cat peach flying around in mario kart

10 Quick Tips to Help You Improve at Mario Kart 8 in Minutes!

Looking to improve at Mario Kart? Look no further!

Mario Kart is easily one of the best games to play as a family. When Mario Kart Wii entered our household, I was one of those angsty teenagers who had convinced himself that the Wii was for children and my Playstation 2 games were more mature. 

Yeah, you remember that cringe? Me too. The blunder years.

You know what, though? I played Mario Kart Wii with the whole family. I played a few rounds with my Dad – he was afraid to click the buttons. A few rounds with my Stepmother – she told herself she played best while drunk. A few rounds with my 8-year-old brother – he spent all day looking up guides like this one.

Mario Kart helped us grow together as a family.

To my surprise, I liked it so much that I hit the online top 100 leaderboards. The whole family watched and cheered as I ranked up on maps like Grumble Volcano, and ranked down on Maple Treeway.

Still, I have to admit, my gameplay was only so refined because my little brother taught me all the secret little tricks to improve at Mario Kart. Turns out that knowing them was 80% of the battle. 

So, let’s get to it! Here are the 5 secret tricks to help you improve, so you can finally beat your family at Mario Kart! 

WARNING: To fully take advantage of these perks, you’ll have to shut off that turn assist function. Yeah, the gutter bumpers have got to go. Sorry, I know that may not be what you want to hear. It’ll be worth it in the end, I promise!

You Can Shake Your Controller on Jumps For Extra Boost!

The drift button also doubles as a short hop, if shaking the controller wears you out. Let’s be honest though, that extra little sporadic motion is what gives Nintendo games their shine.

This tip is pretty simple. If you’re about to be airborne, give that controller a little shake and your character will be thrust through the air into a trick animation as if he were Tony Hawk riding around in a Go-Kart.

When you land, you’ll get a small burst of boost. These add up quickly! Mario Kart has you airborne more often than a rational driver could dream of handling!

Drift Earlier!

Mario Kart embraces agreeable wide tracks with corners presenting even more width. It’s part of what makes the franchise shine as an arcade racing game!

You may have noticed that a good racer starts drifting long before the actual corner begins (if not, no biggie. You notice it now, welcome aboard!). The track affords you plenty of space to do this.

You might be asking yourself, “Sure, but what’s the point? The turns are wide enough that I clear them just fine!”

Well, here comes the big secret:

Wait For The Purple Boost Animation Before Releasing!

There are three colors of drift animations. Each represents one of three stages of boost charging up for your drift release. 

Stage one is blue sparks. 

Stage two is orange sparks. 

Stage three is purple sparks.

Now, if you’re battered into a wall while drifting, you’ll lose all of your boosts. If you get smacked in the back with one of those rare and elusive Nintendo underwater-fireballs, you lose all of your boosts. You guessed it, no matter what hits you, your boost is interrupted. If you hear that incoming item alarm going off, release that boost to cover as much ground as possible before the unthinkable occurs!

Not every corner is wide enough to give you the extra boost strength. Still, each track offers at least one corner where the purple boost technique comes in handy!

I recommend practicing on “Mario Circuit” of the flower cup since you can achieve a purple boost on just about every corner on this track. That way you can get a feel for the timing. 

The next step is to learn how to hit the apex of corners in the game. This means entering and exiting corners from the wide end of the turn. 

Gentle cornering is a trick used by racers worldwide. It helps them handle turns at a faster speed without over-stressing their tires. In Mario Kart, it helps mitigate the turn radius of a held powerslide.

I often go into corners tilting my analog stick in the direction of the turn, but once I reach the apex I begin tilting my analog stick in the opposite direction to prolong the slide.

I wouldn’t necessarily obsess over hitting purple sparks every corner, but awareness of its existence is the first step to improve at Mario Kart 8!

You Can Hold Some Items Behind You To Deflect Incoming Shells!

A good Mario Kart player uses their combat items defensively. 

I know, it sounds silly. You want to hurl the items at one another. Nintendo believes in an oddly masochistic form of family bonding. 

Did you know you can hold turtle shells and banana peels behind your vehicle for as long as you want? If you hold the left bumper the item will hover behind your vehicle until you release the button input.

They serve as little shields.

You can also ram into opponents while holding these items behind you to use your shields for evil. The item will send your opponents spiraling around the track in defeat, and you get to drive off into the sunset pretending to be Dale Earnhardt. It’s pretty gratifying!

Holding the analog stick backward while releasing the item will send it backward, which can make items swirling around you helpful for defense, too!

Holding an item behind you for too long does come with some drawbacks. If you’re hit with an unblockable item – Mr. Shield is lost forever. I often find it worth the risk, personally.

