My days of Mario Kart go way back to playing the original on SNES at my day care lady's house. Years later, my family got Mario Kart for the Wii, and over the last two and a half years we have played over 400 hours on it. Suffice to say, I'm a huge Mario Kart fan, so when I finally got a 3DS the newest iteration was a must. And I have to say, I haven't been disappointed at all.

The game plays just like any other in the series: you collect items while racing, drifting, and boosting your way into first. Gameplay holds a balance between complete luck and skillful driving, and all in all master memorization of the courses will net you first place. There are a number of new features, however, that really add to the experience.

First and foremost to these additions is the new air and underwater segments. While at first these additions seem gimmicky and minuscule, they actually add lots of diversity to the courses. There are few feelings greater than smoothly gliding into first place. Also, these additions are made not just to the 16 new races, but the other 16 retro ones as well, which helps mix things up a little.

The other big changes are intertwined. Coins are on the racetracks, and collecting them gives you a nice, yet very short, boost. Much more important, though, is that collecting these coins will unlock various parts to create your karts with. Customizing your vehicle is very enjoyable, and allows you to compromise between aesthetically pleasing and stats you prefer.

My only qualm with the game is the lack of characters. No characters (excluding Miis) are unlocked except for beating each of the 8 cups in 150 cc. That leaves very little reason for veterans to even bother playing the lower difficulty levels, and also gives you much less to work toward. Of these characters, only 4 are returnees: Daisy, Wario, Rosalina, and Shy Guy, who had taken a long sabbatical since his appearance as a special, multiplayer only character in Mario Kart DS. The other 4 characters are mostly duds: Metal Mario, Lakitu, Wiggler, and... Queen Bee? I honestly have no idea why they chose such bizarre characters. While Lakitu is deserving of his spot, the others have nearly no influence in the rest of the Mario series, and are only really fun for a match or two. I can't see why Nintendo would choose these characters as opposed to series staples like the babies, Dry Bones, and (to Dan's chagrin) Waluigi, who are all left out.

The 3D effect is the least eye straining of anything I've seen on the 3DS, and applies some nice graphical and lighting effects. In particular, this game is probably the best looking of any Mario Kart to date, as the courses and characters all look gorgeous. This game sets the example for how great 3DS games should look. The first-person view and gyro controls work fine, but I didn't find them to be that enjoyable. The online functions, however, work very well, especially the ability to race against a variety of ghosts all at once. Playing online adds lots of additional replay value to the game.

All in all, this is the best Mario Kart experience to date, with a great selection of courses and plenty of replay value. Fans will adore this game, and newbies to the series can easily mold into the great depth of content here.