From the Super Mario Wiki, the Mario encyclopedia
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Karts are the main vehicles in the Mario Kart series. They can come in various sizes and colors for each character. While early Mario Kart games only depicted one universal kart model, the Pipe Frame, subsequent games have introduced newer models with their own distinct stats such as speed, acceleration and handling. Usually, the kart that is closest to average in terms of stats in each game is defined as the Standard Kart.
Karts have also appeared in other game series and media such as in the Super Smash Bros. series, comics, and toys.
Mario Kart series
Super Mario Kart
Super Mario Kart features Pipe Frames as the default go-kart model used by all characters. The term "kart" also applies to the extra lives a driver has in Grand Prix mode; drivers start out each Grand Prix cup with three karts, and can lose them one by one by coming in 5th or lower in a race or by retrying a race. When all karts are lost, the player is forced to exit to the title screen. It is possible to regain one more life in Grand Prix by placing the same position three times in a row.
Mario Kart 64
Pipe Frames return in Mario Kart 64 as the universal kart, with slight design changes and new sounds. Depending on the characters that use them, karts pertain to one of three weight classes: light, medium, and heavy. Lights are karts that show a high speed but a fairly low endurance. Medium karts show all-around traits, whereas Heavy karts have high endurance but poor speed.
Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Pipe Frames reappear in Mario Kart: Super Circuit with the same traits as in Mario Kart 64, yet again being the only usable kart model. The player can press to sound the horn on the kart during a race.
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
In Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, the basic models of the karts, seen from Super Mario Kart to Mario Kart: Super Circuit, are taken out. For the Mario Kart for the Nintendo GameCube, the karts appear in new models and styles. Most of them reflect some character's special characteristics, such as Mario's kart, the Red Fire, which it is a red and blue-colored all-terrain vehicle, rendering Mario's letter M emblem on its body and wheels. The design of the karts also are changed, regarding the new concept "two racers in one vehicle" within the game. The karts have a seat on the front where a character drives the kart and a platform in the rear of the vehicle where the second character is able to use an item, taken from the Item Boxes. Just as in Mario Kart: Super Circuit, in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, the karts are split in three weight groups: Light, Medium, and Heavy. The use of these karts is determined by the characters' weights; therefore, while one of the two characters has a higher weight, characters use a kart within the Medium or Heavy weight class. Pairing both lightweight characters results in a vehicle used as a light kart. The Parade Kart breaks this rule, being usable for any character. The player can press the item button (/) (without the rear character holding an item) to sound the horn, and the rear player makes a small pose.
Every kart has also its own stats. The kart's stats are qualified by the amount of stars on its acceleration, speed, and weight. However, these stars can be misleading. In general, lightweight karts have a high acceleration, but a fair low speed and endurance. Medium-weight karts have balanced stats, whereas heavyweight karts show a high top speed and endurance, and low acceleration.
There are twenty-one karts in all for this installment.
Mario Kart Arcade GP sub-series
In Mario Kart Arcade GP, all the characters use a standardized model of the kart, appearing with rounded details and a solid build (somewhat akin to a bumper car) as opposed to many other previous Mario Kart games.
However, in Mario Kart Arcade GP 2, the characters have an option to choose a secondary kart that was made for them, rather similar to Mario Kart: Double Dash!! and Mario Kart DS.
Just as in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, all the karts are rated by the amount of the stars for each aspect. Regarding to the character selected, they can be light, medium, or heavy, emphasizing one of these aspects for the vehicle available.
Mario Kart Arcade GP
Mario Kart Arcade GP 2
Mario Kart Arcade GP DX
Mario Kart DS
Unlike what happened in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, the basic models of the karts reappear in Mario Kart DS, having the name of Standard Karts. These karts are redesigned, having white bumpers and a hood of different color palettes that matches the character's custom color. The decal of the character is shown over the hood, although the player can replace it with their own in the emblem maker option. Additionally, every character can select at least one of three vehicles (excluding Shy Guy, having only his Standard Kart SG), exclusive for being rather different in design and stats than the character's Standard Kart. While a Standard Kart has plain stats, the other vehicles can have a high speed, acceleration or items ratio, depending on what the vehicle is made for. Every Kart is qualified by six ratings:
Mario Kart Wii
The Karts in Mario Kart Wii are once again redesigned with various details added than they appeared formerly. Similar to Mario Kart DS, the typical go-karts receive the name of Standard Karts, and are classified according to the size of the vehicle, split in three groups: Standard Kart S for small-sized characters; Standard Kart M for medium size characters and Standard Kart L for large characters. Albeit weight classes are replaced for size classes, the general aspects of the karts are the same as appeared throughout the series.
In addition, each racer can vary the kart's custom stats with the bonus points he or she has for each feature and select other five karts in the determined character's size. Unlike in other games, every kart has a unique color scheme for the players using it, not just the Standard Karts.
