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Custom items are the best thing to happen to Mario Kart 8

And the landmarks of London Loop.

We've all been there. Racing ahead in first place after some perfect corner drifting and expertly timed green shell throwing, you're slammed with a blue shell ahead of the finish line and drop back into last place. Is there anything more infuriating?

No more! A new update to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Switch adds a custom item option and it's the best thing to happen to the game.

Honestly I'm surprised it's taken Nintendo this long to implement. Yes, items are used to even out the skill levels of racers as well as increase the mayhem, but item customisation was included in Super Smash Bros years ago. Finally Mario Kart gets the same treatment.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe — Booster Course Pass - Wave 3 Release Date

That means blue shells are out, if you want to remove their cheapness. Or maybe you want to embrace them and select only blue shells, turning races into pot luck. Further still, you could remove items altogether and turn Mario Kart into a pure racer for a completely different (if arguably less fun) experience. More than double racers or anti-gravity courses, the custom items option has the potential to drastically change the game - for better or for worse. It's up to you.

Last night I played a cup with friends with only bombs and blue shells. It was absolute carnage.

Of course, this new option comes alongside the next wave of DLC tracks and it's a decent selection.

Maple Treeway is a clear highlight, with its looping tree branches, gorgeous autumnal palette, and Wigglers pottering around. It brings back memories of tilt-controls on the Wii with friends - how was that almost 15 years ago?

Peach Gardens is another returning favourite. It's the perfect setting for a Mario Kart track (dodge the Chomps in the maze!) and I particularly like how the track is reversed in the final lap.

That's a big reason why I'm partial to the Mario Kart Tour tracks already added to the DLC - the likes of Tokyo Blur and New York Minute. Switching up the course layout each lap keeps you on your toes and allows you to see more of the detailed background designs. More of this in Mario Kart 9 please!

Mario Kart London bus
Mario Kart Buckingham Palace
London buses and a Shy Guy enjoying the view of Buckingham Palace

Looking at details, I'm quite fond of London Loop for its take on England's capital city. It begins by Big Ben and the House of Parliament and includes Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square complete with statue lions, telephone boxes and London buses, the London Eye (much downsized), Buckingham Palace, a Tower Bridge that rises and falls, and even The Shard skyscraper in the distance - even if these are all totally out of place. Perhaps most London of all is the fact there's a chain cafe on every street corner.

Mario Kart London Eye
Mario Kart Big Ben
The London Eye and Big Ben

I haven't visited Berlin so I can't account for Berlin Byways' authenticity, though I did enjoy seeing the commuting Yoshi's in the Bahnhof. It's a shame there's no Mario leather bar though, and the falling Whomps at the Berlin Wall is maybe a step too far.

Boo Lake from the GBA game is a great example of Nintendo updating older tracks to fit the new style. What was once flat is now a rickety series of wooden paths that collapses underwater, while Luigi's Mansion dominates the distant skyline at the start.

Mario Kart Berlin commuters
Mario Kart Berlin Wall
Yoshi commuters and the Berlin Wall

Elsewhere, Merry Mountain is a fun Christmas track with some lovely details (the flying train of presents!) though the layout itself is pretty simple, and the snaking 3DS Rainbow Road is a true test of skill with its speed bumps, jumps, and brief trip to the Moon. Alpine Pass feels a bit bare by comparison.

With that, we're halfway through Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's slow release of DLC tracks - and the selections have been strong, adding further longevity to the Switch's most popular multiplayer game. The addition of the custom items option adds further depth, ensuring the game remains well-played long into next year.

Now all we need, Nintendo, is a course editor.

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Ed Nightingale avatar

Ed Nightingale

Deputy News Editor

Ed has an interest in streaming, people and communities, and giving a voice to marginalised people.