mario kart 8

We have to admit that we may have lost a little faith in Nintendo over the past couple of years. The Wii U is a curious piece of hybrid hardware that has yet to see any truly groundbreaking titles, and the company’s uncharacteristically zealous foray into the world of 3-D technology with its most recent portable took us off guard. But 2014 is shaping up to be a good year not just for Nintendo but for Wii U owners.

Unveiled a few months ago, Mario Kart 8 looked to be more of the same and left many wishing Nintendo would stop adding wacky accessories to its cartoon go-karts and just give us classic Mario racing like we had on the SNES, but videos taken at the recent Gamescom event in Cologne show just how nicely the game is shaping up to be, with beautiful tracks and karts as well as brand new game dynamics. Suffice it to say, our interest has most definitely been piqued.

In the newest racer, players will be able to choose between traditional karts or the motorcycles introduced in Mario Kart Wii, with Mario Kart 7‘s glider-controlled flight and underwater racing sections making a (welcome?) return. This time around, however, racers will be able to speed along walls and even upside-down thanks to anti-gravity sections of track, creating scenes reminiscent of Nintendo’s futuristic racing franchise, F-Zero.

German site GetGaming’s video shows just how smoothly the game runs, with impressively high frame-rates and everything from track-side objects to the karts themselves being surprisingly detailed. Even in these off-screen videos, Mario Kart 8 is looking simply gorgeous.

Next up is IGN’s off-screen video, which gives us a better look at how the Wii U’s controller is used during gameplay.

As with many Mario Kart games before it, the Wii U controller’s second screen is seemingly used for little more than displaying information such as karters’ positions and acts as an in-game horn, with a giant icon in the centre of the virtual wheel showing a coloured icon to remind the player, if it were needed, which character they’re racing as. Since it is fitted with gyroscopes, the controller itself can be used as a steering wheel simply by tilting it left and right–something that’s sure to appeal to younger gamers and grandma after she protests that she doesn’t know how to play video games–although thankfully it looks like karts can also be guided using the controller’s left thumb stick.

Finally, here’s NINTENDOMiNATiON’s footage of a two-player race. The camera work is a little shaky at times, but it gives us a chance to see how smoothly the game runs even in split-screen mode, which to be fair is where Mario Kart has always shone.

Mario Kart 8 may well be further proof that Nintendo is content to pump out sequel after sequel when it comes to its most popular franchises (though why titles like Earthbound and Starfox haven’t received high-definition reboots or direct sequels we have no idea), but it’s comforting to see how at home the game looks in HD, not to mention the fact that Nintendo seemingly always finds a new way to liven up a series that has been around for more than 20 years now.

The game is currently in development at Nintendo’s in-house studios and is expected to arrive in stores in spring 2014. If you’re reading this, Nintendo, you should know that we’re expecting great things here.

Title image via Gamingtrend