MARIO KART 7 Yep! That's Mario! In a kart!

YEAH, YEAH, I know. I covered a Mario game last week, and here I am writing up Mario Kart 7. I hate to be repetitive, but blame Nintendo: Since the 3DS' March 2011 release, the handheld has been plagued by a lack of quality games, and apparently the company decided to fix that entirely within the span of a single month.

Oh no, did I ruin the big surprise? Are you all shocked to hear that a Mario Kart game is quite good? Seriously? More so even than the core Super Mario Bros. games, Mario Kart has always been Nintendo's most consistently excellent first-party series—the worst entry was still a game of the year nominee—and Mario Kart 7 does nothing to change that.

Granted, the game includes a few questionable additions. Of the new kart customization options, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto recently said that he "didn't think that had much to do with the core fun of the series." Despite the added replay value it adds, I'm inclined to agree. Likewise, the new hang-glider option gets way more attention than it deserves. At best it's a gimmick. While not so much as the useless wheel peripheral from Mario Kart Wii, it does hint that Nintendo is running out of ideas.

Fortunately, the firm's old ideas are still as brilliant as ever. The courses and power-up selection in Mario Kart 7 are both excellent and well balanced for single and multiplayer gaming. Classic tracks are joined by new additions, and all are far more complex than they first appear. Alongside the series' best online functionality to date, and Mario Kart's de rigueur cup system, there's a ton of addictive gameplay here.

Mario Kart 7 isn't the series' best outing, but that still puts it far ahead of most other games on the market. For $40, it's a no-brainer.