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The Mario Kart Wii controller showdown

Ross Miller

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There are five ways to handle your racer in Mario Kart Wii: Wii Remote solo, Wii Remote embedded in Wii Wheel, Wii Remote with Nunchuk, Classic Controller, and GameCube controller. But, removing all other variables, which control method is the best? Are there really limitations to not using the Wii Wheel? We decided to pull out the ever-trusty "scientific method" and determine, once and for all, the best kart controller.

The Setup

To isolate the control scheme variable, we used a controlled setting. Given the stability of the control scheme, we stuck as close as we could to the following strategy:

  • Mario using Standard Kart M or Standard Bike B, Manual Power Slides
  • Solo Time Trial on Luigi Circuit
  • First curve must be normal turn
  • Power sliding all the way through second curve (until orange if possible)
  • At next straightway, use a boost mushroom at second set of adjacent pipes, go off the course and over the ramp, and do a trick mid-air
  • Power sliding through final curve, avoiding boosters (until orange if possible)
  • (Bike only) Performing a wheelie from end of curve until crossing finish line
We ran three trials with each control scheme and each bike (that's 3 x 5 x 2 = 30 separate trials), recording the best lap and best time for each.

The Results

Best Time Best Lap Best Time Best Lap
GCN Controller 1.29.169 29.14 1.31.405 29.69
Classic Controller 1.30.093 29.343 1.31.889 29.874
Wii Remote 1.35.31 30.659 1.36.774 30.932
Wii Wheel 1.32.799 29.706 1.34.247 31.060
Nunchuk 1.30.070 29.499 1.30.481 29.398

Other Thoughts
  • Double Dash veterans beware! The control scheme using the GameCube controller is very different.
  • When used alone, the Wii Remote is incredibly unstable. We had a difficult time staying on course, never mind managing to execute a power slide. Mid-air tricks took noticeably more effort than simply pressing a button.
  • The Wii Wheel was a lot more accurate than we expected. The added weight helped counteract much of the instability we experienced while using the Wii Remote on its own.
  • Performing tricks on the GCN controller or Classic Controller, via the D-pad, feels awkward. We're not fond of removing our thumb from the joystick, only to dart back to it when we need to turn. (But such is the cost of showing off.)
  • We never want to play Luigi Circuit again. Ever.
  • Mario is setting a very bad example for the children by not wearing a helmet while riding on a motorcycle. You'd think all those smash attacks to the head would've knocked some sense into him.

We guessed beforehand that the GameCube Controller would dominate in every category, so it was somewhat unexpected when the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination fared so well, especially when using a bike. Not surprisingly, the Classic Controller had almost the exact same times as the GCN controller.

We've also come to understand why Nintendo is pushing the Wii Wheel so vigorously -- without it, the Wii Remote option is just dreadful. If you're worried about precision, we'd suggest a more traditional style (GCN controller or Classic Con). If you're looking for fun, take the Wii Wheel for a spin. Our best all-around controller scheme is actually the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo. But seriously, no matter what your choice becomes, avoid the Wii Remote solo option at all times!

Pen and paper stat tracking? Oh yes! (We used an abacus for complex calculations too.)

Need a Kart fix? Check out all our coverage of Mario Kart Wii!

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