How do you score a game like Mario Kart, where there are millions of players worldwide, each with their own perception of what the franchise should be, what's important in a Kart experience, how they want to play it, and which game is truly the pinnacle of the series? What it really comes down to is exactly how Nintendo was aiming this one, what worked, and what didn't. It's obvious now more than ever that Kart is an every-player's game, so while you've got a few options for the hardcore gamers, there's dozens more geared towards those in the Mario Party, Wii Sports, and Wii Play camp. There are some things that feel completely out of whack though, such as the uncharacteristically cheap AI in 150cc, the lack of voice chat for an extremely social online game, reliance on friend codes, and "everyone's a winner" feeling you get when random items show up and completely turn the game upside down in an instant. Granted that's Kart, but it's also a way to water down competition, which is exactly how Super Mario Kart got its start.
Every player is going to have their own love/hate relationship with Mario Kart Wii, but in the end the game does so many things right that it'd be foolish not to give credit where due. Online seriously raises the bar for Nintendo, trumping even Smash in a big, big way. The sense of community you can get even with random racers online and ghost-supported leader boards is impressive, and the fact that you can head on to Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection solo, with a friend via split screen, or hook up with buddies across the world without worry of lag and never-ending disconnect notices makes Mario Kart Wii a pure joy to play online. It isn't the best Mario Kart in the series, but it's a must-play experience on Wii, and standard-setting offering as far as online, channel support, and connectivity are concerned. Now if you'll excuse us, we've got some online stats to obsess over.