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Mario Kart 8’s DLC shows 9 isn’t coming anytime soon

During February’s Nintendo Direct, Nintendo announced that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will be getting 48 new courses as paid DLC. All of the tracks are remastered courses from previous Mario Kart titles, from Super Mario Kart to the recent Mario Kart Tour, and will be released in six packs of eight. The first pack will arrive on March 18, and the rest of them will be added periodically through the end of 2023.

While exciting, this announcement is also a death knell for anyone hoping for Mario Kart 9. It shows that Nintendo is planning to support the Switch title through 2023, potentially pushing a new Mario Kart entry back to the next console generation. Nintendo has always been known to buck trends and defy norms, but Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s DLC delivery dates shed some light on the true longevity of both Mario Kart and the Switch.

Ride the DLC wave

Released in 2017, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe wasn’t a brand-new Mario Kart installment to begin with. It’s the complete edition of 2014’s Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, which was constrained to the poorly-selling Wii U. Mario Kart 8 received its own DLC in the form of new and classic courses in The Legend of Zelda x Mario Kart 8 and Animal Crossing x Mario Kart 8 packs. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe included these paid DLCs, as well as the free Mercedes-Benz DLC, together in one package for Switch owners. While Deluxe only added a few new features of its own, it reached a much wider audience than it did previously because of its presence on the more popular Switch.

During its tenure on the Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has perpetually been the console’s best-selling game. Late last year, it passed the extremely popular Mario Kart Wii in sales. This is the first major content update for Deluxe since its launch, so those who’d already played Mario Kart 8 have been stuck with the same courses they’d been playing for years.

Waluigi rides a cart in Mario Kart 8.
packattack04082/YouTube

The Deluxe DLC announcement comes at a strange time, though: The game has been out for almost five years now. Many were expecting Nintendo to announce Mario Kart 9 rather than support a deluxe version of a previously-released game. When Deluxe‘s DLC run is finished, Mario Kart 8 will have been the dominant modern Mario Kart for almost a decade. Nintendo players are used to having to wait long periods of time for sequels — just ask fans of Animal Crossing or The Legend of Zelda — but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

The endurance of karting

The fact that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s new DLC will last through 2023 also brings up questions about the Switch’s longevity. Once the DLC run is finished, how many more years will the Switch have left? We’ve already received many of the sort of first-party games that only come once in a console generation: Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Super Mario Odyssey come to mind.

Say that the Switch has two years left in it once Mario Kart 8′s DLC ends. Why would Nintendo launch one of its biggest, most long-term games in that window? It’s more likely that it would be held as a launch title for whatever Nintendo’s next-generation console is.

Even if the Big N was interested in putting a potential on the Switch, why do it when Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still printing money? Adding DLC to one of the company’s most popular games ensures that fans both old and new will keep coming back to either experience their favorite courses from yesteryear in HD or check out all that Mario Kart history has to offer. It seems like a way to extend the lifetime of a game — and a console — that are already several years old (though it doesn’t fix all of the issues that and Deluxe have).

Dry Bones and Koopa compete in a Mario Kart race.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m very excited about the DLC. Tracks like Coconut Mall are absolute classics, and I’m looking forward to what else cameos from games past (Moonview Highway, anyone?). Some may wonder if Mario Kart 9 is even necessary with a whopping 48 tracks coming to Deluxe. That’s way more courses than Mario Kart Wii had over the course of its entire life. It’s over a game’s worth of new courses.

The DLC’s inclusion will likely turn Deluxe into the go-to game if you want to play the series’ all-time best courses. This would pave the way for to do something entirely new, whether that’s a fresh gimmick or just a full suite of entirely new courses. As the definitive version of 8, Deluxe is already almost a legacy title at this point: a marker of Mario Karts past. It’s likely that the DLC will strengthen this conclusion even more, making it possible for Mario Kart 9 to potentially take more risks.

The great — and terrible — thing about Nintendo is that you truly never know what it has up its sleeves. If the company really does have a new console or Mario Kart entry in the works, it’ll sit on it until it’s good and ready, to the constant annoyance of the fanbase. Nintendo loves to monetize and re-release nostalgia, which is exactly what it’s doing here. I love the Switch and old Mario Kart courses as much as the next fan, but I lament what could have been a Mario Kart 9 announcement. At what point does the DLC stop being nostalgic and start becoming the beating of a dead (but very profitable) horse?

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