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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe guide: Winning in Battle Mode

Strategies for everything old and new

Mario Kart 8 fans who have been clamoring for the past few years for a real battle mode will be pleased to know that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe delivers. In addition to bringing back four classic battle modes there’s also a new addition in Renegade Roundup, a cops and robbers style mode. In this guide, we'll teach you how to win them all.

Master Balloon Battle first

Balloon Battle, the original battle mode from the SNES onward, is back in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It's also the very first place you'll want to stop for practice.

Although the rules have changed slightly, the idea of shooting power-ups at your enemies and taking away their balloons (which represent lives) has not. Note that if you lose all of your balloons, you will get to keep playing, but you'll lose half your score in the process. You need to be aggressive if you want to rack up your points to a respectable level.

Things are a little more hectic with two item slots in play, especially since you can’t swap them or acquire new items by holding them behind your kart. While it may seem unintuitive at first, these restrictions guide you toward a more offensive play style that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe wants you to play. Playing aggressively pays dividends.

A tip that will serve you well in every mode is to keep one eye on the map at all times. When playing with other people, it’s important to note which players are more experienced and try to stay out of their way. Additionally, looking at the map will ensure that you aren’t getting cornered by multiple players, who will fling all of their items at you.

Stick to the outskirts of levels and the edges so you aren’t easily as seen or targeted. Since Balloon Battle is the rawest form of combat with no other inherent objectives, it’s the best way to get a feel for playing against other people.

Approach battles differently depending on the map. Battle Stadium contains a lot of narrow highways that are easy to get boxed into, so try not to take a road unless it’s deserted. You could be the victim of an easy red shell. Other maps that contain multiple tiers like Sweet Sweet Kingdom, Dragon Palace or Luigi’s Mansion severely favor fighting on higher ground. Not only can you avoid conflict in modes where you have lives to worry about, but you can also rain down fire from above with certain weapons like the bob-omb or by throwing a banana.

One last tip: If you get a feather, a series staple item that returns in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s battle mode, don’t fret. You can use it to dodge incoming attacks or as a weapon because if you leap over an enemy, it’ll pop one balloon.

Bob-omb Blast

While the battle royal style conceit is the same, the rules are wildly different in Bob-omb Blast. Every item has been replaced by the titular bob-ombs, which can be thrown in front of your kart or dropped behind for an area-of-effect blast.

The scoring system is the same as Balloon Battle and karts even sport actual balloons yet again, representing lives.

To survive in Bob-omb Blast, you need to adopt an even more aggressive technique. As you can see in the screenshot above, the beginning is a lot like being in the Hunger Games. Every box contains bombs, and although you can only hold 10 of them, they’re often in short supply as players fight over them.

Boxes are a hot spot for blasts, so be cautious and scope them out before you just barge in to up your arsenal. Again, glancing at the map can tell you what areas are hotter than others.

You can bomb box areas if you see enemies going for them. (Hitting them head-on while giving chase can be tough as they zip around to dodge your volleys.) You can also opt to drop most of your bombs behind you, a tactic made even more effective with the use of the X button to trigger the rearview mirror.

If you’re playing a character with low acceleration (typically heavy racers like Bowser), you may not want to rush into the bomb pile at the start because others may beat you to the punch. Instead, head in the opposite direction and look for your own stockpile.

Renegade Roundup

This game mode is comprised of two teams: the cops and the robbers. Renegade Roundup players will need to either nab the opposing team by chomping them with a piranha plant or evade capture for a specified period of time.

Caught robbers will be placed into a jail cell, but they'll be freed if another robber drives over a button mechanism placed directly below it. All jails (and cops) are shown on the map, but robbers only appear if a cop has them in their field of view.

Kitted out with plants at the start by default, cops need to hunt down robbers and get close enough to eat them. Doing so will automatically place them in a cell, rendering them useless unless they’re rescued. Gameplay continues until the cops have captured all of the robbers, or the robbers stay alive long enough for the clock to run out.

Having less robbers running around at any given time makes it easier to corner the active ones, so it’s imperative that you try to capture as many robbers as possible right away. The most efficient strategy is to have each cop go for a different target. This isn’t always possible online or without a form of communication, so use the on-screen map to divine which cops and going for which robbers, and make your move.

Also, it’s very important that you actually guard the cells as a cop. If every cop is chasing a robber and leaving the cells unattended, it’ll be easy for robbers to keep freeing their teammates. As a cop, if you see an on-screen prompt that someone has been captured, grab the closest item box to use as a defensive tool and head toward that jail cell. Camp out near it, and look for anyone who's aiming to sneak up on the button.

As a robber, the map is your friend. Cops can’t always see you, so heading toward isolated corners is a great way to stay alive. If you want to practice Renegade Roundup, we recommend testing it out on the maps Battle Course 1 and Urchin Underpass, as their flat layouts make it easy to grasp the idea of guarding and attacking jails.

Coin Runners

A late introduction to the series, Coin Runners features a simple collection mechanic. You need to get as many coins as possible by attacking enemies or finding them out in the wild.

Even though it’s probably the least nuanced form of battle in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, there’s still a degree of strategy involved. While glancing at the map is always important, it’s paramount here. As random coins appear throughout the level, shown on the map as yellow dots. Sometimes it’s not worth the chase as other players are no doubt looking for the same prize, but if you’re in the vicinity, you may as well boost over to them.

You can take multiple approaches to Coin Runners, but going after the pack leader and bringing them down a peg is the easiest way to ensure victory. If you let someone hang back in the shadows and amass a fortune, it’ll be difficult to steal their riches. Targeting someone before they get to that point will whittle down their score. It'll also slowly increase your earnings, but you’ll also become the next punching bag.

Shine Thief

As a giant game of tag, Shine Thief is the easiest mode to explain to newcomers. There’s a giant golden sun item that everyone needs to grab. If you hold on to it long enough, you win. Hit the player in possession of the item with an item to knock it out of their possession.

You don’t want to play it coy in Shine Thief, as nabbing the objective immediately is a great way to get your cumulative timer down as quickly as possible. The more you have the shine, the better chance you have of eventually claiming victory, so even holding it for a few seconds can slowly knock bits off your score.

One winning strategy is to save a mushroom or another boost item for when you’re actually in a position get the shine. Then get the shine, and boost away from the pack. You’ll quickly put some distance between you and the crowd and knock a huge chunk of time off in the process.

As tempting as it may be, don’t waste time skirmishing with others if they don’t have the shine. Stay laser-focused on the prize.

Want to get some practice in? Try the Lunar Colony map with AI. The bumpy, yet sprawling arena will teach you how to avoid enemy fire when you’re out in the open. You’ll also get plenty of room to test out your escape boosts or chase skills with extensive layout.