What’s it really like to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with Brie Larson? Absolute, deliberate mayhem. I had accepted that Larson, a Nintendo ambassador and lifelong fan, would be hard to beat when I learned she was a formidable Mario Kart player who’d just played against college students that afternoon. They beat her, but still, she put in the practice time. And this wasn’t just a race; it was an interview, too. We would both have to multi-task.
When we connected on Zoom, I let her choose her favorite course. I decided it would just be our two avatars competing; me as Princess Peach on a motorcycle, her playing as her signature character, Luigi. No computers racing against us. No distractions.
“That’s fun. Sounds chaotic. I’m in,” Larson said.
I thought if Larson chose something like the Animal Crossing course, maybe I could win. Maybe I could pull it off! I played eight races against my boyfriend—a good Mario Kart player—for practice the night before and won them all. I consider myself to be a decent Mario Kart player. Not pro, but competitive enough.
Then Larson chose Rainbow Road. “We want a hard one,” she told me. “We just want chaos.” Initially, I thought, good thing I practiced that one. But it wasn’t the Mario Kart 8 version I played on. It was the SNES one.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has three versions of Rainbow Road: the Mario Kart 64 one, the SNES one, and a new one exclusive to Mario Kart 8. The SNES one has sharp, constant turns and no walls at all. Compare that to the Mario Kart 8 version, which has tricky turns but includes a few walls to break up the tension of the course. As my boyfriend texted me post-race, “The SNES courses were a nightmare lol.”
We started driving, I remembered I also had to try to ask questions, and then I hit the first turn. That’s when I knew: This was going to be the hardest round of Mario Kart I ever played.
“Oh my gosh. This course is brutal,” I told her.
“I know, but it’s beautiful,” Larson replied.
“Beautiful, but it’s brutal,” I stressed.
We kept driving, and I didn’t fall off, but only because I was carefully taking each turn at the cost of speed. You can’t have both unless you’re really, really good at dashing, a skill mechanic in the game that gives you a speed boost but can be tricky to execute correctly on back-to-back sharp turns. If you turn too much to the right or left, you’ll fall off.
As we raced, I asked Larson about her kart versus bike preference. “I feel I just don’t trust myself with the bike,” she explained. “But I also haven’t played that much with it.”
I asked her what her first Mario Kart game was (it was Mario Kart 64) and why she liked Rainbow Road so much. “It’s really just the nostalgic factor for me,” she said. “I just remember from the very first Mario Kart, it seemed like insanity. It felt to me and my sister, ‘This is impossible. This is crazy.’ I think it became…I don’t know, lore, in my family: being on a track with no edges.”
Halfway through the race, I looked down at the screen’s mini map. Larson was slightly ahead of me. It wasn’t impossible to catch up, but I knew if she drove the course perfectly, I would have to use some mushrooms (which can be used as speed boosts)—and also avoid falling off the course while using them.
We were on our last lap. Larson was still ahead…and then she struggled with a turn. “It was almost really bad,” she said. Then she did fall off. “This is giving you a really good opportunity,” she encouraged me. “You should take it.”
I had a banana and a mushroom, and a sharp turn ahead that I knew I could easily fall from if I didn’t take it carefully.
“I’m trying,” I told her. “It’s just… I’m so afraid of falling off, too.”
“Oh yeah. It’s scary,” Larson commiserated.
Winning wasn’t impossible, though. It all depended on how long it took her to recover from her fall. I inched closer to the finish line and saw her, too—recovered and ahead of me. She crossed the line a few seconds ahead of me. And that was it.
“I was close, but you got it,” I said.
“Well, I lost every game earlier today, so it was good for my ego,” Larson replied.
I thanked her for giving me my own ego check. She laughed. “I chose a hard track,” she admitted. True.
Larson may be competitive on Mario Kart, but she’s so nice to race, you can forgive her for choosing essentially the hardest course in the game.
Our interview time was running short, so our second race on the Mario Kart 8 version of Rainbow Road had to be put on hold. Before I hung up, I asked Larson about her tips for new players. Here’s what she offered:
Well, obviously start at 50cc first. Start on the easiest versions possible. And it really just takes practice. And if you are playing against somebody who’s new to it, I would slow down on my drifting and allow them to have—not target them maybe as much with items. Be a little bit kinder, not so brutal to them, just to get them some time in the game. But a lot of my friends who’ve gotten into gaming recently through my obsession, they’ve just wanted solo time. They’re like, “I’m not ready to play with you. I’ll just play on my own. I want to put some hours in on my own before we play together.”
And how does Larson feel about Captain Marvel meeting Ms. Marvel in The Marvels, the upcoming sequel to Captain Marvel? “I’m super excited.” she said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Larson revealed the director of the film, Nia DaCosta, is a gamer like her. “That’s the first time I’ve worked with somebody who also games like I do,” Larson said. She added that she doesn’t usually play Nintendo Switch with her coworkers on set, but she will bring her system with her. “Usually it’s just a solo thing. When I’m at work, it’s not a social thing. It’s a way for me to stay focused and to stay present in the scene while I’m waiting for them to change the camera around or move lights around. I can stay focused, but I’m playing Mario Tennis [Aces].”
Larson also shared her hopes for tomorrow’s Nintendo E3 presentation, where the company will be announcing its upcoming projects. “I’m excited about the future of Zelda,” she said. “I feel there’s just been bits of information [about the Breath of the Wild sequel] and I want to know more about it. And yeah, I’m interested in some surprises. I feel it’s always been fun when new characters get their own spinoff solo series. I would be stoked for that.”
Our call ended with kind goodbyes, and I knew as I turned my off Nintendo Switch that even though I lost, I still accomplished something truly insane. The outcome doesn’t matter: You’ll never forget the race.
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