Speaking of risk… 

If you’re feeling extra risky, try holding a bomb (Bob-Omb to us devotees!) behind you. It’ll block the item, but you might get caught in the explosion!

You Can Diffuse Blue Turtle Shells With The Boombox!

(Or Outrace Them With Mushrooms)

If you find yourself hitting first place and losing it all the time to the cursed blue turtle shell, I have good news. For the first time, these are blockable! It’s tough to do, but with precise timing, you can blast a shell away with the boombox.

I use the spray and pray method. I spam my boombox button like I want to host a tailgating party, and most of the time it works!

You can also outrace a blue turtle shell if you wait to use your mushroom until the blue turtle shell dips downward. Unfortunately, we can’t spam this one, making it a scarce and triumphant event!

When In First Place, Wait Until Hitting A Box Before Using Your Coins!

If you haven’t noticed, inventory management is a pretty big deal in Mario Kart. 

Coins are the worst item to pick up in the game, bar none. Especially if you’re already in the lead and have a full stack of 10 coins. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should use them immediately.

If you’re slapped with an opponent’s Boo power-up, it’s more beneficial to you if he takes the coins. 

Along the same vein, you can avoid rolling duplicate coin power-ups with a little patience. Any time coins are sitting in your inventory, use them after cracking that next box. You’ll roll for a different item every time. It works, I promise.

Utilize The Draft Bonus!

An easy tip to improving at Mario Kart 8 is to gain draft bonuses on drag strips and light corners. If you’re behind another racer, try tailing them for a few extra seconds. You’ll get a slipstream speed bonus, along with a very prominent “bubble of air” type of animation to let you know you’ve succeeded.

This bonus is pretty easy to get. Since it’s an arcade racer, you don’t have to worry too much about precise inputs. As long as you pick a car to follow and stick to it for a few seconds, you’ll launch forward in practically no time at all.

After a little practice on fine-tuning your drift, you’ll be able to slipstream unsuspecting family members on corners, too!

Mario Kart Features A Zero Gravity Bump Boost!

These new tracks are a little bit disorienting, taking you upside down and sideways as if you’re racing on the rail of a roller coaster. Nintendo wanted to add a little extra thrill factor, and with it came a new method of boosting.

Any time you see your wheels sitting sideways, you’re in anti-gravity mode. It doesn’t matter if you’re racing completely right-side-up on a track like “Wario’s Gold Mine”

You don’t have to worry about orientation. Any time you see those wheels behaving like hover jets, give that smug little King Boo driving ahead of you a quick bump. You’ll notice both your cars twirling in a circle with the grace of a broadway ballerina.

You’ll both get a boost, but your nudge will be more spritely!

Coins Make You Faster!

We all suspected this one to be true, but it’s hard to prove with evidence. Until you check world record time trials, that is.

Each coin offers a 1% speed boost, and most of our fastest laps recorded prove to us that the best Mario Kart racers improve their runs by getting the full 10% bonus on their first lap.

Of course, keeping a full ten coins in practice can be difficult with all the turtle shells floating around! At least we can lay the debate to rest, knowing that the coins DO make you go faster.

Check Your Vehicles Stats!

All Karts are not created equal. Characters also boast different speed and acceleration ratings.

Heavy characters like Bowser and Wario increase your max speed and lower your acceleration, while the baby characters do the opposite. There are middle classes in-between, but you probably get the idea!

Honestly, though, I use my favorite characters and build my loadout from there. (Blue-haired inkling and Dry Bones, in case you’re wondering! Where’s my Dry Bones gang at?)

There are a few Karts that boast an overall positive stat increase across the board. The most substantial positive impact to stats goes to the Pipe Frame, Varmint, Mr. Scooty, and City Tripper models. All of these “positive stat” vehicles sacrifice a bit of speed, though.

So, if you’re looking for a vehicle that pumps up a bit of extra speed with minimal overall stat loss, give the Blue Falcon a few laps around the track.

Slick tires bump up your speed by fifty percent! They also tank the remainder of your stat, so I couldn’t recommend them to someone reading this guide. The dorky little button tires bump up that acceleration and mini-turbo scores considerably with minimal sacrifice to speed, so maybe give those a try!

Of course, these preferences will vary per person, and they’ll change as you gradually improve at Mario Kart. So my main goal here is to inform you that vehicles and characters 100% do impact performance. Play around with these until you find your preferences.

I know it might seem tempting to go for a ton on vehicle control when you’re new, but I tend to struggle with my slides when I place too much focus on steering and no speed. Aim for those middle stats, and tweak them to preference from there, and you’ll see an immediate improvement!

For more information on vehicles, check the video below!

...And That's Everything You Need to Know to Improve at Mario Kart 8!