The 50 Greatest 'Mario Kart' Courses, Ranked
Ready to feel old? This month, Mario Kart 64 turns 20. On February 10, 1997, Nintendo 64's go-kart game reworked a functional SNES concept into a cultish pastime for American grade-schoolers, teenage stoners, lonely soccer moms, and anyone who's ever taken pride in beating Moo Moo Farm while being slightly inebriated. The milestone calls for a victory lap.
With the Nintendo Switch readying Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for April, we decided to drift our way through the series' 140-plus courses and publish a definitive list that celebrates the game's inventive legacy.
50. Toad's TurnpikeFound in: Mario Kart 64 (N64), Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
There's nothing great about Toad -- except for maybe 2014's Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and this meme -- and that's why you will either love or loathe the Turnpike. The bassline slaps but only until you eat a Koopa shell and get hit by every single trucker in the Mushroom Kingdom.
49. Luigi's MansionFound in: Mario Kart DS (DS), Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
The port of the GameCube title upstages MK8’s Twisted Mansion thanks to walking trees, Boo congregations, and an original soundtrack that's like a light take on Francesco Manfredini.
48. Koopa Troopa BeachFound in: Mario Kart 64 (N64), Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
This Nintendo 64 mainstay takes the best of Super Mario Kart’s "Koopa Beach" and turns the whole thing into a race for a single blue shell. Pro tip: You'll never be the one that gets it.
47. Moonview HighwayFound in: Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
The night-only track from Mario Kart Wii makes for an oddly soothing run, but where there's a full moon overhead, there's oncoming traffic and Bob-ombs that drive on the wrong side of the road.
46. Peach BeachFound in: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN), Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
An overlooked Double Dash!! gem, Peach Beach deserves some credit for making the princess' personal racetrack more about reflexes than luck. The shores are lined with wandering packs of Cataquacks that act as roadblocks, and the low/high-tide cycle alters the course from lap to lap.
45. Royal RacewayFound in: Mario Kart 64 (N64), Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Royal Raceway's shtick is simple: fast turns, big jumps, and a well-placed pond that will end you if you're too reckless. There's also the secret Peach's Castle shortcut which takes you through the Mario 64 landmark and teleports you to the finish line. Spoiler: It's a myth and doesn't exist.
44. Mute CityFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
The Mario Kart 8 DLC track reps Nintendo's attention to detail as the anti-gravity rules, U-turns, Captain Falcon billboards, and endless boost pads help to mimic the high-speed risk of F-Zero.
43. Dino Dino JungleFound in: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN), Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
Dino Dino Jungle is not for the faint of heart. While it looks fluffy -- the prehistoric dinos are oddly generic and cute -- the active geysers and sharp turns can turn it into an emotional roller coaster that will result in someone yelling obscenities at Yoshi and his long-lost brethren.
42. Rosalina's Ice WorldFound in: Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
Rosalina's reimagining of Frozen never made it to the Wii, but it still stands as one of the greatest ice courses in Mario Kart history. It's full of twists and turns, keeps penguins out of play, and has a mix of bottomless canyons that allow you to go full Littlefinger when someone gets too close.
41. Animal CrossingFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
The Animal Crossing: New Leaf course changes season every time it's played and it's full of Easter eggs that involve bells, shells, Tom Nook, K.K. Slider, and Brewster's Roost cafe. The only downside is none of it will make sense to you if you've never played Animal Crossing.
40. Hyrule CircuitFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
The final course of the Triforce Cup isn't a challenge so much as a gift to diehard Zelda fans. The track swaps coins for rupees and Piranha Plants for Deku Babas, and zips through Hyrule Field and Hyrule Castle before taking a trip around the legendary Master Sword.
39. Thwomp RuinsFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
It's the only course that allows you to live out your fantasy of sliding into a Thwomp's mouth.
38. Waluigi StadiumFound in: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN), Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
Waluigi Stadium is Wario Stadium, but with theatrics! There aren't any death-defying jumps but the dirt bike course is basically a muddy Slip 'N Slide that's littered with dash panels, fire rings, Lava Bubbles, and giant Piranha Plants that will make you think twice about where you drift.
37. Wario's Gold MineFound in: Mario Kart Wii (Wii), Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Wario's Gold Mine is one of the few MK tracks that doesn't suffer from a downgraded revision. The Wii version stands for secret minecart tunnels and a "No Guardrails" policy while the Wii U clone implements carts as spin boosts and enhances the course's old prospector aesthetic.
36. Yoshi CircuitFound in: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN), Mario Kart DS (DS), Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
Yoshi's gotten a bad rap for being nothing but a useless anthropomorphic dinosaur that you can openly sacrifice to gain an edge while platforming, but luckily Yoshi Circuit is his saving grace. How? It's the only course in the Mario Kart series that's shaped after a playable character.
35. Toad HarborFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Further proof that Toad's the worst: His MK8 reimagining of San Francisco is an uphill/downhill battle that features cable cars and a remote island that depicts Princess Peach as Lady Liberty.
