Nintendo Took Away All My Old Mario Kart Friends

How planned obsolescence is changing networked gaming universes. 

In my household, we make big life decisions by playing Mario Kart. 

Want to talk through the pros and cons of a job offer? Meet me on Rainbow Road. After that, we can finally figure out what we should really budget for various household expenses while avoiding mack trucks and blue shells on Moonview Highway. I'm telling you, it works. Mario Kart requires the perfect amount of attention and offers just enough distraction to make tough calls seem easy over the course of a race or 17. Give me Funky Kong on the Flame Runner and I can figure out what to do. 

Playing against the world network always helps, too, because you're united against a common enemy—one day that enemy is Reaper, some stranger who's playing halfway across the globe (and totally seems like a hacker, by the way) another day it's the player who made an avatar that looks exactly like Voldemort and keeps throwing red shells at you like a total jerk. 

So imagine my disappointment when—amid the flurry of excitement over the new Mario Kart, the one for Wii U—I returned to my trusty Wii last night and saw this: 


So Nintendo sincerely thanks me for my continued support of legacy systems, but my days of shouting at my television while racing strangers on Maple Treeway are no more. 

I mean, I get it. There's a new Mario Kart now. Wii U has been in stores for a year and a half. And it wouldn't really make sense, I guess, for Nintendo to manage separate global networks of players—especially when it wants the Wii crowd to upgrade to the new system. 

But it's also a reminder of what we risk when part of what we're buying is a connected gaming experience—not just the software itself. When I dig out Super Mario Kart for Super Nintendo (so clunky, so beautiful), the game is just as I remember it from slumber parties in eighth grade. But Mario Kart for Wii will never be the same. I suppose that's okay. Video games are different now, and nostalgia aside, they're obviously better. It's still a little sad to see the ruins of a once-populated place you can't really get to anymore.

This is an experience that's familiar in many aspects of life—like when you return to a bar you once loved only to find out it's a Bank of America now. That little pang of loss is becoming more familiar in digital spaces. The Internet is a place, in our minds at least, and there's only so much the Wayback Machine can save. A screenshot, like a photograph, never quite captures the way things used to be. 

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Adrienne LaFrance is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Technology Channel. Previously she worked as an investigative reporter for Honolulu Civil Beat, Nieman Journalism Lab, and WBUR. More

Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Gawker, The Awl, and several other publications.

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