Battle Mode is a minigame featured in all main Mario Kart games. In the first four games, Battle Mode is only available in multiplayer. Starting in Mario Kart DS, Battle Mode could be a single player mode with computer players or a multiplayer mode with or without them. Starting with Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, there are usually at least two different battle options.
Unlike regular races, Battle Mode takes place in specially designed Battle Courses, which are flat, enclosed arenas that are smaller than normal racetracks, but still contain various obstacles, and come in different layouts. An exception is Mario Kart 8, where the battle takes place in select racetracks instead of Battle Courses. However, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe returns to the traditional arena-based battle. Mario Kart Wii's battle courses are unique in their feature as that they change throughout the battle, either periodically (Thwomp Desert) or once for all (Block Plaza, Delfino Pier, and Chain Chomp Wheel). The only course in the game to which this does not apply is Funky Stadium.
Since Mario Kart Wii, Battle Mode has a different countdown sound at the start; instead of the regular beeps heard in normal races, they are replaced by air horns.
The items that are usable change as well. The Bullet Bill, Chain Chomp, and Spiny Shell (except in Mario Kart Wii) do not appear and the Lightning does not appear in Balloon Battle either. The Feather in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is exclusive to Battle Mode.
In all games, the engine class of Battle Mode is fixed to 50cc. An exception is the Renegade Roundup mode from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe where it is increased to 100cc.
Balloon Battle debuted in Super Mario Kart and has appeared in all installments since then. In this mode, players must use items to hit the opposing player to pop one of the three balloons. If all balloons are popped, the player is out and termed as sidelined. Later installments change the mechanics, such as being based on balloons popped rather than being the last man standing.
Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! have four-player support, allowing up to four players to battle, unlike Super Mario Kart, where it is limited to two players. The latter game's LAN Mode even allows up to eight players (sixteen with Co-op Play) to play in Battle Mode. In Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Super Circuit, once a player loses all of their balloons, they turn into a Mini Bomb Kart or a Bob-omb, respectively. In this form, they can ram into other players to blow them up and steal their balloons, although after doing so in Mario Kart 64, they do not respawn. Getting hit by items does not cause it to explode.
Mario Kart DS has a few changes to Balloon Battle. For the first time, it can be played in single-player, unlike the previous four games, which require being in multiplayer to play. The player also starts out with one balloon instead of three, and more can be blown by holding or by blowing into the . There are four balloons in reserve (five in total), and the kart has to be stopped before blowing another balloon. The player can only choose the Standard Kart in this mode.
Mario Kart Wii introduced a lot of changes to Balloon Battle. The match is now timed to three minutes, and the objective is to pop the most balloons within that time limit instead of the traditional last-man standing setup. The characters are now divided into two teams; free-for-all matches are not available. A new addition to this game is the ability to respawn after losing all balloons; this causes one point to be deducted from the team's total points.
Mario Kart 7 allows players to battle in two teams or in a free-for-all match. The time limit of the match is reduced to two minutes, and when losing all balloons, players now lose half of their points instead of a single one as in Mario Kart Wii. In addition, any vehicle can be used for Battle Mode, like in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, and unlike Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii, which only lets players use the Standard Kart and Standard Bike in the mode.
Mario Kart 8's battles take place on regular racecourses throughout the game alongside the rules changing again; it combines the survival mechanic used in older games and the timed point-based setup of previous two installments. Players start with three points, and losing a balloon will deduct one point. If all balloons are popped, they are out of the game, but in team mode or multiplayer, players can still participate as a ghost and cannot gain more points. Appearing transparent on the player's screen but invisible to everyone else, they can still use items to harm the other players, and can still win if the player manages to reach enough points prior to losing all balloons. Balloon Battle is the only Battle Mode option available in Mario Kart 8. As a result of some of these modifications, the Battle Mode in Mario Kart 8 has been criticized for the lack of original battle stages.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe changes the Battle Mode rules to the setup last used in Mario Kart 7 with new battle arenas and some changes. Just like in Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7, Balloon Battle uses the timed point-based scoring system rather than the last-man standing formula and can be played either in teams or against each other. Each player now starts out with five balloons rather than the traditional three, and losing all balloons halves the player's points, just like in Mario Kart 7. The player respawns with three balloons instead of five.