Unlike their two-wheeled counterparts Bikes, Karts cannot perform wheelies. However, they can release a more powerful boost by drifting than a bike, depending how long the respective button is pressed. Compared to bikes, karts generally offer superior speed and weight in exchange for being weaker in every other stat. Additionally, bikes have six trick variants while karts only have three.
Mario Kart 7
Karts make another appearance in Mario Kart 7 for the Nintendo 3DS, with the Standards having a similar design to their appearance from Mario Kart DS. They are seen to have some new additions: they deploy gliders if a character is propelled in the air from a high place to help them glide, and when underwater, a propeller will appear at the back to help push the kart along. Players are able to customize their karts as well. Some Karts from previous installments also return in the game which are listed in bold.
Mario Kart 8 / Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
The standard Kart appears in Mario Kart 8. They have a similar appearance to the Standards from Mario Kart 7, but this time they have a new addition for the anti-gravity; the wheels go horizontal. Like in Mario Kart 7, the players are able to choose the bodies, wheels, and gliders for their karts. The Pipe Frame and Gold Standard return from Mario Kart 7 with slightly different appearances. The player can also press the player icon on the to sound the horn (or press the item button when there's no item being held), a feature absent since Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. Karts also come equipped with lights, which turn on when karts enter a tunnel or a dark area.
In the enhanced Nintendo Switch port Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, all the kart parts from Mario Kart 8 return as base game content, including the DLC parts. As well, the Koopa Clown returns from Mario Kart 7 as the only kart body not present in Mario Kart 8.
Karts returning from previous games are listed in bold.
Mario Kart Tour
Karts make their reappearance in the mobile installment Mario Kart Tour, functioning similarly to how they worked in Mario Kart 7, though parts are now acquired randomly through Pipes, which cost rubies. In addition, Karts are sorted into three rarities: Normal, Super, and High-End, with the last ones being rarer, and overall being more powerful.
Karts returning from previous games are listed in bold.
"Die Jagd nach dem Nintendo 64: Krawall im All"
In the Club Nintendo comic "Die Jagd nach dem Nintendo 64: Krawall im All", Mario and Luigi are seen driving karts in their mission to find a spaceship shaped like the Nintendo 64. They compete against Wario and Bowser and make another reference to the Mario Kart games by dropping Banana Peels and making them crash. The karts seen in this comic resemble those seen in the then-new Mario Kart 64. Unlike their video game equivalents, though, they can also be turned into jet skis by pushing a button on their steering-wheels.
Mario Kirby Meisaku Video
A Kart makes an appearance resembling the one in Super Mario Kart in the Mario segment of the Mario Kirby Meisaku Video where Mario drives it during his pursuit of the mysterious thief W. Eventually, after being attacked by some monsters, he spins out near a vegetable garden.
Mario Kart 8 From the Pit
Super Mario Maker
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, one of Luigi's adventures takes place at Circuit Break Island, where the citizens have kart races every day. Luigi begs Torque to let him drive a kart, called the Big Green 01, and instantly wrecks it. Unable to pay and repair the kart, Torque follows Luigi to Rogueport.
Paper Mario: Color Splash
In Paper Mario: Color Splash, after Mario collects the green Big Paint Star from the Emerald Circus, it flies off the map and Luigi is heard laughing. When the Big Paint Stars form a rainbow road up to Black Bowser's Castle, Luigi drives to Port Prisma in a green kart, telling Mario that the Big Paint Star repainted it. He drives Mario and Huey to the castle, and stops right out front. After Mario and Huey defeat Black Bowser and rescue Princess Peach, Luigi encourages Peach, Mario, and Huey to board the kart. However, Huey stays back to capture the castle and contain its black paint. Luigi drives Mario and Peach safely back to Port Prisma.
Paper Mario: The Origami King
In Paper Mario: The Origami King, Luigi uses his kart to drive Mario to Toad Town, stopping in front of Princess Peach's Castle. Later, the kart is seen tipped over at the castle grounds, and Luigi drives it again after being rescued from inside a wall. At Origami Castle, Luigi finds that his kart has the Key to Peach's Castle stuck in its tailpipe.
Super Mario Run
In Super Mario Run, Mario and his kart appears as a statue.
Super Smash Bros. series
Super Smash Bros. Melee Trophy
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Karts make a brief appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Unlike in Melee, where they appear as trophies, they are obstacles for the Mario Circuit battle stage. All the karts are as seen in Mario Kart DS, driven by red Shy Guys competing a race, while characters carry out their battle there. The karts tend to pass in the road where contestants fight, dealing damage to anybody who makes contact with them. Characters can use their moves against karts to send them flying away. Unlike how they looked in Mario Kart DS, Karts come in various colors, and their bumpers and emblems are colored differently as well.
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U
Karts driven by Shy Guys reappear in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS on the Rainbow Road stage, as well as in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U on both the new Mario Circuit stage and the one returning from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, and Donkey Kong were also seen driving karts in Rosalina's trailer.
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