Winning in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch, like all games in the series, may feel out of your hands. With bananas and shells and mushrooms whizzing across the screen, the game may feel less about skill and more about not getting whacked by a spiny shell.
While items are a part of the winning formula, don't be so quick to discount technique. There's plenty you could be doing to improve your racing game in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Lucky for you, we've laid out the best techniques for you right here.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe tips and tricks: Best ways to improve your game without cheating
Choose the right kart combination
In many cases, the outcome of the race is decided before your wheels even touch the track. Unlike older Mario Kart games, players are able to choose which kart or bike they want to drive, what kind of wheels it's equipped with and which glider will spring to life after jumping a ramp.
Your choices will affect your stats for that race. Our testing revealed that "Speed" affects the maximum speed you can go, "Acceleration" affects how quickly you get to your top speed and "Weight" determines how easily bigger characters can knock you out of their way. Both "Handling" and "Traction" affect how you complete sharp turns. The latter also factors in how much your kart loses speed with off-road driving, according to NintendoLife, such as through mud or grass. Choose wisely.
Nail the speed boost
Boosting off the starting line is an important part of starting a race in any Mario Kart game. To take off the moment you get the green light, hold the A button the second you hear the tone for Lakitu's second light. If the "3, 2, 1" resemble the first three sounds you hear during your race, you'll want to hold the A button the millisecond you hear the tone for "2."
Bursts of speed are everywhere
Once the race gets started there are plenty more speed boosts to be had. Every time you encounter a ramp or raised part of the track, hit the R button to jump off it, not just for added height, but for a quick burst of speed.
If you're trailing behind an opponent, you can use the rules of slipstreaming to your favor. Simply drive directly behind an enemy racer to reduce the amount of wind resistance your kart has to deal with. Drive right behind an opponent for long enough and you'll get a speed boost lasting a few seconds.
And then there's drifting. As a staple of the Mario Kart series, drifting is essential for victory. As you enter a turn, hit the R button and hold it to slide. This will allow you to turn more sharply and, if performed successfully, will offer up a speed boost. Speaking of...
How to drift and get purple sparks
In case you missed the news, a new level of drifting has been added to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. The added boost allows for even greater speed once you come out of a drift. To induce purple sparks out of your vehicle you'll need to drift for an extended period of time, past the initial blue and orange sparks. Keep holding the R button until you see purple and you'll be rewarded in speed.
You may want to choose a kart or bike that matches your drifting style. Take note of the ones that allow for inward drifting.
Firehopping is no longer a thing that works. Stop doing it!
How to best use having two items at a time
Having two items at your disposal means nothing if you're left defenseless. If the item box presents you with a banana, green shell or red shell, you're able to hold it behind you by holding the L button. This will protect you from incoming shells that try to hit you from behind.
Shells that hit you from the side or overhead like the blue spiny shell will still affect you, as will the Piranha Plant and Super Horn. You may still receive damage from these stronger items, but holding a shell or banana behind you will protect you from the more everyday threats.
Make use of shortcuts where you can
When you find yourself in 12th place, a good shortcut may be just what you need. Keep an eye out for hidden roadways or alternate routes. Or be on the lookout for opponents that come in flying out of nowhere — it's likely they just used a shortcut. Make sure you don't try out untested roads in a Grand Prix race, as some could lead to mud or tricky curved streets that will slow you down.
Check out more Mario Kart 8 Deluxe news, tips and tricks
If you're anxious to get racing in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, check out our video gameplay of the first 20 minutes of the game and find out the characters the game needs ASAP. Learn how you can buy the game bundled with the console, including one bundle from Nintendo and see every level packed inside the game. Or play Mario Kart 64 on a newer console instead, if you're looking for a nostalgia fix.