The Mario Kart series is my favorite kart racer of all time. Good thing a buddy of mine has a 3DS so I could try the seventh numbered entry in the MK series. With a handful of incredible innovations added to the formula, especially for the online sections, this is a great addition to the franchise.
The 32 courses each provide plenty of eye candy for karters to gape at as they zoom from race to race. The tracks provide a nice variety and provide nice visuals on the 3DS. The character models are very impressive, with smooth animations bringing these familiar Mushroom Kingdom personalities to life. The game provides one of the better examples of 3DS graphics, I found myself turning the 3D off anyway, I always thought the 3D implementation in the 3DS was a little "gimicky" in the first place. Although the depth in the game is a pretty cool addition and makes a good subtle change.
Most of the play options should look familiar to Mario Kart fans. Grand Prix tasks you with racing through the eight different cups, four new ones and four made up of old school tracks. The new courses are very well-done and a great addition to the original formula. One of the cool new is Music Park, presumably a nod to Wii Music, has you zooming across keyboards and dodging giant music notes on your way to the finish line. The inclusion of gliders and underwater segments - a first for the series - vary the standard racing fare and add new twists to the retro tracks. You use the glider to float your way to the front of the lead if you can master the controls. They take a little time getting used to, but when you get the hang of it, its quite simple.
The coins are back and are a welcome addition to MK& mix. They speed up your kart and gives you a boost. Collecting coins also unlocks new kart parts. There are new items that are cool and actually pretty innovative. The strongest part of Mario Kart 7 has to be the multiplayer. As usual, you have the option to challenge friends locally or via Wi-Fi. Each player is assigned a VR rating based on how they've fared in past races. This score allows the game to match them with players of a similar skill level. This should help close the gap between newcomers and veterans. You can now create custom groups and share them with friends and strangers. You can choose to have a Mushroom-only Grand Prix Mirror race or a Shell-only Coin Runner - whatever your karting heart desires.
I still believe the character roster should have been larger, and a cheap blue shell can still mess up an otherwise perfect race, but this is a still exceptionally well done MK game. Great controls, cool new tracks, and awesome online make this the best MK yet(other than Mario Kart 64).
Final Score = 9.25/10