cat peach flying around in mario kart

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

Looking to improve at Mario Kart? Look no further!

Mario Kart is the best game to play as a family. When Mario Kart Wii entered our household, I was one of those angsty teenagers convinced 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 Step-mother – 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.

Mario Kart helped bind us.

To my surprise, I adored it enough to hit the online top 100 leaderboards. The whole gang crowded and cheered as I ranked up on Grumble Volcano, and fumbled on Maple Treeway.

Still, I have to admit, I only refined my gameplay 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 take full advantage of these perks, you’ll have to shut off that turn assist function. 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 immersive little sporadic motion helps give Nintendo games their charm.

This tip is simple. If you’re going airborne, give your controller a firm shake. Your character will thrust through the air with a trick animation like they’re Tony Hawk riding around in a Go-Kart.

When you land, you’ll earn a small boost burst. These add up quickly! Mario Kart sends you airborne more often than a cab driver in an action flick.

Drift Earlier!

Mario Kart embraces agreeable spacious tracks with wide corners. It’s part of what makes the franchise shine as an arcade racer!

A formidable Karter starts drifting long before the actual corner begins.

We can leverage the ample track space to charge our drifts early, then zip through the upcoming drag strip before the turn ends.

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 animation. Each represents one of three stages of boost strength 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 noggin with one of those rare and elusive Nintendo underwater-fireballs, you lose your boosts. 

You guessed it, any item that hits you interrupts your boost. 

Listen for the incoming item alarm. If you hear it buzzing, release that boost to cover as much ground as possible before the unthinkable occurs!

Not every corner is wide enough to grant you purple boost strength. Still, each track offers at least one corner where the purple boost technique covers extra ground.

I recommend practicing on the Flower Cup’s Mario Circuit, since you can achieve a purple boost on nearly every corner. That way you can practice nailing 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 professional 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 hovers behind your vehicle until you release the button input.

They serve as little shields.

You can also ram into opponents while holding items behind you, dispatching your shields for cheeky antics. The item sends your opponents spiraling around the track in defeat, and you get to drive off into the sunset pretending you’re Dale Earnhardt. It’s pretty gratifying!

You can give swirly items defensive usage, too. Holding the analog stick backward while releasing items sends them behind you. With proper timing, you can bust incoming shells with 100% accuracy.

Holding an item behind you for too long does come with 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 important in Mario Kart. 

Coins are the worst item pickup in the game, bar none. It’s especially true if you’re already sitting on a full stack of 10. They only appear to players in first place – and exist exclusively to gunk up your inventory as the MK rubber band effect runs her course.

Still, you don’t want to cycle coins immediately.

If you’re slapped with an opponent’s Boo power-up, you can pawn off your icky coins to unleash some Karmic justice. 

Along the same vein, you’ll avoid rolling duplicate coin power-ups with patience. Any time coins sit in your inventory, use them after cracking your next box. You’ll roll for a different item every time. 

Let’s hear three cheers for mechanical exploitation!

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 catch a slipstream speed bonus, along with a prominent “bubble of air” type of animation to offer visual affirmation.

This bonus is pretty easy to claim. Since Mario Kart is an arcade racer, you don’t have to worry about precise inputs. As long as you pick a car to follow and glue yourself behind it for a few seconds, you’ll launch forward in a jiffy.

After perfecting your drift inputs, you’ll slipstream unsuspecting family members on corners, too!

Mario Kart Features Zero-Gravity Bump Boosts!

These new tracks sometimes feel disorienting, taking you upside down and sideways as if you’re racing on the rail of a roller coaster. Nintendo ramped up the thrill factor, and with it came a new method of boosting.

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

Any time you see those wheels behaving like hover jets, give that smug 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 the nudger jostles more momentum.

Coins Make You Faster!

Here’s a tip we all suspected was true, but wanted some concrete evidence.

Luckily, we can pilfer the vault of world record time trials to mine an answer. Those players follow strict racing lines under the scrutiny of an ever-present timer.

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

Of course, keeping a full ten coins in practice proves difficult with all the turtle shells floating around!

At least we can lay the debate to rest. Coins DO hasten laps. They’re worth the detour.

Check Your Vehicles Stats!

All Karts are not created equal.

Likewise, characters come in varying weight classes that boast different speed and acceleration ratings.

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

Honestly, 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?)

Thanks to the Booster Course Update, many more karts, wheels, and characters have viable counterparts. The reign of Waluigi in the Wiggler has finally been silenced.

Traditional builders might prefer leaning into overall positive stat increases, but bear in mind hidden stats litter the game. Things like mini-turbo, off-road handling, and invincibility frames. I’ll link the wiki here.

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 stats, so I couldn’t recommend them to anyone reading this guide. The dorky little button tires bump crank acceleration and mini-turbo scores with minimal sacrifice to speed, so maybe give those a try!

Of course, preferences will vary per person. They’ll also change as you hone your Mario Kart skills. My main goal here is to inform you that vehicles and characters 100% 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 middle stats, and tweak 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!