15 Mario Kart 8 Tips to Get You on the Podium

Mario Kart 8 has drifted into the hearts of over two million Wii U owners as a result of its gorgeous HD visuals, dynamic tracks and of course, it’s insanely addictive online and local multiplayer modes. Underneath Mario Kart 8’s bright and bubbly surface however lurks a deeply challenging—at times even infuriating—game as you are no doubt aware if you are reading this guide. Luck can indeed play a part in Mario Kart 8, but you’ll need a lot more than good fortune to win the tough 150cc cups and online multiplayer races. Luckily for you we’ve got 15 great tips ranging from the basics to more advanced techniques that are sure to help you get ahead of the pack. For an even bigger advantage make sure to check out our Mario Kart 8 Shortcuts to conquer every track!

1. Size matters – Choose your character carefully

Most players will start by simply picking a character they like, however it’s important to consider their weight too. Although never stated in the game, each character falls into one of seven classes. From the lightest to the heaviest these are; Feather, Light, Medium, Cruiser, Heavy, Metal, and Super Heavy. For easy reference, we’ve organized characters into their weight classes below. Lighter karts have better agility and acceleration at the cost of lower top speed and weight, while heavier karts are slow to get moving and difficult to manoeuvre, but with higher top speeds. Light karts are good for beginners as they make it easier to avoid and recover from crashes. The main thing is to experiment and find a character that suits your play style.

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Character Classes

2. Pimp your ride!

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Pimp My Ride

Just as it’s important to pick a suitable character, it’s also crucial to choose the right kart setup. As you play through Mario Kart 8 you’ll unlock lots of cool kart bodies, wheels and gliders to customize your kart or bike, however these aren’t just for show. Press the + button to show your vehicle’s stats. These are also influenced by your chosen character as mentioned in the first tip. Now you can experiment with how different parts affect attributes like acceleration, top speed and handling. You may wish to balance out your characters strengths and weaknesses, or alternatively pick parts that amplify them further. Once again, keep trying different combinations until you find a setup that you like.

3. Baby steps – Crawl before you can walk

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Baby Steps

If you are new to Mario Kart, and let’s face it we all were at some point, you should swallow your pride and start with the 50cc cups. This is the best way to learn the tracks and master the basics which we’ll outline below. Not only are the 50cc races a bit slower, but your opponents will be easier too. Once you feel more confident and start winning trophies then it’s time to move up. By the time you can win 150cc cups you’ll be more than ready to jump into online races against human opponents.

4. Rocket boost off the line for a strong start

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Rocket Boost

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Mario Kart veteran who doesn’t know this trick, but it’s worth mentioning for the sake of newcomers. At the start of a race hold down the accelerator just a split second after Lakitu’s countdown reaches ‘2’. Keep holding it down and once the race starts you should get a nice boost to break away from the pack… unless they all get a boost too! It’s simple in theory, but requires precise timing so it can be easy to miss, especially if you aren’t paying attention. There’s an element of risk though. Mistime the start and you’ll be sitting on the line spinning your wheels. With a bit of practice however you’ll be nailing this trick almost every time.

5. Do you even drift?

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Drift

Drifting in real life might be a fun and flashy way to get around a corner, but it certainly isn’t the fastest method. This small fact means nothing however when it comes to Mario Kart 8 where drifting is absolutely vital to success. You see, unlike in real life Mario Kart 8 gives you a little speed boost every time you nail a drift. Your opponents will be using this technique so you’ll need to learn it too if you want to stand a chance. Boosts are broken into two tiers based on the duration of the drift. After initiating a slide you’ll notice the wheels will start giving off blue sparks. If you release the drift now you’ll get a small boost. Hold the drift a bit longer and you’ll see the sparks turn orange meaning you’ve earned a bigger boost. Some bends are so long that you can chain multiple drifts. Simply release the drift for a boost then immediately start again. Drifting well takes a serious amount of practice so feel free to jump back to the 50cc cups or Time Trials until you’re confident. Standard racing techniques still apply so try to take a good racing line by hitting a corner’s apex even when drifting. Good luck!

6. Use slipstream to slingshot past opponents

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Slipstream

Don’t get mad when an opponent overtakes you, use it to your advantage! If you can get right up behind the player and stay there for a few moments you’ll earn a slipstream boost. You’ll know when you’re close enough because speed lines will appear on the screen. Use this aerodynamic advantage to slingshot past your opponent, possibly even bumping them off the track on your way. Just be careful that they don’t have a banana or shell waiting to take out any unsuspecting tailgaters. It’s worth noting that you can slipstream even while drifting for a double boost!

7. Cash is king! Grab those coins

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Slipstream

You might have wondered if all those coins littered around the track serve a purpose. Well just like a real car, the more money you put into it, the more performance you can get out of it. What a valuable lesson from Nintendo for any would-be car tuners out there. You can collect up to a maximum of 10 coins which will slightly increase your maximum performance. Crashing will cause you to lose coins—another great life lesson. You’ll want to get 10 coins as early as possible to maximize your chance of victory, however the benefit is small so don’t risk flying off course or taking a bad line for a stray coin. Even though you can’t get more than 10 coins you can keep collecting them to stop other players grabbing them, a trick that works well for item boxes too. Another nice tip is to use coins to practice accurate drifting. Start a drift and then try counter-steering to adjust your line to collect a row of coins.

