The game plays like any Mario Kart game. You race around a track, trying to get the highest place possible. There are also Item Boxes around the track which give you items that can either help you or hinder your opponents. You can also drive on walls and underwater, as well as hang-glide. Both gliding and drifting are more like Mario Kart 7.
In this single-player mode, you race against 11 CPUs across a group of 4 races, called a cup. You gain points based on your ranking in each race. There are also certain difficulty levels, called "engine classes". They are 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, 50cc Mirror, 100cc Mirror, and 150cc Mirror.
Here, you can race yourself for your best time, either solo, or against a "ghost", a recording of your past races. There are also "staff ghosts" of Molten Blaze and Nintendo employees already programmed in the game. You start each Time Trial with 3 Mushrooms.
Here, you can play alone or with others. You can customize what the engine class is, which items there will be, what tracks to play, how many races, whether it's a team or solo race, who the CPUs are and what they use, the CPU's difficulty, and the number of CPUs.
Balloon Battle returns to the way it was done in MK8, where you gain points for popping balloons, and if you run out of balloons, you lose. However, here, you become a red shell and can target 1 other person, whild aiming yourself and bouncing off walls. The last person standing or the person with the most points before time runs out wins.
In this game mode, Shine Sprites are scattered around and you must collect them before time runs out. The person with the most Shine Sprites at the end wins.
|Mario (Medium)||Luigi (Medium)||Peach (Light)||Daisy (Light)|
|Yoshi (Light)||Toad (Feather)||Koopa Troopa (Feather)||Donkey Kong (Heavy)|
|Baby Mario (Youth)||Baby Luigi (Youth)||Baby Peach (Youth)||Metal Mario (Cruiser)|
|Bowser (Heavy)||Wario (Heavy)||Waluigi (Cruiser)||King Boo (Cruiser)|
|Rosalina (Medium)||Princess Plum (Medium)||Princess Rose (Medium)||Pink Gold Peach (Cruiser)|
|Baby Daisy (Youth)||Baby Rosalina (Youth)||Toadette (Feather)|
|Bowser Jr. (Youth)||Diddy Kong (Light)||Monty Mole (Feather)||Shy Guy (Feather)|
|Cranky Kong (Medium)||Kritter (Cruiser)||Pianta (Cruiser)||Meowser (Heavy)|
|Mushroom||The Mushroom gives you a quick speed boost.|
|Triple Mushrooms||3 Mushrooms that orbit around your kart.|
|1-Up Mushroom||The 1-Up Mushroom gives you a slow but constant speed boost until you are 1 place ahead or behind. In 1st, it acts like a normal mushroom.|
|Golden Mushroom||Provides infinite speed boosts for a short time.|
|Green Shell||A simple projectile that slides forwards, bouncing off walls.|
|Triple Green Shell||3 Green Shells that orbit around your kart.|
|Red Shell||A Shell that homes in on enemies.|
|Triple Red Shells||3 Red Shells that orbit around your kart.|
|Spiny Shell||The Spiny Shell flies in on the 1st place person, and strikes them with an explosion.|
|Bowser Shell||A giant shell that bounces 15 times and can hit as many people as it wants.|
|Banana||Stays in one place. If opponents slip on it, they will spin out.|
|Banana Bunch||5 Bananas that drag behind your kart.|
|Fake Item Box||Acts like a Banana, but looks like an Item Box.|
|Poison Mushroom||Poison Mushrooms are placed on the track, and shrinks whoever touches it.|
|Freezie||The Freezie is another placeable object that freezes people in place.|
|Bob-omb||The Bob-omb is lobbed at opponents and explodes on them.|
|Blooper||The Blooper sprays ink on everyone except you, covering their screen and making them lose control.|
|Bullet Bill||The Bullet Bill turns you into a rampaging Bullet Bill, sending you rocketing forward.|
|Piranha Plant||The Piranha Plant bites at players and placed items, pulling you forward each time.|
|Boo||The Boo steals the item to the closest player to you.|
|Fire Flower||The Fire Flower gives 15 Fireballs to the person who obtains it.|
|Boomerang Flower||The Boomerang Flower gives 3 Boomerangs to the person who obtains it.|
|Super Horn||The Super Horn sends out a blast of sound, destroying everything around you, even Spiny Shells.|
|Barrel Cannon||The Barrel Cannon launches you into an immediate glide.|
|Star||The Star gives you invincibility for a short time, as well as a constant speed boost.|
|Thunderbolt||The Thunderbolt shrinks everyone ahead of you.|
|Special Crown||An exremely rare item that gives you 8 items: a Banana, Green Shell, Red Shell, Mushroom, Star, Blooper, Bob-omb, and Freezie.|
|Fire Fields||Castle Bloop||Natural Yoshi Museum|
|Mario Circuit||Spaghetti Square||DK Towers||Ted Ted Mountain|
|Toad Valley||Mushroom Mountains||Saguaro Sahara||Collision City|
|Wicked Bros. Casino||Dead Man's Fleet||
|3DS Daisy Hills||GBA Cheese Land||WU Toad Harbor||GCN Mushroom Bridge|
|DS Mario Circuit||N64 Kalimari Desert||SNES Koopa Beach 1||WU Shy Guy Falls|
Wii Wario's Gold Mine
|N64 Wario Stadium||WU Dolphin Shoals||GBA Yoshi Desert|
|DS Waluigi Pinball||Wii Dry Dry Ruins||GCN Wario Colosseum||3DS Rainbow Road|
- Lakitu Stadium is a basic starting track that features an anti-gravity section high above the track and a lower portion in the stadium. It also features Lakitus that fly around, dropping coins and Spinies. Finally, you glide back down to Earth while trying to avoid Lakitus flying around.
