Mario Kart is the best-selling racing series of all time. The first Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo outright invented the kart racing genre. Mario Kart takes the boring formula of racing around a track and makes it fun.
It does this with colorful characters, tight gameplay, and the addition of items that can change your position in a second. Mario Kart is also known for its amazing tracks, which have been designed with a lot of care and consideration.
While the Mario Kart games have had some incredible tracks, they have also bad ones. Not every course can be the Baby Park or the original Rainbow Road. There have been times when Nintendo was lazy and just threw something together quickly, and it shows.
We are here today to name and shame the worst tracks in Mario Kart history; from the desert filled with annoying trains, to the course that brings shame to the name of Rainbow Road.
Here are the 15 Worst Mario Kart Tracks.
15. Kalimari Desert
The most important part of any racing game is momentum. The Kalimari Desert in Mario Kart 64 features one of the most annoying obstacles in the series, which hinders its momentum. The race track has a railway running through it, with active trains on the lines.
It is possible to be stuck behind the train at various points in the game, which forces you to wait for it to pass. This will eat up all of the progress you have made against the others racers, and the rest of the track is empty and boring by comparison.
It bears mentioning that an updated version of the track appeared in Mari Kart 7. This iteration of Kalimari Desert improved a lot of the problems of the original, such as making the train shorter and adding ramps to the course. Shortcuts have also been added, which makes it possible to glide over the train, but the track is still extremely annoying for most players.
14. Ghost Valley 1
Super Mario Kart was released within close proximity of Super Mario World. This means Super Mario Kart used a lot of stages and items from Super Mario World, as there hadn’t been that many other Mario games released yet.
One of the new additions to Super Mario World was the Ghost Houses, which features supernatural opponents (like the Boos) that can’t be killed through conventional means. Super Mario Kart featured several levels based on the Ghost Houses, and they are all pretty terrible. The worst of the bunch is Ghost Valley 1, which is the third track of the Mushroom Cup.
Ghost Valley 1 features a destructible barrier, which breaks down whenever a player hits it. Players can destroy the barriers on the tight corners in order to create traps for the other racers. Ghost Valley 1 also has the most obnoxiously obvious shortcut in the series. The purpose of Mario Kart shortcuts is to reward the ingenuity of players, however, the shortcut in Ghost Valley 1 only needs a feather item to use, which means that players can gain progress with little work.
13. Luigi’s Mansion
Luigi’s Mansion was one of the titles launched for the Nintendo GameCube. It starred Luigi as he searched for Mario in a haunted house. It was a hit with fans, and eventually received a sequel on the Nintendo 3DS.
The mansion itself appeared as a stage in both the Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart series. Over time, the Smash Bros. version of the mansion became a popular stage, due to its visual flair and the destructible environment. The same cannot be said for the Mario Kart version…
Mario Kart DS first featured Luigi’s Mansion as a track. The beginning of the stage is interesting enough, as you drive through the haunted mansion. Everything falls apart when you head back outside, where you need to drive through a huge marsh filled with mud. This slows the race down, as all the players aim for the few dry patches.
12. Maka Wuhu
Nintendo is notorious for focus testing their games. It is rare to see a glitchy Nintendo game, even at launch. However, there have been a few instances of Nintendo missing important bugs in modern games.
Fortunately, there is now technology that allows games to be patched remotely. Nintendo was pretty slow on creating a framework for patching games, however, and it took a terrible Mario Kart 7 course to force their hand.
The Maka Wuhu course in Mario Kart 7 housed a glitch that allowed players to skip most of the race. You could drive into the water at the halfway point of the stage and Lakitu would drop you off near the final lap banner. Nintendo had to create an entire patching system for 3DS games in order to fix this bug.
11. DK Pass
Is there any game a snow level cannot ruin? The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past had the Ice Temple, Pokémon Gold & Silver had Pryce’s Gym, and Chrono Trigger had Death Peak. These are just few a examples of annoying ice-themed levels.
The Mario Kart series really should stay away from snow levels.
Mario Kart DS features DK Pass, which is a snow-covered mountain. The stage consists mostly of tight corners, that can tricky for newcomers to overcome. One of the main problems with the stage is the snowmen that appear near the end of the track.
These can be very hard to evade, and will knock all of your items off and kick you backwards. The Nintendo DS also doesn’t render the snowmen until you get very close, which means you have almost no warning when you approach them.
10. Shroom Ridge
The Mario Kart games have occasionally used tracks which featured cars that don’t belong to the racers. The effectiveness of these extra vehicles as obstacles differs from game to game, with the worst being the Shroom Ridge of Mario Kart DS.
Shroom Ridge is the final race of the Flower Cup in Mario Kart DS. Shroom Ridge is also the only Flower Cup course that didn’t return as a retro track in later games.
The course uses other cars on the highway as obstacles, which the player must avoid. The problem with this idea is a technical one concerning the Nintendo DS. The DS was limited in its ability to depict 3D models, both in quantity (the amount that can appear on the screen) and in quality.
9. Rosalina’s Ice World
Princess Rosalina lives in space, yet they decided to give her an ice kingdom. Rosalina’s Ice World has only appeared in Mario Kart 7 so far. This might be due to the large water component at the start of the stage, as Mario Kart 7‘s big gimmick was the ability to drive underwater, which allowed for several routes through courses.
