Screenshot: Mario Kart 64

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

That’s Just Not Right

This week marked the 25th anniversary of Nintendo’s Mario Kart series, and we celebrated the occasion with an AVQ&A asking “What’s your favorite Mario Kart track?” Naturally, we got tons of responses suggesting courses we hadn’t covered in our staff answers. Andy Tuttle’s favorite offered something unique to the series:

My all time favorite track isn’t really one that I particularly like racing on, but because of the exploration it allows, and that’s Prince Peach’s Castle from Mario Kart 64. You will almost certainly lose the race if you take the detour to drive by the castle, but just the fact that you could was amazing to me! Mario Kart on the SNES was a linear experience, one track, one way to move around (with slight shortcuts), but Princess Peach’s Castle said “Fuck that! You want to drive up to the castle door and fuck around the drawbridge? Go ahead; you’ll lose, but go ahead!”

DL, our community’s very own Mario Kart 8 master of ceremonies, stumped for the sheer chaos of Baby Park (which, fun fact, was TV Club editor Erik Adams’ pick):

It’s the ultimate distillation of Mario Kart’s core values: chaos, item usage, and driving skill balanced with a fair bit of good fortune. Many circuits rely on intimate knowledge, which has its own value (hence this thread), but this track is simply about hitting your slide and pouring out whatever random gift of speed or destruction you were given as if it were burning a hole in your screen. Baby Park is an 8-lap bullring of perpetual explosions, spinning vehicles and item boxes whose end comes only after asking yourself, regardless of your position, “Is it over yet?!”

Oh, and despite spending nearly 20 years working in professional motorsports, it took me over a dozen Mario Kart 8 on the 8th Tournaments to realize it’s a clockwise oval, the opposite direction of our racing ovals.

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And surely, what’s Mario Kart about if it isn’t about harnessing that chaos and turning it on your friends? Resurgent classic commenter Mr Glitch’s favorite track offered some truly sadistic trolling opportunities:

The original version of Toad’s Turnpike was a personal favorite. Weaving around giant, oblivious traffic always seemed to keep the race competitive, especially at 150ccs. You had to be a lot more judicious with your red shells too, as they couldn’t travel too far forward without plinking harmlessly off a semi. And of course, nothing in life compares to the perverse joy of knocking your opponent out with a shell, watching them recover, then immediately get run over.

Speaking of trolling, The Tragic Farce remembered a really dirty trick they loved to pull on the aforementioned Royal Raceway:

It has that ridiculously huge jump. My favorite tactic was to hang back in seventh or eighth place for the first lap until I got a lightning bolt, then I would race my way back up to the front of the pack during the second lap, and on the third lap I would shrink all my friends right as we were about to go over the jump. It basically ensured a first place for me and zero points for all of them (as the laggard computer drivers would cruise past them as they fell into the drink). I always appreciated the points lead, since the next track was Bowser’s Castle, probably my least favorite course of all time (could never quite handle the 90-degree turns without hitting the wall).

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Sad Robot

Art: Square Enix

Also this week, our good friend Anthony John Agnello stopped by with a To The Bitter End essay about Nier: Automata’s ending (Ending E, to be precise). Down in the comments, Shinigami Apple Merchant (in a whopper of a post that we’ll excerpt here) expanded on one of Anthony’s final notes:

Well said on all counts, as always, especially about the absence of judgment over one choice or another. This game is an endless series of observations and self examinations on the nature of existence, from the weapon histories to the background glossaries and dossiers to the player customizable death messages to the plethora of NPC sidequests and, of course, the multitude of endings. If the game tried to push you toward one thought and feeling over another, instead of just showing its characters and its eccentric tale of Wall-E meets Deadly Premonition, the Jenga tower of its vibrant tone and themes would collapse.

This game is all about those mini-narratives playing out in parallel to one another. All these stories, all those memories getting lost, re-installed, faded, manufactured, and newly created in this tumultuous twilight period of existence.

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And speaking of those weapon histories, Razz Matazz had some thoughts about what made them such a great feature:

I really loved the weapon histories and stories in this game. It was one of the driving incentives for me to collect and upgrade as many weapons as I could and set me searching for the hidden robot blacksmith so I could max them out. I like the idea of being rewarded with more thematic content for this type of completion. I’ve never been one to push through collection simply for an achievement trophy and a completion screenshot. Amusingly, one of the weapons you can collect is a sword the protagonist from Final Fantasy XV wields. That weapon’s history (a whopping four sentences) better illuminated the relationship between two FF15 characters than that entire game did. (I’m one of the 5 people that actually really enjoyed FF15 but mostly for the characters’ rapport and some of the combat because the narrative was hot garbage.)

Elsewhere, Alsandair recalled their encounter with the true ending. (Spoilers are ahead, of course, so be warned.)

So there I was, close to tears and several emotions I have a hard time naming with the credits destroyed and hope (such as it is) restored. Then I get this message asking if I want to sacrifice my save file. After thinking on it for far longer than I think I’ve ever done on any Yes/No question in a game, I finally decide to give my save up for the good of everyone else.

So I press Yes. And nothing happens. I press Yes again. And nothing happens again.

Sitting there for another maybe 30 seconds, seeing if maybe something is just not taking or if its timing out or something, I finally decide that maybe this is another message from the game? Were those really others that sacrificed themselves to help me? How could they be if you can’t affirm your own sacrifice? Or maybe it’s just a stupid bug and I’m over-thinking things? All I know is that I now have to hit No with the knowledge that I’ll probably never finish the game again. Regardless, I hit No. Back to the Main Menu.

After contemplating for a bit longer, I quit the game and notice that I have no internet connection. Sometime between choosing Yes to accept help and making that fateful choice, my internet went down.

Now, I know that my experience was totally unintended, but man if it doesn’t feel like I was randomly selected to get that one extra knife stab/twist during the ending than everyone else got. Strange thing is? I think the ending was almost better for it.

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That’ll do it for this week, friends. As always, thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all again next week!