Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Complete Controls Guide

Everything you need to know about all of the control settings for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Complete Controls Guide

Mario Kart 8
Deluxe is one of the defining games of the Nintendo Switch. Sold in console
bundles and standing as the best-selling game of the Switch, there aren’t too
many owners of the hybrid console who don’t have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

While the
game is relatively simple in its controls, there are multiple set-ups, the
option to make use of the motion sensors on the controllers, and some advanced
controls that you need to know to become a great racer.

In this Mario Kart controls guide, we’ll be going through the various controller options, how to set-up the controls, the basic controls, and all of the advanced controls – such as getting the perfect speed boost at the beginning of the race and how to defend.

In this guide, the buttons Left, Up,
Right, and Down refer to the buttons on the direction pad (found on the left
side of the controllers or the right-side of single Joy-Con controller) in the
way that you see them presented when you hold the controller for a race.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Controller Options

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe controls and options guide for controller

On the
Nintendo Switch, you have four different controller options when you play Mario
Kart 8 Deluxe: handheld console, dual Joy-Cons, single Joy-Con, and the
Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.

that you use the dual Joy-Cons option in the Charging Grip, the dual Joy-Con
controls are the same as the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller controls for Mario
Kart 8 Deluxe.

All of these
controller options can be used with analogue steering or with the tilt
controls. The single Joy-Con controls allow you to enjoy four-player local racing
through one console.

Once you’ve
selected the kind of controller that you’ll be using, you can then have a look
at the controls set-up.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Controls Set-up

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe controls guide and setup

A key aspect
to the controls in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the three settings that you can
select while you’re choosing your character and customising your kart.

At any stage
while picking your load-out, you can press + or – to bring up details about
your character’s speed, acceleration, weight, handling, traction, and three
other options. Those three options are the Smart Steering, Tilt Controls, and

In the image
above, all three options are switched off; here’s what they do if you turn them
on before a race.

Smart Steering Controls

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe controls smart steering guide

If you turn
on Smart Steering, the silhouette image of Mario in a kart on the left of the
three options will show an antenna out the back of the kart. If you turn the
option off, it will show a no entry symbol where the antenna was before.

Steering is best suited to beginners and young players of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, as
the feature automatically drives the kart and stops it from falling off of the
track. It also stops players from being able to use shortcuts.

For more
experienced players, this option is very tedious but is switched on by default
for all new players and controllers.

You can
switch it off in the initial character select screen by pressing + or -, or by
pressing + during a race, and then the appropriate button (L or SL) noted in
the top left of the menu.

Tilt Controls

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe controls guide for tilt controls

likes to flex their motion-control innovations whenever they can, with Mario
Kart 8 Deluxe being no different. Tilt controls can offer a new challenge or
prove to be annoying if you don’t know that they’re switched on.

selecting your character and kart for the upcoming race, press + or – to see
the menu. To see if Tilt Controls are on, check out the middle image at the
bottom of the pop-up kart stats.

The image
will depict your current controller load-out. If you have analogue steering on,
the left analogue – or only analogue – on the controller will be yellow. If
Tilt Controls are on, it’ll show two yellow arrows either side of the
controller image.

If you want
to turn Tilt Controls off during a race, go into the menu by pressing + and
then either Y or Left/B if you’re using a single Joy-Con.

controllers can use the Tilt Controls set-up, allowing you to steer your kart
by tilting your controller. You still need to press all of the appropriate
buttons to perform functions such as throwing items, doing tricks, and

Auto-Accelerate Controls

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe controls guide for auto acceleration

Auto-Accelerate option does exactly as you’d expect: it allows the game to
effectively hold down the accelerate button for you.

This can
help against hand-cramping on the small single Joy-Con controls, but it also
removes your ability to moderate speed by easing up on the accelerator – a common
tactic used instead of breaking.

Auto-Accelerate controls option is found when selecting your character and kart
by pressing + or – to bring up the kart statistics overlay.

Of the three
symbols at the bottom, Auto-Accelerate in the one of the right (depicted by a
silhouette of Mario with an arrow in front of his kart). When this option is
turned on, the arrow is shown in yellow. When Auto-Accelerate is turned off,
the arrow changes colour to a pale grey.

To change
the Auto-Accelerate controls while in a race, simply press +, look to the top
right of the menu, and then press R or SR – depending out your controller type –
to change the setting.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Basic Controls

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe basic controls guide

In this section,
we’re just going to run through all of the basic controls, assuming that you
have Auto-Accelerate, Tilt Controls, and Smart Steering turned off.

Control Dual Joy-Con / Pro Controller Handheld Controls Single Joy-Con
Acceleration A A X / Left
Steer Left
Break B B A / Down
Reverse B (hold) B (hold) A / Down
X X Y / Up
Hop R / ZR R / ZR SR
a Trick
R / ZR
(at the top of a ramp or ledge)
R / ZR
(at the top of a ramp or ledge)
SR (at
the top of a ramp or ledge)
Drift R / ZR
(hold while steering)
R / ZR
(hold while steering)
SR (hold
while steering)
Use Item L / ZL L / ZL SL
Pause + + + / –

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Advanced Controls

Although the
set controls of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are quite simple, there are plenty of
advanced controls to learn that can greatly enhance your racing.

From getting
a boost at the start of the race to defending yourself, these are all of the
driving techniques and advanced controls that you need to know.

