always tight here, since the shortcut gives stragglers and opportunity to get back in the game. Amidst the fun gimmicks, this is just a race through the town, but it ends up working extremely well.

1. Rainbow Road (SNES) - It's Rainbow Road! From the intense and awesome music to the crazy challenge, this is the stage that set the standard for difficulty in Mario Kart. You had to give it your all to survive the Road, and that still holds true today in the amazing online races that unfurl here in MK7.


Kalimari Desert is bleh! I definitely agree with Zero that MK64 had some of the most boring, long courses in the series (especially its Rainbow Road, ugh). My favorite MK64 stages are Royal Raceway, Koopa Troopa Beach, Banshee Boardwalk, and Bowser's Castle. Many of the others are just too repetitive and dull.
10/29/12, 16:33
There's something about Airship Fortress I find boring. I think it's just the music. The music in the DS version was arguably the worst in the series IMO.
10/29/12, 16:43

Aww cmon! I loved outracing the train through the tunnel!!!
10/29/12, 18:37
@GameDadGrant How could snaking possibly be considered having more fun? It's doing the exact same monotonous motion over and over and over and over

and over

and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over

throughout the whole course, as opposed to using racing fundamentals. I think what people "enjoy" about it is mostly the competitive edge it gives them over people who don't do it. Or maybe even when racing against others that do, the vague sense of accomplishment someone can feel from mastering a mind-numbing task. I imagine the same people who love snaking are those who get into the Guinness Book of World records for making the longest paper clip chain or eating the most snails in a row or some other mundane task that is in no way impressive other than the fact that someone spent a lot of time on something so ridiculous.

Nah, snaking blows and it is very not Chicago Style. I don't know what snaking would be. Montana style or something.

@TheOldManFromZelda Are you... you do realize this is a best tracks list, not a worst tracks list, right?

@TriforceBun Man that was a pretty awesome list. A lot of your tracks were on my shortlist. And Wario Shipyard is one that was one of my least favorites in 7 for a long time but it has grown on me over time.
10/29/12, 22:05   Edit:  10/29/12, 22:15
BTW if I ever do a top 10 most WTF moments from Mario Kart, this will be on it...

Giant spinning egg. For no apparent reason. Like, what could the possible explanation for this even be?!
10/29/12, 22:22
Oh man, Yoshi Valley was such a great track.
10/29/12, 22:27
Excellent list @Zero! I'll comment on each one:

10 Sky Garden: I like that one. Itís perhaps my favorite track on the GBA game.
9 Music Park: Donít have 7 so I havenít played that one yet.
8 Baby Park: I hate baby park with a passion. Itís just so boring.
7 DK Mountain: Is awesome.
6 Tick Tock Clock: That was a pretty good track.
5 Rock Rock Mountain: Donít have 7 so I havenít played that one yet.
4 Airship Fortress: This is one of my all-time favorite Mario Kart tracks.
3 Koopa Cape: This is one of those tracks that becomes very frustrating if you make a slight mistake. Especially in multi-player.
2 Bowserís Castle (N64): This is a great track too. I love playing this one with friends.
1 Rainbow Road SNES: My favorite rainbow road is actually the one from the Wii version.

These are some of my favorites that you did not mention in your Top Ten:

Mario Kart 64
Wario Stadium
Yoshi Valley

Mario Kart: Double Dash
Waluigi Stadium
Yoshi Circuit
Wario Colosseum

Mario Kart DS
Wario Stadium

Mario Kart Wii
Coconut Mall
Maple Treeway
Rainbow Road
10/29/12, 22:46

Lets combine our powers for a *NEW* ROCHESTER STYLE WHITE HOT INFUSED Mario Kart Top 10 List.


Louuuu, come over and we'll play the old games so we can refresh our MINDS.
(I think my 2nd Port on my 64 is wonky though... We'll have to figure something out.)
10/29/12, 22:54
@Mr_Mustache More like reinfest your minds with the garbagey Mario Kart 64 tracks.

But how could you make a top 10 list when you haven't even played 3 of the 7 Mario Kart games?! Including 2 of the best ones!
10/29/12, 22:58
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