This mode first appeared in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! and returned in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. In this mode, a Shine Sprite is found in a random spot on the course. Once a player grabs it, they must hold on to it without getting hit by any items. If they get hit by an item, they drop the Shine Sprite and another player has a chance to get it. If the player holds the Shine Sprite until the timer reaches zero, they win.
In Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, the timer will stop and be reduced by few seconds when the player with the Shine Sprite is hit by an item and drops it (i.e. When the timer is at 48 seconds and the player with the Shine Sprite drops it, the timer will stop and instantly be reduced to 45 seconds). When nobody has the Shine Sprite, a different music plays. If anybody gets the Shine Sprite, the battle music plays. This is also applied to Tilt-a-Kart and Luigi's Mansion.
In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the player has to hold on to the Shine Sprite for a total of 20 (30 in team battle) counts (one count is equal to about two seconds) to win. When the player has the Shine Sprite in possession, the timer counts down from 20 counts. If that player drops it when five or more counts remain, then they have that time left to hold the Shine Sprite once they pick it up again. However, if that player drops the Shine Sprite when the number of remaining counts is below five and then picks it up again, the timer restarts from five counts. Also, if another player who has never touched it picks it up, the timer starts from 20 counts for that player. A game ends when one player successfully finishes all 20 counts or five minutes pass without anybody completing 20 counts. When the game ends, the total time the player held the Shine Sprite is counted toward the player's total points, even if they did not hold on to the Shine Sprite until the timer reached zero. Unlike in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, no specific music is used when the Shine Sprite is in possession or not.
Another battle option that appears in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, this mode features Bob-ombs as the only items obtainable in Item Boxes. If a player hits someone else with a Bob-omb, they earn a point, but if a player is hit by a Bob-omb, they lose a point. If they earn the necessary amount of points first, they win. The points needed to win is three for a two-player battle and four for a three-player or four-player battle. Notably, players can hold more Bob-ombs in this mode than they can items in all other modes, up to ten (five per character).
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe changes the rules to those of a normal Balloon Battle, but with the only items being Bob-ombs. The limit of Bob-ombs a player can hold is still ten. The distance a player throws a Bob-omb forwards depends on how long they hold the button.
Shine Runners is a battle option found only in Mario Kart DS. In this mode, nine Shine Sprites are found on the battle arena. The goal is to get more Shine Sprites than the opponents. Getting hit by items causes the player to lose a Shine Sprite. There is a timer on the Touch Screen; when it reaches zero, any players with the fewest Shine Sprites get removed from the game. The process repeats until one player remains.
Coin Runners is a battle option that appears in Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart 7, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Similarly to Shine Runners, coins are scattered across the arena. Teams or players have to collect the most coins before time runs out to win. Players lose coins they have obtained if they get hit by items. In Mario Kart 7 only, a maximum of 10 coins can be collected at a time.
A battle option that debuts in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it is a game mode in the vein of "cops and robbers," with the racers being divided into two teams. One team, known as "The Authorities," has to use potted Piranha Plants (which are permanently attached to the front of their vehicle and only serve to capture the opposing team; they do not operate like the regular item) in order to capture players from the other team, known as "The Renegades." Captured Renegades are transported into one of several cells floating above various points on the course, where they can drive around the inside of a small cage. Remaining Renegades can free teammates from the cells by driving over a key switch placed below said jail cells. The Renegades win if at least one member is still running free after the time runs out, and the Authorities win if all the Renegades get captured. The Authorities also temporarily lose their ability to capture if they are hit by items, and Renegades receive a speed boost when they are freed from the cells.
Super Mario Kart
Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
Mario Kart DS
Mario Kart Wii
Mario Kart 7
Mario Kart 8
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
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