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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe wireless play comes with a weird controller restriction

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Wanna go wireless with at least two Switch consoles? Here are your control options

Mario in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Nintendo EAD/Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch is the definitive version of the original Wii U game, making it one of the best Mario Kart games in recent memory. But as we discovered when playing it for the first time earlier this week, there’s a curious limitation to one of the Switch version’s benefits — its varied control schemes.

As one of the Switch’s biggest selling points, there are several different ways to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. In most modes, players can choose to play with a single, horizontally held Joy-Con; a pair of Joy-Con controllers, either attached, detached or in a grip; or a Pro Controller.

Another cool thing about the Switch version is that up to eight Switch consoles can connect for some head-to-head play. The Wireless Play mode allows up to two players to share a screen and compete against their friends on other Switch consoles.

But the weird thing is that, in two-player splitscreen Wireless Play mode, the controller options become more limited. The option for each player to use a full pair of Joy-Con controllers is grayed out; the only controllers available are a single Joy-Con per player or two Pro Controllers.

The controller selection screen specifically says that Wireless Play mode “uses a single Joy-Con” when playing with two people.
Nick Robinson/Polygon

In essence: If at least three players on two separate Switch consoles are trying to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe using local wireless, they better get used to playing with a single Joy-Con or have enough Pro Controllers to go around.

This is a specific use case, obviously, and one predicated on owning an extra pair of Joy-Con controllers. But it’s odd that the Switch puts limits on how many ways there are to play in this mode, considering how much Nintendo plays up the varied control schemes the console offers.

Looking at the Nintendo Switch support page gives some insight into why there may be this limitation:

“Up to eight wireless controllers can be connected to the [Nintendo Switch] console,” according to the controller pairing FAQ. “However, the maximum number of controllers that can be connected will vary depending on the type of controllers and features that are used.”

The support page goes on to reiterate that in addition to “the limit of connected controllers by type, the number of connected controllers is also determined by the features being used on the controllers, and whether local communication is being used.”

We’ve reached out to Nintendo for answers, but with local communication called out specifically, we hypothesize that that’s the culprit behind the restriction. Although a single Nintendo Switch can handle up to eight different controllers, using wireless communication could very well add congestion to the system. With each Joy-Con counting as a separate controller, it’s not a total surprise that a Switch in Wireless Play mode may not be able to handle four different controllers at once.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is out on April 28.