- Fire Fields takes place in a field filled with Fire Flowers in their natural habitat. Obstacles include a rotating Firebar, Fire Flowers hitting you with fireballs, and a glide over a small lava river. Despite this, the track is still supposed to be easy.
- Castle Bloop is a beach track that takes place in a giant sanecastle. You can choose your way around the castle, much like Yoshi Valley. Such rooms include the throne room (with a giant Gooper Blooper), the corridors, and the dungeon. However, It always ends with an underwater section with Bloopers going up and down on dash pads. If you hit one, you bounce off it and get ink on your screen.
- The Natural Yoshi Museum takes place in a massive dinosaur exhibit full of Yoshi bones. You drive into a giant ribcage tunnel, onto the Yoshi's bony tongue and try to avoid swinging Yoshidactyl skeletons before exiting the museum into a field and then back into the museum for another lap.
- Mario Circuit is a racetrack where you dodge rolling Chomps, Piranha Plants and Bill Blasters before entering Peach's Castle and teleporting to another part of the level through a painting. You then glide down to the finish while avoiding Goomba Towers.
- Spaghetti Square is a track taking place in the kitchen of an Italian restaurant. You start outside, and then enter the dining hall. After that, you enter the kitchen. In the kitchen, you drive on a giant pizza, bounce on a sausage and drive on a loaf of bread before jumping onto a fettuchine noodle over a pool of tomato sauce you can drive in.
- DK Towers is a track that starts out in a giant city, before getting lanched by a cannon onto the top of a giant skyscraper. You jump between skyscrapers for a while before spiraling down a building under construction that is reminiscent of the original DK arcade game. There are cranes that hold platforms that move downward. These can help you skip a part of the descent.
- Ted Ted Mountain is a track that takes place in a teddy bear's cave. It starts out on rolling hills of many colors, before traveling into the depths of a mountain. In this mountain, you try to avoid a giant teddy bear stomping its feet before exploring a cave with playground balls rolling down like boulders at you. You then drive on the top of the teddy bear and exit the cave.
- Toad Valley takes place in a valley. You enter a small mushroom village with multiple routes and Yoshi-drawn carriages. Then, the track splits into 2 paths, a river that acts like the rapids in Koopa Cape, or an anti-gravity section on the mountainside with boulders rolling at you. Both paths lead into an underwater lake with Clampies holding Item Boxes and Coins.
- Mushroom Mountains is a track that is quite like Mushroom Gorge. After the starting line, you go on 1 mushroom, and then into a section with many. You then go into a section where you must use giant yellow mushrooms with a huge bounce to reach higher and higher mushrooms, and then glide down to the track using a giant blue mushroom. After that, you drive into a cave, where there is a mushroom bigger than the others you jump on repeatedly while making a turn and then you go out of the cave. You cross the finish line after bouncing back up on another yellow mushroom.
- Saguaro Sahara takes place in a desert on a cactus. First, you drive up the cactus, which splits into 3 paths with both spiky ramps and spikes that spin you out. These paths are cylindrical, which means that it is hard to stay on the cactus. They then all glide onto a sandy pathway that goes to the finish line.
- Collision City is a basic "city track" that is shaped like a figure-8. At the intersection, the cars can collide and explode. Also, trucks contain items such as Mushrooms and Bananas, which fall out upon explosion. In addition, there are sports cars that slowly speed up, promoting collision. Bomb cars are absent. There are a lot of cars to begin with, but there are less and less as the race goes on, due to the collisions, although some cars come onto the track through 2 enterances.
- Wicked Bros. Casino is a casino that is based on Wario & Waluigi. You drive on roulette tables with balls rolling around, into a house of cards, and all around with anti-gravity and no rails in most places.
- Dead Man's Fleet is a track that takes place in a fleet of sunken ships with ghosts. You start on a ship that isn't sunken before walking the plank into an underwater section. You travel between ships using cannons. Finally, there is a bridge made of cobweb that acts like the mesh bridge in Maple Treeway, but spiders crawl around it that you have to avoid.
- Bowser's Castle starts out on the roof before spiraling downwards while trying to avoid the flames, fists, and feet of a Bowser robot. You then enter some corridors and enter a turning tunnel where you have to dodge Firebars. Finally, you glide up out of the castle while trying to avoid Thwomps crashing into lava, making lava geysers.
- Rainbow Road takes place in an asteroid field, where astroids crash and make ripples. The track weaves around astroids, before entering a tunnel through one and gliding past a black hole that tries to suck you in. You then cross the finish.