Evolution of Mario kart

In order to find out more about HUDs have evolved in gaming, we took a look at how popular Nintendo game, Mario kart has been developed over the years.

This flagship franchise began with Super Mario kart for the Snes

A race in Super Mario kart: Console: Snes

Since the Snes could only handle 16- bits and elements onscreen, the HUD couldn’t be very complex and as such, only 1-2 people could play at once. However, the HUD still allowed for a basic knowledge of how the game was playing out. The number indicating the player’s position in the race (right of the screen) was only a basic translucent white colour, and, strangely, took up a large portion of the screen and so was the clock indicating the amount of time the race is taking on the top-right.

Using basic colour and images, the game informed the player about how many coins they had collected and how many lives the player has with images of a coin and a kart next to the corresponding number. Once you have completed a lap, a Mario character will float onscreen on a cloud, holding a sign saying which lap you have progressed onto, which is a creative way of showing players how they were progressing.

Mario Kart 64 (U).png
Mario kart 64: console: Nintendo 64


In this instalment, the franchise went from 16-64 bit graphics to 3D rendering and polygons, and now Nintendo were able to add more detail and elements onscreen. This was also true for the game’s HUD, showing a map that was more incorporated into the game, and a player position indicator that fitted on the screen better, and showed which characters were in which position offering a better Heads-up on how each race was progressing and making these elements easier to read.

The HUD also took up less space onscreen, and was better incorporated into the game giving it more clarity and giving the player a clearer understanding of the game’s progression.


Mario kart Super Circuit: Console: gameboy advanced

For this game, Nintendo went a bit back in time graphically, sticking with 2D animations, and more basic, bit-based graphics rather than polygons. The HUD did not change much from Mario kart 64, with race maps being in the same place and the lap counter remaining in the top-left corner. The only difference was that whenever you were nearing a corner, a large turn indicator would appear in the middle of the screen.

In terms of graphics, due to the power of the new console, Nintendo was able to have more details in their backgrounds and colours making the game look more artistic and interesting to look at, however they also did the same for the HUD, while giving it more detail and clarity, adding a bigger variety of colour and texture to things such as the lap counter and the item indicator, the map was also made bolder and sharper.

Mario kart: Double Dash: Console: Nintendo Gamecube

For the Gamecube, Nintendo had made graphical leaps since the Gameboy advanced. They were able to give more detail to different aspects of the graphics such as better textures, more depth and shading and a deeper colour pallet.

They were also able to advance the HUD as well, Such as a clearer character position indicator and more interesting map design. The HUD wasn’t crowding the screen so much anymore, so the player could see what was happening, with the timer taking less space onscreen and more strategically placed character avatar screens.

Mario kart DS: Console: Nintendo DS

When the Nintendo DS was released, the game was able to place some of the HUD at the bottom screen as the device was a two-screened handheld. This allowed for only the essentials of the HUD to be on the top-screen where the player would be focusing the most, so only the race position indicator, the items and the lap counter was placed on the primary screen. The timer and the character position avatars were placed on the bottom, secondary screen with the screen itself providing a top-down view of the race which meant that there was no need for the map HUD.

However, although the HUD design was improved by having two screens, the graphics themselves received a downgrade, looking like the old N64’s Mario kart 64, but more polygonal, and animations looked less fluid than other entries in the series.The textures for the road and items was also less appealing than other games looking rougher and less defined than the gamecube’s Mario kart: Double dash.

Mario kart: Wii: Console: Nintendo Wii

Mario kart received a huge graphical upgrade for the Nintendo Wii from the Nintendo DS, and as a result the HUD had an upgrade as well. Nintendo added a direction indicator to the map’s avatars giving a better indication as to what’s happening in the race. They also made the items display larger and clearer, making it easier to discern what item the player has picked up in the race.

The text for the position indicator, time stamp and lap counter received a deeper colour pallet having different shades of secondary yellow and red, making them stand out from the rest of the game and draws the players attention.

The power of Nintendo Wii gave the game a big graphical upgrade as well, receiving more detailed, clearer textures and fluid character and item animations. Different HUD elements like the position indicator in the bottom-left hand corner more dynamic and animated by having it spin and change position number when the player takes over an opponent.

mario 7.jpg
Mario kart 7: console: Nintendo 3DS

Since the Nintendo DS’s graphics still had to catch up with the Nintendo Wii’s graphics, the HUD had to change from Mario kart Wii. The position indicator became 2D instead of 3D and became primary yellow and in-shaded and the map display was less detailed, not having a direction indicator or very clear avatars. The time display and lap counter also became less clear and more pixelated. The character position avatars were also added to the game again, but they were made bigger than usual, taking up more space onscreen.

Textures became downgraded and unclear compared with Mario kart Wii, with aspects such as the game’s road looked as though it was still created on the previous Nintendo DS. However, the 3DS’s new stereoscopic system gave the in-game graphics an illusion of 3D depth and gave the whole game more clarity than before, except on the Wii.

Mario kart 8: console: WiiU

Nintendo’s WiiU gave the game more graphical  and HUD improvements. The power of the new console gave their latest instalment  Mario kart 8 a more varied colour pallet with different shades of primary and secondary green, yellow and  blue, just to name a few. Nintendo’s new stereoscopic engine gave the game depth and as such made the race more immersive and stunning to look at. More detailed and bright textures gave the game more personality and variety and made it more interesting to play.

Nintendo also streamlined the game’s HUD for their latest game, removing the character position avatars on the left and kept only the essential aspects of the HUD like the map on the bottom right corner, and the position indicator which had been moved to the top-right corner below the time display. They became 3D and shaded yellow again, becoming clear and animated again, and the map was given more detailed avatars and a directional indicator again, once again giving clarity to what was happening during the races.




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