Once a relatively unremarkable collection of courses in Super Mario KartBowser’s Castle has since become a major part of the Mario Kart series. With an original King Koopa-themed track appearing in almost every new installment and remasters of earlier iterations cropping up just as often, Bowser’s Castle is now every bit as important as Mario Kart‘s infamous Rainbow Road.
Recently reimagined as a Hot Wheels track and a real-world theme park ride, Bowser and his challenging courses aren’t going away any time soon—and that’s a good thing, as they represent some of the very best. Mario Kart has to offer.
8 Super Mario Kart
The 1992 Super Mario spin-off Super Mario Kart was a triumph for the Super Nintendo and the start of a subseries that would grow to be every bit as popular as Mario’s mainstream platforming outings. However, it has aged considerably over the past three decades, and, unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up when compared to more recent ones. Mario Kart installments.
Super Mario Kart actually includes three courses themed around Bowser’s Castle, although they’re all very similar. Each includes a series of jumps and some very tight corridors that make for some tough going, but most would agree that the limitations of the game’s uniformly flat tracks make for some uninteresting racing.
7 Mario Kart Super: Circuit
GameBoy Advance owners must have suffered from Bowser’s Castle fatigue back in 2001, as Mario Kart: Super Circuit—the first handheld Mario Kart game, and the third overall in the series—included seven total variants of the theme. With four unique installments and three adaptations of courses first seen in the SNES Mario Kart outing, it was, to say the least, a bit of overindulgence on the part of the development team.
While the colorful and varied background art helped to mix things up, rattling across the grated sections of these tracks was headache-inducing. Still, these tracks again showed up in Mario Kart DS, Mario Kart Wiiand Mario Kart 7so they must have garnered at least a few fans.
6 Mario Kart DS
Nintendo’s 2005 handheld Mario Kart installment Mario Kart DS featured some notably creative track designs; From Airship Fortress to Waluigi Pinball, few courses in the series were quite as unique as what was on offer on the Nintendo DS.
This design philosophy also applied to the game’s take on Bowser’s Castle. Famed for a section with a rotating floor and a long, precarious stretch across a spinning cylinder, the Mario Kart DS version of Bowser’s Castle set a new standard, and ensuing entries would take things to even further extremes.
5 Mario Kart 7
The 2011 Nintendo 3DS title Mario Kart 7 sought above all else to innovate, introducing a new gliding mechanic that drastically changed up the construction of courses as well as never-before-seen underwater environments that allowed for added variety.
The title’s Bowser’s Castle iteration featured both of these advancements as well as a very memorable segment featuring a massive spinning barrel, but many fans felt that this track failed to stand out among an exceptionally solid lineup of courses. Contending with popular new tracks such as DK Jungle and Music Park, Mario Kart 7‘s Bowser’s Castle made for a fairly dull drive.
4 Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
The 2003 GameCube title Mario Kart: Double Dash!! featured a few series mainstays such as Peach Beach and Daisy Cruiser, but its most memorable maps were found in the unlockable Special Cup. Featuring the winding Wario Colesseum, the hazardous Dino Dino Jungle, and the legendarily tough Rainbow Road, this collection of courses was only for seasoned. Mario Kart veterans.
Of course, Bowser’s Castle, the third course in the Special Cup, made for some distinctly difficult driving. Remembered primarily for a frantic fireball gauntlet capped off by an epic jump, this was an upper-echelon entrant in the pantheon of Bowser’s Castle courses.
3 Mario Kart Wii
After the GameCube suffered from a relative lack of sales compared to competing consoles, Nintendo changed gears, shipping the family-focused, motion control-centric Nintendo Wii in 2006. It was an instant hit and remains one of the company’s highest-selling systems, and the motion control features were a major selling point for those unfamiliar with gaming.
Oddly enough, the track designs seen in Mario Kart Wii did not often cater to the less-than-optimal motion control setup. Bowser’s Castle was, in particular, a thrilling ride that included an anomalously wavy hallway, a death-defying jump through a series of fireballs, and, of course, a daring half-pipe gauntlet. So long as the clunky motion controls were substituted for a more traditional setup, it was one of Bowser’s all-time best courses.
2 Mario Kart 8
Originally debuted on the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 was an excellent entry in the series that seemed destined to fade into obscurity alongside the poorly-received console on which it was released. Fortunately, a Nintendo Switch port was produced shortly after that system launched, and it introduced plenty of new players to an all-time great. Mario Kart experience.
Featuring lasers, fireballs, and literal gravity-defying twists and turns, Mario Kart 8‘s Bowser’s Castle is a chaotic mishmash of extreme elements which results in one of the most intense courses in series history. Mario Kart 8‘s version of Rainbow Road may have been a bit of a letdown, but Bowser certainly did not disappoint.
1 Mario Kart 64
The first fully-3D interpretation of King Koopa’s despicable domain, the Mario Kart 64 version of Bowser’s Castle has to be a series highlight. Remastered on multiple occasions, it’s a fast-paced, angular track with quite a bit of variety and more than a few stand-out moments.
Notable for a hallway patrolled by floating thwomps that always seem to get in the way at the least opportune time and for a fiery finale often fatal to thoughtless racers, the Nintendo 64 version of Bowser’s Castle has to be one of the very best courses in the history of the Mario Kart series.
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