Rosalina’s Ice World utilizes this by including a thin path of ice over a lake which the player can drop into.
The initial corner of Rosalina’s Ice World is one of the most annoying in the series to navigate. Once you pass this, the rest of the track becomes boring, due to a lack of obstacles. The water section does little to alleviate this, as it only offers an extra route that is basically identical to the original one.
8. Excitebike Arena
The races of the Mario Kart series all inevitably devolve into absolute chaos. This is due to the presence of items, which is one of the central aspects of the kart racing genre.
As soon as a few shells enter the scene, all skill goes out of the window. The race turns into a desperate battle for survival as you try and evade the onslaught of attacks.
However, tracks remain the same throughout. Each of the courses is carefully designed, with a lot of thought put into their aesthetic and obstacles. One main exception to this is the Excitebike Arena, which was a DLC track in Mario Kart 8.
The Excitebike Arena is random each time it is played. Every new race will feature a different layout of ramps, mud patches, and platforms. This usually turns out for the worst, as the random placement of the obstacles often makes the course unnecessarily difficult to navigate.
7. Vanilla Lake 2
While the other ice tracks also have major problems, these issues didn’t interfere with the controls. Vanilla Lake 2 takes a difficult track and makes it even harder with slippery controls.
The map of Vanilla Lake 2 is mostly filled up with a gigantic lake surrounded by ice. This limits the amount of space that the player can move around in, as driving into the water will cause you to sink.
The level is also made up of several bottlenecks, as the track has large barriers which are on the other side of the lake. This means that the players have to drive through tiny areas (which are easy to fill with traps), whilst also battling the difficult controls.
6. Dry Dry Desert
One of the most hated enemies in Super Mario Bros. 3 are the tornados that appear in the second world. These are called Tweesters and have the ability to trap Mario in the air if he isn’t running at full speed. The makers of Mario Kart: Double Dash decided to bring back these hated tornados for one of the most annoying courses in the game – Dry Dry Desert.
The Dry Dry Desert is filled with obnoxious obstacles. These include Pokeys (the large cactus monsters), which can switch direction at the drop of a hat, as well as the Tweesters, which wind their way across the course.
The most aggravating part of the track is a large quicksand bowl that can trap the players if they get too close. This will drag them into the center, where they will be eaten by a giant Piranha Plant that acts like the Sarlacc Pit Monster from Return of the Jedi.
5. Shy Guy Bazaar
The Mario Kart games have taken level designs from numerous different titles in the Mario series. One of the games which has usually been ignored is Super Mario Bros. 2.– outside of the inclusion of Birdo and the Shy Guys characters.
Mario Kart 7 has a level called the Shy Guy Bazaar. This is an Arabian-themed town, which might be a reference to the style of Super Mario Bros. 2.
Shy Guy Bazaar is a letdown, however, due to its cumbersome market stalls, which are hard to drive through at the start of the stage. The level also features numerous jumps over small pits, which can make you easy pickings for other players who wish to use their items to knock you into the holes. This will ruin of your advantage.
4. Choco Island 2
Choco Island 2 first appeared in Super Mario Kart. It is a small track which can be finished quickly, but it is brutally difficult. It has some of the thinnest straights in the series, which forces karts to move in single file.
It is similar to the Choco Island 1 track, but instead features a huge chocolate marsh, which slows down the racers. If you are moving at a fast pace, then the marsh isn’t too hard to traverse. The hard part is if you get struck by an item just before you reach the marsh, as you will be stuck moving at a snail’s pace across the chocolate.
3. Bowser Castle 2
The 8-bit era of NES games created an expression called “Nintendo hard,” which refers to the fact that a lot of old console games were brutally difficult.
The reason for this was because game design was still a relatively new field and developers were still learning the ropes. It didn’t take long for Nintendo to cast off this reputation in the 16-bit era, with a slew of easier games and titles that were still challenging, but fair.
Nintendo rarely goes out of its way to be unfair its fans. However, they made an exception for the Super Mario Kart Bowser Castle 2 track.
Bowser Castle 2 has a shortcut at the halfway point of the track. If you turn the corner and follow the shortcut, then you will see a stop sign and a path that leads straight into lava. This trap was created with the sole purpose of screwing over first-time players.
2. Sherbet Land
When you are playing a racing game, it helps if you know which direction you are going. This is not the case with Sherbert Land, which provides you with no way of figuring out your direction, even after giant signs were added in later iterations of the course.
You also must compete with huge penguin obstacles, which move as fast as you, if not faster. These were replaced with ice skating Shy Guys in later versions of the stage, which move slower but are a much wider. Additionally, the later versions of the stage added giant ice blocks that can freeze you.
1. Rainbow Road (N64)
The original Rainbow Road was the ultimate test of the player’s skill in Super Mario Kart. It was a thin track with no external or internal barriers. In order to complete it, you needed to have perfected the mechanics of the game. This was especially true in 150cc mode, where falling off the track even once was tantamount to losing the game.
Each Mario Kart game has included their own twist on the Rainbow Road. The worst of these is the Mario Kart 64 version.
The 64 Rainbow Road is the longest track in the series, with each of the three laps taking around two minutes to complete. The original track is replaced with a wide course, with barriers on both sides. This means that there is little skill required, beside keeping your finger on the acceleration button. While the stage looks impressive, it lacks any challenging element.
Which Mario Kart track is your least favorite? Let us know in the comments!