Every Mario Kart game has had a battle mode, since the series’ humble beginnings on the SNES. While Mario Kart 64 fans still swear by it, the secondary mode has always been vastly overshadowed by the racing. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s Battle mode, however, offers the best Kart-to-Kart combat in generations. The result? A robust variant with a surprising degree of depth. There are eight battle-mode-specific arenas — as opposed to the traditional racetracks used in the Wii U version of the title — and five different game types to satisfy your battling itch after a long day on the track. While these modes are all relatively easy to jump into, they don’t come without their own unique challenges and frustrations. Whether you opt for Balloon Blast or the the cops and robbers-themed Renegade Roundup, here are a few strategies for duking it out across the five game types.
Balloon Battle is where you should start to get your bearings in Battle mode. It will teach you the fundamentals of the game, and also serves as a good way to learn the eight Battle-specific maps.
The classic and most well-known battle mode in Mario Kart, “Balloon Battle” is purely about hitting your opponents with items. Each time you hit an opponent with a shell, banana peel, or ram into them on a mushroom boost, you’ll gain a point and pop one of their balloons.
Each player starts with five balloons, but unlike earlier versions of the game, the match is timed rather than a potentially drawn-out fight to the last Kart driving. In fact, you don’t leave the game when all of your balloon pop: You simply respawn with three balloons and half your points (odd numbers round down, i.e., seven becomes three). Combine that with the fact that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe adds the ability to you can hold two items at a time, and you get a completely insane frenzy of a game.
No matter which map you’re on, you’ll begin each match surrounded by other players and it will be a free for all for the item boxes closest to you. You may be tempted to go after those boxes at the start, and if you are playing with a light character like Baby Mario, you may succeed in securing a pair of items unscathed. As counterintuitive as it might seem, driving with caution in the first minutes of a match goes a long way.
Instead of jumping into a mosh pit where you really can’t predict what will happen, hang on the perimeter of map. There are groups of boxes scattered around the map and the more of a circular, racing motion you make, the less likely you are to get hit. Your exact strategy will change a bit from map to map, but you should always avoid tight corridors in favor of wide-open spaces, where it’s easier to dodge ricocheting shells. If you’re playing on a multi-floor venue like “Luigi’s Mansion,” try and maintain high ground. From there, you can toss items below and notch points without getting into the heat of battle too often.
Okay, so we are avoiding the cluster in the middle of the map, but how are we going to accumulate points? Well, players that congregate in the middle have to go to the ends at some point. Try dropping banana peels around the perimeter, or almost immediately after you get them so that other players are more likely to naturally run in to them after going for item boxes.
In general, don’t be afraid to use items immediately, without a specific target in mind. You’ll be surprised at how many players you can hit just by picking up shells blindly flinging them forward and behind you. Plus, using your weapons right away keeps your item slots open to pick up even more items. The more items you put out there, the more likely you are to rack up points. Even if you aren’t rapidly adding to your total, this strategy will put you in the hunt for the win, as more aggressive players are likely to lose all of their balloons, thus erasing half of their point totals.
Keep an eye on the map, as this will help you anticipate when to throw items. And don’t forget that you can look behind you with the X button, which will surely help when aiming backwards.
No matter what, though, the key to Balloon Battle — and most of the battle modes, for that matter — is to keep moving. Unless someone has a red shell (an uncommon occurrence), it’s pretty challenging to hit a player zipping at top speed.
“Bob-omb Blast” is a Balloon Battle variant where every item is a Bob-Omb. Sounds intense, right? It is. You can hold up to 10 of your explosive friends at one time. While the rules are the same as Balloon Battle, your approach will have to change a tad.
You should still drive around the perimeter of the map most of the time, circling and building your arsenal, then dive into the mess in the center of the battlefield once you’ve collected a few bombs.
You can’t hurt yourself with your own bombs, so feel free to chuck them in front of you and drive through the blast. If you throw a bomb in front of you, it will explode instantly on contact, dealing damage to any opponent that falls within the blast radius. For Bob-Ombs dropped behind you, there is a delay, as the Bob-Ombs will get up and meander on their feet and pulsate before exploding.
It’s hard to land a direct hit if an opponent is moving at full speed, so rather than always aiming at opposing players, try aiming your throws at item boxes. Everyone has to constantly reload their inventory, so it’ a great spot that has a far better chance of converting into a hit.
Another approach: Rather than throwing bombs in front of you, try quickly dropping them behind you right after darting through item boxes. Looking behind you can help you avoid wasting bombs when no one is around, but in general, aiming and placing bombs near item boxes creates the best opportunity for dealing damage.
If you aren’t having a lot of luck with these methods, you can try a more isolated approach. Each has areas with a high density of item boxes. Rather than roving around the map, converge on areas with lots of item boxes, pick a few up, then brake and make a sharp, 180-degree turn. By the time you head back to the cluster of item boxes, they will have repopulated. And just as you are about to pick new ones up, drop your explosives. Rinse and repeat. It’s a little more reckless than other approaches, but the risk sometimes pays off.