Before Nintendo went out of their way to ensure that Mario conquered every known genre, 1992’s Super Mario Kart came along and caught some people by surprise. “A Mario Kart racing game?” said the masses as their monocles quivered in dread. “Well I never!”
Twenty-five years later, we’re gearing up for the Switch re-release of Mario Kart 8; a game that many feel was the Wii U’s best title. That’s an impressive leap forward in cultural relevance made all the more strange by Mario Kart‘s true origin.
In an interview with Retro Gamer (via GamesRadar), three members of Super Mario Kart‘s development team – Hideki Konno, Tadashi Sugiyama, and Shigeru Miyamoto – revealed that Mario Kart began life as a prototype for an F-Zero mode.
“Our original plan didn’t include Mario or karts,” said the devs. “The game’s roots lie in one of the launch titles for the SNES: F-Zero. The game was designed for single-player gameplay because of our focus on getting across the sense of speed and the size of the courses.”
Technical limitations aside, doesn’t it seem strange that F-Zero didn’t have a multiplayer mode, even though it seemed just right for split-screen action? As it turns out, the original version of that game did have a conceptual multiplayer mode – and that eventually became Mario Kart.
“It was a prototype for a multiplayer version of F-Zero that ended up being the starting point for Super Mario Kart, and from there we went through a period of trial and error to find what worked.”
The one thing that isn’t entirely clear is why Nintendo felt that it would be best to convert the F-Zero multiplayer concept into a Mario title. However, Hideki Konno did state that they “aimed to create a game that’s fun to play with family, friends, with everyone,” so perhaps Nintendo just felt that the well-known Mario property would help the prototype reach a larger audience.