How to get a Rocket Start

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe controls advanced guide to start a rocket

It used to
be that getting a speedy start in Mario Kart meant that you’d have to press the
accelerate button on every number shown on the race countdown.

In Mario
Kart 8 Deluxe, to get a boost at the start of the race, you simply have to
press and hold accelerate (A or X/Right) as soon as you see ‘2’ shown on the
countdown. If you time it right, you’ll get a big Rocket Start.

How to Drift

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe drifting controls guide

In order to
keep your speed up when you’re steering around sharp corners, and potentially
get a turbo boost, you’ll want to pop a Drift.

While you’re
driving, with the accelerator (A or X/Right) held down, hold down R or SR to
drift, and turn your kart with the left analogue.

It takes a
bit of time to master, but to help make things a little easier, you can pick
karts with higher handling and grip ratings (seen by pressing + or – when in
the character select screen).

The one
thing that you’ll need to look out for, though, is the inward drifting bikes.
The Comet, Jet Bike, Master Cycle, Sport Bike, and Yoshi Bike feature an inward
drift, which means that the drift control is the opposite way to the other
karts and bikes.

How to Drift Brake

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe drift brake controls guide

especially in high-speed races, drifting can get a bit out of control. So, to
quickly realign your kart and drop the speed of the drift, you can use a Drift

To perform a
Drift Brake, while drifting, simply tap the brake button (B or A/Down). It
certainly helps you to get around tight corners in the 200cc races.

How to get a Drift Turbo Boost while drifting

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe drift turbo boost while drifting controls guide

While you’re
drifting, you’ll notice coloured sparks flying from your rear wheels. These
sparks indicate the size of the Mini-Turbo that you have charged up from the
length of your drift.

Blue sparks
mean that, when you release the R or SR button, you’ll get a Mini-Turbo boost.

sparks mean that, when you release R or SR, you’ll get a Super Mini-Turbo

sparks mean that, when you release R or SR, you’ll get an Ultra Mini-Turbo

The longer
you hold your drift without going off of the track, hitting an item, or being
thrown out of the drift by any other means, the larger the boost your
Mini-Turbo will provide when you eventually release the drift button.

How to get a Jump Boost

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe jump and boost controls guide

To get a
Jump Boost, and to perform a trick in mid-air, all you have to do is press R or
SR when you drive to the top of a ramp or off of an edge.

If you time
the button press just right – at the very peak of the ramp – you’ll get a
bigger speed boost. If you time it wrong and jump too early, you might miss the
ramp altogether and fall off the track.

How to get a Spin Turbo in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe spin turbo controls guide

While driving
around the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe tracks, you’ll encounter antigravity zones. In
these zones, your wheels turn to face the track, making your kart or bike

In the
antigravity zones, you’ll be able to gain a Spin Turbo boost by bouncing into
other racers.

How to perform a Spin Turn

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe spin turn controls guide

To quickly
turn your kart or bike around when you find yourself stationary, you’ll want to
perform a Spin Turn.

When your
kart or bike isn’t moving, hold down the accelerate (A or X/Right) and brake (B
or A/Down) buttons at the same time and then steer with the left analogue in
the direction that you wish to turn.

How to perform a U-Turn

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe U turn controls guide

A U-Turn
works in a similar way to a Spin Turn; however, a U-Turn is performed while you’re
still driving around. It’s a technique that can only be used in the Battle Mode
but is very useful in the balloon-popping arena.

When you’re
driving, hold down the accelerate (A or X/Right) and brake (B or A/Down)
buttons at the same time and then steer with the left analogue in the direction
that you wish to go with your U-Turn.

How to Hold an Item and Defend

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe hold and defend item controls guide

Mario Kart 8
Deluxe is set-up to give racers chasing the leader an edge, with the further back
a driver is, the higher their chance of getting a more powerful item. So, those
out in front can expect to be bombarded by items.

The only
defence that race leaders have against the chasing pack is strong driving and
holding certain items to defend the rear of the vehicle.

Bananas, Bob-ombs, single Green Shells, and single Red Shells can all be held
behind by pressing and holding L or SL, keeping them on the back of the kart or
bike for as long as you hold the button or until they get hit.

To then use
the item, all you have to do is release the L or SL button – likely wanting to
direct it backwards by pulling backwards on the left analogue just as you
release the item. You could also use the look behind button (X or Y/Up) to see
if your opponents are closing in on you.

The biggest
problem for those out in front is picking up Coins. However, when an item box
does, almost inevitably, land you with a Coin, do not use it unless you’re on
nine coins and want that ten-coin speed boost.

As you can’t
hold two of the exact same item, if you hold onto a Coin until you hit another item
box, you’ll all-but guarantee that you’ll get an item that you can use for

How to Draft in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Drafting is
another way in which chasing drivers can get ahead of race leaders. Timing a
Draft well can see you slingshot past one or multiple karts that are ahead of

To Draft in
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, all you have to do is drive behind another racer. After a
few seconds, you’ll see a wind stream pick-up either side, at which point you’ll
start to drive faster. When you see the opportune moment, pull out to the side
and use the speed boost to overtake them.

If the roles
are reversed, and you can see another racer trying to Draft past you, throw an
item backwards or hold an item in defence while trying to swerve into them.

There you
have it: your complete controls guide for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo

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