8. Taking shortcuts to success

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Shortcut

Whoever said there are no shortcuts in life? They are all over the place in Mario Kart 8! Each of the game’s 32 tracks have various shortcuts to exploit, some of which are easier to find and navigate than others. Many will require going off the track so a mushroom or boost item will be needed to make it worth your while. Take the time to learn each track carefully. Some shortcuts might only save a split second, but in the cut-throat world of online multiplayer you’ll need all the help you can get!

9. Perform stunts for an extra boost

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Stunts

Here’s a simple tip that can shave seconds from your lap times. Any time you go over a jump hit the drift button to perform a trick. Not only does it look cool as your character backflips through the air or does a signature pose, but it will also give you a small boost once you land. As with most of our tips, a single stunt boost won’t get you from 12th place to the front of the pack, but when combined with all of the other techniques you’ll be able to get a competitive edge over your opponents. Don’t just save stunts for big jumps either. Each track presents many small opportunities for a quick jump boost, you just have to get creative!

10. Bump anti-gravity opponents for a boost

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Bump Boost

From boost pads to drifting and slipstreaming, there are so many different way to get ahead in Mario Kart 8. Well here is one more! One of the best new additions to Mario Kart 8 is it’s dynamic anti-gravity tracks that will have you racing upside down and on the walls. What you might not have realized however is that you can use these anti-gravity sections for another boost. Once you’ve crossed the blue anti-gravity pad simply bump into another player for a burst of speed. The only catch is that they’ll get a boost too. Use this to your advantage. If a rival player is cornering close to the edge, give them a bump and watch as the burst of speed sends them off the track. Just be sure that you yourself can keep it together once the boost kicks in.

11. Use your items wisely

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Items

Even the best of us can get trigger happy at the sight of a great item, but resist the urge to always fire it off straight away. A quick shot may indeed be the best course of action sometimes, but make sure you’re using your items strategically. A turbo mushroom for example can provide a nice boost, but you could get a double benefit by saving it to access a shortcut. Similarly you might be tempted to slam the player in front with a red shell, but waiting to hit them in mid-air will cause them more grief. It’s also important to realize when to keep items and when to dump them. The better your race position, the worse items you’ll get. If you’re in 12th place with a banana then swap it as you are almost certain to get something better. The reverse is true in 1st place when you should hang on to a good item for dear life. The super horn in particular is very valuable when you’re in the lead as it can save you from the dreaded blue shell. One occasion when you will definitely want to use your item straight away is the Crazy 8 item pictured below. Apart from being unpredictable, rival players can also steal your mushroom and star by bumping into you! Use them quickly as an insurance policy against theft.

12. Rob from the rich

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Steal

We’ve taught you how to avoid players stealing from you, now we’ll teach you how to steal from them! If you see a player with 3 mushrooms or the crazy 8 item circling around, simply collide with the item to steal its effect for yourself. Just be careful not to bump into shells which hurt just like normal. Bombs are even worse! Avoid crashing into these volatile balls of death or you’ll be sure to regret it.

13. Shell shock!

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Shell Defense

You probably already knew that holding on to three circling shells can be a good way to defend from incoming attacks. But here is another trick to help defend your backside with a single shell or even a banana. Simply hold the item button as you normally would to fire, but don’t release it. This will keep the shell or banana sitting at the rear of your kart ready to protect from nasty red shells and the like until you release the button. Keep in mind that you can’t pick up a new item until the shell is released but the defense payoff might be worth it, especially if you’re sitting in 1st place.

14. Learn from the best

Mario Kart 8 Tips - Ghost Data

By combining lots of practice with the handy tips in our Mario Kart 8 guide, you’ll be sure to improve your driving skills in no time. Another great way to improve however is to learn from the best players in the Mario Kart 8 community. Don’t feel down if you can’t quite catch an opponent in online multiplayer, use it as an opportunity to watch them to try to pick up some tips. Perhaps you’ll discover a new short cut or technique you hadn’t thought of before. You can also download ghost data from high ranking players in Time Trial mode to see how they get around the course so quickly. You’ll even get a chance to see exactly what character and kart setup they used.

15. Take a deep breath

No matter how good you might get at Mario Kart 8, victory will regularly be snatched from under your nose by a series of red shells or even worse, the dreaded blue shell. It happens. Take a deep breath, punch a cushion, scream profanities, bite your fist. Do whatever you need to do. Just don’t throw your GamePad… those things aren’t cheap to replace.

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6 Readers Commented

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  1. Alex on August 12, 2014

    Well a lot of things on this website I already knew from long ago but one of the things I was looking for was how to stop those wretched guys from blasting me at the very end of the race its ridiculous it usually only happens on 150 cc or higher I’ll be driving along at 1st place on the final lap then WHAM they throw one shell not too bad right then another one and another one they chain them together like gasoline on a fire from some horrible movie.
    I still usually get first overall in all of the races but it still stings to lose some points.
    I think I just have to look behind me sometimes and be very vigilant with talented opponents that they absolutely do NOT contact me with any items near the end of the race to ensure I get a perfect score and triple star rank EVERY time

    • Tim Nightingale Author on August 12, 2014

      Hey Alex, yeah it really sucks when that happens and sometimes you can’t avoid it, it’s just bad luck. What you can do however is be as prepared as possible. Don’t throw your bananas or shells once you are in the lead. Hold down the trigger so they trail behind to protect you. Like you said this can’t help against repeated shells but it could mean the difference between winning and losing. Good luck!

  2. brady on February 15, 2015

    thanks for telling me 15 tips.

  3. brady on February 15, 2015


  4. brady on February 15, 2015

    thanks for step 6