With over 13 million units sold worldwide between the Wii U and Switch versions, Mario Kart 8 is Nintendo’s most commercially successful console game since the Wii era. And it’s little wonder why. Mario Kart is always a top-seller, but Mario Kart 8 is something special. Its core gameplay is so satisfying and finely-tuned that it flirts with perfection, and its audio and visuals rival Nintendo’s best work. And when the Wii U version’s downloadable content came bundled in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (in addition to a battle mode!), the result was arguably the most critically acclaimed Mario Kart of all time and the greatest racing game of the generation. In this continuing feature, I will be examining Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s courses cup-by-cup, evaluating the ups and downs of each course. In this entry, I will be looking at the Crossing Cup.
The Crossing Cup makes its first appearance in Mario Kart 8 as the first half of the Animal Crossing X Mario Kart 8 DLC pack. Comprised of two remakes and two brand new courses, it is one of only three other cups (the Egg Cup, Triforce Cup, and Bell Cup) to not fall in either of the traditional Nitro or Retro categories. The cup’s fourth track, Animal Crossing, acts as its defining feature and namesake.
The Crossing Cup kicks off with Baby Park, originally the third course in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!’s Mushroom Cup and subsequently reintroduced as the last track of Mario Kart DS’ Banana Cup. Inarguably the simplest course in the entire series, the track is merely one small oval devoid of hazards and opportunities to perform tricks. Although the course has been essentially the same in every incarnation, Mario Kart 8’s version features a more detailed background, takes place in antigrav, and requires seven laps (reduced from seven to five in the Mario Kart DS version). While the course could be argued to be nothing more than a lazy gimmick, I find it an enjoyable purist experiment whose emphasis on chaos makes for a brief but thrilling free-for-all.
Before being the Crossing Cup’s second course, Cheese Land was the third course in Mario Kart: Super Circuit’s Flower Cup. As its name implies, the course is made of cheese, though this made little difference in the original version that seems to take place on the moon. The Mario Kart 8 version features the same basic track layout of the original, though it’s a little bit longer (especially the final third) and the course’s three jumps are now used as opportunities for gliding or tricks. The hazards are the key differences here, with the deletion of Little Mousers leaving room for Chain Chomps. The new version of the course is a faithful reimagining of the original version but deeper dive into its theme, with numerous swiss cheese-like holes offering scattered opportunities for tricks in a specialized fashion. That said, Little Mousers make a lot more diegetic sense than Chain Chomps. On the whole, the layout is fairly engaging, though its lack of set pieces and cheese-specific gimmicks make it occasionally monotonous.
Wild Woods is the third track of the Crossing Cup and the first track that is not a retro course. As a running theme through Mario Kart 8, new courses tend to feature more intricate track layout than retro courses and are generally more filled with 8-specific gameplay gimmicks like antigrav portions and particularly gorgeous worlds. This is certainly true for Wild Woods, a course that leads racers through a lush grove, down a boardwalk that splits in two, through a Shy Guy village, and across a pond of lily pads. It’s a serene, mystical journey punctuated by luxurious but understated set pieces. The track layout is not necessarily as intricate as other courses, but it is diverse and empowering, full of straight-aways and speed boosts. It is primarily for its art design, though, that Wild Woods ranks as a personal favorite.
Finally, the Crossing Cup comes to a close with the aptly named Animal Crossing. Animal Crossing sends players on a quick trip through the bright and cheery Animal Crossing universe, from a town, to a forest, to a beach. Perhaps aimed at a younger audience, it features a very simple layout, but charms in its atmosphere, detailing its world with as much diligence as a ride at Disneyland. Furthermore, the track randomly selects one of four seasons in which the race will take place, subtly altering the layout through factors like ramp placement, hazard placement, and track friction. It’s a unique gimmick that translates a central tenet of Animal Crossing into racing form. Like Wild Woods, it is an absolute charmer from start to finish, and it does a fantastic job addressing fans of the Animal Crossing series through its art and design.
More so than any other cup, the courses in the Crossing Cup feel united by a single theme: joy. Every course, regardless of difficulty or layout, features a world brimming with charm and chirpiness. Despite Cheese Land being a bit bland (Ribbon Road might have been a better fit here) and most of the courses being simple, I adore going back to the Crossing Cup because of its infectious happiness. It might be less thrilling than most cups, but it is uniquely thematically consistent and fully realized, making it a summery favorite that perfectly encapsulates Animal Crossing’s trademark delight.
Check out analyses of other Mario Kart 8 Deluxe courses, as well as courses from Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Odyssey, here.