34. Rock Rock MountainFound in: Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
Rock Rock Mountain, also known as Alpine Pass, is a visually stunning piece of work as far as Mario Kart 7 goes. It's also an unavoidable deathtrap if gliding sections aren't your strong suit.
33. Delfino SquareFound in: Mario Kart DS (DS), Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
Delfino Square is the Mario Kart equivalent of Monaco where jumping pier-to-pier and hitting the drawbridge at the right time will throw you into the hearts of a hundred screaming Piantas.
32. Daisy CruiserFound in: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN), Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
Princess Daisy’s Double Dash!! track is a reminder that cruise ships are just empty vessels for capitalism, terrible appetizers, and wandering souls (or Piantas) that would rather end it all.
31. Sky GardenFound in: Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA), Mario Kart DS (DS)
It's a magical garden in the sky that's free of hazardous obstacles. What more could you want?
30. Maka WuhuFound in: Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
Mario Kart 7’s Maka Wuhu is the place to be if you like spelunking, island castles, and start-to-finish races that revolve around Wii Sports Resort. It's also the place to be if you enjoy daiquiris, chancletas, and waxing poetic about coconut oil and Jack Johnson's In Between Dreams.
29. Super Bell SubwayFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
It's a looping subway station where you can get hit by oncoming trains. Need we say more?
28. Ribbon RoadFound in: Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA), Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Fun fact: In the Super Circuit version, the entire track is made of one giant piece of ribbon.
27. Shy Guy FallsFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Like Shy Guy Bazaar (MK7) and Shy Guy Beach (Super Circuit), this Flower Cup track puts the spotlight on the series' masked provocateurs. The course starts in a crystal mine created by Shy Guys and takes a scenic route through waterfalls, anti-gravity blips, and the occasional rainbow.
26. Cloudtop CruiseFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
The Wii U fan favorite borrows elements from Sky Garden and Airship Fortress and amplifies them with a cinematic race across a giant beanstalk, a floating airship, and an animated storm cloud. It's a Mario Kart 8 course that sets the bar visually and thematically, and it just might be the only one to use music that transitions into guitar solos inspired by Super Mario Galaxy.
25. Grumble VolcanoFound in: Mario Kart Wii (Wii), Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
It's a volcanic wasteland with volcanoes; there's lava and debris everywhere, and bouncing Fire Snakes that are determined to troll your drift game. It's volcano hell minus Tommy Lee Jones.
24. Neo Bowser CityFound in: Mario Kart 7 (3DS), Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Let's face it: Neo Bowser City's no Bowser's Castle, but it is a unique concept that commemorates Bowser's love for S-bends, rainy nightcaps, Koopa Clown Cars, and Tron: Legacy fan fiction.
23. Piranha Plant SlideFound in: Mario Kart 7 (3DS), Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
The Star Cup track is an ode to World 1-2 and the underground levels of Super Mario Bros. as it takes place in a sewer, features enemies such as blue Goombas and Piranha Plants, and has a music score that contains parts of the Underground theme. It's a tacky design but it's tubular.
22. Baby ParkFound in: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN), Mario Kart DS (DS), Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Baby Park gets a bad rap for being the shortest track in the series, but at 200cc, the hazard-free ruleset turns it into a NASCAR oval loop that will make you fear Koopa shells and Bullet Bills.
21. DK MountainFound in: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN), Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
The track uses a DK Cannon to blast you onto the top of an active volcano… ** drops mic **
20. DK SummitFound in: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN), Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
Mario Kart Wii 's answer to DK Mountain uses the familiar DK Cannon, but this time you're left to slide your way through a winding halfpipe that's Snow Barrel Blast meets 1080° Snowboarding.
19. Music ParkFound in: Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
The music-themed circuit formerly known as Melody Motorway can be a gift and a curse. Why? The course, which essentially floats in space, is made up of musical instruments that emit their own sounds when driven over/by -- including piano keys, trumpets, metronome beats, and giant Bouncing Notes that are almost as treacherous as the Note Blocks from Super Mario Bros. 3.
18. Toad's FactoryFound in: Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
Toad's Factory isn't all bad -- unless you count the red smoke, conveyor belts, hydraulic press row, and the muddy tractor section. It's just a difficult course that will make you pay whenever your mind wanders and starts to dissect the legalities of Toad's underground operation.
17. Sunshine AirportFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
The Super Mario Sunshine-themed track isn't directly influenced by Furious 6 but it should be since it’s all about boost panels, gliding sections, and cruising of and under Boeing-sized jetliners.
16. Wario ColosseumFound in: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)
Wario's GameCube exclusive rightfully deserves a new-gen remake for being a byproduct of the Thunderdome. The dystopian raceway lacks Tina Turner (new Wario amiibo perhaps?) but it makes up for it with speed boosts, fire rings, twisting corkscrews, and an iconic dome arena that rewards skill and curses anyone who dares to create their own shortcuts over the glaring pit.
