Rank & File: Mario Kart

After a shamefully long hiatus, it’s time for another edition of Rank & File. Today we’re ranking Mario Kart.

Two years ago, the eighth game in the Mario Kart franchise (aptly called Mario Kart 8) was released in North America. To mark this minor anniversary, we asked several of the bros to rank the titles in the franchise from best to least-best. Twelve ballots later, our compiled set of rankings was finished and finalized. And you won’t BELIEVE the results – number nine will shock you!

Yeesh, that was some bad clickbait. There are only eight games on the list. Did you fall for that clickbait? You must have if you’re reading this. Anyway, we won’t keep you waiting. Here’s that list, along with the rankings submitted by every bro:

MarioKartRanks

Now’s a good time to remind our audience – our gullible, stupid, clickbait-trapped audience – how Rank & File works. No matter what it is we’re ranking, every item that appears on more than one ballot makes the final list, which is sorted by a scoring metric. In spreadsheet terms, the scoring metric looks something like COUNT/GEOMEAN. In layman’s terms, the scoring metric accounts mainly for what is popular and what is loved, and only lightly penalizes what is disliked.

Are you bored yet? Our apologies. The scores themselves are meaningless and typically they don’t get included in the final Rank & File write-ups. No one wants to see how the sausage gets made, after all, especially when the sausage is made with Microsoft Excel. But this time around, the scores very substantially divide the eight games neatly into three distinct tiers. Check it out.

MarioKartScores

Those are some razor thin margins, perhaps even close enough to declare a virtual three-way tie for first place, let alone fourth. Indeed, different scoring metrics would have resulted in different orders. But here at Rank & File, we have a two-post-long and storied history with the simplistic and arbitrary algorithm described above. Therefore, the rankings are absolute and definitive and wholly representative of the opinions of the twelve bros who contributed to them.

Even a cursory look at the numbers, however, reveals a deep schism in the voting body. Six of the bros – let’s call them Mario Kart “enthusiasts” – included all eight games on their ballots. Toss in Stevie, who only omitted Super Circuit, and the enthusiasts are seven in number. The other five bros all omitted at least three games from their ballots, with Kevin ranking half of the titles and Ben lending thoughts on just three. Let’s call these five guys Mario Kart “dabblers.”

If we separate the enthusiasts from the dabblers, we end up with two entirely different looking sets of rankings. Observe what the enthusiasts would have wrought, had they been left to their own devices:

MarioKartEnthusiastRanks

On the other side of the great Mario Kart divide, the dabblers’ list runs just five games deep since items need to appear on more than one ballot to qualify for inclusion in any Rank & File. Here’s their own collaboration:

MarioKartDabblerRanks

In case the key contrast hasn’t sunk in yet – you are, after all, so stupid, dear reader, having fallen for such terrible clickbait just a few moments ago – allow us to plot, for the five games that appear on both lists, the scores from the enthusiasts on one axis and the dabblers on the other:

EnthusiastDabblerSplit

This is nothing short of drastic. There’s quite visibly a negative correlation between the two camps with Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart 64 representing the polar extremes of the split.

Let’s start with Mario Kart 8, where an explanation is easier to come by. The enthusiasts by and large adore the newest entry in the franchise, with all seven of them ranking it somewhere in their own top three. On the other hand, the dabblers for the most part don’t collectively dislike the game; they simply haven’t played it. This makes a lot of sense given the terrible state of the Wii U’s sales numbers, but lower accessibility certainly isn’t the only reason the dabblers have ranked Mario Kart 8 at the bottom of their list. It hasn’t seemed to impress the dabblers who’ve played it; Tim ranked it squarely in the middle of his own ballot while Kevin placed it dead last.

Far more substantial and inexplicable is the gulf between camps on Mario Kart 64, which the enthusiasts have buried in sixth place as the dabblers almost unanimously rank it first overall. In lieu of an attempt a rationalization of this discrepancy, here are three different enthusiasts describing their issues with the game:

Ryan: “The most overrated video game of all time”
Keith: “Borderline unplayable”
Steve: “Riddled with glitch-based game-breaking shortcuts”

But as deep as the disdain for Mario Kart 64 ran in some circles, unabashed praise for the game was even more abundant. Tim feigned surprise at the Rank & File exercise existing at all, “because it is a well known fact that Mario Kart 64 is the best Mario Kart.” He didn’t elaborate further, but his statement rang true for four of the other voters – including Webber, the lone enthusiast to join in on a top overall ranking for Mario Kart 64. Trevor also crossed the aisle on this one, citing nostalgic factors as a primary reason for his high regard. Stevie only put Mario Kart 64 in the middle of the pack, but permitted that fond memories had buoyed his ranking as well. Meanwhile, going back the other way, dabbler Sweeney – an avowed fan of Crash Team Racing and a longtime Mario Kart boycotter – called Mario Kart 64 “probably the worst of them all.”

On a much smaller scale, a similar discrepancy can be seen between Mario Kart Wii and Super Mario Kart. Once again, broadly speaking, this seems like a difference fueled primarily by accessibility issues and nostalgia.

Notably, the three games absent entirely from the dabblers’ list are the handheld Mario Karts. This makes sense; the enthusiasts are more likely to be hardcore gamers in their own right who own the devices necessary to play such games, whereas the dabblers are more casual in their approach.

The only thing both sides seem to agree on is the excellence of Double Dash!!; it’s the one game that seems to rank just as highly in both camps, and it’s also one of only three titles that all twelve bros included in their rankings. Fittingly, that’s our overall top-ranked game, living at the intersection of popular and beloved – a lone rickety bridge across an enormous difference of opinions.

Of course, for all the time we’ve spent highlighting the general differences between the enthusiasts and the dabblers, let us be clear that there are not, in fact, two separate sanctioned ranked lists of Mario Kart games at gametimebro. Nay, there’s just the one, forged not in spite of but in fact largely through the strength of the vastly different takes put forth by all twelve bros.

We look forward to continuing this spirited debate in an upcoming podcast and we apologize for luring you into this lengthy read with clickbait.

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