Mario Kart 64 is a 1996 go-kart racing game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64 video game console. It was the successor to Super Mario Kart for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and is the second game in the Mario Kart series. It was released first in Japan on December 14, 1996, and in North America and Europe in 1997. In January 2007, Mario Kart 64 was released as a downloadable Virtual Console title on the Wii, and in December 2016 it was also made available on the Wii U.
Mario Kart 64 is a kart racing game in which the player controls one of eight selectable Mario characters who race in karts in different race tracks that vary in shape and theme. During a race, the players can obtain random items from special boxes placed in different areas of the track that are used to impede the opposition and gain the advantage. For example, shells and bananas allow the player to attack opponents and slow them down, and Mushrooms grant the player a temporary boost in speed. Mario Kart 64 has 16 race courses and 4 battle courses.
There are four different game modes available in Mario Kart 64: Grand Prix, Time Trial, Versus, and Battle. Grand Prix mode supports both single-player and competitive multiplayer gameplay, while other modes only support one or the other.
Mario Kart 64 features eight playable characters. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, Yoshi, and Bowser appeared in Super Mario Kart while the remaining two characters, Wario and Donkey Kong, are new to the series replacing Koopa Troopa and Donkey Kong Jr. The characters are divided into three weight classes: lightweights, whose karts have highest acceleration; heavyweight, whose karts have low acceleration and high top speed plus are able to knock around other players; and middleweights, who have normal acceleration and normal top speed.
- Grand Prix – This mode has one or two players participate in four consecutive three-lap races, each on a different course, on one of the four selectable cups (Mushroom, Flower, Star, or Special) against seven (or six) computer players. When the player completes a race, points are awarded based on the rank he or she finished. If the player ranks 5th or under, the player will be required to repeat the race. After finishing all four races, trophies are awarded to the players who scored the highest accumulation of points: bronze for third place, silver for second, and gold for first. Difficulty level is measured by engine size: 50, 100, or 150cc. There is an additional unlockable difficulty called 'Extra', which allows players to race at speed 100cc on tracks that are inverted left-to-right. This is the first game in the series to provide this feature. Later installments call this feature 'Mirror Mode' or '150cc Mirror Mode.'
- Time Trial – This is a single-player-only mode where the objective is to complete a three-lap race on the selected track in the shortest total time possible. There are no opponent racers or item boxes, though the player will always begin each race with a Triple Mushroom in reserve. For any given course the top five shortest total times are saved, and the shortest single lap time of any race is also saved. The player can select to race against a ghost character who will mimic the movement of the player from a previous race. Ghost data for up to two different courses can be saved permanently only on a Controller Pak device. However, the Virtual Console version of Mario Kart 64 released on the Wii is incompatible with the device and is thus unable to save ghost data.
- Versus mode – Two to four players compete in single races on any track without any computer players. With two players, the total number of wins for each player is tracked, and in three- or four-player matches, the number of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place wins is tracked for each racer.
- Battle Mode – This mode, supporting two to four players, has a last man standing objective where the players attack each other with items inside one of four selectable arena courses. The players begin a match with three balloons attached to each of their karts. A player will lose one balloon each time his or her character is damaged by coming into contact with one of the other players' offending items, and is eliminated from play upon losing all balloons. The match ends when one player remains, who is then declared the winner. In three- or four-player matches, the first two players' characters to lose all their balloons will transform into mobile 'Mini Bomb Karts' and forfeit the ability to win the match. The Mini Bomb Kart is still maneuverable by the player and can collide and inflict damage on another player only once, after which it can no longer participate.
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