15. DK's Jungle ParkwayFound in: Mario Kart 64 (N64), Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
Was there anything cooler than clearing a giant Mario cruise boat in the '90s? Exactly.
14. Wild WoodsFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
The Animal Crossing x Mario Kart 8 track is a treat to look at it as it's FernGully meets Pikmin meets every kid's dream treehouse. It also happens to be A) the first Mario Kart course to have music in 5/4 time, and B) the first track to start in anti-gravity while not being entirely anti-gravity.
13. Mushroom GorgeFound in: Mario Kart Wii (Wii), Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
It's the Mushroom Cup equivalent of Yoshi Valley, but with more Goombas.
12. Big BlueFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
An F-Zero track that was named after a rejected Mountain Dew flavor? It's true, Nintendo takes fan servicing to heart. If it didn't, Big Blue wouldn't be a three-section, anti-gravity affair that combines sharp turns with water slides and uses the "Yeah!! The final lap!" clip from F-Zero X.
11. Coconut MallFound in: Mario Kart Wii (Wii), Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
The shopping center is home to Coco Coffee, Coco Burger, Coco Cute, Coco Pet Foods, Coco Outfitters, and an outdoor parking lot that's the number one cause of road rage amongst Miis.
10. Wario StadiumFound in: Mario Kart 64 (N64)
Even though similar courses have realistic mud physics and procedurally generated patterns, it's difficult to top the OG Wario Stadium. The N64 version features a series of hills and bumps, plus two endearing traits: a missable long jump that can set players back a quarter of the race and a shortcut (and glitch) that allows brave souls to hop over a wall near the starting line.
9. Yoshi ValleyFound in: Mario Kart 64 (N64), Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
With its 20-year stint as a Mario 64 track, everyone's familiar with Yoshi Valley's lethal Porcupines, alternative paths (bridge, narrow, long), and natural ability to lead you into a steep canyon (and the dark abyss). But seriously… where the hell did that giant rotating Yoshi egg come from?
8. Mount WarioFound in: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
DK Summit truthers be damned -- Mount Wario is the King of the Mountain. Wario's custom winter wonderland is a one-lap-only course that starts with players dropping out of a helicopter and down a frozen mountain trail, through a glacial river, across a hydroelectric dam, and into a snowy forest that leads to a giant slalom and a final downhill ski that calls for speed demons.
7. Tick Tock ClockFound in: Mario Kart DS (DS), Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
The Mario Kart DS original is modeled after the course of the same name from Super Mario 64 as it takes place inside of a giant grandfather clock, which ticks away as the race ramps up. The clock's moving parts (gears, hands, pendulums) can provide drivers with a small speed boost or spin their karts out of control. As a wise Nintendo copywriter once wrote, "every second counts."
6. Airship FortressFound in: Mario Kart DS (DS), Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
DK Mountain-like Cannon Pipe? Check. Larger-than-life Burners? Check. Hairy encounters with Bullet Bills and Rocky Wrenches? Double check. Airship Fortress was a pillar for Mario Kart on the DS and 3DS, and it's still a testament to how airships are equally terrifying and beautiful.
5. Maple TreewayFound in: Mario Kart Wii (Wii), Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
Maple Treeway is an autumn-themed Mario Kart track that just works. The Wii/MK7 crossover pits drivers against narrow bridges, scattered leaf piles, downhill and uphill curves, and gigantic Wigglers that act as bounce traps, and it all makes for a picturesque stroll through the woods.
4. Koopa CapeFound in: Mario Kart Wii (Wii), Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
Koopa Troopa's scenic cliffhanger takes the fourth spot as it's a balanced Mario Kart Wii course that doesn't shell itself with clutter or frills. The track starts with cliff walls, ramps, and Goombas, and smoothly transitions to an underwater glass tunnel where spinning electric lasers have a high probability of shrinking you Lightning-style. The lasers are replaced with harmless-looking Cheep Cheeps on the 3DS but as every Kart player knows, Cheep Cheeps are the spawn of Satan.
3. Waluigi PinballFound in: Mario Kart DS (DS), Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
The premise is simple: Wario's other half got weird with it and created a track inside of a pinball machine. The Mario Kart DS standout isn't tough to manage as it's all about speed and steering around bumpers and flippers that will either give you a speed boost or spin your kart sideways.
2. Bowser's CastleFound in: Mario Kart 64 (N64), Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
Sorry Double Dash!! fans. The 64-bit iteration of Bowser's Castle will never be dethroned as it predates King Koopa's "daddy" phase and features quick turns, fire-breathing statues, lava pits, and Thwomps that would rather crush karts than be locked away in a cage forever (#RIPMarty).
1. Rainbow RoadFound in: All titles & platforms
Whether it's the SNES circuit or the more recent Deep Space Nine-esque incarnation, Rainbow Road is the ne plus ultra of Mario Kart tracks. It was an urban legend from 1992 to 1998 as you had to "see it to believe it," and while its length and affinity for obstacles have always been arbitrary, it's always found a way to persuade players into discovering (and landing) their own shortcuts.
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