If you're one of the millions of people who enjoyed Mario Kart Wii, I apologise. Although I understand the casual nature of it was for a different audience, seeing the DS and 3DS versions take the formula and improve on it - even if only slightly - was both a blessing and a curse. This has now been rectified.
Almost feeling like a big screen iteration of the handheld entries, Mario Kart 8 brings back everything that was missing from before. The tracks are better; drifting works as you'd expect; the blue shell may have been killed off. It feels like a Mario Kart made by people who had been moaning in forums, and while on occasion that's not a good thing, here it seems to right many of the franchise's 'casual' wrongs.
Aside from a ton of new characters being added and the weight system being upped to five different classes, it's the way vehicles drive that's the true joy. Ever-gaining in speed for those that can master the drift and each track, the coins, thankfully, remain too, meaning even though Mario Kart will always try and screw you over, those with more skill can get somewhat of an advantage.
The anti-gravity wheels and upside down driving is also work well. It doesn't change too much in terms of the overall competition, but it has allowed Nintendo - or developer Moonlight Studios in this case - to be more experimental with each track. Some of these areas aren't mandatory either, so, as ever, trying to work out what route works for you is key.
Pitched as a direct sequel to Mario Kart 7, 8 genuinely stands up to such a title. As a man who has played and loved Mario Kart for over 20 years, I can say with some confidence this should be a highlight of the series.